Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Development Challenge Five Years After the Millennium Summit

Kemal Derviş
Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Chair of the UN Development Group
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Westin Embassy Row Hotel
The Center for Global Development (CGD)
Welcome and Introduction:
EDWARD W. SCOTT, JR., Chairman
Center for Global Development
Center for Global Development
Featured Speaker:
KEMAL DERVIŞ, Administrator
United Nations Development Programme
MR. DERVIŞ: Thank you so much Nancy and Ed, and to all of you many, many friends, the Center was really a great friend of mine and a great support to me while I was in politics. I was in Parliament, I was a Minister for a while, but for short periods I could escape, come to Nancy and Nancy's group and think, write a little bit, collect my thoughts, sometimes one week, sometimes three days, one time actually four weeks and that's when the book mostly got written.

But it was a tremendous support because when you're in Parliament or I was also in Europe at the European Convention drafting that rather ill-fated Constitution, but you get into day-to-day action and it's very hard to have the time to think and to collect your thoughts a little bit.

It was invaluable, and frankly, I recommend it to those who are in politics or in day-to-day kind of battles, sometime in the summer or sometime when people have time they should go to the Center for Global Development and spend about 10 days and they will be all the more effective I hope for it.

When we agreed with Nancy on this talk today, we chose the time right after the U.N. Summit, and really what I want to do today is share with you a little bit of what happened at the Summit, of course put it in the overall context of the debate on development, on aid, on aid effectiveness heading also of course to the Summit of the WTO in Hong Kong, put it in that context.

But I want to share with you a little bit the spirit that I watched at the United Nations during the last 2 weeks. It was very, very hectic. And also tell you a little bit about the UNDP, the U.N. Development Group, because it's not just the UNDP, it's also the other development agencies, and how I think we fit into the overall fight against poverty and struggle for more equity and faster growth in the world. On the Summit, it was remarkable. There were about 170 heads of state or heads of government who came, and of course foreign ministers, many economics ministers also. Not too many finance ministers, they're all arriving in Washington tonight or tomorrow, but there was really the whole world.

For me it was the first time and it was very interesting and I thought of Ed because you meet with the Foreign Minister of India or the Prime Minister of China or the Secretary of State of the United States, and then you meet with the Prime Minister of the Comoros, a very small, tiny country in the Pacific, but it's also a nation-state and we live today still in a world of nation-states.

Yet there is still something about the individual nation-state, and I sensed that very strongly at the U.N. General Assembly, that that's one dimension of the U.N. that is very valuable to these nation-states because it's one place where they come as equals in a sense, equals in a very limited sense, but nonetheless in a sense as equals. I want to reflect on that a little bit later because it makes things also very difficult, 190 people have to speak, 191 people have to speak, in ECOSOC more than 50 people have to speak.

It's not like at the World Bank and the IMF where the boards are representing groups, and even then I remember we thought there were too many board members at times. So it makes life very complicated in many ways. But on the other hand, it has a certain dimension of legitimacy which is absent from many other fora. There was suspense about the outcome. The outcome document had to be negotiated. Consensus is not absolutely required, but very desirable, and in the end 191 heads of state agreed on an outcome document. Of course it had to have a minimum common denominator approach because there were so many conflicts and different views, but at the end of the day nonetheless there were substantive things in this outcome document to which I will come to now.

On the development side, and particularly of course for UNDP, and the UNDP has been with Mark Malloch Brown and of course the Secretary General himself, Kofi Annan, have been the champion of the MDGs over the last 5 years, the Millennium Development Goals. So for us it was a tremendous source of satisfaction and happiness when we had the President of the United States after lots of debate say very clearly the United States supports the Millennium Development goals, period, as The New York Times said that day. That was a real breakthrough. Never did it happen at that level before.

I want to talk a little bit about that. Secretary Rice also made a very I think impressive speech in front of the General Assembly where her message was very clear, we want to support the United Nations, we want to work with the United Nations, we believe in the United Nations, we believe there is need for reform, for change, but we want to work with you. This is a partnership and we're part of it. Given all the debate that has proceeded the Summit, I think it was a major success, and I think the Secretary General deserves a lot of credit for that.

On the MDGs, the Millennium Development Goals, I must confess that when I was fighting the financial crisis in Turkey, I hadn't quite realized how much the MDGs had caught the imagination of the development community, of NGOs, of civil society of young people around the world, and of countries. When I got the job to head the UNDP, I got Emails from Turkish students and citizens. Turkey being a middleincome country is not in a sense at the heart of this development debate which is more focused on the less-developed countries, on the least-developed countries of Africa and so on, but I got a lot of Emails saying we're so happy that you're going to work for the Millennium Development Goals.
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