Ban to focus on plight of world’s poorest at Washington summit on financial crisis

11 November 2008

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need to protect the world’s most vulnerable in the face of the current turmoil shaking global financial markets, a message he will take with him to Washington, D.C. this weekend when he attends the summit of the so-called Group of 20 (G-20) nations.

“We must do everything we can to alleviate the impact of the crisis on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” Mr. Ban told reporters at his monthly news conference in New York.

He said he will also emphasize the importance of tackling the systemic roots of the crisis when he meets with leaders at Saturday’s G-20 meeting, which will be the first time that that group will meet at the level of heads of State, as well as the first time that the UN Secretary-General has been invited to attend.

The Secretary-General had planned to travel to Los Angeles prior to going to Washington, but announced today that he has postponed that visit to meet with several world leaders who are coming to New York in advance of the G-20 summit and to attend a high-level UN meeting on the culture of peace, set to begin tomorrow.

“These leaders have requested urgent consultations with the Secretary-General to discuss pressing and long-term strategies to address the financial crisis and other important issues of immediate concern,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.

Mr. Ban has warned of the negative impact of the financial crisis on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the globally agreed targets to halve extreme poverty and other ills by 2015 – as well as on efforts to deal with climate change, which he has described as the “defining challenge of our era.”

He noted today that the current financial crisis is also an opportunity to address climate change, stating that “at a time of growing economic hardship, green growth can create millions of jobs.”

The UN chief will also carry these messages with him when he travels to Doha, Qatar, for the Financing for Development conference that opens later this month.

“My chief concern will be to ensure that the interest in well-being of the most vulnerable nations of the world will be fully heard,” he stated. “We cannot allow the financial crisis to become an excuse for not delivering on our commitments to the Millennium Development Goals.”

In a related development, an independent UN expert has called on the Doha conference to prioritize human rights, and warned that “there is no room for complacency” when it comes to global efforts on debt relief and development.

Cephas Lumina, the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, noted that despite several debt relief initiatives, many countries still face large debt burdens which compromise their ability to ensure human rights.

“The ultimate purpose of debt relief is not merely to achieve debt sustainability, but to enable a country to achieve a debt level consistent with protecting the human rights of its people,” he said in a news release issued in Geneva.

Mr. Lumina called for expanded debt relief measures, human rights analysis in assessing acceptable levels of debt, and shared responsibility of creditor and borrower countries.

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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).