Financial crisis eroding development gains, African leaders warn at UN

24 September 2009
President John Evans Atta Mills of the Republic of Ghana

The current worldwide recession is jeopardizing strides made toward reaching development targets, African leaders told the General Assembly today, calling for imbalances in the global trade system to be rectified to ensure that developing nations can grow their economies.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the current financial and economic crisis “threaten to erode decades of modest growth and thereby make the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] unattainable in any meaningful way,” Ghanaian President John Evans Atta Mills said at the Assembly’s annual high-level debate.

The MDGs are a set of socio-economic targets which world leaders have agreed to try to achieve by 2015.

Mr. Mills voiced support for “a global integration that ensures inclusive and equitable development and effectively contributes to substantial poverty alleviation, including full and productive employment as well as broad access to social services.”

International trade bears the promise of lifting millions out of poverty, he said, with the Doha trade round being committed in principle to boosting poor nations’ access to market.

“Unfortunately, the current global trading system discriminates against developing countries, hinders their participation in the global economy and damages the earning opportunities of farmer and rural communities.”

Also pointing out how trade imbalances saddle poorer nations was President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone.

“Our economy continues to be vigorously challenged by the falling prices of our exports,” including diamonds and cash crops, on the international market, he said in his address to dozens of heads of States and government.

As a result, Sierra Leone cannot generate the foreign exchange reserves it needs to import the basic commodities it need to survive, Mr. Koroma emphasized.

The President of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika, questioned why industrialized countries continue to marginalize Africa and hold the continent back from its potential as a true multilateral trade partner.

“Malawi is concerned that under the Doha arrangements, industrialized nations continue to protect their industries against processed and manufactured goods from Africa while insisting that the poor nations completely liberalize their economies,” he said.

Mr. Mutharika called on the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations to take part in a “genuine” dialogue to assist in setting up an international trading system that is both fair and can promote sustainable growth and development in Africa and in other developing countries.

The current financial crisis has been driven the by “selfishness and the desire of some to dominate others and to continue to be the prevalent vehicle in international relations,” President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea told the Assembly yesterday.

“At every step, the gap between developed and developing countries has widened, despite the numerous resolutions, decisions and recommendations adopted to promote equality in political, economic and socio-cultural rights,” he noted.

Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, President of Comoros, today added his voice to the chorus calling on the world’s richest countries to help developing nations face enormous challenges, including climate change and hunger.

Small island nations such as Comoros could be wiped off the map within years, he warned. “Thus true international mobilization, particularly on the part of the richest nations, is vital to confront all the challenges that our countries face.”


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