SA urges urgent reform of global financial institutions

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New York - President Jacob Zuma has called for urgent reforms of global financial institutions so that poorer countries have a greater say in how they are run.

In an address to the annual General Debate at the 192-member United Nations (UN) General Assembly, on Wednesday, President Zuma said major international financial and economic arrangements were unfair and have not kept pace with a changing world.

He told the assembly that the global economic meltdown has dealt a heavy blow to world efforts to eradicate poverty, but it should not diminish the determination of world leaders to eliminate poverty.

"Developing countries did not cause the economic crisis, but they are severely affected by it," Zuma said, adding that the UN must play a significant role in finding solutions to the global economic crisis.

He said these institutions have been unrepresentative since their formation a half century ago, adding that the current arrangements were "inadequate and unfair," not reflecting the changes that have taken place in the global economy.

"We should ensure that the election of the heads of all these institutions is more democratic, and opens opportunities to developing countries. The emerging and developing economies, including the poorest, must have a greater voice and greater participation in these institutions."

He noted that efforts to eradicate poverty have slowed down as a result of the global recession, and that the world's poorest countries have been suffering the most, even though they did not cause the crisis.

"The United Nations must play a significant role in finding solutions to the global economic crisis. The crisis should not be an excuse to delay further action on the delivery of the Millennium Development Goals," he added, referring to the set of socio-economic targets which world leaders have agreed to try to achieve by 2015.

On climate change, President Zuma told the assembly that the impact of it is devastating, and will severely undermine development and poverty eradication efforts.

He called on the developed countries to "make ambitious, quantified, and legally-binding emission reduction commitments that were in line with science and that address their historical responsibilities."

President Zuma also stressed the need for an urgent conclusion to the current, long-running Doha round of global trade negotiations, which have stalled, "in a manner that prioritizes development."

Turning to the country's legacy of apartheid, the President noted that it was 20 years ago that the General Assembly adopted a resolution on international solidarity with the liberation struggle in South Africa.

He said this serves as an example of the ability for co-operation on the global stage.

"The role of the UN in the struggle to end apartheid is an exceptional example of the collective political will of the international community," he said.

Other leaders, who also addressed the assembly, called for coordinated international action to address both the global recession's effects and the threat posed by climate change.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who opened the General Assembly, appealed to leaders "to create a United Nations of genuine collective action" to respond to the global financial, food and energy crises and the swine flu pandemic.

United States (US) President, Barack Obama, told the gathering of world leaders that the US "stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation."

He called on the world to redouble its efforts to ensure that the UN is central to efforts to advance the common interests of people around the globe.

"That is the future America wants - a future of peace and prosperity that we can only reach if we recognize that all nations have rights, but all nations have responsibilities as well. That is the bargain that makes this work. That must be the guiding principle of international cooperation."

Some 140 Heads of State are expected to speak at the seven-day debate, which opened on Wednesday, with an overarching theme, "Effective responses to global crises: strengthening multilateralism and dialogue among civilizations for international peace, security and development."