UN Economic Crisis conference a 'missed opportunity' to help poor

“Up to 100 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty this year by the economic crisis.”
Bernice Romero
Oxfam Director of Advocacy and Campaigns
Published: 26 June 2009

The UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development was a missed opportunity to address the needs of poor countries, Oxfam said today.

This outcome document agreed by member states recognized poor country concerns by highlighting the urgency of the current crisis, the need for structural reforms, and the importance of aid and debt relief for poor countries.  But it lacked in any specific new ambitious measures or proposals to help bail out the poor.

Bernice Romero, Oxfam Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, said: "A modest step forward was taken this week to give poor countries a voice in tackling the crisis, but too many rich countries remain opposed to UN involvement and the concrete steps proposed in the outcome document don’t go far enough.

“Member states have failed to respond to the challenge to protect poor people from the excesses of unregulated capitalism and the continuing food crisis.

"Up to 100 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty this year by the economic crisis. And while their leaders will be absent from next month's G8, this was a chance for them to have a real say in tackling the crisis. But ultimately this was a missed opportunity. Hopes that the conference would agree specific proposals to bail out the poor were ended by a combination of political wrangling and the refusal of many rich countries to accept the need for a central UN role in global economic reform."

Among the agreement’s few concrete measures is the decision to set up an ad hoc working group to follow up on the issues raised by the conference.  “Whether this is a success or failure, will ultimately depend on whether or not member states turn the outcome document’s rhetoric into tangible solutions.”