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High-level brainstorming session helps ECOSOC on rural development

High-level brainstorming session helps ECOSOC on rural development

Readying itself for an annual meeting devoted to eradicating poverty in developing countries by promoting rural development, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held a brainstorming session with international experts today at UN Headquarters in New York.

"The forces of globalization have the potential to make everyone better off, to eradicate hunger and poverty," Gordon Conway, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, said in his opening keynote address. "But equally, they may help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The outcome depends on whether we can develop economic, political and social institutions - globally, nationally and locally - that will spread the benefits more equitably.

That is why the United Nations is so important, he stressed. "It has the strengths that are crucial to the task: it represents all the countries of the world and all human endeavour - in science, technology and education, in economic development, agriculture and health, in issues of gender, human rights and refugees and so on," he said.

Mr. Conway advocated a step-by-step approach to making progress as a way to improve performance, maintain momentum and avoid being overwhelmed by the lofty goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

However desirable these goals are in focusing attention by politicians and the public and capturing imaginations, it is better to focus on their components, both geographic and substantive, since progress can be readily made and can be reported in a manner that maintains optimism and public support, he said.

"Part of the problem, I believe, is that we concentrate too much on the goals themselves, rather than their components," he said. "A good analogy is a jigsaw puzzle - we focus on completing the puzzle rather than on the component pieces, many of which are achievable in the time frame."

ECOSOC's substantive session takes place in Geneva in July.