The United Nations must play an increasingly prominent role in governing a global economy that remained gripped by aftershocks from the recent economic and financial crisis, the head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said today, the eve of that body’s thirteenth ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar.
“We are far and away not out of the woods yet,” Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said at a press conference, citing continued negative growth, recessions and poverty around the world. Indeed, the global trading system’s gains over the last decade had been “lost overnight” in the recent crisis, and recovery remained fragile in many parts of the world. He stressed that UNCTAD XIII, whose theme was “Development-centred globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development”, was taking place at a turning point during which leaders of the global community must step forward to lead the world out of “round after round of financial crisis”.
Mr. Supachai — accompanied by Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser (Qatar), President of the United Nations General Assembly; the latter’s Chef de Cabinet Mutlaq al-Qahtani; and UNCTAD XIII Spokesperson Taffere Tesfachew — said that, in what amounted to an increasingly multipolar world, the meeting would provide a crucial platform for Member States to share experiences and lessons learned. Hopefully, concrete recommendations based on their experiences would emerge.
Highlighting several key lessons culled from past crises, Mr. Supachai stressed the need for the right approach in examining global financial markets. The world had learned that markets had their own constraints, and that the self-regulating markets proposed by liberal economies did not always “get development right”. In successive crises, it had also learned the importance of the role of the State, which had been called upon when the markets had failed. However, the current trend, in which “profits are always privatized and losses are always socialized”, could not be allowed to continue, he said. UNCTAD was asserting that the State must have a role in developing a balanced approach to global economic governance.
“Finance should not be the master of development,” he emphasized, adding that it should instead serve the latter’s aims. People should be able to earn their keep and take care of their families. “We think financial development has gone too far and needs to be tamed.” Additionally, the world had learned that global crises required global solutions, and that stronger global governance, partly under United Nations auspices, was critical.
Mr. Al-Nasser pointed out that UNCTAD XIII would be the first to take place in the aftermath of the global economic and financial crisis. Its theme was both timely and appropriate, as the intersection of trade and development was of critical importance for both developing and developed countries, all of which shared its benefits. For its part, the General Assembly remained “very concerned” about the current global economic situation in large part because of its impact on development. For that reason, he said, he planned to convene a high-level thematic debate on the state of the world economy on 17 and 18 May, in the hope that it would create a “sense of common purpose” in finding the right response to increasingly complex and interlinked global challenges.
Another high-level event, titled, “The road to Rio and beyond”, would be held later in May and, in June, attention would focus on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) itself, he continued. “Underlying all my efforts … is my firm belief that the UN and its General Assembly must play a more prominent role in global economic governance,” he said. Indeed, concerns had been expressed that there had been a notable marginalizing of the Organization in that regard. There had also been weak accountability in terms of the commitments made by Member States in that area, he noted, adding that he was pleased that the Assembly had adopted a landmark resolution on global financial governance. The UNCTAD meeting was an important step in that effort.
Asked what efforts were being made to support countries facing social uprisings, and how developed countries could be convinced to be fairer to those less developed, the Assembly President said corruption and lack of respect for human rights had led to the revolutions of the past year. Pointing out that those countries were not necessarily poor, he said many were wealthy in resources but lacking in good governance and well-planned development strategies. Hopefully in the aftermath of the uprisings, the situation would improve and strong development plans would emerge.
When asked why the belief among many countries that they would not meet the 2015 deadline for realizing the Millennium Development Goals was being “skipped over” as the international community turned to the post-2015 period, Mr. Supachai replied that there had indeed been achievements, including poverty reduction in Asia and the notable economic growth seen in Africa. Gains had also been made in areas such as education and the provision of clean water. However, as the goals were being conceived, the predominant thinking had been that the United Nations should be involved only in social areas. “Now we know more,” he said, pointing out that the Organization was more involved in economic issues. Indeed, that lesson must be integrated into the post-2015 generation of targets, he added.