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UN conference on financial crisis concludes

Reuters reports that, “A United Nations meeting on the global economic crisis adopted proposals on Friday for reforming the world financial system…”

“After months of negotiations, over 140 members of the U.N. General Assembly approved by consensus a 15-page resolution that is short on specifics but includes a call for increased U.N. involvement in global economic policy-making.”

“The final resolution was watered down from an earlier version prepared by U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, a leftist former foreign minister of Nicaragua, that Western delegations said was too radical.”

“Among other things, the draft calls for increased representation of developing countries and better gender balance at the IMF and World Bank. The resolution says some countries have called for a ‘more efficient reserve system’ and urges further study of the possibility of replacing the U.S. dollar with the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights as the top reserve unit.”

“The United States said the world body had no authority to order changes.”

“As expected, a member of the U.S. delegation read a statement distancing the United States from parts of the resolution, including provisions on reforming financial bodies like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.”

“Taylor Royle of the Catholic development aid alliance CIDSE said the U.S. government disliked parts of the declaration calling for equal gender and geographic representation at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.”

“A Venezuelan delegate told the meeting that the resolution had ‘major deficiencies,’ above all its failure to mandate a precise role for the United Nations in the global economy.”

“Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters that the resolution proved ‘it is possible for the United Nations, for the 192 (member) countries, to have a serious and rational discussion about the international crisis.'”

“Originally the top speakers at the conference were supposed to be three leftist firebrands — Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (none of whom attended). In the end, a speech by left-wing Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was the meeting’s top event.”

The Associated Press adds, “Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed, speaking for the Group of 77 which represents 132 mainly developing counties and China, called the consensus ‘a remarkable achievement,’ saying it ‘establishes a good basis for developing countries’ objective towards a just and equitable world order.'”

“The Czech Republic’s U.N. Ambassador Martin Palous, speaking on behalf of the 27-nation European Union, expressed ‘satisfaction’ with the outcome. ‘This is a great message of resolve and hope that we are sending to the world, especially those who suffer most,’ Palous said.”

Reuters continues that, “Non-governmental organizations that focus on combating global poverty supported calls for greater U.N. involvement in the global economy, but said the resolution was inadequate.”

“The Global Social Economy Group, or GSEG, an umbrella group that represents over 200 trade unions, social movements and non-governmental organizations, said in a statement that it was ‘seriously disappointed in the official outcome document.’ GSEG said the resolution was no more than a non-binding appeal for fiscal stimulus measures, delivery of aid promises, debt relief and additional grants for poor countries.”

“Gemma Adaba of the International Trade Union Confederation said the declaration was ‘so unclear on decisive actions.’ She added that it lacked mechanisms to ensure that rich countries keep their commitments to boost aid to the developing world and carry out needed reforms at the IMF and World Bank.”

A United Nations summary of the Global Social Economy Group press conference includes comments by John Foster of the Canadian-based North-South Institute.

“Mr. Foster said that non-governmental organizations were pleased that the document affirmed the United Nations as the venue where world financial matters were debated, but they were very disappointed at the total outcome after the high hopes engendered by the Stiglitz Commission.”

“Mr. Foster added that there was a lack of courageous political leadership on all sides.”

“Concern with financial architecture was a priority for the Group, he said, adding that it was also crucial to have global taxation mechanisms and other means to counteract the draining of funds from the developing South to the developed North. That meant, in addition to stopping illicit flows, that some sort of tax on international financial transactions or currency transactions was needed.”

“Developed countries wanted to deal with economic matters in exclusive forums such as the Group of Twenty, without civil society and developing countries present, Mr. Foster maintained.  With the new administration in place, the United States was a little less obstructionist than it been previously, he said, but the resistance to change continued.”

“The General Assembly will now establish a working group to follow-up on the issues in the document and report to its next session in September.”

The draft outcome statement for the conference can be read at http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N09/376/06/PDF/N0937606.pdf?OpenElement.

The report on the press conference by the Global Social Economy Group (including the comments from John Foster of the North-South Institute) is at http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2009/090626_GSEG.doc.htm.

The Reuters news stories are at http://uk.mobile.reuters.com/mobile/m/FullArticle/eUK/CWORUK/nworldNews_uUKTRE55P5UV20090627 and http://in.mobile.reuters.com/mobile/m/FullArticle/eIN/CWORIN/nworldNews_uINIndia-40634920090626.

The Associated Press report is at http://m.rgj.com/detail.jsp?key=216884&rc=bz&full=1.