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Sustainable economic growth crucial for development, say top UN officials

Sustainable economic growth crucial for development, say top UN officials

Vigorous and sustainable economic progress is the best means to achieve development goals, top United Nations officials said today.

“Robust global growth that is resilient to economic shocks and sustainable over the long-term is the best catalyst for development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” said General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, referring to the eight targets to slash poverty and other ills by 2015.

But this growth has been checked by the recent instability of financial markets, the credit squeeze and high oil prices, among other factors, he said in an address to a meeting aimed at sharing views of economic trends that could impact upon development.

“The current challenges remind us that national governments and multilateral institutions must be ever vigilant and ready to take appropriate steps to ensure we can respond rapidly to changing international market conditions that may undermine growth,” Mr. Kerim noted.

Although some sub-Saharan nations will not achieve many, or any, of the MDGs by 2015, some of the region’s countries “are demonstrating progress towards the MDGs is possible when strong government leadership, good policies and healthy institutions are combined with adequate financial and technical support from the international community,” he observed.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro also stressed the necessity of “urgent and concerted action by political leaders” to reach development goals as seen in countries in Africa and elsewhere.

“We need a strong and sustained effort by developed and developing countries alike to ensure that millions of people can emerge from extreme poverty and hunger,” she told an Assembly Debate on Development.

Richer nations must boost their development assistance flows and increase debt relief, while developing countries must take full ownership of their development processes, she said.

“Furthermore,” Ms. Migiro noted, “developing countries need to have access to open, fair, equitable and non-discriminatory trading and financial systems. It is imperative that the Doha trade negotiations conclude early and deliver on the promise to be a true development round.”

Touting the benefits of the Doha round of international trade negotiations, Jagdish Bhagwati, the renowned economist and Columbia University professor, underscored the benefits of free trade for developing countries.

“I think we have substantial evidence that in the long run, openness really pays off,” he said at a press briefing at UN Headquarters.

The lowering of external tariffs has “been a very substantial achievement and that has coincided with very substantial growth in the developing countries which managed to take advantage of that opening,” Mr. Bhagwati said.

Nobel prize laureate and fellow Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz emphasized the detrimental effects of bilateral trade agreements on multilateral ones.

Speaking at the same briefing, he said that “the growth of bilateral agreements is really undermining the multilateral trade system that so many people worked so hard over 60 years to create,” as many issues are hidden into trade agreements that work against the interests of developing countries.

Regarding climate change, which he characterized as “an issue of global social justice,” Mr. Stiglitz suggested an alternative framework to the current carbon tax system as well as a rainforest initiative – which he hopes will come to pass at the landmark UN Convention on Climate Change underway in Bali, Indonesia – to act as an incentive for developing nations to maintain forests.