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“Near to impossible” to achieve all Millennium Development Goals

UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakd, Secretary-General of Unctad, said in opening the organization’s symposium in Geneva yesterday that since the crisis hit in 2008, some 53 million people in the developing world have fallen below the poverty line “and more than 100 million additional people are going hungry.  These numbers are not moving in the right direction.”

“Prior to the crisis, the chances of achieving the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) were deteriorating,” he told the meeting.  “Now, after the crisis, it will be near to impossible to achieve all of the MDGs.”  The goals are centred around the target of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

The Secretary-General said developing countries should look to one another for support, noting that “South-South” regional trade and financial arrangements have been vital in recent years for providing investment, stable economic arrangements, and climbing trade. He also referred to developing countries as “the innocent bystanders of the most severe recession in 70 years.  We cannot just go on with business as usual.  We have yet to see ‘human recovery’ from the recession.”

Developing countries are suffering the fall-out from the global credit crisis.

And David Nabarro, Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition of the United Nations High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, said “the food crisis is still with us, and it’s alarming, with around 1 billion people hungry around the world, despite record grain harvests last year. . . There are very great challenges that aren’t going be resolved simply by government decrees.”   Extensive structural reforms are needed in which the focus is on agricultural production “within communities, depending on partnerships between smallholder farmers, communities, and civil society,” he said.  There should be “partnership between all nations” and not merely a focus on productions statistics alone.

Another representative of the UN said that “It is very important to put more money into agriculture,” as productivity, especially in Africa, has lagged far behind farming yields in more developed regions.  When food shortages surfaced in 2008, he said, “the result was that these countries were unable to respond.”

Several speakers spoke of concern about financial speculation and called for controls on fluctuations in food prices to prevent speculation from causing price increases that don’t represent “real” demand for food.  And they said governments have a role to play in the prices of staple foods, to protect the needs of smallholder farmers and to protect food security.

It is important and timely that Unctad has drawn attention to the plight of developing countries that are suffering a fall-out from the financial crisis.  They have been affected indirectly by the slowdown in trade, cutbacks in overseas aid in some areas and a slowdown in foreign direct investment.

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Posted in aid, Development, International, World Trade

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