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FN-toppmøtet 2005:

Comments by Kepa (Finland) to Annans report

Kepa's hjemmeside

Poverty reduction the most crucial challenge for the Summit

The UN’s report on the Millennium project shows that the Millennium Development Goals of poverty eradication and the promotion of human development cannot be met unless both developing and developed countries carry out substantial reforms. Thus the greatest challenge at the UN Summit in September will be to reach an agreement on concrete measures and timetables required to achieve these goals.

On the Summit agenda, poverty eradication, security and human rights appear as interlinked. Although it is important to address these issues as a whole, there is a risk that at the Summit, developed countries will concentrate more on the reform of the Security Council than on development issues. Commendably, the Secretary-General’s report emphasises the importance of poverty eradication and the Millennium Development Goals on the Summit’s agenda. It is important to ensure that these issues are also emphasised strongly throughout the Summit’s preparation and in the Summit’s final resolutions.

In order for significant results to be achieved at the Summit, it is important that civil society have a chance to participate in decision-making at all stages. Efforts should above all be made to ensure that Southern NGOs are able to influence decision-making at the UN level as well as within their own governments. Proposals on how to increase NGOs’ opportunities for participation are detailed in a letter from Kepa and our Nordic partner organisations dated March 23, 2005 (annexed). 

Developed countries must implement their commitments

The eighth Millennium Development Goal (“Develop a global partnership for development”) defines the role developed countries should play in poverty eradication. Unfortunately the definition given is too vague, and developed countries have not made adequate efforts to fulfil their role. At the Summit, therefore, more concrete targets, indicators and timetables should be defined so that progress in achieving this goal may be monitored. Some of the proposals made in the Secretary-General’s report already provide a sound foundation for this work

The responsibility of developed countries in ensuring environmental sustainability (Goal 7) should be stressed more than it presently is. Many environmental problems, which create and maintain poverty in developing countries, are caused by excessive use of natural resources in developed countries. Developed countries should therefore adopt more environmentally friendly practices of industrial and agricultural production and consumption.

Development Assistance

The Secretary-General proposes that development assistance be increased to 0.5 per cent of the GNI by 2009 and to 0.7 per cent by 2015 (para 49). The proposed timetable for achieving this goal must be regarded as a minimum requirement, since the commitment to reach the mentioned level was already made decades ago and was most recently renewed at the Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002. It seems likely that Finland will not be able to reach even such modest goals because of the budget-frame decision made by the Government: According to this decision Finland’s development assistance would amount to no more than 0,48 per cent of the GNI in 2009. As it seems that the government has given up its goal of increasing development assistance to the 0,7 per cent by 2010 set in the government programme, it should promptly announce a new timetable for reaching this percentage.

In order to improve the quality and effectiveness of development cooperation, it is most important to allocate assistance to the implementation of developing countries’ own democratically defined strategies for meeting the Millennium Development Goals. In other words, assistance should be linked to local needs, not to the interests of donors. As the report of the Secretary-General states, donor countries should set timetables and targets which can be monitored, in order to align their aid delivery mechanisms with partner countries' national strategies (para 53).


Kepa endorses the Secretary-General’s proposal to redefine debt sustainability as the level of debt that allows a country to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and reach 2015 without an increase in debt ratios (para 54). For the least developed countries this will require a total cancellation of debt.

Another important way of combating the debt problem of developing countries would be to develop independent dispute settlement mechanisms for debt crises. The aim of an independent agency or dispute settlement process would be to achieve a more equal distribution of responsibility and burden between debtors and creditors. Possible ways to implement this idea have been analysed during the Helsinki-process, for instance, and Kepa hopes that Finland will again raise the proposal for discussion at the Summit. 


Unfortunately the proposals in the Secretary-General’s report to improve the global trade system are one-sided. The report stresses facilitation of market access and promotion of export production by developing countries (paras 55 and 56), even though many studies, including ones published by several UN organisations, show that opening up markets and increasing exports does not automatically reduce poverty, but on the contrary often increases income disparities and undermines livelihood opportunities for the poorest[1].

The Summit should acknowledge that in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, individual countries need sufficient space for political action. Trade agreements may not restrict the range of political and economic measures that countries are able to take to reduce poverty and promote human development. With regard to trade in agricultural products, for instance, developing countries should have the right to protect their own markets and support domestic production in order to achieve food security. These challenges mean that WTO agreements must undergo substantial changes, and that the special and differential treatment of developing countries, which is the goal of the Doha negotiation round, will not be sufficient.  

In order for facilitation of market access to contribute to poverty reduction in developing countries, it is imperative that this facilitation be unilateral. Thus duty-free and quota-free market access for all exports from the least developed countries, as proposed in the report of the Secretary-General (para 55), must be provided without any demands for reciprocity.   

The poor must have the right to participate in decision-making concerning their lives

The most crucial challenge for sustainable poverty reduction is involving poor people, both men and women, in decision-making concerning their lives both locally, nationally and internationally. Achieving the quantitative Millennium Development Goals is not as such a sufficient guarantee that there will be less misery and impoverishment in the world. At the Summit the importance of the promotion of democracy, citizens’ rights and civil society should be stressed to a greater extent than they are in the report of the Secretary-General. Increasing people’s ability to influence their own lives must be the governing principle of all measures planned and taken in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

National MDG strategies

When the Secretary-General’s proposal about the creation of national MDG strategies (para 34) is considered, it should be ensured that the opportunities of citizens to influence the content of their country’s strategy are greater than thus far. In the course of drawing up the poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) that currently exist, participation has not yet worked well. This has been partly a result of problematic relations between governments and civil society and of limited resources. Another reason is that economic policy-making is often perceived as consisting of agreements reached between experts and regarded as something in which the parliament or the civil society can have no say.

Employment and income distribution

When evaluating measures and strategies aimed at promoting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, it is important to ensure that these measures and strategies also promote equality, both between the sexes as well as between other groups. Rather than stressing the fostering of general economic development and growth, the emphasis should be on the importance of employment and income distribution. These goals are, however, not sufficiently addressed in the Millennium Development Goals. Nevertheless, one of the indicators for the first goal is connected to the income development of the poorest fifth of the population.

Rural development

The recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report for measures to foster rural development (such as the use of fertilisers and new plant varieties) to be included in national MDG strategies focus too much on merely increasing the productivity of agriculture (para 42). For this reason they may even pose a threat to the right to self-determination of poor farmer population. Experiences from the “Green Revolution” of the 20th century show that increasing food production is not enough to end hunger. The promotion of sustainable rural development requires a more holistic approach to the problems of agricultural productivity. The principal goal must be to improve the opportunities of poor farmers, the majority of which are women, to have an independent livelihood. To achieve this, poor rural inhabitants’ right to land, access to local markets, credit opportunities and agricultural extension services must be promoted.

 [1] E.g. UNCTAD: The Least Developed Countries Report 2004. Linking International Trade with Poverty Reduction. New York and Geneva, 2004.

Redaktør: Arnfinn Nygaard
Sist oppdatert: 12. januar
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