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Development challenges highlighted by Assembly

Development challenges highlighted as Assembly’s General Debate continues

Continuing the General Debate of the 60th Anniversary year of the United Nations, the General Assembly this afternoon heard leaders of developing countries describe the challenges they face in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that aim to slash hunger, poverty and other ills by 2015.

El Salvador’s President Elías Antonio Saca González pointed to new obstacles such as high oil prices, the effects of HIV/AIDS, organized crime, and discrimination against migrants. He highlighted the importance of dialogue for overcoming such problems and achieving world-wide well-being and the successful reform of the UN.

Bolivian President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé said achieving the MDGs after the recent political crisis that shook his country would require creativity, new policy ideas and resources to respond to the inequalities that now exist. “Regional autonomies will lead to establishment of a new social contract through democracy as required by the Millennium Declaration,” he added.

Prime Minister Tuileapa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa said challenges in meeting the MDGs were being met in his Small Island Developing State (SIDS) through priority legislation and partnerships with the UN system and others. To allow the Organization to better assist with such efforts, reform should aim at an “effective and strengthened organization to reflect the realities of the 21st Century.”

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini stressed that global solidarity is the answer to many of the ills besetting the world, from underdevelopment to terrorism to instability.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also stressed the importance of eradicating terrorism, which he said stymied development and, in turn, bred more extremism. “The UN was not meant to create heaven in the world, but to prevent it from going to hell,” he added.

Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon of the Republic of Korea noted that in aiming for the MDGs “success will be reached when each of us started looking beyond the immediate horizon.” His country was increasing aid and partnerships for that purpose, he added.

For his part, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy discussed in detail the range of conflicts in the world that were impeding development, along with the international action that was needed to help resolve them.

Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon of Thailand underscored the enormity of the challenges. “Each day 50,000 people continue to perish from poverty and hunger,” he said. “Money being spent on arms and weapons continues to outpace money being spent on saving lives.”

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian referred to his own nation’s difficulties as a small landlocked country without natural resources. “Our greatest natural resource is our population,” he said. “The path to security passes through development.” Democratization of international relations and institutions were essential, he added.

Foreign Minister Elmar Maharram Oglu Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan said the MDGs remained an indispensable part of his country’s agenda, stressing the importance of the cancellation of debt, aid and trade to open up resources for development, and improved market access.

Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Antonio Bielsa concentrated much of his address on human rights in view of his country’s past history of military dictatorships. But, urging a fairer trade system, he called on developed countries to do away with subsidies. “Developed countries must eliminate protection mechanisms,” he said, advocating equitable and lasting solutions for the external debt problem.

Papau New Guinea’s Foreign Minister Rabbie L. Namaliu said UN reform must be representative of the developing countries. Much more needed to be done to achieve MDGs, which were impeded by high debt, he declared. He called for the elimination of agricultural subsidies by developed countries. “Trade is the engine of economic growth and development,” he added.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande called for concerted action to realize the MDGs” and create a world free from poverty, hunger and deprivation. He said his country, scene of the genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists in 1994, welcomed the new global commitment to protect against such acts, but he added: “Actions, not words, will be the measure of our success or failure.”

Winding up the afternoon’s proceedings, Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks struck a similar note, calling for a more efficient United Nations to deal with situations like the genocide in Rwanda and the current conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region. He declared his country’s support for the establishment of a Human Rights Council, UN management reforms, achievement of the MDGs and gender equality.

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