Ban urges focus on development and green growth ahead of G20 summit

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Noting the continued fragility of the global economic system, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged leaders of the biggest industrialized and developing nations to focus on development, green growth and the needs of the most vulnerable, in devising recovery strategies.

“I encourage support for initiatives that will sustain recovery efforts while enhancing global economic stability, environmental sustainability and achievement of the MDGs,” Mr. Ban wrote in a letter to leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) nations, referring to the Millennium Development Goals.

Leaders of the G20 nations will be meeting in Toronto, Canada, on 26 and 27 June, with a second summit planned for November in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The Toronto gathering will immediately follow the annual summit of the Group of Eight (G8) leading economic powers – Canada, France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, and Italy – hosted by Canada in Huntsville, Ontario, on 25 June.

In his letter, made public today, the Secretary-General noted that high unemployment, rising food and commodity prices, and persistent inequalities have contributed to a substantial rise in hunger, poverty and associated social tensions.

“Now, more than ever, investments for the world’s poorest are necessary to recover lost ground in pursuit of development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals,” he stated.

Mr. Ban is convening a summit in New York in September during which world leaders will commit to concrete actions to achieve the MDGs – which range from halving poverty and hunger to boosting primary education and maternal and child health – by the target date of 2015.

“With a unified effort and targeted investments, progress in maternal and child health could lead the way,” he said. “I urge world leaders to take decisive action to put an end to the shameful reality of maternal and child deaths.”

The Secretary-General pointed out that economic recovery is proceeding at varied speeds across the world, and is still fragile in most countries. As such, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. He did, however, note certain factors which should underpin countries’ efforts.

“Based on our collective experience, the best way to enhance the framework for strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth is to put development front and centre, and to invest in a green economic recovery for all.

“I therefore welcome the G20 intention to broaden its focus to include development in the coming months and at the Seoul Summit in November 2010. Such an approach can help address food security and climate change, while ensuring job creation.”

In a related development, Mr. Ban called on world leaders to be accountable on delivering quality jobs. Writing in an opinion piece published in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat and other newspapers worldwide, he said it is time to focus on common sense investments in green jobs.

“A recovery is not meaningful if people only learn about it in the newspaper. Working women and need to see it in their own lives and livelihoods,” Mr. Ban wrote.

Mr. Ban also called on governments to be accountable to those hardest hit by the crisis, especially women who are the “social cement” holding families and communities together, and be accountable for promises already made, such as doubling development aid to Africa.

Also today Mr. Ban released a report regarding the ongoing effects of the global economic crisis. The data in the second “Voices of the Vulnerable” report reveals that even where countries have been resilient and are returning to growth, the day-to-day costs of the crisis have been high for many households. Furthermore, where immediate impacts appear not to have been severe, the ongoing erosion of resilience has the potential to damage longer-term development prospects.

Although there have been substantial stimulus efforts in many countries, the evidence suggests that these have not always ‘trickled down’ to meet the immediate needs of the poor and most vulnerable, stated the report, adding that, despite the scale of the stimulus packages, struggling households have borne a disproportionate burden.

“The story of the report is rather simple,” Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, told a news conference in New York. “To the extent there is a global recovery is going on, much of it is coming from the dynamism of the developing world.

“But that is not, should not, be interpreted that there is not simultaneously a great deal of suffering going on in the developing world,” he added. “In fact, despite some positive macroeconomic indicators in a number of developing country economies that are driving the global economy right now, the citizens of many of those countries are suffering disproportionately.”

Mr. Orr added that the message the Secretary-General will be carrying to Toronto is that any recovery will need to be built from the ground up, and that the leaders must work to ensure growth that is inclusive, green and based on healthy populations.

On Wednesday Mr. Ban will launch the MDG Report 2010 on progress and gaps, which together with the international assessment released last week by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), provide a snapshot of where the world stands in terms of achieving the Goals.

Based on development models that have worked from 50 countries, the UNDP assessment found that models that focus attention on the poor while expanding job opportunities, increased government spending on social services and aid flows from affluent nations are all successful strategies for alleviating global poverty.

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