The UN General Assemnbly, The Civil Society Event, "People's Voices On The Crisis" June 20TH 2009 (Paper)
D'escoto Brockmann President of the UN General Assemnbly
- The Civil Society Event - People's Voices On The Crisis
Address Of H.E. Miguel D'escoto Brockmann
President Of The United Nations General Assembly To The Civil Society
Event: People's Voices On The Crisis Church Of The Holy Trinity, 316
East. 88th. Street New York City
20 June 2009
Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society
Brothers and Sisters All,
1. It is truly a pleasure to join you here in the Church of the
Holy Trinity on the eve of the United Nations Conference on the World
Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development. I know that
I am among friends and family here, and it warms my heart to feel the
enormous energy and solidarity that you have brought with you from all
parts of the world.
2. I am grateful to all of you for your hard work on behalf of the
Conference, and more importantly, on behalf of the billions of people
whose voices have yet to be heard as we try to build a more equitable
and just world. Let me thank, in particular, Roberto Bissio of Social
Watch and Elisa Peter of NGLS and their teams for working so hard to
organize this event and inviting me to participate. They have worked
patiently with my office on behalf of civil society and assisted us in
the arrangements so that many of you will have access to UN headquarters
during the three-day meeting next week.
3. I imagine that many of you are anxious to hear news about the
prospects for the Conference. As you know, it has been surrounded by
controversy from its very inception last December at the Review
Conference on Financing for Development in Doha. There, Member States
asked me to organize a meeting at the highest in response to the global
economic meltdown that was unfolding around us.
4. In Doha, I was grateful for the presence and support of so many
NGOs and welcomed their parallel Declaration, which is a lucid and
far-reaching appeal for action on the issues that Members States
continue to grapple with. You are way ahead of us. I share the vision
outlined in that Declaration and requested that it be posted on our
conference website as a valuable benchmark for the intergovernmental
negotiations on the conference outcome document that continue as I speak.
5. During the subsequent months of difficult negotiations to define
the aims of the Conference, Member States decided that it indeed should
address the impact of the crisis, particularly on the more vulnerable
developing country economies but that that would not be enough. Just as
important, it was decided, not without serious resistance, that the
conference explore reforms and changes in the international financial
architecture that might bring new stability and good governance to the
6. Sadly, many countries do not want to see this Conference succeed
in these ambitious goals. But let me share with you some of the
expectations that many, if not most, Member States have for the meeting
and its all-important follow-up.
7. This Conference is about bringing the discussion about economic
reforms to the United Nations. We must ensure that the countries most
affected by the crisis have a real voice in solving this global crisis.
We have had summits of the G8 and the G20 and other ad hoc groups. Now
let us give the G192 its opportunity to express its concerns and needs
and concrete recommendations. The involvement of the G192 is required if
we want to get everyone behind a sustainable recovery and, more
importantly, have every country benefit from the recovery.
8. This Conference is about change. The other groups have
contributed helpful proposals for emergency measures to counter the
meltdown and protect their narrow interests as if they were everyone's.
But they have largely avoided any proposals for far-reaching reform that
will prevent such turmoil from happening again. This Conference should
be seen as an opportunity to initiate a global conversation about global
economic governance and ways to make our international institutions more
representative and inclusive, now and in the decades to come.
9. In the last six months, the financial and economic situation has
only gotten worse, tipping tens of millions of people into extreme
poverty in developing and industrialized countries alike. And despite
the growing need for major changes, many Member States, particularly
those in the North, increasingly resist reforms of the IMF and the World
Bank, hoping that things will return to business as usual. And they have
also made it very clear that they do not want a serious global
conversation to take place at the United Nations.
10. While I hope, as all of us do, that the current collapse does not
degenerate into a prolonged global depression, I share the widely held
view that we cannot and must not return to business as usual.
11. Profound and, as yet, not fully understood systemic changes are
underway. Economists and policy makers remain unsure as to when our
economies will emerge from this turmoil, but we know they will be
radically reordered. Despite this uncertainty, we must seize this
opportunity to identify changes that will not only stabilize our
economies in the short term, but methodically undertake the changes and
create the instruments that will ensure stability and equity for all
nations and all peoples.
12. This Conference is the result of a difficult process. Imagine:
Security Council reform has taken 15 years so far. With the help of
eminent economists like Joseph Stiglitz, the Presidential Expert
Commission has come up with a remarkable set of recommendations to
consider in a few short months. So as disappointed as I sometimes feel,
I should not be surprised by the twists and turns that have
characterized the negotiations of the outcome document that will reflect
the results of the conference.
13. As I speak, Member States continue to negotiate the outcome
document. I suspect the document they finally approve will be very
different from the versions you may have seen along the way.
14. Support for the Conference process has eroded during the
preparation process. Some governments are determined to resist a
possible challenge to their control over key financial and monetary
institutions. Others feel a process of serious review will strengthen
policies and institutions that undermine their economic development and
15. Still, this Conference should be seen as the beginning of a
dialogue that we must continue on an urgent basis in the months and
years ahead. We must rebuild trust, which is central to international
relations, economic life and confidence in our global institutions.
16. And this, of course, includes revitalization of the UN, which in
its current state is unable to fulfil the mandates enshrined in its
Charter. It is clear to me that the UN should be the place where global
financial and economic crisis should be addressed.
17. This Conference is about the poor and vulnerable citizens of the
world. While people in virtually all countries are affected by the
downturn and fearful of the future, developing countries are most
affected, although they have contributed least to the economic
calamities that now rain down upon them. They cannot print money to
cushion the impact on their domestic economies. Like the industrial
north, they need immediate access to credit markets, assurances of fair
trade and more debt relief. Etc...etc.
18. This Conference is about facing the fact that we are all in this
together. It is not a donors' Conference. Developing countries are not
looking for handouts. The stimulus packages of the North will have
greater impact and restore needed global aggregate demand only if they
are extended to the middle and small countries. If they are not part of
the stimulus, global recovery will be put into jeopardy.
19. This is a Conference that should advance new ideas about how we are
going to rebuild the economy. It is about creating new paradigms that
replace hyper-consumerism with a new awareness of our stewardship of
Mother Earth; that provide powerful and sustained incentives to develop
new sources of energy; that channel needed funding and technologies to
the billion small farmers and fisherman to ensure food security for all.
The list of challenges and opportunities is endless. You know them
better than I.
20. In conclusion, let me say a few words about the role of civil
society organizations. This Conference is about raising new awareness of
the billions of people who have been denied the opportunities of
globalization that so many of us take for granted. You are in the
forefront of this work. We must help people recognize the inherent
injustices of the neo-liberal model and the failure of the almighty market.
21. Business and many governments have lost the sense of commitment to
the wellbeing of the people. The business of business is business, we
are told. But the current crisis provides us with the opportunity to
inject a new spirit of responsibility and solidarity with our less
fortunate Sisters and Brothers. It is a chance to insert morality and
codes of ethics that temper the selfishness and recklessness that have
characterized the excesses of recent decades.
22. You, as representatives of civil society, have long been aware of
the complexities of this downturn and its interconnections with other
global crises, from climate change, to the AIDS pandemic, to food and
energy problems and others. You have helped the United Nations recognize
that a holistic approach is needed to meet these challenges.
23. My vision of the reforms and changes that are needed coincide much
more closely with those put forward by civil society -- by your networks
-- than they do with many Member States. I have been criticized for
expressing my views as President of the General Assembly. This criticism
reflects the erosion of authority of the Presidency over the decades,
something I have attempted to reverse during my short tenure.
24. My aim - I see it as my obligation as president though some have
described it as megalomaniacal -- has been to restore the authority and
the credibility of the General Assembly and, by extension, the entire
United Nations system in the eyes of the world. This is clearly an
uphill battle, but I remain convinced that the UN is the uniquely
representative forum where issues of global governance can be most
25. Working at this level and with so many competing, often petty
national interests, is hard. But I remain convinced this Organization
deserves your support. You must aggressively press the process of
restoring the central role of the UN as a genuine arbiter for "We the
peoples". It is a process that you must monitor and influence in every
way possible as representatives of civil society.
26. I would have liked to end here on what may be called an optimist
note. But I am a man of hope, not an optimist. Optimism is only cheap
hope. As people of hope we do believe, indeed, that another world is
possible and we commit our lives to its achievement. Fully knowing that
the road will be bumpy and uncomfortable and that the time of harvesting
the fruits of our labors might belong to others.
So my dear brothers and sisters let us keep on keeping on. With the
Grace of God we shall overcome. ?Yes we can!