Special Panel of Experts Seeks New Collective Vision of Development

Article excerpt

Timed to complement the Secretary-General's policy initiative--"An Agenda for Development"--and to help realize the collective vision of development it contained, the World Hearings on Development, organized by General Assembly President Samuel Insanally of Guyana, were held at Headquarters from 6 to 10 June.

Participants included more than 30 prominent scientists, historians, environmentalists, economists, industrialists, former national leaders and media specialists from both the developing and developed world.

The gathering's objective was to promote frank and far-ranging discussion on development issues and, in Mr. Insanally's words, to "search for fresh ideas for advancing a new campaign towards a development strategy for the year 2000 and beyond".

Each day's hearings were devoted to a broad theme: the linkage between development, peace and security; the challenges of fulfilling the UN imperative of putting people first in growth and development; the impact of globalization on an increasingly interdependent world; the need for new forms of international cooperation in areas such as trade, external debt, and development financing; and international policy coordination and the role of the UN system.

Experts testified on specific themes and answered questions posed by a panel of senior Government representatives. The hearings emanated from a 1993 Assembly resolution (48/166) which invited the Assembly President to promote broad--based discussions and an exchange of views on "An Agenda for Development".

In an address delivered by his Special Adviser, Ismat Kittani, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said that the twenty-first century must be the age of development. He believed that the experts' presence at the UN represented a commitment to what he termed "the greatest challenge of our next 50 years".

In a welcoming speech, President Insanally told participants that the UN was the only forum in which development issues could be merged with political issues, and that development must be given priority, not only as a contribution to the maintenance of peace and security, but also as an essential requirement of all the world's people in and of itself.

`A rich palette of ideas'

At the conclusion of the World Hearings, President Insanally said he had encountered "a rich palette" of new ideas and proposals on the nature of development in a changing world and the UN role in the process. Clearly, he said, development was seen to be people-centred, which required a stronger focus on poverty and on the social sector, including education, health and social safety nets.

Grass-roots participation was an essential component in the process, as was the concept of "self-help", although international cooperation and assistance were essential as well. Peace, security and development were, in the eyes of the experts, inter-related and mutually supportive. It was also widely agreed that high military expenditures were detrimental to economic and social development.

The market had been recognized as an efficient instrument for development, but there was increasing appreciation that the States and the market forces could be mutually reinforcing partners. In the financial area, the stagnation of official development assistance (ODA) was a major cause for concern. A World Trade Organization aiming at universality was seen as a landmark in international cooperation.

Coordination and coherence in the UN system was seen as critical to its success in meeting the needs of a changing world. Linking the Bretton Woods institutions more closely to the UN, so that they would pay increasing attention to the broad, global objectives set out by the international community, remained a major task.

Expert views

The following is a brief overview of experts' statements made during the World Hearings:

Emma Bonino, Deputy Speaker, Member of the Italian Parliament Presidency and the Foreign Affairs Commission, said that ODA should no longer be used as an instrument for achieving goals of the donor countries. …