Debt Crisis Dominates Economic and Social Council Debate

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The impact of the 1980s debt crisis on the world economy dominated the debate at the second regular session of the Economic and Social Council (Geneva, 5-28 July). The 54-member Council focused on how structural changes and imbalances in the world economy affect international economic co-operation, particularly with developing countries.

In an opening statement on 5 July, Council President Kjeld Mortensen of Denmark said that although recent economic growth and world trade had exceeded expectations, for many countries the 1980s remained a "lost decade". These countries now faced more problems than 10 years ago, he added.

Mr. Mortensen said that it was "beyond the reach of the Council" to solve these problems during a few weeks in Geneva. Nevertheless, the Council should take necessary decisions to promote solutions.

In the course of three weeks, the Council adopted 37 resolutions and 29 decisions. Issues covered ranged from preparation of a new international development strategy and international economic co-operation to the environment, population, food, women in development and natural disaster reduction. The need to revitalize the Council was also discussed.

In debate, trends toward unilateralism and discrimination in world economic affairs were firmly rejected. Concerned at the effects of these trends on co-ordination of macro-economic policies, the Council asked the Secretary-General to analyse ways to strengthen multinational economic co-operation as part of his report to the Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly devoted to that issue, scheduled for April 1990.

As for the net transfer of resources from developing countries, the Council emphasized that efforts by developed countries to foster sustained growth could not succeed outside a favourable international economic environment. A more comprehensive analysis of transfer of resources to and from developing countries was needed in the 1990 World Economic Survey, it was felt.

Early identification of macro-economic disturbances was crucial to averting their potentially negative effect, the Council noted. To avert sudden economic shocks, the UN should increase its role in analysing and monitoring world economic developments.

The Council's traditional debate on international economic and social policy was based on the World Economic Survey 1989, an annual review and analysis of the global economic situation.

Environmental aid, top agenda item

In order to enable developing countries to implement environmental programmes, member States agreed that increased aid to those countries should be a top agenda item at a planned 1992 UN conference on environment and development.

On 13 July, Mostafa K. Tolba, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) told the Council that when it came to the environment, there was no third world, only one world. The challenges of deforestation, ozone layer depletion and global warming had brought home the reality of interdependence.

The creation of the International Desert Locust Task Force was welcomed. The Task Force, supervised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), would provide direct support to seriously infested and inaccessible regions, particularly in Africa.

Population conference, 1994

The Council recommended that the UN convene in 1994 an international meeting on population for high-level governmental authorities and experts, open to all States. …