Beyond the Year of Development – What Now?
Mr Chairman, Mr President of the World Bank, Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the pleasure to welcome you to the Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network of the World Bank in Helsinki.
The theme of the Conference ’Beyond the Year of Development: What now?’ highlights the challenges we will face in implementing the commitments that we have jointly made, most recently at the UN Millennium Summit in New York. We all know that the agenda is broad, consisting of complex political efforts and processes, such as the Doha negotiations, efforts to scale up aid effectively and so forth. Success in delivering on this agenda requires strong political will from us all.
As parliamentarians, we all understand the fundamental role of political will in achieving the MDGs and other development objectives. For us, at this conference and beyond, the challenge is therefore to identify and strengthen the political momentum behind the most important decisions and changes needed to accelerate the MDG’s progress globally. This requires a closer look at the structural challenges that are behind the too slow MDG -progress.
In my opinion, the growing global welfare inequalities within and between nations is one of these issues. We need to fight this trend forcefully and promote equity as a cornerstone of our development efforts. The international development community recently published two noteworthy annual reports – The World Bank World Development Report and the UNDP Human Development Report – which significantly enhance our understanding in this area.
There are many reasons for the need to focus on inequalities. The promotion of equality is, as we know, a fundamental moral principle in all religions and societies. But equality is also of instrumental value in the promotion of economic welfare and development. It is widely acknowledged that marked inequalities play a role in economic growth and poverty reduction.
The latest issue of the World Bank World Development Report focuses on equity and highlights the importance of the equality of opportunities. The report lays stress on the principle that all people should have equal opportunities to pursue a life of their choosing, and be protected from absolute forms of deprivation in outcomes.
The report includes many messages which I personally find highly relevant for our deliberations at this conference. One of them is that the dichotomy between policies for economic growth and equity is false. This is also our historical development experience in Finland. And I am obviously happy that the WDR, which briefly refers to our development experience of the twentieth century, arrives at the same conclusions. Our own experience shows that democratic institutions and policies, which promote the active participation of all members of society in economic, social and political life, contribute to equitable and sustainable growth.
Another aspect that is underlined in the report is that political inequalities are detrimental to poverty reduction. According to the report, unequal distribution of income and wealth is also often connected with concentration of political power and the role of institutions is of fundamental importance in either perpetuating existing inequalities or promoting equitable development. Poverty and lack of opportunities among large segments of society too often leads to the formation of institutions which maintain inequalities and hamper investment, innovation and risk-taking, necessary for growth and poverty reduction.
Strong poverty reduction policies are unlikely to emerge without political change that strengthens the voice and influence of the poorer population groups. As parliamentarians, we have a key role in building such democratic institutions as lay the necessary foundations for equitable and sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The challenge of development cannot be met by governments and parliaments alone. What we need is a strengthened multi-stakeholder approach to global problem-solving.
The Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy, which is a joint initiative of the Governments of Tanzania and Finland, encourages engagement in multi-stakeholder dialogue and cooperation as an essential factor in efforts to find lasting solutions to global challenges. The first phase of the Helsinki Process culminated in a Conference which was recently held also here in Helsinki.
This Helsinki Conference made several recommendations in various fields, such as global governance, poverty and human security. However, perhaps the greatest value-added and particular strength of the Helsinki Process lies in the model for action-oriented cooperation between different stakeholders – such as governments of the North and South, international organisations, the business sector, academia and civil society. National democratic processes and institutions remain important. But the increasing impact of global processes on people’s lives highlights the importance of opening up new global opportunities of influence, in particular, for the ones who are marginalised from the current political processes.
In order to answer the call for promoting the implementation of the many recommendations made at the Helsinki Conference, Finland and Tanzania have brought together a group of 13 governments: The friends of the Helsinki Process. (Algeria, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.)
As a next step, Finland and Tanzania are now looking for more friends and partners who would take the responsibility for arranging multi-stakeholder Round Tables on five themes suggested by the Helsinki Group: poverty and development, peace and security, human rights, governance, and the environment.
Dear colleagues, I invite you to join the Helsinki Process and believe that the PNoWB has a crucial role in the consolidation of multi-stakeholder dialogue as a global problem-solving instrument.
I would also like to draw your attention to the work of the Helsinki Process Track on New Approaches to Global Problem Solving, which made several recommendations regarding the World Bank and the involvement of parliamentarians in global governance.
First of all, the Track recommends that the President of the World Bank, the Managing Director of the IMF and the Director General of the WTO should issue a joint annual report on the state of the world economy and on their policies, aiming at the broad objectives of growth, stability, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. This report would be delivered to members of ECOSOC and the G8 Summit, and would also be discussed in a public hearing together with the heads of the three institutions and an international group of parliamentarians.
Secondly, the Track recommends that parliamentarians be more directly involved in global governance through the establishment of Global Public Policy Committees (proposed by the Cardoso panel) and a Global Parliamentary Group (proposed by the ILO World Commission). The Track suggests that this matter should be discussed in a meeting of representatives from the IPU, regional parliaments and other apex bodies of parliamentarians, such as the PNoWB.
Finally, the Track recommends that the representation of developing countries on the Boards of the World Bank and IMF should be improved. As a practical step, the Track recommends a review of the role of quotas to be undertaken by the Bretton Woods Institutions in order to redistribute representation and basic votes.
I would like to hear your views on these recommendations, which are all explained in more detail in the Track report.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals together with the Monterrey Consensus set the framework for the pursuit of coherence and consistency, required for sustainable and equitable development for all countries.
In this context, the multilateral organizations, in particular the Bretton Woods Institutions, the UN and the WTO are in a key position. These organizations play a crucial role in international development and in international monetary, financial and trade systems. By bringing together representatives of the major multilateral organisations, parliamentarians and citizens, this Parliamentary Network promotes a common understanding of the reforms required in the multilateral system. Yet, we must remember that the main responsibility for moving forward remains, to a large extent, with Governments which are the Member States of these organizations.
The governance deficit in the multilateral system in terms of voice, participation and accountability is widely acknowledged. This is true also of the World Bank and the IMF; their efforts are mainly targeted at developing countries, in particular African countries, which are the least-represented within them. Due to these institutions’ leading role in providing policy guidance, financing and technical assistance to many developing countries, they have a central role in shaping the future of these countries well Beyond the Year of Development.
Finland is in favour of strengthening the voice and participation of the developing and transition countries in the decision-making of the BW institutions. Although some progress has been made in this direction, it seems quite clear that the efforts are not sufficient to satisfy the calls for increased influence.
I would like to acknowledge the initiatives taken by the World Bank and the IMF to enter into closer consultations with Parliaments and civil society in developing countries and thereby to lay a basis for enhanced participation and dialogue. The Parliamentary Network of the World Bank and the Agenda of this Annual Conference are prime examples of such a positive trend.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
One of the principal objectives of this Network has been to increase accountability and transparency by facilitating dialogue on development policies between parliamentarians and the World Bank. Perhaps the most important single issue of debate has been the role of parliamentarians in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Approach. This approach, which redefined the aid relationship by empowering governments to set their priorities and holding them responsible for results, greatly enhanced the roles and responsibilities of parliaments in the development process.
Today, broad-based participation of parliamentarians and civil society and private sector representatives in the preparation, implementation and assessment of the national poverty reduction strategies is considered a fundamental precondition for a sustainable development strategy. However, meaningful participation would not have been possible without the advocacy and training provided by the Parliamentary Network of the World Bank. I want to take this opportunity to encourage the Parliamentary Network to continue its efforts to further enhance the involvement of parliamentarians in the PRSP debates.
The Agenda is ambitious. We have to join our efforts to move forward. This Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network provides an opportunity to tackle the challenges Beyond the Year of Development. I hope that the Conference will provide guidance for our future work and wish the Conference every success.