2005 offers unique opportunity to tackle poverty, security, human rights – Annan

18 April 2005

Setting his sights on the United Nations summit in September to review progress on socio-economic development goals, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged Member States to negotiate his reform proposals on the "three great purposes" of the world body in a spirit of give and take and to increase development aid to a long-held UN target.

Mr. Annan was opening a special high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with officials of the Bretton Woods institutions – the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – as well as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Attending also were finance and development ministers and central bankers coming from the spring meeting of the World Bank and IMF held over the weekend in Washington, DC.

As he wrote in his recent report, Mr. Annan said, "we will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.

"That is why I have proposed a comprehensive agenda, giving equal weight and attention to these three great purposes of the United Nations, all of which must be underpinned by the rule of law," he said.

He also called on rich countries to increase overseas development assistance (ODA) to 0.7 per cent of gross national product or income (GNP, GNI), "with front-loading through an international finance facility (IFF) or other mechanism" and with an active search for new sources of funds and new ways to ensure that the debt burden of developing countries is sustainable.

"I am hoping that Member States will be galvanized, not only by the self-evident urgency of taking steps to deal with poverty, as well as terrorism and the spread of deadly weapons and, indeed, deadly disease, but also by a sense of the unique opportunity that this year presents. Both on the development side and on the security and institutional side, there is now a widespread sense of 'if not now, when?'" Mr. Annan said.

A series of meeting over the next few months provided a unique chance to make real changes in the international system to make the world freer, fairer and safer for all its inhabitants, he noted, referring to the General Assembly's high-level dialogue on Finance for Development in June, followed by an ECOSOC high-level segment, the summit of the Group of Eight (G-8) most industrialized countries in July, the autumn meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in September, and the WTO ministerial meeting in December.

The ECOSOC President, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, said today's meeting should make a useful contribution to the September summit and it was fitting that the theme was "Coherence, coordination and cooperation in the context of the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus" of 2002.

The President of UNCTAD's Trade and Development Board, Mary Whelan of Ireland, said developing countries could earn up to an additional $3 billion annually from trade, but most of the money accruing from the concluding 2006 Doha Round of the WTO's negotiations probably would go to countries that already had a competitive edge.

New merchandise exports had come from South and Southeast Asia and parts of Central and South America, she said, but export trade alone could not reduce poverty without development linkages with the rest of the economy and investment was not enough to support sustainable economic growth.

World Bank/IMF Development Committee Chair Trevor Manuel of South Africa, who is also his country's Finance Minister, said the panel had concluded yesterday that the advance towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), designed to end or lessen a host of socio-economic ills, had progressed on many fronts in the developing countries, but many would not be met, especially by sub-Saharan African countries.

Agreeing on the MDGs, Deputy IMF Managing Director Agustin Carstens said the main challenge was to continue strengthening the investment environment and to foster private sector-led growth.

Meanwhile, the potential for a sharper than expected rise in long-term interest rates and increased currency exchange volatility called for vigilance, he added.