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Monterrey Summit: Promises Promises?

"The Greater Caribbean This Week"  (1)

Norman Girvan>
About ACS>

The Greater Caribbean, like the rest of the developing world, has seen a steep fall in aid flows since the end of the Cold War. Some countries in the region are also highly indebted. So the region has a considerable stake in the outcome of the United Nations Conference on the Financing of Development that concluded in Monterrey last week. Support for the goals of the Monterrey Conference was expressed in the Margarita Declaration of the 3rd ACS Summit held last December.

The UN has estimated the additional cost of meeting the Millennium Goals at US$50 billion per annum. The goals call for halving world poverty by 2015. Others provide for universal primary education, promoting gender equality and improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS—all of great significance to the Greater Caribbean region.

The US$50 billion per year might seem to be a lot of money, but this should be set in context. It is about one one-sixteenth of world military spending. The annual amount is roughly 5 percent of the total assets of the world’s 200 billionaires.

It is also about the same as the increase in the US military budget for the next fiscal year, proposed by the US Administration for the global war on terror. The cost of the September 11 attacks to the US Federal Budget already amounts to $40 billion and last week the Administration asked for another $27.1 billion. So the total cost of the terrorist attacks to the US Government alone is already projected at over twice the extra cost of financing the UN Millennium goals.

Monterrey showed that the costs of security achieved by military means need to be compared to the costs of addressing the conditions that produce insecurity in the first place. At the Summit, leader after leader pointed out that poverty and inequality provide a fertile breeding ground for terrorism. The President of the World Bank and the head of the World Trade Organization made much the same point.

At Monterrey, the US announced an increase of $10 billion in its aid program and the EU $7 billion. The increases are a welcome development. But the total promised fall far short of what is needed.

There is also the question of making good on the promises, as Secretary General Kofi Annan pointed out. Mr Annan speaks from past experience. At the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Barbados in 1994, for instance, much was promised, but much less was subsequently delivered.

The consensus that emerged at Monterrey is that expanded aid flows will be conditioned on receiving countries practicing good governance and sound economic policies and cleaning up corruption; so that aid money is not wasted.

No one could contest the need for this. The question is whether there will be a one-sided interpretation and implementation of these conditions by the aid givers, or genuine dialogue and partnership that allows for different approaches and eventual arrival at common ground.

Just as the principle of “sovereignty” should not be used as a cloak for corruption and tyranny, the principles of “good governance” should not be used to justify the imposition of unilaterally determined standards.

Neither has a place in true development partnerships aimed at implementing the Millennium Goals and the Monterrey Consensus.

April 8, 2002

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Professor Norman Girvan is Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States. 

  The views expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Feedback can be sent to mail@acs-aec.org.

 

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