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Global crisis presents unique opportunity: UN diplomat

March 10, 2009 13:24 IST

The enormous challenges facing the world as a result of ongoing financial crisis present a unique opportunity to forge a new partnership for governance of the world economy, the chief of the United Nations' development arm has said.

Addressing the Committee for Development Policy, Sha Zukang, under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, said the worst economic crises since the great depression have thrown many more people into poverty.

The Committee for Development Policy -- consisting of 24 experts with diverse development experience who advise the Economic and Social Council -- opened its 11th session Monday, focusing on the achievement of international goals in public health.

"But they also present a unique opportunity for theUnited Nations and, in particular, the Economic and Social Council, to provide leadership in addressing the crisis," Zukang said.

For that purpose, he told the Committee, "the quality and relevance of the work of Ecosoc need to be strengthened further."

In the area of public health, he noted that developing countries have recently made significant strides towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals, ambitious targets to eliminate or drastically slash poverty and other ills by 2015.

Zukang noted, however, that there are still large gaps between what has been achieved and what still needs to be achieved, and the committee's focus -- on persistent inequalities in healthcare -- is very timely.

"It is not acceptable that a child has a significantly higher probability of dying before reaching the age of five simply because he or she was born to a poorer family or in a poor country," he said, calling for new donor approaches to the problem.

Turning to the triennial review of the list of least developed countries, with which the committee is also tasked, he acknowledged that both joining and exiting the category seem to provoke a great deal of agitation for countries.

For that reason, he welcomed the dialogue the committee has held with countries potentially affected by its recommendations, including Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

In that light, he invited committee members to propose ways by which development partners could further ease the transition out of the category, by reducing the uncertainty caused by the phasing out of special support measures available to LDCs.

"In other words, their vulnerability must be reduced and their graduation must be durable," he said.

Dharam Shourie in New York
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