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Developing countries must prepare for participation in market economies, UN says

Developing countries must prepare for participation in market economies, UN says

Louise Fréchette
The governments of developing countries should invest in the basic services that enable their people to take part in market economies and accelerate the kind of social development that lessens social inequality and exclusion, United Nations Deputy Secretary General Louise Fréchette said today.

In an address at the opening of the high-level segment of the Commission on Social Development, she added, however, that Governments had to put people at the centre of their development policies because "relying on market forces will not, on is own, achieve major development gains."

Developing countries had to take steps to promote good governance and "must focus on practical investments in health, education and other basic services that allow people to participate in market economies," she said.

A central "quick win" that could be undertaken immediately, Ms. Fréchette said, was the recommendation to "eliminate user fees for primary education and basic health services to ensure access for even the poorest individual."

In a year of reviewing and renewing development commitments, she said, "today's high-level plenary session is an opportunity to stress a broad vision of development, in which effort to eradicate poverty, promote full employment and foster social integration are backed up with reforms and resources necessary to turn development targets into reality."

The central plank of the 2000 Millennium Declaration was the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), based on international development meetings in the 1990s and designed to halve extreme poverty by 2015, Ms. Fréchette noted.

"Yet, all too often bold pronouncements have not been followed with bold action," she said. "In the year ahead, as the Millennium Declaration is reviewed, we have an important opportunity to address this 'implementation gap,' particularly by strengthening the global partnership for development that is itself one of the goals."

In opening the meeting of the 53-member Commission yesterday, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, said that 10 years after the UN World Social Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, people had become more aware of the importance of social development, but many expectations had not been fulfilled.

Progress had been uneven not only between regions but also within countries, he said. "The fact remains that no human being should be condemned to endure a brief miserable life only because of his or her class, country, religious affiliation, ethnic background, or gender."

The people-centred approach to policy-making had not lost its relevance, but had been neglected in many quarters and threatened by such recent international developments as globalization and rapid technological advancement.

The UN General Assembly's Special Session in June 2000 in Geneva had recognized the need for collective action to offset any negative social consequences of globalization and technological change, but a 10-year review of Copenhagen 1995 showed a mixed record of achievement, he said.

Other speakers yesterday included the chiefs of the UN Economic Commissions for Africa (ECA), for Europe (ECE) and for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), as well as the heads of the Economic and Social Commissions for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and for Western Asia (ESCWA).