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UN development agenda has reached ‘critical juncture,’ Ban says

UN development agenda has reached ‘critical juncture,’ Ban says

The United Nations has reached “a critical juncture” in the implementation of its development agenda, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, with soaring oil and food prices, turmoil in the financial markets, inequality and climate change all threatening to strike hardest at the world’s poorest people.

In a message to the opening of the annual high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), held at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said urgent collective action was needed, particularly to address imbalances in the global economy.

Scepticism about globalization is widespread, amid concerns that it is leaving the most vulnerable behind and increasing economic security among the middle classes worldwide, Mr. Ban added, in a message delivered by Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

“No social or economic order is secure if it fails to benefit the majority of those who live under it,” he said.

“From this perspective, we all should have serious concerns about a system whose wealthiest 400 citizens command, as a group, more resources than its bottom billion. Yet we also need to beware of the risks of a severe backlash against globalization, which could significantly curtail the opportunities and benefits of a more closely integrated world.”

The Secretary-General said this session of ECOSOC, especially its Development Cooperation Forum, should give new impetus to achieving economic growth, social development and environmental protection in an integrated fashion.

Addressing the Forum’s opening later in the day, ECOSOC President Leo Mérorès said it was time “to come up with bold and innovative ideas and recommendations” to improve the situation in poor countries and to spur greater development cooperation.

He said the Forum had been established in 2005 to help make development activities within and outside the UN more coherent and streamlined, particularly as more and more groups and entities become involved in the delivery of aid.

In a separate message to the Forum, delivered by Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Mr. Ban voiced concern that development assistance is still provided inconsistently.

“Some countries enjoy the attention of the international community, while others find it harder to attract funding. As a result, some countries receive less aid than would be expected on the basis of their needs or performance.”

Aid is also spreads unevenly between sectors, he said, with agriculture experiencing a marked decline in aid in recent decades, “a particularly worrying trend” given the soaring prices of foods and other basic commodities.

He noted that stronger mutual accountability was one way to develop a more balanced relationship between donor and receiver countries, and added that increasing South-South cooperation and private philanthropy were welcome moves.

ECOSOC’s high-level segment, which includes many round-table discussions, policy dialogues and debates, is scheduled to run until Thursday.