Global financial institutions must be democratized, South Africa says at UN debate

23 September 2009

The major international financial and economic arrangements are unfair and have not kept pace with a changing world, South Africa’s President told the United Nations today, calling for the reform of key institutions so that poorer countries have a greater say in how they are run.

In an address to the annual General Debate at the 192-member General Assembly, Jacob Zuma said the current global economic crisis spotlights the need to reform the mandate, governance and responsiveness of the so-called Bretton Woods institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“These institutions have been unrepresentative since their formation half a century ago,” Mr. Zuma said. “The current arrangements are inadequate and unfair. They do not reflect the changes that have taken place in the global economy.

“We should ensure that the election of the heads of all these institutions is more democratic, and opens opportunities to developing countries. The emerging and developing economies, including the poorest, must have a greater voice and greater participation in these institutions.”

Mr. Zuma also stressed the need for an urgent conclusion to the current, long-running Doha round of global trade negotiations, which have stalled, “in a manner that prioritizes development.”

He noted that efforts to eradicate poverty have slowed down as a result of the global recession, and that the world’s poorest countries have been suffering the most, even though they did not cause the crisis.

“The United Nations must play a significant role in finding solutions to the global economic crisis. The crisis should not be an excuse to delay further action on the delivery of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he added, referring to the set of socio-economic targets which world leaders have agreed to try to achieve by 2015.

Turning to his country’s legacy of apartheid, Mr. Zuma observed that it was 20 years ago that the General Assembly adopted a resolution on international solidarity with the liberation struggle in South Africa.

“Within months of the adoption of this important resolution, the South African liberation movements were unbanned. Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were released. The stage was thus set for the negotiations that would eventually lead to the achievement of freedom and democracy in our country.

“The role of the United Nations in the struggle to end apartheid is an exceptional example of the collective political will of the international community. It represented the victory of unity over division, of negotiation over confrontation. It represented a clear commitment to the promotion of basic human rights. As South Africans we will always be grateful for that international solidarity.”


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