United Nations: North should be subjected to ECOSOC review

Celine Tan and Riaz K Tayob

Geneva, 4 July - Developed countries should also make presentations on the implementation of their international development commitments under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)'s recently launched review mechanism, the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), in addition to the presentations made by developing countries, the G77 and China has urged.The absence of developed country presentations on their implementation status was "clearly contrary to the letter and spirit of the AMR" contained in the ECOSOC Resolution 61/6, given that there were voluntary national presentations by several developing countries on their progress in achieving the development goals, the Group said in a statement to the Council Wednesday.

The G77 and China therefore encouraged their development partners "also to come forward and make presentations on the implementation of their development commitments", including particularly the Millennium Development Goal 8 (on developing a global partnership for development) and other internationally agreed development goals (IADGs).

The Group said that implementation of international commitments "has remained the Achilles Heel of the development agenda (at the UN)" because despite developing countries demonstrating "a sincere commitment" to implementing their commitments, including devising national development strategies, improving governance and creating a macroeconomic climate conducive for growth, trade and investment, similar commitments have not been forthcoming from developed countries.

"Regrettably, developed countries have not demonstrated a similar alacrity in implementing their part of the commitments whether in development assistance and financing, trade, technology transfer and other areas of cooperation."

In presenting the statement on behalf of the G77 and China, Pakistan's ambassador, Munir Akram, said this reluctance was evident "in the restricted participation by our partners in the open discussions which took place" at the ECOSOC High-Level Segment Tuesday.

The AMR, which is aimed at providing a high-level forum to review the implementation of international development commitments, heard voluntary presentations by Barbados, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Ethiopia and Ghana aimed at sharing country experiences on the implementation of development commitments. There were no presentations from developed countries although delegations reviewed the country presentations from the floor.

The G77 and China statement also highlighted conspicuous absences by other important actors in the international development community from the AMR contrary to the aforementioned resolution, namely the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Bretton Woods institutions, although "these institutions were invited together with the UN system including regional and functional commissions to contribute to the AMR process".

The G77 and China added that aside from reviewing the status of implementation of various international commitments, "the AMR should be providing policy guidance on the operational steps required for their realization" and should also play a role in identifying "the gaps, shortcomings and successes, both at national and international level and development partners level and to further develop policy recommendations to advance the implementation process".

Amb. Akram said that the current buoyant international economy provides a good opportunity for countries to press for the fulfilment of promises under the partnership for development but the level of implementation by development partners in all fields has been limited.

He reiterated the fact that official development assistance (ODA) flows is on a decline, compounded by the problem that such flows also take into account debt cancellation, while innovative financing initiatives remain small and foreign direct investment (FDI) remain limited to a few markets.

Meanwhile, there remain concerns over growing and net outflow of financial flows from developing countries to developed countries amounting to several hundred billion dollars and the global financial situation remains serious and imbalanced, said Akram.

He added that at the same time, the Doha Round of trade talks remain at an impasse and even if concluded, the benefits are at best marginal if not neutral for developing countries, while there are also several other problems outside the WTO framework, including the problem of commodities which have not been addressed fully.

He said developing countries continue to be asked to integrate into the world economy on terms that are onerous and without the policy space required to transit from the stage of underdevelopment to industrialisation.

Several developing countries spoke during the general debate. Jamaica said that its progress in achieving MDGs could easily be jeopardised due to certain challenges.For example, its classification as a middle-income country made its situation precarious as it impedes aid and development financing. Middle-income countries should not be penalised for the advances they had made.

Jamaica pointed to the problem faced by ACP countries from the erosion of preferential market access to the EU under new WTO rules.

"We now face even further erosion of preferences with the threat of a possible unilateral renunciation by the EU of the Sugar Protocol despite its development dimension."

It also stressed the vulnerability of small island states, in terms of small size but also the ability to react to external economic shocks and susceptibility to natural disasters.

Venezuela said that it was important that development is based on the model of human rights and democracy and the basic challenge was to build a democracy that includes the poor.

At the international level, a balanced global system that has "pluri-polarity" is needed to promote solidarity. It noted that its efforts to meet the needs of the poor are confronting ferocious destabilising forces like attempts to sabotage its pro-poor initiatives and even an assault on democracy through an attempted coup d'etat.

It emphasised that those who own resources like land are not simply privileged, they have a responsibility to be of service to the country and its people.

Sudan said its foreign debt burden was not sustainable even over a 25 to 30 year period. This is despite it maintaining sound macroeconomic policies. It said national measures for the MDGs must be complemented by international assistance.

Bolivia asked ECOSOC to address debt cancellation so that countries can better meet their development obligations.

Brazil said that it is making progress to meet the MDGs. It warned however that if the current systems of development remain in place, the Latin American and Caribbean region will have 40 million people that would suffer from malnutrition.

Namibia said it was disheartening to hear that sub-Saharan Africa is lagging far behind and will not meet the MDGs. It urged ECOSOC to make a concerted effort for the region to make progress.

In a joint statement, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, pointed out that ODA for agriculture fell by 70% between 1990 and 2004. It stressed that much is needed to be done in this sector.

Mr. Ricardo French-Davies, on behalf of ECOSOC's Committee for Development Policy, presented the CDP's 2007 report which he said identified shortcomings in the current development framework. (See separate article on the CDP report).

For instance, the World Bank and IMF Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) have not met their goals, especially in Africa. He said that the MDGs were intended to assist donors to align resources with the requirements of developing countries. This too has not been achieved.

In the PRSP process, the release of funds is tied to too many conditions and a diversity of compliance procedures.

He added that the CDP report suggested that ECOSOC urge its members to ensure that the outcome of the WTO trade talks are consistent with the development agenda.

Renate Bloom of the Congress of NGOs said that in order for ECOSOC to deal with the challenges, it needs to engage with all stakeholders in a multi- stakeholder constructive dialogue.

Martin Khor of the Third World Network said that the fall in aid despite the G8 Gleneagles Summit commitment was disappointing, while much more needs to be done on elimination of multilateral debt of developing countries. On the WTO negotiations, TWN stressed that getting the development content right was more important than meeting deadlines.

TWN was especially concerned about demands for developing countries to liberalise their industrial tariffs far beyond the level of opening that their industries could compete with, while developed countries are not making genuine moves to reduce their agricultural subsidies.

Just as worrisome were the provisions of the bilateral and regional FTAs which TWN said would jeopardise the development prospects of developing countries due to their imbalanced nature.

ActionAid said that the issue of hunger is the most important challenge that should be addressed in the ECOSOC's Ministerial Declaration, as 48 people die from hunger every two minutes. It said that progress on this issue is falling far short of the commitments set out in the MDGs.