10 Feb 2010

High-level UN summit opens with call for careful spending

2:13 pm on 10 February 2010

The head of the United Nations Development Programme, Helen Clark, is urging all Pacific governments to spend their money more carefully.

The call was part of Miss Clark's keynote address to the Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis conference, which began in Vanuatu this morning.

Annell Husband reports from Port Vila.

"More than 200 delegates from across the region packed into Le Lagon resort's conference room as Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, used his opening speech to emphasise the importance of moving to a knowledge-based economy. Miss Clark, who described the beginning of the conference as like a church service that needed livening up, told delegates poverty across the region has worsened, with the economic crisis making it harder for many countries to achieve millenium development goals, which include the elimination of poverty and universal education. She outlined five areas of priority for the Pacific as it deals with the fallout from the crisis. She told the gathering every dollar spent by governments must be carefully prioritised, social protection programmes must be strengthened, that women must benefit from any new policies put in place, that now is the time for more small and medium businesses to be developed and that the crisis presents the region an opportunity to re-orient economies to low-carbon development. There was criticism from some quarters of Miss Clark's failure to mention Pacific labour ministers' agreement at a high-level International Labour Organisation meeting earlier this week that economic recovery must be job-led, followed by the comment that this is an example of the UN not working together."