UN officials stress need to protect world's poorest amid financial crisis

24 October 2008

The poorest of the world's poor deserve immediate support to help them endure the global financial crisis, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top United Nations officials said today, warning that recent hard-won progress on poverty could be lost unless concerted action is taken.

At a meeting of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), which brings together the heads of various UN agencies and entities, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the officials said all countries must take greater steps to ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind.

“The crisis we are seeing today will impact all countries, developed and developing, but its most serious repercussions will be felt most by those who are least responsible – the poor in developing countries,” the officials said in a joint statement issued in New York tonight after a special CEB session devoted to the impact of the crisis on the UN's work.

“Immediate action is needed to protect people, jobs, shelter and livelihoods,” they said, stressing that the grave nature of the financial crisis should not deflect the attention of leaders and policymakers from dealing with other challenges, such as climate change and the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“As we look to the next seven years of the implementation of the MDGs to 2015, we must ensure that hard-won gains by countries are not reversed and must act to avert the risk of millions in poor countries sliding back into extreme poverty.”

Mr. Ban and other UN officials called on all States, given the recent financial crisis, to reaffirm their commitments and pledges to grant official development assistance (ODA) to needy countries.

“In the face of the current crisis, ODA has become even more centrally important to the poor developing countries that are faced with financial constraints, declining liquidity and seriously worsening balance of payments positions.”

The meeting stressed the importance of a successful conclusion to the so-called Doha round of trade liberalization talks, which have stalled, and urged countries to resist the impulses of protectionism.

On 15 November world leaders – including Mr. Ban – will gather in Washington for a summit to devise ways to respond to the crisis, and today's statement noted that “we reaffirm the need for meaningful, comprehensive and well coordinated reform of the international financial system.”

During the meeting, Mr. Ban told participants that “drastic measures” will be needed to resolve the financial crisis, possibly including the IMF and the world's major central banks setting up substantial standby lines of credit so that banks in poor countries have adequate funds to draw on in an emergency.

“We can be effective only if we act together, with one voice and a common purpose,” he added.

Last night, while accepting the UNA-NY Humanitarians of the Year Award, Mr. Ban said the laurel was “especially meaningful at such a critical time,” and added that efforts to combat climate change must not stop because of the current financial turmoil.

“That would be a double blow,” he said. “We would be failing to address one of the defining issues of our times. And we would miss out on the enormous benefits that we stand to gain in making the transition to a less carbon-intensive economy.”

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Ban holds talks with economists on impact of financial crisis on poverty goals

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met today with five eminent economists and the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to discuss the impact of the global financial crisis on UN efforts to achieve the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).