Development Dilemmas: The Monterrey Conference. (Global Notebook)

Article excerpt

Situated just south of the US border, the glass and steel metropolis of Monterrey, Mexico, was the stage for the UN International Conference on Financing for Development, held on March 18-22, 2002.

The first-ever summit of its kind, the conference brought together hundreds of dignitaries, representatives from nongovernmental organizations and businesses, and leaders from international financial institutions. The main topic of discussion was how to raise the money desperately needed to alleviate poverty and promote growth in developing countries. While most observers saw the talks as a step in the right direction, concrete results of the conference were modest.

The fact that a gathering of this kind even happened might be considered a success in its own right. Given the events of the past year, few would have criticized industrialized nations for overlooking their underdeveloped neighbors. However, others argue that the current threat of terrorism has made it clear that developed nations can no longer ignore those who are less economically developed. After September 11, the link between poverty and terror is undeniable. Although exploring this connection was not the aim of the Monterrey conference, the idea that aid might effect some change in this regard must have lingered in participants' minds.

When UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for this meeting over two years ago, he did so in an effort to push countries toward the goals of encouraging global development and reducing poverty outlined at the UN Millennium Summit. Prior to Monterrey, interest groups with vastly different views weighed in on the conference's consensus document, the declaration that was to be adopted at the end of the conference. Recognizing the importance of this unique opportunity, interest groups expressed their hope that the conference would not be another rhetoric-filled entrenchment of the status quo. Sadly, aside from the promise of a modest increase in direct aid by the United States and the European Union, developing countries were left with little hope in the face of growing selfishness among the world's richest countries.

Some might argue that the assurance of increased aid, particularly the US$5 billion pledge made by the United States to countries demonstrating effective governance and improved economic policies, is a minor miracle. However, the gap between the funds needed to address problems such as poverty, AIDS, and education and the money actually allocated to do so is growing daily. The World Bank estimates the shortage to be between US$20 billion and US$40 billion, while other sources approximate it at closer to US$100 billion. Closing this gap would require a doubling of the present amount of foreign aid given by donor countries; unfortunately, such a triumph was not achieved at Monterrey. …