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Member States pledge more than $60 million in support of 2009 UN development activities, including specific aid to World Food Programme

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DEV/2702
SAG/421

2008 UN Pledging Conference
for Development Activities
1st Meeting (AM)

Global Economic Woes Placing Financial Stability Of Organization's Development System under Strain, Official Warns

Eighteen Member States pledged approximately $65 million, in support of United Nations development activities for 2009, an amount that included pledges made specifically to the World Food Programme (WFP) at a subsequent event.

Member States also elected the representative of Chile President for the 2008 United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities and adopted its draft report.

Opening the 2008 Pledging Conference, Nikhil Seth, Director of the Office of Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the event was taking place at a challenging time, given the current global financial crisis and a severe economic recession in sight. The turmoil had coincided with the food and energy crises, casting a shadow over the timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Prior to the emergence of those crises, he said, the official development assistance budget had already been under stress. At the end of 2007, foreign aid had stood at $103.7 billion, which represented a 13 per cent decrease in real terms, and a 0.05 per cent decrease in terms of the assistance-to-gross-national-income ratio since 2005. Official development assistance, excluding debt relief, had only increased at less than half the rate needed to reach the $130 billion target agreed by the Group of Eight Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland.

Against that backdrop, the financial stability of the United Nations development system was under strain, he continued. When official development assistance was scaled down, contributions to the Organization were likely to be the first affected, reducing the resource base for operational activities. Contributions to the United Nations system had dropped by 2 per cent in real terms in 2006. Until that year, the growing level of total funding received by the United Nations system had been driven mainly by increased core or supplementary funding.

While all States were well aware of those challenges, there was a need for bold actions, he said, noting also that the political will and the spirit of unity and solidarity demonstrated during the current difficult times had generated fresh hopes for success. The rapid growth in funding for development cooperation from outside the regular Development Assistance Committee channels, notably South-South cooperation was encouraging.

Developing countries were traditionally the major contributors in the context of the Pledging Conference, he said, adding that during the 2007 event, 20 Member States had pledged more than $80 million. Looking at the overall picture in 2006, non-Development Assistance Committee countries had contributed a total of $451 million to United Nations operational activities for development, a 104 per cent increase from 2004.

Inés Alberdi, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said the agency's programmes in more than 100 countries were only possible because of regular contributions from Member States, which sustained existing programmes and enabled UNIFEM to meet demands for technical assistance and expertise.

The Fund's 2009-2011 Strategic Plan aimed to gain the support of 100 countries and raise $100 million, she said. While 68 Governments had contributed approximately $53 million in core resources, a tremendous funding gap remained. The partnership between Governments and UNIFEM was crucial to the common cause of improving women's lives and developing societies. A Member State's contribution simultaneously assisted UNIFEM financially and served as a vote of confidence in its mandate. The agency needed that support to continue its work of reducing feminized poverty, increasing the number of women in politics and leadership positions, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls, and ending violence against women.

Romesh Muttukumaru, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Director of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Partnerships Bureau, said that over the period of UNDP's second multi-year funding framework, covering the years 2004 to 2007, further progress had been made in efforts to rebuild the agency's core funding base. Continuing the upward trend in UNDP's regular resources since 2001, when resources had increased for the first time after seven years of steady decline, its regular resources had reached close to a nominal $1.12 billion in 2007 and exceeded the final and overall target set by the multi-year funding framework. Projections for 2008 suggested that UNDP core resources might again reach $1.1 billion, the first annual target of the Strategic Plan 2008-2011.

However, the Programme remained concerned about the continued heavy reliance on a limited number of donors, he said, noting that the top 10 donors had provided about 80 per cent of regular resources in 2008. Broadening UNDP's donor base, which underpinned the universal development presence and relevance of the United Nations, remained a key priority. UNDP attached great importance to contributions to its regular resources made by programme countries, often under very difficult circumstances.

Afshan Khan, Director of the Public Alliances and Resource Mobilization Office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the pledges had come at a very important time, as UNICEF was working to further align its Medium-Term Strategic Priorities with the Millennium Development Goals. The Fund's 2008 financial plan indicated a target of $609 million for regular resource income from Governments, a 13 per cent increase over 2007, based on realistic commitments and donor confidence. As of 31 October, UNICEF had received $592 million in regular resources, 2.8 per cent below the target. For 2009, UNICEF had set a goal of 5 per cent growth in regular resources, and Member States were urged to contribute today or during UNICEF's Executive Board pledging event in February.

She expressed concern that, while income had increased in recent years, the proportion of regular resources to total resources remained low. In line with the recommendations of the Secretary-General's Report on Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review, UNICEF appealed to donors in a position to do so to increase their contributions to core resources in order to help overcome that imbalance. The current global financial and food price crises had had an imminent effect on children and other vulnerable groups, and UNICEF, therefore, depended more than ever on a predictable and steady growth of resources in general and core resources. UNICEF must ensure that the rights of children were protected and did not become casualties of the crises.

Ingalill Colbro, Chief of the Resource Mobilization Branch in the Information and External Relations Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that for the first time ever, that agency's regular contribution income in 2007 had surpassed the $400 million mark and reached $419 million, compared with $360 million in 2006. In that year, contributions to regular resources had been expected to reach $430 million. That growth was primarily due to increases in local currency pledges from a number of countries, including Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland. However, only $310.6 million had actually been received thus far.

As of 10 November 2008, a total of 146 pledges had been officially recorded for 2008, of which 54 were multi-year pledges (from 2008 to future years), she said. Most notable had been the number of pledges received from the Africa region, which had totalled 42 pledges, including 25 multi-year pledges. The few multi-year and late pledges and payments from major donors had been a deep concern in the current year, because UNFPA implemented its programme on the basis of income forecasts at the beginning of the year. Another concern was the Fund's very volatile and narrow funding base, whereby it depended on its top three donors for about 43 per cent of its core resources.

Addressing Member States later, during the pledging conference for the WFP, Deborah Saidy, Director of the specialized agency's New York Liaison Office, said the dramatic increases in food and fuel prices had had a major impact on the Programme's cost base, and on the breadth and depth of its interventions. Increases in costs and the number of vulnerable people requiring food assistance due to hunger, natural disasters and civil strife had doubled the WFP's 2008 funding requirements to a revised total of $5.7 billion. At the beginning of 2008, WFP had projected that it would reach 69 million beneficiaries. It was now assisting 89 million and still needed $1.2 billion to fund this year's work.

Despite recent falls in commodity markets, 2009 funding needs would be just as demanding, she said, pointing out that food prices remained relatively high compared with historic averages. Food prices in many local shops and markets where WFP's beneficiaries lived remained high, and falls in global commodity markets would take time to trickle down to local markets. The primary drivers of high food prices were still in place, placing at risk the hard-won gains that developing countries had made towards meeting the Millennium Goals. It was critically important not to let the financial crisis become a human crisis. Donors must not cut aid budgets, but live up to their commitments to tackle world hunger.

At the outset of the meeting, delegates elected Heraldo Muñoz ( Chile) as President of the 2008 United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities. The Conference also adopted its draft report.

Pointing out that the Conference would be governed by the Rules of Procedure for the United Nations Pledging Conferences (document A/33/580), Mr. Seth also called attention to the report of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs on comprehensive statistical analysis on operational activities for development for 2006, (document A/63/71-E/2008/46); a note by the Secretary-General on operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/CONF.208/2008/1); another note on contributions pledged or paid at the 2007 United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities as at 30 June 2008 (documents A/CONF.208/2008/2 and Add.1 and A/CONF/208/2008/2/Corr.1); and background information on programmes and funds.

Announcing pledges this morning for contributions in specific amounts were representatives of Indonesia, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Myanmar, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Kuwait, Singapore, Russian Federation, Mauritania, Morocco, Samoa, Mexico, Croatia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Luxembourg's representative said his country would also contribute to the Central Emergency Response Fund, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The exact pledges to those entities would be announced at a later date.

The representatives of Myanmar, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Croatia each said their respective countries would make further pledges at a later date. The representatives of Spain and China said they would announce their pledges at a later date.