Statement by minister Väyrynen at UNU Wider 25th Anniversary Conference

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UNU-WIDER 25th Anniversary Conference:

Opening Statement on May 13, 2010, Helsinki
Dr. Paavo Väyrynen
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development

Director of the WIDER Institute, Dr. Finn Tarp, dear Colleagues, professors and scholars,

It is a great pleasure for me to address this Conference which celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the World Institute for Development Economics Research, commonly known as the Wider Institute.

The idea of establishing a special United Nations’ Research Institute, which should tackle economic and development issues, came up in London in 1981. According to my information the idea was originally launched by Professor Ralf Dahrendorf, a great liberal scholar whom I also have had a pleasure to meet.

Several countries were interested in hosting the WIDER. In November 1983 Finland decided to offer of grant of 25 million USD, which was 50 % of the basic capital fund for WIDER to get started and to operate the first five years. In addition we promised our funding for operative expenses including the office premises and housing for the Director of the Institute. This generous offer led to an agreement of establishing the Institute in Finland.

In February 1984, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was able to sign the Agreement with the then Rector of UN University Mr. Soedjatmoko in Tokyo. The Parliament of Finland consented to the Host Country Agreement and other legal arrangements, and we were able to pay our very first installment, 6 million US dollars, to WIDER, in June 1984. The WIDER office was officially opened on the 11th of June 1984. The first Director of WIDER, Ray Fleming from UN University office New York, also attended this great event.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The theme of this conference, “The Triple Crisis”, is timely and important.
Positive development results that we have seen in many parts of the world over the past years are in danger due to the global economic crisis. At the same time we are struggling with two other burning global problems, namely the food and the climate crises.

At a time like this, the importance of a strong development policy is greater than ever. Despite the economic crisis, Finland has been able to defend its own ODA-budget and will achieve 0,55 % GNI share in 2010 exceeding the EU target for us. Next year we are going reach the level of 0.58 %. Unlike many other industrialized countries, Finland has been able to increase the level of the development aid resources. We are also able to cover our share of the additional short term climate change funding agreed on in Copenhagen.

In order to be effective in our joint development efforts, in order to reach fast and lasting results, we have to build on the principles of sustainable development, both ecologically, economically and socially.

The foundation for sustainable development was laid down in the Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 and reconfirmed at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. Since then the world leaders have committed themselves to the principles of sustainable development on several occasions.

Economic growth, which is based on a thriving private sector, domestic and foreign investments and trade, is the main contributor to poverty reduction. There is great potential to boost economic development through regional trade and investments. Economic growth must, of course, be inclusive and it must be accompanied by effective national poverty reduction programmes.

Ecological sustainability, especially the challenges related to climate change, requires urgent joint action on the national, regional and global level. The recent Copenhagen Accord stresses enhanced support for both climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

The Copenhagen Summit can, however, only be seen as a beginning. We all have to associate ourselves to the Copenhagen Accord. But we must be ready to go further in order to achieve a more ambitious and binding agreement in Mexico in November 2010.

Social sustainability, including good governance, human rights, democracy and rule of law, is an essential and fundamental pre-requisite for sustainable development. Efforts to reduce poverty can bring fast and lasting results only when our development policies are based also on the social dimension of sustainable development.
In order to be effective in our joint development efforts we have to improve coordination between all the donors and partners. An important step was taken when the EU and the US agreed in their November summit to strengthen their cooperation in poverty reduction and promotion sustainable development. These two actors provide up to 80 % of all ODA and 85% of all humanitarian assistance in the world. This Transatlantic partnership was initiated by Finland a year ago.

We have to continue on this path and enhance cooperation and coordination between all actors in development policy. In our opinion, we must strive for greater convergence in the development policies of all the donors and the partners.

On one hand the traditional, Northern donors, should do more in infrastructure, productive sectors and private sector development. On the other hand, new emerging donors in the South-South cooperation could and should be more active in primary education, health and other social sectors where they have, based on their own recent history, invaluable experience and expertise.

The Southern donors should also follow the example of the Northern donors by providing more grant aid and by giving the least developed countries a full quota and tariff free access to their growing domestic markets.

In the transatlantic development policy cooperation we are going to concentrate our efforts first on three items which coincide with the themes of this conference: food security, development aspects of climate change and the Millennium Development Goals. We aim both at practical cooperation in the field and coordination in international conferences.

I believe that the transatlantic development policy cooperation can be crucially important in promoting effective poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Policy-makers – here in Finland and elsewhere – need solid evidence-based research for their decision making. Especially, in the time of crises the information is well respected and appreciated. This is also what we expect from WIDER. Your contribution to global economic and development issues has been of high quality and very useful. We hope that in the future you will be able to maintain and even strengthen your valuable role to that effect.

Finland wishes to help the WIDER in achieving our shared goals. This year we have tripled our financial contribution to the Institute. Celebrating our common journey of 25 years, I have signed a contribution of 700 000 €.

I wish the WIDER all the success for the coming years and for your valuable work.