Top UN official calls for development ‘new deal’

26 May 2009

The current global economic crisis – the deepest in decades – has underscored the need for a “new deal” for development that addresses both climate change and poverty, the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said today.

The worldwide financial turmoil is exacerbating the effects of high food and energy prices which drove as many as 200 million people into extreme poverty in recent years, said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

“Alas, those least responsible for the crisis stand to bear the brunt of its impact over the longer term,” she told the annual session of the Executive Board of UNDP and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Simultaneously, the world’s poorest are also bearing the brunt of climate change, linked to the world’s unsustainable use of natural resources, said Miss Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand.

“These global problems reflect our interdependence, and they require global solutions,” she stated, calling for a multilateral system that will boost the standard of living for the most vulnerable people and ensure their voices are taken into account by decision-makers.

The financial crisis, the Administrator said in her first address to the Executive Board since assuming her position earlier this year, is threatening to roll back gains made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight ambitious anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.

For example, some sub-Saharan African nations are on target to meet some of the MDGs, but not all by 2015, and the recession could drive up the number of people living in extreme poverty in the region, she noted.

Despite aid commitments for Africa made by donor nations, the pledges remain unfulfilled, Miss Clark said, voicing hope that this year’s meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations will mobilize resources.

The global response to climate change should also be folded into development, she said.

Countries are expected to conclude a new pact on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, to replace the Kyoto Protocol whose first commitment period ends in 2012, at a UN conference in Copenhagen later this year.

“To this end, UNDP must step up its work this year to support developing countries achieve an outcome at Copenhagen in December which is consistent with designing a sustainable path out of poverty and for achieving the MDGs,” the Administrator said. “The deal to be sealed at Copenhagen must be a development deal, too.”

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

UN’s new development chief aims to cut poverty despite crises

The new administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) vowed today to sharpen her agency’s focus on cutting poverty despite the multiple crises currently facing the world.