"Taking stock of the contribution of effective forms of cooperation to the Millennium Development Goals and their evolution in the area of trade and development"
[AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY]
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to open the second session of UNCTAD' series of Multi-Year Expert Meetings on promoting economic integration and cooperation. Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to everyone, and particularly those who have travelled distances to participate in this event.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by all countries and the world's leading development institutions, have come to exert a significant influence on development policy. The MDGs have helped the global community to focus efforts and achieve a substantial reduction of extreme poverty, while promoting gender equality, education, health and environmental sustainability. The MDGs have become the yardstick by which current international development efforts are judged.
The level of achievement of the different goals varies across both goals and countries. In some cases, we have had remarkable achievements. For instance, the goal to reduce extreme poverty by half was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. At current rates of global progress, we should also mostly meet the goals concerning improved access to safe drinking water and gender equality in basic education. In contrast, the world will not reach universal primary education enrolment by 2015, and will also miss the goals related to undernourishment and child and maternal mortality.
The success and relevance of the MDGs is unquestionable, but there are still areas of concern and opportunity to enhance the attainment of these goals. Let me mention briefly two of them.
The first one, concerns the general issue of formulating targets in absolute terms at the country level that could hide important disparities within countries. For example, in South Asia, the national average of underweighted children is 42 per cent. This figure does not fully reflect the fact that this problem is more acute in some sectors of the population, in particular the poorest 20 per cent, who happen to have 56 per cent of underweighted children.
The second one, concerns the strategies adopted to pursue the MDGs. Since the end of the 1980s donor agencies have generally advocated a targeted rather than universal approach to social policies- usually both on efficiency grounds and as a response to binding resource constraints. This approach attempts to alleviate poverty with fewer resources and a more limited role from the State. The targeted approach has usually had private-public partnerships as the institutional vehicle for advancing the social agenda. However, the evidence that such partnerships would always bring real gains in terms of the cost and quality of social services is mixed.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me now turn to the theme of this this meeting, relevant for the attainment of the MDGs: development cooperation and particularly, South-South cooperation.
Since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration the importance of international development cooperation has increased. Diversification of sources accelerated due to a rapid increase in non-traditional donors, global funds and private philanthropy.
The rapid growth of South-South interactions is of particular relevance in this context. Emerging economies are in fact playing an increasingly important role as providers of aid and financial resources to achieve the MDGs. The economic proximity and the familiarity of donors with the challenges faced by other developing countries suggest that South-South cooperation may include more equal relationships between donors and recipient countries, and reinforce complementarities and mutual benefits.
This alternative vision of development cooperation is reflected in both the financing modalities and the characteristics of the projects that the countries of the South finance. Most of the South-South cooperation is allocated to the priorities identified by the recipient country and most importantly: this form of cooperation has little or no policy conditionality, and few procedural conditions. In terms of country allocation, much South-South cooperation is focused on regional neighbors, and it also specializes in funding regional programs and institutions. Some South-South cooperation providers, however, have made major efforts to extend cooperation outside of their own regions. At a sectoral level, South-South cooperation focuses mainly on infrastructure, but new initiatives have been recently launched as well in health and agriculture.
Notwithstanding this growth and diversification in the sources of Official Development Assistance (ODA), total available resources fell far short of the projected financing needs required by the MDGs. It is important to stress that the Southern development assistance should be regarded as a complement, rather than a substitute for the ODA from traditional donors. In that context, the increase of development aid from Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries in 2013, after reductions in the two previous years, is very welcome. Despite this positive trend, it is important to note that in 2013, ODA from DAC countries only reached 0.3 per cent of their gross national income - far from the longstanding UN target of 0.7 per cent. Moreover, aid to the sub-Saharan African countries has continued to fall.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The objective of this expert meeting is to explore the progress made so far on the MDGs, taking stock of the contribution of the different forms of international cooperation, and to examine the most effective and viable initiatives for the years to come. The meeting will also address the issue of sources of MDGs finance beyond conventional forms of ODA, and will examine the inter-linkages between the international trading system and the MDGs, especially in terms of poverty reduction. The last session of this meeting will focus on an essential component in our search for a sustainable development path, that is, how to enhance productive capacities in developing countries in order to achieve the goals which remain unaccomplished.
This expert meeting should also be seen as an integral part of UNCTAD's efforts to contribute to the UN system wide discussions that will help shape the post-2015 development agenda. In this context, let me take the opportunity to remind you that the third edition of the Geneva Dialogue - the informal and open multi-stakeholder dialogue on the post-2015 development agenda - will take place in mid-June, as part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of UNCTAD.
Your meeting provides a timely and important opportunity to debate and discuss key issues around the MDGs. I hope it will help identify and consider constructive ways to harness economic integration and cooperation for development. In this light, I wish you an engaging and successful deliberation.
Thank you very much.