St. Vincent and the Grenadines has reminded rich countries to honor their pledges of development assistance to poorer nations, especially in the wake of the global economic crisis.
Addressing the fifth United Nations High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, U.N. Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves said that Official Development Assistance (ODA) is not charity.
“It is an investment in international peace and security, and it is a necessary counterweight, albeit an inadequate one, against systemic inequalities in global trade and capital flows that are fundamentally unbalanced and disadvantageous to many developing countries, particularly small states,” he said.
Gonsalves said that, since 1970, developed countries have been pledging to devote 0.7 percent of their national incomes to development assistance.
But, despite repeating that pledge in 2002, 2008 and 2009, he said rich nations delivered less than half of the promised assistance in 2010.
“Developing countries that have spoken today to highlight the massive shortfalls between [assistance] pledged and [assistance] delivered are neither blaming nor begging,” Gonsalves said. “We are simply reminding our partners of the longstanding commitments that they made, upon which we rely, and which we expect to be honored.
“It remains a constant source of amazement that many states can regularly conjure up billions of dollars to prosecute discretionary wars and unilateral military interventions, almost on a whim, while developmental assistance stagnates, falls short of commitments, and is subject to all forms of creative accounting or empty sloganeering that have no impact on the bottom lines of developing states,” he added.
The Vincentian envoy also underscored an “urgent” call for debt relief to be extended to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states, pointing out that five of them have debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratios in excess of 100 percent, while another four exceed 70 percent.
However, because of CARICOM states’ “middle-income” status, Gonsalves said they were often excluded from debt-forgiveness schemes, a stance he described as “shortsighted and ultimately counterproductive.”
Gonsalves said providing negotiated debt-relief to CARICOM states “on a regional basis is the morally correct, fiscally prudent, and developmentally logical approach to our region’s growing debt burdens.”
Although the current High-Level dialogue on Financing for Development is occurring in the shadow of the worst financial and economic depression in decades, the Vincentian diplomat stated that the global meltdown “is not an excuse for failure to meet ODA commitments.”
Citing the outcome of the 2009 United Nations High Level Conference on the World Economic and Financial Crisis and its Impact on Development, which was co-chaired by St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Gonsalves reminded delegates that the “consensus outcome of the U.N. conference on the crisis stressed that the crisis, in and of itself, necessitated urgent compliance with existing targets.”
“In this time of global economic recession, the focus should not be on delaying or avoiding the implementation of FFD commitments, but rather on accelerating and strengthening those promises in the assistance of those who played no role in creating the crisis in the first place,” he said.
At the same time, Gonsalves expressed appreciation for “the efforts of all of our development partners – particularly in these times of increased global economic instability.”
However, despite gratitude for the assistance that his country and other developing states have received, Gonsalves stated that “the inescapable fact is that total ODA is far short of the required or promised minimums.”
Paraphrasing the legendary reggae super star Bob Marley’s hit song, “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry),” the diplomat said “the developmental pot may be cooking, but the food in it is not enough.”
“Development costs money, and while many states have demonstrated an unerring ability to renege on their commitments to assist, our governments cannot renege on our own solemn commitments to the people-centered development and advancement of our populations,” he said.
The fifth United Nations High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development was organised under the theme “The Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration on Financing for Development: status of implementation and tasks ahead.”
The Monterrey Consensus was the outcome of a 2002 United Nations conference that took place in Monterrey, Mexico.
The consensus was adopted by all countries as a blueprint for mobilizing and utilizing financing for development.
The Doha Declaration on Financing for Development was a 2008 follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus, which sought to add greater detail to the broad areas of agreement that were arrived at in Monterrey.