UN forum calls for addressing debt burden of virus-hit developing nations

UN forum calls for addressing debt burden of virus-hit developing nations

UNITED NATIONS: An important United Nations forum Thursday called for addressing the debt burden threatening the economic collapse of coronavirus-hit developing countries, as UN leaders underlined the call by Prime Minister Imran Khan for a global initiative for debt relief.
The Financing for Development (FfD) Forum of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held an informal virtual high-level meeting in which member states joined together in a consensus outcome document that called for coordinated and decisive global action to arrest the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening the online meeting, the ECOSOC President, Mona Juul of Norway, focused on the various proposals made to deal with the debt problem facing the developing countries, and called for concessional financing, especially for least developed nations.
“I welcome the call by the Prime Minister of Pakistan for a Global Initiative for Debt Relief to promote a comprehensive solution to the debt issue and financing for sustainable development,” she said.
The President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, also highlighted the debt problem and said, “I welcome the Global Initiative for Debt Relief, called for by Pakistan, to help ensure crucial liquidity to many developing countries suffering from the heavy burden of debt”.
The endorsement was culmination of a month-long process to agree on an intergovernmentally negotiated outcome document of the Forum, in which PM Imran’s initiative echoed throughout the negotiations of the outcome document.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also supported PM Imran’s initiative. In response, the Secretary-General issued his own “Policy Brief on Debt and COVID-19” on 17 April 2020.
According to diplomatic observers, the resounding acknowledgement of the Pakistani initiative was instrumental in placing the discussion of debt relief at the center of global response to the emergency caused by COVID-19 and achievement of 2030 agenda.
It also stressed that the developing countries, under severe debt burden, would not have necessary fiscal space to withstand the COVID-19 crisis and therefore must be provided with emergency debt relief, without onerous conditionalities, to deal with the present crisis and to achieve sustainable development.
Pakistan’s UN Ambassador, Munir Akram, stated after the approval of the outcome document that Pakistan will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders including the United Nations, to promote inclusive dialogues on financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) investments while maintaining debt sustainability.
In his speech to the Forum, Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said that developing countries need massive and urgent support. “Now is the time to stand by our commitment to leave no one behind.
“COVID-19 has highlighted global inequalities and injustices that cannot continue, including gender inequality. Returning to our previous path is simply not an option.”
The FfD Forum is convened by ECOSOC and usually sees scores of ministers of finance, foreign affairs and development cooperation from around the world, along with the heads of UN agencies, the World Bank and the IMF.
This year, the outcome document was the first by UN member states to collectively address the financing challenges posed by COVID-19, it was pointed out.
“COVID-19 shows it is more important than ever to focus on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, issues such as resource mobilization, illicit finance, debt and women’s empowerment must be priorities,” Juul said.
“With hundreds of thousands abruptly unemployed, inequalities between countries and peoples are already worsening. The weakest economies will not be able to recover without immediate comprehensive, coordinated measures.”


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