Annan replies to WCC over “Better World for All” report

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

GENEVA (4 July 2000): The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that the “A Better World for All” report that he co-signed was not a policy document but a compendium of desirable targets and objectives agreed to by co-sponsoring organizations, though there may well be differences among them on how to achieve these goals.

Annan’s explanations were contained in a letter he sent to the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Konrad Raiser, in response to the WCC’s criticism of his joining the IMF, World Bank and OECD in co-signing and launching the report.

Annan said that the targets and objectives in the report were the aims of the UN set at Copenhagen and elsewhere for which the other co-sponsors had now expressed support, and that the intergovernmental bodies of the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions had asked all of them to cooperate more effectively on development.

The publication of the report, which sets the goal of halving “extreme poverty” (defined as $1 a day of per capita income) by 2015 but which also promotes globalization and liberalization by developing countries of their trade and investment regimes as a way to achieve the goal, had riled and angered the broad coalition of NGOs, including the WCC, that had assembled here for the Special Session.

The report was said to have been published in response to a request from the G7 to the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. But its contents, and the way Annan promoted and commended it, became a major issue at the Special Session, overshadowing the substantive work of the Assembly and its Committee of the Whole.

Affirming his appreciation of the support the UN had received from the WCC and other civil society organizations, Annan said that his consistent position on this entitled him to speak frankly on the report.

Perhaps the most important point was that “the report contains our targets and objectives - these are the aims of the UN as expressed at Copenhagen and elsewhere, for which our partner organizations now express their support as well. It would be truly ironic if, after years of trying to get them to do so, we were now not to accept their ‘yes’ as an answer.”

[The NGOs of the Development Caucus and Social Watch had in fact challenged the view that the goals in the report were those set at the Copenhagen and Beijing conferences, and had said that targets like halving absolute poverty by 2015 and defining it as $1 a day of per capita income were targets of the World Bank and the OECD.]

Annan added that the intergovernmental bodies, of the UN and the BWIs, had asked them all to cooperate more effectively among themselves, especially in development-related work, and that the respective governing bodies had begun to convene regular joint meetings.

“Finally, I should note that the report is not a policy document but a compendium of desirable targets and objectives. And while all of the co-sponsoring organizations now agree on the objectives, there may well continue to be differences among them regarding how best to achieve them,” said Annan.

   Added the UN Secretary-General: “In fact, if I have one regret in retrospect it is that we did not make a stronger and more explicit case for the necessary contribution by the entire international community in meeting those targets and objectives. I did so in my Millennium Report .... It is my hope that the participation of the OECD in the Better World for All initiative represents a renewed commitment by the donor community to live up to its commitments and responsibilities.” (SUNS4701)

 The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.


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