The UN Economic and Social Council Chamber
At the end of the Special High-Level Meeting of ECOSOC with the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development held in New York 10-11 March 2011, H.E Lazarous Kapambwe, President of the UN Economic and Social Council, said “You must agree with me that we succeeded in having an open exchange of views and experiences between government representatives and major institutional stakeholders.” Indeed it outshone most UN meetings which are often a series of prepared statements following one after the other. Instead there was some real exchange of ideas. Even seating arrangements were different. NGOs and the Private Sector were among the representatives of governments and financial and trade bodies, rather than at the very back of the room.
We were reminded of the very uneven progress in working towards the MDGs. (Millennium Development Goals). This is particularly true of food production, creating jobs for people, taking seriously the need to find alternative sources of energy and building infrastructure to support a new way of living together on a sorely threatened planet. Volatile food prices and the need in some of the poorest nations to import food increase the risk of a “devastating food crisis” in these countries.
We must learn and practice cooperation in the service of a people-centred development. To achieve this, we must better coordinate our policies at national, regional and global levels. Partners in development, those giving and those receiving must be more open and honest in their accountability to one another.
The United Nations must be made stronger in its responsibility to oversee global economic governance. It must become more unified and coordinated in its whole operating system.
Over the course of the 2-day meeting there was a debate or exchange of views on four (4) themes
- Financial support for development efforts of Least Developed Countries (LDCs): development finance, including innovative mechanisms, aid for trade and debt relief.
LDCs include countries such as Haiti, Yemen and Sierra Leone. They have an annual income of less than $900 per person. Malnutrition, high rates of children dying in early childhood and high rates of illiteracy for adults are commons marks of the needs of such countries.
- Financial support for developments of Middle-Income Countries (MICs): development cooperation, trade, capital flows, policy space and reserve systems.
Middle-income countries (MICs), such as Brazil, China, Thailand, India and Indonesia are more economically developed than the world’s poorest countries, and often have a large, affluent middle class. But many MICs also have large numbers of people living in extreme poverty and healthcare demands often outstrip available resources. These challenges are made worse by increase of chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes.
- Follow-up to the 2010 MDG Summit outcome: building the global partnership for development, including in response to new challenges and emerging issues.
- The role of the UN system in global economic governance.
NGOs made 11 interventions in all during the exchange.
We called for a new model of economic development that will help to create decent jobs and that narrows rather than widens the gap between those living in poverty and those living in wealth. We called the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to return to their original purposes: the Bank to serve the reconstruction of the world on the principles of equity and justice: the IMF to iron out the terrible fluctuations in exchange rates in currencies that can swamp the economies of poor and developing countries. We called on the World Trade Organization to remove the farm subsidies that work against small scale farmers and women who grow the majority of the world’s food and to promote a global system of trade that is based on fairness.
We called for the introduction of a tax on financial transactions to slow speculation that causes sudden surges in capital flows across borders that destabilizes the economy of weak countries. The money collected must be dedicated to development and the achievement of the MDGS. Greater cooperation and communication between countries in tax matters to address tax evasion and the use of tax havens is needed to work towards a more equal world.
We called for a reform of the international financial system (World Bank, IMF, Regional Development Banks), to recognize the world changes that have taken place with an end of colonialism and the appearance of so many new nations. These institutions must become servants not masters of the global economy.
Finally we also called for reform of the United Nations to make it more responsive to present demands of an interconnected world. These changes should make it more accountable and more effective in implementing the commitments that are made in the UN processes.
Passionists International, through Kevin Dance, was able to make a statement on the need for far greater cooperation between the financial institutions and the UN in creating a more level playing field of justice for all people, but especially for those most disadvantaged by the recent global economic and financial crises.
ECOSOC high-level meeting with BWI, WTO and UNCTAD
“Global Governance”, 11 March 2011
Intervention by Kevin Dance, Chair, NGO Committee on Financing for Development and Passionists International
Thank you Mr. President.
Even the most powerful governments failed to have the right policies in place to prevent excessive risks taken by the financial industry. The damage done has been contagious. We’ve all been affected though not equally. Let’s face it – our world has changed!
Many of the problems spoken of here are global, but policies to address them are national. There is still much disagreement on basic long-term issues such as trade, climate change or financial stability. We can’t continue to think exclusively in terms of national effort. We need to be working towards an overarching global structure that can help moderate the risks, balance the benefits and respect the right of every country to take an active role in shaping the policies that affect its citizens and its prosperity.
We hear over and over a call for coherence and an integrated approach to the global challenges we face. But we still want to operate in silos of self-contained units of influence. We need global governance, not global government. The expertise of such bodies as the Bank, the Fund, G20…continues to be relevant and needed. But they can no longer function with full autonomy and no accountability to the rest of the international community.
Every institution we create will be imperfect. But we badly need a mechanism that comes closer to embodying the principles of universality, inclusiveness, transparency and legitimacy.
As we face global challenges beyond the resources of any one country to meet, we need an overarching instrument that can help us look to longer term rather than just short term solutions; that can provide a second opinion to balance the decisions of more technical and less representative bodies; that can coordinate the development of policy and planning to minimize the variety of risks that will be a continuing part of our future and make it possible to share the benefits.
- Because of its universality and legitimacy, the United Nations must become the forum for policy creation on financing for development, with human rights as its foundation and framework.
- It is time to grow the FfD Office into a functional commission on Financing for Development.
- The Working Group of the General Assembly must be enabled to continue its unfinished work. We strongly support the position of the G77 and China is calling for this and for the prompt creation of a panel of experts. A Panel of Experts, representative and independent of politics or ideology, could become the source of a valuable “second opinion” in policy making. It could alert us to long-term global trends, how they are interconnected and what is their risk potential.
- Tax systems are vital to development, but there is an urgent need for greater cooperation between States, especially in combatting tax evasion. We support upgrading the UN Tax Committee to an intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder body to fully reflect the importance of inclusive international tax cooperation. This forum will enable all countries to make their voices heard in their own words. Such a strengthened tax body would complement not threaten the work of the OECD.
- We must move towards a Global Economic Council for Sustainable Development. We have long spoken of the triple bottom line – economic, social and environmental. We will make real progress when we do more consistently what we are doing here – trying to listen to one another. I was pleased to hear Mr. Priyadarshi call for not less but more meetings such as this one.
The time is past when we can effectively deal with economics, social reality and ecological necessity in separate places. We, with various skills and capacities, share a common humanity and a common future. There is an urgent need to rebuild the trust on which this institution was founded. Only by taking the risks to rebuild this mutual trust can we can find solutions to match the enormity of the global challenges that face us.
Thank you Mr. President.