With the world in the midst of an economic recovery that was “fragile at best” bold ideas were required to transform the path and process of globalization so that countries buffeted by the global financial crisis could gain relief through more equitable growth, improved market access, scaled-up investment and other forms of cooperation, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a message to the Thirteenth Ministerial Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII).
Delivering his message to the Meeting’s opening session in Doha, Qatar, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said the “unprecedented economic upheaval” that had followed the 2008 meltdown of marquee financial institutions had put an end to several years of accelerated growth, vividly demonstrating the perils of deregulated financial markets. Four years on, inequality had reached new highs and pre-crisis growth remained out of reach for many countries, particularly those in the developing world.
The crisis had also exposed vast disparities among and even within nations, slowing progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and leaving more than 200 million people out of work, she continued. Recent unrest in the Arab world and protests against economic inequality in several advanced countries had shown that lack of opportunity and political voice, particularly among youth, was unsustainable. Doubts about the world financial situation had also undermined efforts to tackle climate change and other serious global challenges effectively at a time when cooperation was needed more than ever.
With all that in mind, she said, UNCTAD XIII provided an excellent opportunity to urgently identify measures to restore growth, prevent “inward-looking, beggar-thy-neighbour reactions” and help the most vulnerable countries deal with a crisis they had not created. Among other priorities, delegations in Doha must examine the causes of the crisis, especially systemic ones, to prevent them from recurring; identify trade and development policies to meet climate change goals; promote more inclusive development and unlock the full potential of international business.
“You are gathered here to set the foundations of a post-crisis development consensus,” she said, calling for new policies and “bold ideas” to right the current disruptive course of globalization. Indeed, UNCTAD’s mandate — covering trade, finance, investment, technology and sustainable development — was a timely forum for such discussions, she said, warning that failure to make progress could lead to a loss of trust while undermining the legitimacy of globalization and its development promise. “Much is at stake”, she added, stressing that the Conference could help point the way towards a more inclusive “globalization that works for all people and enables us to build the future we want”.
Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, welcomed all participants, saying that the Meeting coincided with the “huge” economic and political challenges affecting the world since 2008. Indeed, the economic crisis still cast a long shadow on global development and was expected to do so for some time to come, especially since measures taken by eurozone countries had postponed rather than effectively addressed the impacts of the debt crisis there. Moreover, real initiatives to address financial-sector lapses in the United States were being “held hostage” to disagreements between Republicans and Democrats, he added.
In light of such challenges facing the forward and equitable progress of globalization, he called for concerted efforts to restructure substantially the global economic order so as to ensure that it was based on human values that would promote trade, investment and development. Noting the current changes under way in the Arab region, he said all people should be able to express their legitimate rights, and expressed hope that after a transition period, Arab countries would enact policies and decisions based on democratic choices and decision-making. Such a path would in the long run be the best decision for the region and the world.
Hanna Tetteh, Minister for Trade and Industry of Ghana, host of UNCTAD XII, made a statement on behalf of President John Atta Mils, saying that the fallout from the economic and financial crisis had exposed the seriously uneven nature of globalization. UNCTAD XIII should provide a forum for deepening the global discussion about building consensus on the way towards more equitable social and economic growth. While there was no pleasure in pointing it out, UNCTAD, through its reports and analysis, had been “raising the red flag” for the past 10 years, she noted. Now that fears of a global financial crisis had been realized, it was clear that there was a need to enhance the coherence of the global economic architecture and make globalization more inclusive.
She went on to state that the delay in concluding the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations had impacted the developing world and impeded developing countries’ participation in the global marketplace. “A paradigm shift for vulnerable and weak economies is long overdue,” she emphasized, urging developed countries to “think differently” while also encouraging UNCTAD XIII to play its role by helping to shift the global dialogue to addressing the challenges the world faced today. “We all must explore ways to work together”, she said, adding that the ultimate significance of the Conference’s reports was to help define appropriate strategies “and bring our people to prosperity”.
Following those opening statements, the Conference heard interventions from high-level Government officials who welcomed the meeting’s focus on equitable growth and globalization and stressed the need to move quickly to offset the continuing impact of the global financial crisis. Several speakers called for globalization that was not merely more equitable but which redressed systemic gaps in the international architecture that had persisted for more than 20 years. The deeply flawed and unfair “Washington consensuses” — championed by the very nations and institutions which had been blindsided in 2008 — must be abandoned, one Government official said, while another urged a more moral path for globalization, which allowed all countries to share in the benefits of economic growth.
In other business, the Meeting elected members of its Bureau, beginning with its President, Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage of Qatar. It then elected 32 Vice-Presidents from the following countries: Bangladesh; Iran; Maldives; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; Yemen; China; Belarus; Lithuania; Russian Federation; Lesotho; Algeria; Burkina Faso; Djibouti; Ghana; Morocco; Tunisia; Belgium; Canada; France; Germany; Netherlands; Luxembourg; Switzerland; Turkey; United States; Argentina; Ecuador; Chile; Colombia; Jamaica; Peru; and Trinidad and Tobago. In addition, it elected Väino Reinart (Estonia) as its Rapporteur.
The Meeting then elected Anthony Maruping (Lesotho) as Chair of its Committee of the Whole.
It went on to approve the appointment of nine States — China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Italy, Maldives, Panama, Russian Federation, Senegal and the United States — to its Credentials Committee by the United Nations General Assembly.
The Conference also adopted the agenda for its current session.
Immediately following that action, the representative of Cuba registered a reservation about the agenda, saying there had been “no consistency or coherence” on the part of European Union States with regard to reports of the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit. Privilege had been given to the audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers when carrying out those reports, and many countries had objected to them. While noting that Cuba had joined the consensus on the agenda’s adoption, he nevertheless described such actions as “hypocrisy” on the part of European countries, adding that his delegation continued to have serious misgivings.
UNCTAD XIII will continue this evening with a High-Level Segment on “New opportunities for economic growth and activity in the wake of the global economic crisis”.
The first major United Nations ministerial gathering focusing exclusively on trade and development since the fallout from the 2008-2009 economic and financial crisis, UNCTAD XIII seeks to address issues of the green economy and climate change; on debt and financial and monetary reform; and on science and technology and the next era of globalization. Running through 26 April, the Conference, convened for the first time in an Arab country, is also expected to be addressed by a host of world leaders and senior ministers of finance and trade.
Besides daily plenary sessions in which Government delegates present their views on development-centred globalization — the Meeting’s main theme — the bulk of its work will be built around a series of panel discussions and round tables on such vital themes as enhancing the global trade environment; trade and poverty reduction; and the future international agenda on non-tariff measures. Monday, 23 April will see a special High-Level Event on Women in Development, and later in the week the Meeting will hear Mexico deliver a progress report on the work of the Group of 20 (G-20) major advanced and emerging economies, in its capacity as that forum’s current President.
MONCEF MARZOUKI, President of Tunisia, said that, since the international community was still suffering the effects of the aftershocks from the 2008 financial crisis, it was clear that the old ways of operating did not work and it was now time to “tear up the rule book” and seek new ways to ensure sustainable development for all. He noted that the changes that had recently swept his country had led to a rethinking of development, especially in terms of bolstering its social and economic aspects. Indeed, Tunisia was pursuing a more holistic pathway to growth by sweeping away obstacles that had hampered its progress in the past. The country had turned a profound new page, he said, expressing hope that the Meeting would reaffirm the importance of people-centred growth and development. “We all have the same mission; we should work together to overcome the challenges before us,” he said.
IKILILOU DHOININE, President of Comoros, said that, in its current form, globalization had sparked alarming shocks and crises, most significantly felt in developing countries. Indeed, they continued to be buffeted by the 2008 crisis, even as some regions announced a nascent recovery. “This is a problem of fairness,” he said, adding that the Conference provided the opportunity not only to refocus attention on the real economy, but also to help the international community consider ways to ensure that global institutions and processes operated in the service of all people equally. “Globalization must be redirected towards a more inclusive development,” he reiterated, calling for a major focus on the well-being of developing, small island and least developed countries.
As for UNCTAD’s role, he said the Conference must be strengthened, especially in order to address global macroeconomic issues. Appealing urgently for more support for small island developing States, he said they should be the centre of the agency’s analytical work as they continued to face severe difficulties in linking their economies to regional and global markets. The Meeting could provide assistance by developing appropriate strategies and policies to overcome bottlenecks in economic infrastructure. “This [Meeting] should be a starting point for the rationalization of globalization, based on sustainable human development,” he declared.
ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, President of Niger, took up the call for equitable development policies, saying that the meltdown of financial institutions in the United States, as well as the eurozone debt crisis, had exposed the shortcomings of the “Washington Consensus”. The “invisible hand” of the market had imposed a “dictatorship” that had exacerbated inequality, slowed economic growth, increased poverty and put countless people out of work. Current economic models were the exact opposite of those that had pulled the world out of crisis in the 1930s and following the Second World War, he added.
Noting that his country had been a victim of the Washington Consensus, he said it had been forced to enact austerity measures and pay back debt when it could have been building infrastructure or ensuring that its products reached more markets, he continued. Niger had resisted when it could, especially regarding calls to privatize key industries or service providers, an experience that had demonstrated that the current development model must change. Indeed, the current model was neither fair nor sustainable. “We have to put an end to the Washington Consensus,” he said, calling for inclusive growth, organized liberalization and a more equal role for State and international institutions.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, Prime Minister of Turkey, said that since globalization transcended borders, it was necessary to change the development paradigm to one that would bolster social welfare, protect the environment, promote fairness and enhance broad participation. “In the past, people filled their baskets through hyper-markets while hundreds of millions of others lived on less than $2 a day,” he noted, stressing that in the age of globalized capital, moral values must also be universal. “Globalization puts upon us a responsibility to see, hear and help resolve the problems of others,” he said, adding that freedom and development were rights for all.
He said global conscience must equally address environmental degradation, the senseless death of children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and hunger in Somalia. “The children being massacred in the streets of Syria are our children,” he added, urging all nations to be more sincere in their approaches to the economic and development aspects of globalization. All nations must learn the “right lessons” from the financial crisis and acknowledge that solidarity was key to coming up with a broad, inclusive and human-centred development strategy.
Sheikh HASINA WAJED, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, cited the myriad disparities among and within countries that had been sparked by globalization, pointing out that inclusive development had given way to restrictive trade policies and closed markets. To address that trend, the developed world must once and for all stand by the many commitments its leaders had made regarding official development assistance (ODA), trade and foreign direct investment (FDI), among others. Specifically, least developed countries needed investment in agriculture, infrastructure and capacity-building, as well as measures to address immediate needs such as food security. She also called for an urgent collective response to mitigate the impact of climate change while noting also the importance of pressing ahead with discussions on an international mechanism to address climate change displacement. Strong political will and bold choices were needed to ensure a poverty-free, hunger-free life for future generations, she stressed.
ABDELKADER BENSALAH, President of the Council of the Nation of Algeria, decried the rampant globalization of the past two decades, saying that many countries had been told that if they employed models set by global capital markets, all the ills of development would be cured. Yet, it had become clear in the wake of the financial crisis that such models were faulty, he said, noting that, like many other countries, Algeria had been deleteriously impacted by the actions of those who had called for “the deregulation of everything”. When the impact of such deregulation had become clear, the country had scaled up State interventions, including in the area of social expenditures. The subsequent, often painful decisions had helped drive down poverty rates, he said, noting that Algeria had also been able to use revenues from its oil industry to offset some of the worst impacts. All countries that had imposed policies that had led to the crisis must acknowledge their role in that regard, he emphasized, adding that they must also lead the way towards comprehensive and inclusive solutions.