18 May 09 - Public symposium on financial crisis opens
UNCTAD's symposium on the global economic crisis - the organization's first public symposium - heard strong calls for action to reduce the effects of the crisis on developing countries, and for decisive steps to avoid similar crises in the future.
UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi opened a two-day debate on the impact of the global recession on developing countries and the poor by saying an “exit strategy” for the crisis is needed for all countries.
“If things start moving in the Western economies, the rest of the world will not be cured,” Mr. Supachai said. “It will not be an automatic process that the rest of the world will start to recover. We cannot go back to the same old cycle of boom and bust. We cannot make cosmetic changes. We need to think about real reforms.”
The Secretary-General went on to say, “We need to think about people who aren’t on Wall Street or Main Street but have no street to walk on. The impact of the crisis on developing countries will be tremendous.”
Titled “the global economic crisis and development – the way forward,” the symposium was described by Mr. Supachai as a way to “give voice to the voiceless.”
The meeting grew out of UNCTAD efforts to implement the “one UN” concept and the organization’s stepped-up policy of responding to global developments and broadening debate on global issues.
H.E. Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani, President of the UNCTAD's Trade and Development Board and chair of the meeting, committed to transmitting the symposium outcome to the President of the United Nations General Assembly and to the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, scheduled for early June in New York. "There was a need to broaden the debate on the global economic crisis beyond the intergovernmental process".
Issues raised by speakers from the floor included: the effects of the crisis on human rights; potential social unrest in least developed countries (LDCs); why more government and international funding is not being dedicated to reducing high levels of unemployment; increasing inequalities in wealth around the world; the disproportionate impact on women of the global turmoil and resulting job losses; barriers to the transfer of useful technology to developing countries; and the potential for renewed food crises as the worldwide downturn continues.
Keynote speakers at the start of the debate included Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Office (ILO), who said ILO has advocated a “global jobs pact” to face the unemployment issue and work in concert with economic stimulus packages.
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), said it is important for donor nations to honour their aid commitments to the developing world, even as they commit huge sums to domestic stimulus measures. “Don’t say there is no money,” he said. “If you make commitments, keep them.”
Anders B. Johnson, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said Parliaments “have some soul-searching to do” on why they did not have regulations in place to prevent the financial abuses that led to the crisis. Tighter financial controls are needed, he said.
Guy Ryder, Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation, said the mood among trade unionists “is of anger and fear. Anyone who doesn’t take seriously the danger of social instability is missing the point. The feelings of injustice out there are not misplaced.”
And Céline Charveriat, Head of the Geneva Office of Oxfam International, said that as a result of the crisis, another 55-90 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2009 on top of 130-155 million already reduced to that state in 2008 because of soaring food and fuel prices.