G-8 and G-20 will Stress Development Issues
Geneva, – International coordination efforts, as through the G-8 and G-20, should focus on development issues in the wake of the global financial crisis and especially should give priority to enhancing food security and to improving infrastructure in poor countries, France’s Minister for Cooperation said Tuesday.
Speaking before UNCTAD member States on “the G-8/G-20 French Presidency and Development Challenges”, French Minister for Cooperation Henri de Raincourt outlined France’s priorities for the G-8 and G-20 groups of countries.
The recent food, energy, raw materials, and financial crises have been characterized by their strong effects on the social and economic fields, Mr. de Raincourt said. The depth of these crises has revealed the need to rebuild a new economic world founded on more inclusive principles and values. In this undertaking, he said, “it is indispensable to include the subject of development”.
The G-20 cannot establish the development agenda, the Minister said. It is the job of the United Nations to carry out this task. “The member States of the G-20 are first and foremost member States of the United Nations.” Nor can the G-20 lay down the rules of international activities on development – it is a coordination and cooperation body in the economic sphere.
Of the G-8 and G-20, Mr. de Raincourt said, “Most of the priorities proposed by the French presidency have an impact on developing countries. As concerns the battle against excessively volatile commodity prices, the necessity to reform the international monetary system, reinforcement of the social dimension of globalization, the battle against corruption, these are the countries that are the most vulnerable who must be the first beneficiaries of progress in international regulations.”
“If growth is to be sustainable, it must be shared... and we must place development at the heart of the international agenda.”
The G-20’s Working Group on Development – of which South Africa, the Republic of Korea, and France are co-chairs – has defined a plan of action, Mr. de Raincourt said. Among nine themes identified, including trade, private investment, and job creation, two, in France’s eyes, take priority: namely, food security and infrastructure. It is an aim of the G-20 to develop tools to reduce the food price volatility that hurts especially the world’s most vulnerable populations, he said. Commitments also are needed to limit food export restrictions, he said. And emergency food reserves should be augmented, taking care not to distort global markets.
The G-20 would welcome particularly further research and analysis by UNCTAD on the price volatility of basic food commodities, Mr. de Raincourt said – the work the organization has done so far has been highly valuable.
In the area of infrastructure, the President of France proposed in January that a series of “showcase” infrastructure projects, preferably regional and capable of rapid financing, be presented during the upcoming G-20 summit in Cannes, Mr. de Raincourt said. The multilateral development banks and the G-20’s high-level group of experts are now working on this proposal.
Following Mr. de Raincourt’s, presentation, UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said the organization fully supports the priorities given by France to G-8 and G-20 work. A G-20 working group on global imbalances, in which UNCTAD is participating, is developing useful tools for measuring such imbalances, Mr. Supachai said. Also under way, with UNCTAD’s participation, is further study of capital flows, and how they can help or hinder economic stability in developing countries. And UNCTAD continues to cooperate with the G-20 in its study of the commodities markets and the role played by such activities as futures trading as they affect food prices, the Secretary-General said. Work needs to be done to increase transparency and make information available on asymmetries in commodities markets, he said.
Mr. de Raincourt and Mr. Supachai met privately earlier in the morning, and the French Minister was scheduled to meet with the chiefs of several other international agencies during his official visit to Geneva.
UNCTAD has deepened and widened cooperation and joint activities with the G-20 in recent years. It is a member of the G-20 Commodities Study Group which is exploring, among other things, the role of financial speculation in recent climbing and volatile commodity prices. It is also a contributor to an inter-agency report on food price volatility as part of the food security issue being considered under the “development stream” of the G-20. UNCTAD will issue a report in June on financialization of commodities markets.
The organization has participated in the initial meetings of the G-20’s sub-working groups on capital flows management and global liquidity management. It is a member of the first sub-working group and an observer with the second.
Since the G-20’s London summit of April 2009, UNCTAD, working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has issued four joint reports on investment measures enacted by G-20 member countries. The G-20 has requested the two organizations to continue monitoring and reporting publicly on investment policy changes undertaken by G-20 Governments.
UNCTAD is contributing to the G-20’s Multi-Year Action Plan on Development, with a particular focus on the initiative’s investment angle.
And in the area of food security, it helped develop – along with the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development – a set of Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI). At its Seoul Summit last November, the G-20 encouraged all countries and companies to uphold the RAI principles.
The G-8 areas of priority under the French presidency include issues related to the Internet and “green” economic growth and innovation, topics on which UNCTAD has carried out extensive research and related work in recent years.