Fréchette urges wealthy nations to remove or cut agricultural subsidies

28 June 2004

Calling on the world's rich countries to revitalize stalled international trade and development talks, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today urged them to eliminate or at least reduce "the crippling effect" of agricultural subsidies on the world's poorest and least developed nations.

In an address to the opening of the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at UN Headquarters in New York, Ms. Fréchette said the recent pledge by affluent countries to boost their aid levels to the world's least developed countries was only a start.

"Giving with one hand will not work as long as the world takes away with the other - and that is exactly what is happening with quotas, subsidies and tariffs that stunt growth in poor countries and stifle their ability to trade," she said.

Ms. Fréchette praised several bilateral or regional initiatives by developed countries to "make the playing field a little more level," and said increasing South-South trade and cooperation will also help poor countries.

But she said that reviving the so-called Doha development round of trade negotiations, which began in 2001, was vital to improving life for people who live in poor nations.

"There is no substitute for revitalizing the Doha development agenda," she said.

Ms. Fréchette said poor States were also suffering badly from massive debt burdens, and invited creditor countries to consider forgiving the debts of the poorest nations.

Given these problems, the Deputy Secretary-General said no issue was more important to the inhabitants of the least developed countries than achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Created at the Millennium Summit in 2000, the MDGs are a set of eight goals - including the halving of extreme poverty and the slashing of child mortality rates - which world leaders agreed to try to achieve by 2015.

If current trends continue, very few of the world's poorest States are likely to meet these poverty reduction targets, Ms. Fréchette said, calling for stepped-up efforts across the board.

Poor countries, she said, "must spare no effort to strengthen the efficiency, transparency and accountability of governance," support local entrepreneurs and invest more in health, education and infrastructure.

Ms. Fréchette said wealthy countries have a responsibility to not just give more aid, but to link it to national development strategies so that its arrival is not so unpredictable or irregular.

 

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