On 31 July 2009, recognizing "the depth of the current financial and economic crisis and the urgency of follow-up action," the General Assembly (GA) decided to establish an ad hoc open-ended working group (A/63/L.77) to follow up on issues described in the outcome document of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development. This working group should submit a progress report to the GA before the end of its sixty-fourth session.
Following the draft’s adoption, several speakers took the floor. Canada’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said he anticipated a State-led process that would engage all Members States to tackle the consequences of the crisis. He emphasized, however, that before this process could begin, States must first define and agree on the scope and organization of work, working methods and composition, as well as a timeline. Sudan’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said she looked forward to the early appointment of the working group’s co-chairs.
Also touching on those points, Sweden’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the co-chairs would be appointed from the membership, and although relevant stakeholders would be part of the discussions, participation in the working group should reflect participation in the Conference itself. Among other elements needing agreement, was the possible establishment of a “sunset clause”.
However, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, aligning himself with a statement made earlier on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the urgency of the crisis called for the work to start as soon as possible. The crisis was only just beginning in the developing world, as opposed to some larger countries, where it was coming to an end. He argued that the contours, mandate and scope of the working group were well-delineated in the consensus outcome document, and there was no need for “a procedural dance” on those issues.
Jamaica’s representative, who spoke on behalf of CARICOM, emphasized that the fall in commodity exports, tourism revenues, remittances and foreign investment, amid rising unemployment, had been so dramatic that several Caribbean countries had been forced to enter into a borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or were contemplating one.
He pointed out that small island developing States had no voice in exclusive groups, and thus saw the United Nations as the only forum in which they could engage on matters of such fundamental importance. Among the issues meriting the working group’s attention were access to concessionary financing and grants for small, highly indebted, vulnerable countries, and the outright provision of resources to the most vulnerable. Others included the need to level the playing field with respect to the treatment of off-shore jurisdictions, and to strengthen the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, as part of reforming the global economic architecture. CARICOM suggested that the working group shall consider the possibility of re-evaluating the criteria for measuring the economic sustainability of middle-income countries.
Egypt’s representative underscored the reason for establishing the working group — to strengthen the ability of the United Nations to take on the responsibility of addressing the crisis, in terms of both operation and structure. Those efforts should be coordinated between both developed and developing countries, and in a manner that complemented international efforts in other forums, such as the Group of 20 (G-20), whose membership should be expanded to include more developing countries, especially African countries. He said he also looked forward to increased coordination between the Group of Eight (G-8) and the United Nations.
Reiterating Egypt’s statement at the Conference, he said it was important to generate more financial resources in the interest of developing countries, in line with previous agreements. On top of that, new resources were needed to help the developing world address the negative impacts of the crisis. He also stressed that the economic stimulus packages of the advanced industrial States should not create imbalances in the world economy through new protectionist policies.
Echoing others who spoke today, he called for a review of the governance structures of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying that their decision-making processes should reflect the role of developing countries in the world economy and their thoughts on conditionality and policy space. The Joint Coordination Committee of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 stood ready to address all those issues.
Closing the meeting, the Assembly President thanked delegations for establishing the open-ended working group, calling it “a matter of technical and practical necessity”. He also noted that the two co-chairs, one from the North and one from the South, would be announced soon.
Following presentation of the draft resolution, it was explained that the working group is expected to meet from 24 July 2009 to 13 September 2010, for a total of 16 meetings — four during the sixty-third session and 12 in the sixty-fourth. While the exact dates are still to be determined, there was an understanding that no GA working groups would meet at the same time.
For more information on the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, click here.
This article is available in Spanish.