Towards Inclusive Growth: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the Context of the Global Economic Crisis

Opening Remarks: Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting 2009 Seminar

3 May 2009, Bali, Indonesia

Governors, Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this Seminar entitled, “Towards Inclusive Growth: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the Context of the Global Economic Crisis”.

The fiscal stimulus packages in response to the present crisis offer a window of opportunity for sharpening the focus on MDGs and closing the development gap, as part of the inclusive and sustainable development agenda of the UN. This is part of the global social justice agenda grounded on a people-oriented approach and Basic Rights with gender equality at the center.

The title is a frank acknowledgement that while significant progress has made towards realizing the MDGs, severe disparities remain in terms of class, ethnicity, gender and geography, both between and within countries in the region. These disparities could be further increased by the impact of the economic crisis. Therefore, ESCAP aims to achieve an inclusive and sustainable development that balances economic, social and ecological concerns with a view to closing development gaps and narrowing these disparities.

Before the onset of the economic crisis, the Asia-Pacific region had made impressive progress towards reducing extreme poverty and providing universal access to primary education. But this progress has been uneven. For instance, the region has not made enough progress in the areas of health and environment. Only 20% of people in the region are covered by health insurances and the region has the highest dependence on “out-of-pocket” expenditures to pay for health care. The stimulus packages will give us a good opportunity to broaden access to health care and build better health care systems.

Inclusive and sustainable development is imperative for achieving the MDGs. As the Secretary-General of the UN has indicated in all his speeches, the economic crisis threatens to reverse the gains made so far towards achieving the MDGs. I am pleased to note that President Kuroda shares the concerns of the Secretary-General.

In the ESCAP region, we are faced with not one but three converging threats, namely the financial crisis, the systemic issues related to food and fuel insecurities, as well as climate change concerns, as discussed at the UN Climate Change Conference held in Bali in December 2007. I believe our collective task ahead is to address these interrelated challenges within a framework of regional action including institutional reforms, as reflected in the 2009 Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, as well as the Bali Outcome Document adopted at the High-level Regional Policy Dialogue, which was jointly organized by ESCAP and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia last December. By ensuring that fiscal stimulus packages and policy reforms being developed now are used to address these challenges, there is still a chance to achieve the MDGs by 2015.

I have just come from ESCAP’s annual meeting in Bangkok. Member States agreed that the threats currently facing us are too big for any one country to respond to alone. We need to work collectively to leverage resources and coordinate the stimulus packages through regional cooperation, to promote inclusive and sustainable development. In particular, we should focus on the needs in the real economy to achieve MDGs, including promotion of employment, manufacturing and gender equality. Three key policy recommendations were made:

First, completion of the Doha Round negotiations as well as increased intraregional trade through infrastructure development, such as transport systems, provision of clean water and cross-border trade facilitation, will help promote the much needed economic growth for recovery.

Second, rising unemployment and food insecurity underscore the need for establishing, as part of the stimulus packages, the foundations for social protection systems in the Asia-Pacific region. Social protection systems will require coordination at the regional level. By improving income security we reduce poverty and increase domestic demand. By providing health insurance and food security measures we address the relevant MDGs.

Third, climate change presents us with an opportunity to advance both energy efficiency, as reflected in ESCAP’s Sustainable Energy Framework, and increased the use of renewable energy. By establishing an economy based upon green growth, green industries and green jobs we achieve environmental sustainability, another MDG.

Implementing these measures will require partnerships between public and private sectors as well as civil society to bring about a paradigm shift not only in policies but also in behaviors. With only six years remaining to reach the target date, there is an urgent need for greater regional cooperation and concrete actions to accelerate MDG progress. This will also require keeping the internationally agreed targets for ODA by developed countries.

Additional resources are needed to fill the huge financing gap to attain the MDGs. At last week’s ESCAP Commission session some of our Member States called upon developed countries to fulfil their commitments as reflected in the Monterey Consensus on Financing for Development.   In this regard I am pleased to note that, in London, the G20 reaffirmed their commitment to meeting these goals as part of the response to the economic crisis with a further $300 billion US dollars in aid targeting the poorest countries. Furthermore, the President of the UN General Assembly has convened a global summit in June 2009 to assess the impact of the world economic crisis on development. Given the importance of the UN agenda on MDGs, the theme topic for the next session of the ESCAP Commission in 2010 will be “Addressing the challenges in the achievement of the MDG”, with particular focus on promoting a stable and supportive financial system, and low carbon Green Growth.

ESCAP, as the regional arm of the United Nations in the Asia-Pacific region, will work with member States and its development partners including ADB as the leading development finance institution in the region, to promote regional collective action. I am pleased to note that ESCAP and UNDP have worked closely with the ADB since 2003 to monitor both the progress and challenges associated with meeting the MDGs in our region and this partnership will continue. The G20 have requested that the UN monitor the effectiveness and impact of responses to the current economic crisis as well as those that may occur in the future. It is also critical for us to develop a better understanding of the impact of the current crises at the household level, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, including women, children and the elderly.

Let us work together to ensure that development is inclusive and sustainable to help the poor and vulnerable peoples of our region.

I Thank You.