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19 September, 2008


United Nations officials have lauded the involvement of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015, noting the increasingly vital role played by the private sector in tackling today’s most pressing challenges.

“The private sector, it is increasingly recognized, has the capacity and the power to make a difference,” Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office, told a news conference at UN Headquarters today.

The Compact pledges participating businesses – now numbering some 5,000 in over 100 countries – to observe principles regarding human rights, labour rights, environmental sustainability and the fight against corruption.

Mr. Kell welcomed the involvement of the CGI in the work of the UN, stating that its “innovative model of securing actionable commitments has not only been an inspiration for the CGI members but for many other voluntary initiatives.”

Ever since former United States president Bill Clinton set up the initiative in 2005, CGI members have made commitments designed to, among others, reduce poverty and hunger, work toward education for all and combat disease.

“CGI is not a typical philanthropic organization. We don’t give away any money at all,” said Bob Harrison, the Initiative’s chief executive officer.

“We create an opportunity for people with ideas to connect with people with resources. We distinguish ourselves from other meetings by a track record of converting ideas into solutions with tangible results,” he added.

CGI members commit themselves to action in one of four focus areas, which this year are education, climate change, global health and poverty alleviation.

“Through those four focus areas, CGI members are doing their part toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals set out by the United Nations,” Mr. Harrison said.

An example of this is the commitment made two years ago by corporate member Procter and Gamble to provide clean, safe drinking water to one million African children. Working with 17 non-governmental organizations (NGO), the company is distributing a product known as PUR, which, when put in dirty water, produces potable drinking water.

“The initiative had reached over 700,000 children so far, clearly addressing several of the MDGs,” said Mr. Harrison.

He added that, over the past three years, members have made nearly 1,000 commitments valued at upwards of $30 billion to improve more than 200 million lives in over 150 countries. Over 230 of those commitments have been completed to date.

In addition, CGI has had about 20 commitments made in partnership with the UN. At its fourth annual meeting next week, the Initiative will be announcing some 10 more.

More than 130 leading business leaders and over 50 current and former Heads of State have confirmed their attendance at the 23-26 September meeting, set to coincide with the UN high-level event on the MDGs on 25 September.

Among those slated to address the CGI gathering are Queen Rania of Jordan, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and United States presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

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16 May, 2008


The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) wrapped up its annual session today by emphasizing the need for ramping up investment in research and development in innovative and sustainable agricultural technologies and infrastructure in poor countries.

The Commission, concluding two weeks of discussions in New York, examined the obstacles and barriers that have prevented sustainable development in the areas of agriculture, land use, rural development, drought, desertification and Africa. Countries will now follow-up on these issues with policy recommendations at next year’s meeting.

The session also provided a foundation for international discussions on the global food crises that will take place in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – of which the CSD is a subsidiary body – next Tuesday in New York, and at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome in early June.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in an address earlier this week, said that “after a quarter century of relative neglect, agriculture is back on the international agenda, sadly with a vengeance. The onset of the current food crisis has highlighted the fragility of our success in feeding the world's growing population with the technologies of the first green revolution and subsequent agricultural improvements.”

The Secretary-General stressed that agriculture needs invigorating. “We need to work together to develop a new generation of technologies and farming methods which make possible a second green revolution, one which permits sustainable yield improvements with minimal environmental damage and contributes to sustainable development goals.”

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang said: “We do need to address the runaway food prices as an emergency. We need to take quick, targeted action to deliver emergency food aid to the people in need.” But he added that crisis management was not enough. “We need to make sure it does not happen again.”

Many countries expressed concern that a number of factors had contributed to the present situation, including climate change, unfair trade policies, poor land management, biofuel production, and a lack of roads and access to markets in rural agricultural areas.

Almost 60 ministers attended the CSD, along with 680 representatives from 126 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Representatives from civil society, including women, farmers, science, business, children and youth, local authorities, workers and trade unions, indigenous peoples and nongovernmental organizations participated far more extensively than in the past.

Participants also elected Gerda Verburg, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the Netherlands, as the next chair of the CSD – the first time that the subsidiary body of ECOSOC will be led by a woman.

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22 April, 2008


Experts from Asia and Europe have gathered at a United Nations-backed meeting which opened today in Bangkok to discuss progress made in efforts to link landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) in the Asia-Pacific region to sea ports.

The two-day talks will centre around assessing developments since the adoption of the UN’s Almaty Programme of Action in 2003, which is the first global action plan negotiated at the ministerial level that provides a framework for cooperation between landlocked and the transit access developing countries, promising reductions in red tape and transportation costs and time.

The meeting has been organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), along with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).

Presentations will be made by LLDC Member States of ESCAP – Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – and by transit countries, including China, Iran and Russia.

Also kicking off in Bangkok today is a meeting of 40 representatives from the Asia-Pacific region to confer on how to boost employment in the Pacific islands.

The Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries of ESCAP meets every two years, and the current gathering will take place from 22-23 April.

Participants will talk about policies – including transport infrastructure and promoting entrepreneurship and private sector growth – to spur economic growth, which is key in creating jobs.

They will also discuss how the UN can support efforts towards sustainable development in the region.

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8 October, 2007


United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today called for a “coalition of conscience,” backed by firm action, to achieve global development targets focused on freeing humanity from poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy.

“The good news is that we have all the resources in our command today to achieve this ambition in our own generation,” she told the General Assembly committee dealing with economic and financial issues. “We just cannot afford to fail.”

Global poverty is one of the “most pressing issues of our time,” trapping millions of children, women and men, she stated, adding that nowhere is its grip tighter than in Africa, where millions of lives quite literally hang in the balance.

She said sharp social and economic disparities in the global economy make it even harder to achieve the set of internationally agreed anti-poverty objectives known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015.

Particularly worrying is the risk global economic imbalances pose to a large number of developing countries, including African and least developed countries, as well as countries moving from conflict to reconstruction and development, she said, stressing that donors must do more to keep their promises on increasing development assistance flows and debt relief.

Foreign aid, while important, “is clearly not enough,” she said, calling for open, fair, equitable and non-discriminatory trading and financial systems.

Also addressing the committee, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs said that despite repeated calls, no serious action has been taken to address global imbalances.

Sha Zukang warned that “changes in market sentiments and investor confidence could trigger a hard landing of the dollar and a disorderly adjustment of the global imbalances, threatening prospects for the global economy and future growth.”

He said the slowing of global growth puts all economies at risk, especially the developing countries, including the many which depend on the demand for their products in industrialized countries and on commodity price levels.

“Any marked decrease in developing countries’ earnings would severely affect resources available for making the necessary investments to achieve the MDGs,” he added.

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11 September, 2007


The recent economic growth among Africa’s poorest countries has been confined mainly to those nations with rich mineral resources and has not yet translated to a substantial reduction in poverty, the United Nations envoy for those nations said today as he pledged to spearhead efforts to better distribute the emerging wealth.

Cheikh Sidi Diarra, who was appointed in July as the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, told his first press conference at UN Headquarters in New York that extreme poverty remains stubbornly high in the world’s most vulnerable nations.

Nearly half of the estimated 760 million people in the 50 States classed as least developing countries (LDCs) live in extreme poverty, or on less than $1 per day, he said.

Mr. Diarra said the situation was harshest in sub-Saharan Africa, home to 34 of the 50 LDCs and the only region in the world where the percentage of people living in extreme poverty rose in the two decades until 2001.

Although many countries in that region are enjoying solid economic growth and receiving greater amounts of foreign direct investment (FDI), they are still concentrated in the countries with high amounts of mineral resources.

Mr. Diarra said the growth needs to be more evenly spread and he called on developed nations to play their part by helping poor countries improve their infrastructure and expand their export trade.

The envoy also promised to focus on efforts to encourage good governance in LDCs, which he stressed was a critical factor in ensuring they make economic and social progress.

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25 April, 2007


New York, Apr 25 2007 4:00PM Just returned from a mission to Haiti, the leader of a team from the United Nations Economic and Social Council (<" http://www.un.org/docs/ecosoc">ECOSOC) today painted a mixed picture of the Caribbean country, which has experienced greater political stability and security in recent months but still faces numerous development challenges which he said must be met through a determined international response.

“Our goal is to promote recovery and stability and to ensure that Haiti receives the sustained, long-term international support that it needs,” said Ambassador John McNee of Canada, who led the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group set up to follow the situation in Haiti and give advice to its Government on its long-term development strategies.

The Group’s recent four-day trip to Haiti, which followed a visit it made two years ago, aimed to assess progress “and reinforce the UN’s long-term commitment to the people of Haiti,” Mr. McNee said.

Members of the team, which included representatives of Haiti, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Spain and Trinidad and Tobago, met with senior Government officials, staff of UN agencies, the UN Assistance Mission in Haiti (<" http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/minustah">MINUSTAH) and others. They visited the capital, including the notoriously dangerous Cité Soleil neighbourhood, and also traveled beyond Port-au-Prince.

Mr. McNee said the Group was still formulating its recommendations, but he echoed the findings of their previous report, which stressed that Haiti must remain on the international agenda and receive more support.

“We were all struck by the magnitude of the development challenges in Haiti,” he said, while adding there were a number of encouraging factors, including measurable political stability thanks to elections facilitated by MINUSTAH, as well as a “considerable increase” in the level of basic security.

In the past it would have been “unthinkable” for the Group to visit Cité Soleil, walk freely down the streets and speak with people there, he said, paying tribute to joint UN-Haitian efforts to take on the gangs “in their home turf.”

Mr. McNee tempered his optimism with a note of caution. “In fairness, we should stress the fragility of the situation and the huge challenge. It is one thing to take on the gangs in this area – the real challenge is finding employment and economic growth that will give people incentive to take a peaceful path, not a criminal path.”

On the long-term economic strategy, he said recommendations included boosting tourism, a mainstay of many Caribbean economies, and agriculture. “Those are two potential resources that Haiti has and offer possibilities for the future.”

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3rd April, 2007


The world will not achieve the series of anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) if the poorest countries in Africa are left behind, a United Nations envoy has told a conference of the continent’s finance, planning and development ministers.

Anwarul K. Chowdhury, UN High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), said global efforts to attain the MDGs must be harnessed more closely with existing programmes such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to accelerate economic growth in Africa and ensure that poverty is defeated.

Some 34 of the 50 nations classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are found in Africa. NEPAD is a strategic framework adopted by African leaders in 2001 to try to develop a more integrated approach to tackling socio-economic underdevelopment.

“I have underlined before that if the LDCs do not achieve the MDGs, neither will the world as a whole,” Mr. Chowdhury told the conference yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “With two-thirds of the LDCs in Africa, we can confidently say that Africa has to achieve the MDGs for the world to have any hope of doing so.”

The MDGs are a set of eight targets for slashing social and economic ills – from halving extreme poverty to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – by 2015, and were agreed to by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000.

Mr. Chowdhury added that Africa must rein in its high rates of population growth, which have been eroding its otherwise healthy economic growth in recent years. Although the proportion of Africans living in extreme poverty increased only from 44.6 per cent in 1990 to 46.4 per cent in 2001, the actual number of affected people jumped by 38 per cent to 318 million because of soaring population growth.

The High Representative stressed the need for more transparency in both foreign assistance provided to struggling African countries and the use of internal resources to ensure that the poorest benefit most.

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2nd April, 2007


Job creation will be vital in efforts to reach the ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a set of targets to slash a host of social ills, such as extreme poverty, by 2015, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said today.

Increasing employment is the “critical link” between economic growth and poverty reduction, she told a meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Higher economic growth, while important, must not be viewed as an end in itself,” Ms. Migiro said. “For instance, last year’s robust worldwide expansion did not lead to a corresponding reduction in unemployment or poverty. Instead, the number of people living on less than $2 a day actually grew last year to reach 1.37 billion.”

Ms. Migiro also noted that unemployment disproportionately affects youth, with that age group representing a quarter of the global working population but nearly half of the unemployed.

“Globalization has lifted standards of living for some, but it has left many more on the margins, unable to enjoy its benefits,” she said.

“Addressing these disparities is a central tenet of the Millennium Development Goals,” the Deputy Secretary-General added, pointing out that as the target date of 2015 approaches, “the world as a whole still lags in the race to achieve all of these Goals.”

ECOSOC, comprised of 54 members elected by the General Assembly, is a body which meets yearly to further economic and social cooperation and development. Its mandate was enhanced in 2005 during the UN World Summit to improve the effectiveness of aid and monitor the implementation of targets, such as the MDGs, agreed upon by Member States.

Today’s ECOSOC meeting was a preparatory one for an annual ministerial review, set to take place later this year, which will assess the progress, or lack thereof, that the body has made in reaching objectives such as the MDGs.

Ms. Migiro called on the body to remember the ties between agriculture, hunger and poverty, as three out of every four of the world’s poor reside in rural communities.

“If we all join hands, we can still meet the 2015 MDG deadline, we can advance against poverty and hunger, and we can build a true partnership for development.”

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30 January, 2007


Counting down to the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa, and boosting the continent’s efforts to improve education and health through sport, the African Union (AU), South Africa and Ethiopia have nominated 2007 as the International Year of African Football, an initiative welcomed by the United Nations as part of its global drive linking sport with development.

The launch, which took place on Monday at the AU summit in Ethiopia, was also tied in to the 50th anniversary of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). Director of the UN New York Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), Djibril Diallo, represented the sports-related activities of the agencies, funds and programmes of the UN at the historic event.

“The year 2007 will see a rolling programme of activities in AU Member States with a view to sharing the pride that a FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) global event will be held for the first time on this continent,” the UNOSDP said in a press release.

“The initiatives are meant to create a new consciousness with regard to the contribution of football, and sport in general, at the national level and in local communities to support AU programmes especially in the areas of education, health, development and peace.”

The day-long launch took place in the presence of Heads of State and Government and leaders of 53 Member States of the AU, and also in attendance were FIFA President Sepp Blatter, CAF President Isaa Hayatou, along with several famous African footballers.

Mr. Diallo met with South Africa’s Minister of Sport to discuss ways that UNOSDP can support the ministry’s efforts and those of the South African Local Organizing Committee to help promote activities related to the FIFA World Cup 2010. Initiatives will be launched in consultation with the AU through the various country offices of the UN in the next three years.

UNOSDP, which is headed by the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for Sport for Development and Peace Adolf Ogi, is the key UN body representing sport for development and peace on behalf of the UN system.

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16 January, 2007


In his first meeting with United States President George W. Bush since assuming office as Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said the two leaders mutually pledged to work together to try to achieve the goals of peace and increased global prosperity.

Mr. Ban told reporters after his talks with Mr. Bush at the White House in Washington, D.C. that the pair had had “a very good, very useful meeting” in which he stressed the value of a strong partnership between the UN and the US.

“The United Nations needs the strong and active participation and strong support of the United States, as the UN and the US have a shared objective of promoting human rights, democracy and freedom and peace and security, as well as mutual prosperity,” he said.

Mr. Ban said they discussed key regional issues, including the Darfur crisis in Sudan, the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The Secretary-General added that Mr. Bush’s assurances and comments underlined his confidence that the world body “can have a very mutually cooperative and good relationship in the future” with the US.

Asked by a reporter about a newspaper column written by John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, Mr. Ban said Mr. Bolton had raised some good points among his suggestions for reform measures at the UN.

“The United Nations should change, with much more efficiency and effectiveness and mobility and the highest level of ethical standards,” he said. “I am very much committed to carry out this reform, and I need the strong support of all Member States and the staff of the United Nations in carrying out these reform measures.”

During his visit to Washington, Mr. Ban met both Democratic and Republican members of the US Congress, including key members of the Senate and House committees dealing with foreign relations. He also addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies, outlining his view of his priorities in office and on the future of the UN-US relationship.

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30 October, 2006


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today stressed the importance of using the worldwide net to promote global development as he opened the first ever Internet Governance Forum by encouraging participants to use the four-day gathering to foster dialogue and cooperation.

More than 1,200 participants comprising government, private sector and civil society representatives, including academic and technical communities, are expected to gather in Athens until Thursday to hold interactive discussions on issues related to Internet governance, including freedom of expression, access, multilingualism and others.

“With more than 1 billion users worldwide and still growing dramatically, the Internet has outgrown its origins as a network run by and for computer specialists. Indeed it has become too important, for almost every country’s economy and administration, for Governments not to take an interest,” Mr.
Annan said in a speech read out by Nitin Desai, Special Adviser for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

“The challenge therefore is to bring two cultures together: the non-governmental Internet community, with its traditions of informal, bottom-up decision-making, and the more formal, structured world of Governments and intergovernmental organizations.”

“The Internet Governance Forum is well placed to contribute to that effort by fostering dialogue, and by giving voice to a wide range of views, including developing-country individuals and institutions involved in Internet governance.”

The Forum, which is not a decision-making body, grew out of the 2003 and
2005 WSIS, during which the contentious issue of Internet Governance was one of the most widely debated. As a result, Heads of State and Governments asked Mr. Annan to set up the Forum.

“I am very encouraged that during the preparatory process, all stakeholders acknowledged that the Internet can play a powerful role in helping developing countries to advance their economic and social well-being, and agreed on the development dimension as overarching priority of the Forum.”

“Today, the Forum enters uncharted waters. Its mandate… calls on it to serve not as a convenor of Governments, but of all stakeholders. The Forum will thus have to develop procedures and practices for cultivating meaningful cooperation among these disparate partners. While this will be a challenge, the Internet lends itself particularly well to this search for new forms of global collaboration.”

Over the next four days there will be eight main sessions and more than 30 workshops, covering the following themes relating to Internet governance:

openness – freedom of expression, free flow of information, ideas and knowledge; security – creating trust and confidence through collaboration; diversity – promoting multilingualism and local content; access – Internet connectivity, policy and cost.

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23 October, 2006


In an effort to attain global development goals, better monitoring of the environment and to enhance peacebuilding and conflict resolution, the United Nations General Assembly has pledged to work more closely with regional and other organizations.

The Assembly, voting unanimously on Friday, adopted four resolutions aimed at enhanced cooperation with the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the International Organization of la Francophonie.

All four resolutions seek to consolidate the ties of the UN system and the organizations towards the “furtherance of shared objectives and the promotion of cooperation in resolving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems,” the Assembly said.

During the debate, nearly 40 speakers urged the world body to take advantage of the expertise and on-the-ground experience of regional and local groups to assist in key areas, including promoting equitable development, in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); monitoring environmental degradation and the use of natural resources; and even conflict resolution and peacebuilding, a particular concern for speakers from Africa, the Pacific island States, and the wider developing world.

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4 October, 2006


Openness and market access are sometimes not enough to allow developing countries to benefit from economic globalization because they lack the knowledge and infrastructure to produce goods and services and need increased foreign aid and investment, a top United Nations trade official said today.

“In fact, some have argued that trade liberalization has in some cases resulted in de-industrialization and even greater poverty,” UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told a high-level panel discussion in Geneva on the topic of “UNCTAD, development, and the way forward.”

“Only investment in the productive sector will create employment, increase household income and reduce poverty over the long term,” he said, citing especially the world’s 50 least developed countries (LDCs).

Such countries “simply lack the capacity” to benefit from globalization, Mr. Supachai noted. They do not have “the ability to produce goods and services, the knowledge needed to create a broad industrial base and the infrastructure that enables countries to trade and communicate.”

It is necessary to strengthen managerial and entrepreneurial skills in developing countries and to bolster the Aid for Trade programme, which aims at helping such countries take advantage of export opportunities, he added.

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27 September, 2006


Marking World Tourism Day, the United Nations today highlighted the major role the industry plays in combating poverty in developing countries.

“Tourism is now well recognized as one of the key ways to bring wealth and experience from the richest to the poorest countries,” UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Francesco Frangialli said in a message.

The agency released an e-booklet on its website underlining tourism’s multifaceted role in promoting development, from its role as the world’s largest service sector to the part it plays in establishing contacts, recognizing diversity and practicing tolerance.

It notes that tourism is bigger than cars, agriculture or electronics; thatit generates $800 billion a year in international tourist spending – a sum that will more than double by 2020; and that it creates millions of jobs, both directly in transport, restaurant lodging and travel firms and indirectly in agriculture, commerce and manufacturing.

Tourism represents 40 per cent of global service trade and 6 per cent of total world trade and over the past decade grew in the poorest 49 countries at six times the rate of Europe.

The 150-member UNWTO, a specialized UN agency, is the leading international organization in the field of tourism, serving as a global forum for tourism policy issues and practical source of tourism know-how.

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22 September, 2006


Extreme poverty remains the greatest danger facing humanity, African nations told the United Nations General Assembly today as they outlined the challenges they face in attempting to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015.

Rosemary Museminali, Rwandan Minister of State for Cooperation, reminded delegates at the Assembly’s annual debate that 40 per cent of the world’s population – or about 2.5 billion people – live on less than $2 a day, and more than 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

“For sub-Saharan Africa, the statistics are even more staggering: in most cases 60 to 70 per cent of national populations live on less than $1 a day, while life expectancy at birth is less than 50 years,” she said.

Mrs. Museminali said improving the standard of governance and raising the levels of official development assistance (ODA) from industrialized countries were critical if sub-Saharan Africa is to attain the eight MDGs, which were agreed upon at the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000.

But she said the most serious challenge is the surging price levels of key fossil fuels and the burden that is placing on African countries that have to import these energy sources, a theme adopted by Youssouf Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister, in his address.

Mr. Ouedraogo said the recent jump in oil prices had pushed Burkina Faso towards developing bio-fuel technology using by-products from its cotton industry.

Calling for a revamp of the international trade regime, he said the current system was not free or equitable and punished Burkinabe cotton producers.

Lamenting the lack of progress towards the MDGs, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, voiced concern that the world is relying too much on the trickle-down effect to reduce poverty, “instead of taking a bottom-up approach.”

The result is that “globalization does not seem to be living up to its promises,” Mr. Ramgoolam concluded, insisting that it must be transformed into a wider process so that everyone can share in its benefits, and not just the few.

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12 September, 2006


In a bid to identify ways to maximize the development benefits of migration and to reduce difficulties, representatives of over 120 governments, including some 90 ministers, will convene in New York this week for the first-ever plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly on migration issues.

“We are only beginning to learn how to make migration work more consistently for development,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report prepared in anticipation of the meeting. “Each of us holds a piece of the migration puzzle, but none has the whole picture. It is time to start putting it together.”

In addition to the plenary debate, the meeting will bring ministers and delegates together in informal round table discussions on themes such as monies sent home by workers abroad, or “remittances;” the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons; and partnerships between and among countries.

Conceived and scheduled more than two years ago by the General Assembly, the 14-15 September High-level Dialogue follows a period of intense public attention to the cross-border movement of people, and a quickening pace of multilateral talks on migration.

The report of the Secretary-General on international migration and development estimates that 191 million people live in countries other than where they were born. It notes that migration does not follow only a South-to-North track. One third of the world’s migrant stock are workers and families from developing countries living in developed nations; one third have moved from one developing country to another, and another third have migrated from a developed country.

By the most recent estimate, $173 billion in remittances from migrants was sent to homes in developing countries in 2005. In the developed world, immigrants often fill certain work force shortages or take jobs that are unwanted locally, reduce the extent of population ageing and help to maintain the solvency of social pension systems, and stimulate demand and economic growth, the UN report finds.

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11 July, 2006


Donor countries’ official development assistance (ODA) to poorer nations has grown markedly in the past few years due to various relief efforts, but funding to meet international development goals has actually dropped off, according to a report presented today to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva.

“The drop in ODA (excluding special purpose grants) leads to less ODA available as a source of budgetary resources, thereby limiting the efforts of developing countries to pursue the goals,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a note conveying a statistical review of trends in development cooperation.

“The trend must be reversed,” he maintains.

The report recalls that during the early 1990s, the ODA share of donor countries’ gross national income shrank to a low of 0.21 per cent, but the pledges made by donors to increase such aid at the International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey, Mexico in 2000, stemmed the fall.

By 2005 ODA had recovered to reach a high of $106.5 billion, with the share of ODA to gross national income equal to 0.33 per cent. Aid for development programmes and projects recorded the largest increase in many years, the report says.

It points out, however, that the recent recovery in aid flows has been mainly the result of debt relief for Iraq and Nigeria and emergency aid to the tsunami-affected countries in the Indian Ocean.

Aid toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of targets agreed upon at the 2000 World Summit to reduce extreme poverty and other global ills by the year 2015, falls far short of the estimated $150 billion projected.

In addition to calling for increased funding targeting to the MDGs, Mr.
Annan also advocates putting fewer conditions on the use of ODA by developing countries, so that they can take a greater degree of “ownership”
in their own development programmes.

Introducing the report at the ECOSOC session in Geneva today, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo said the timing of the ODA review is particularly significant, since efforts are now underway to establish a forum for development cooperation attached to ECOSOC, as called for by the 2005 World Summit.

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10 July, 2006


Developing countries, including the poorest 50 among them, are on track in
2006 to continue the impressive 6.0 per cent growth rate of the past two years, but are threatened by volatility in commodity prices and interest rates, according to a new United Nations report.

“Primary commodity exporting countries should be vigilant about the risk of a sharp reversal in prices,” according to the UN World Economic Situation and Prospects, released at the current session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva.

The report predicts that the 50 least developed countries (LDCS) will reach an unprecedented overall growth rate of over 7 per cent this year, as compared with 2.7 per cent for the industrialized world.

Burgeoning economic expansion in some large developing economies, particularly China, has continued to push demand for primary commodities along with non-economic factors such as geopolitical uncertainty and market speculation.

But such factors, the report warns, are highly volatile, and could be made more so by such possibilities as a sudden and sharp devaluation of an already weakened dollar due to high United States debt.

Given such threats and in order to protect and consolidate the broad-based world economic growth of the last few years, the report says that greater international cooperation is required, particularly to redress the global imbalances while avoiding recessionary adjustment in the US.

“Coordinated global adjustment will require measures that will stimulate savings in the deficit countries and domestic demand in the surplus countries,” it says.

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7 July, 2006


Stressing the importance of dealing comprehensively with social and economic issues in view of their impact on poverty and hunger, a senior official from the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said today that policy coherence at all levels and across all sectors was needed to successfully achieve development goals.

In a panel discussion focusing on the best ways to achieve economic growth, poverty reduction and development, Hjalmar W. Hannesson, ECOSOC Vice-President, also highlighted that because global poverty was a multidimensional problem no single sector could provide a complete eradication strategy.

Mr. Hannesson opened the discussion by noting that the impact on poverty and hunger of social and economic issues was often context-specific and could not be dealt with in a “one-size-fits-for-all” manner. “Policy coherence at all levels and across all sectors needed to be ensured for the successful achievement of development goals,” he said.

Nora Lustig, Director of the Poverty Group, Bureau for Development Policy of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) told the panel that four basic principles should guide Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)-based National Development Principles. The MDGs are a set of eight targets for tackling poverty, illiteracy and other global ills by 2015.

These Principles are the inclusion of specific pro-MDG policies which do not rely solely or primarily on trickle-down economic growth; the need to ensure broad consistency between macro and growth policies, and pro-MDG policies; a selection of pro-MDG policies that were pro-growth in the long run; and the setting of minimum standards for all population groups and regions that do not rely solely on the performance of national averages.

Today’s discussions were the latest during ECOSOC’s annual session that will run through 28 July. ECOSOC, the UN’s principal body for coordinating and advancing development policy, coordinates the work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, 10 functional commissions and 5 regional commissions, receives reports from 10 UN funds and programmes and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to Member States. The 54-member Council meets every year, alternating between New York and Geneva.

In a related development, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has hailed ECOSOC’s adoption on Wednesday of a Ministerial Declaration on full and productive employment and decent work, saying it would help strengthen efforts by the UN and the multilateral system aimed at creating jobs, cutting poverty and providing new hope for the world’s 1.4 billion working poor during the next decade.

“This move presents the extraordinary opportunity to mainstream the goal of full and productive employment and decent work for all into the regular activities of all relevant UN organizations”, said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

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22 June, 2006


Senior United Nations officials and diplomats today hailed the efforts of civil society groups to combat poverty in the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) and stressed that governments must hear the strong call of these organizations for action to help the world’s poorest people.

“We hope to see a civil society that really is influencing the decisions that this intergovernmental body, the United Nations, arrives at,” said Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, addressing the General Assembly’s Civil Society Hearing on LDCs, held in New York.

The hearing provided an opportunity for participants from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups and world business to exchange views with Member States on progress in realizing targets agreed in the 10-year Programme of Action for LDCs, which was adopted in 2001 in Brussels.

Welcoming the participants, some of whom were able to travel to the hearings thanks to support from the UN, Mr. Malloch Brown challenged them “to not limit your advocacy to today but to take it back to the national level and to make sure that you seek to influence the position of governments when they assemble here in September.”

“You bring to our deliberations the reality of a world where millions of women, children and men are overwhelmed by poverty and disease,” said General Assembly President Jan Eliasson.

Civil society had demonstrated its strength by focusing attention on issues affecting the poor in developing countries, but more must be done to accelerate growth in those States through “unrelenting support and effective implementation” on the part of all concerned, he added.

The UN’s High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing State, Anwarul Chowdhury, said civil society’s ability to forge coalitions that transcend borders must help the development cause of LDCs. “Indeed, civil society, NGOs and the private sector are already playing a big role but I urge greater engagement with the specific needs of the world’s 50 poorest nations,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

Simon Idohou, Chairman of the LDCs Group and Benin’s UN Ambassador, said, “Everyone stands to gain when governments, NGOs and the private sector work together.”

Civil society actors attending the hearing underscored the importance of greater transparency and accountability in policy and the decision-making process. Arjun Karki, coordinator of the NGO LDC Watch, said that during the remaining five years of the Programme of Action there should be increased emphasis on pro-poor policies. He further called for adequate representation and participation of women and other vulnerable groups in policy formulation.

“Demand-driven and responsive initiatives need to be encouraged, based on principles of gender justice and equality, so that we can benefit from investments and even generate our won wealth,” Mr. Karki said.

Today’s informal interactive civil society hearing was part of a series of meetings, round tables and panel discussions being held in advance of a September General Assembly review of the implementation of the Programme of Action.

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26 May, 2006


Secretary-General Kofi Annan today presented the United Nations first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award to King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, hailing the monarch’s tireless 60-year-long efforts to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in his kingdom as an example to the world.

“Your Majesty has made an extraordinary contribution to human development. As the world’s ‘Development King,’ Your Majesty has reached out to the poorest and the most vulnerable people of Thailand – regardless of their status, ethnicity or religion – listened to their problems, and empowered them to take their lives in their own hands,” Mr. Annan told the King at the award ceremony.

The new prize is awarded by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Mr. Annan cited the King’s countless rural development projects that have benefited millions of people across Thailand, promoting small-scale agriculture, appropriate farming technologies, sustainable use of water, conservation, and flood and drought mitigation.

“As a visionary thinker, Your Majesty has played an invaluable role in shaping the global development dialogue,” he said. “Your Majesty’s ‘Sufficiency Economy’ philosophy – emphasizing moderation, responsible consumption, and resilience to external shocks – is of great relevance worldwide during these times of rapid globalization.

“It reinforces the United Nation’s efforts to promote a people-centred and sustainable path of development. With this Award, we hope to further promote the invaluable experiences and lessons learnt from Your Majesty’s development endeavours, and help draw attention to Your Majesty’s visionary thinking beyond the borders of the Kingdom of Thailand.”

In an earlier speech to a high-level panel on the King’s programmes, Mr. Annan noted that, reduced to its essence, human development is a very simple concept: empowering people, the few nor even the many, but all people.

“It is about empowering them through education, through opportunity, through health care and nutrition. It is about empowering individuals with choices so that they may live healthy, knowledgeable and creative lives,” he said.

“The United Nations prioritizes such development at the very centre of its agenda, and we put tremendous effort into promoting it. We do it through UNDP’s global and national Human Development Reports. We do it through the development work of UN Country Teams in 166 countries across the world. And we do it through this award.

“After all, if human development is about putting people first, there can no better advocate for it than His Majesty,” he added.

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