Ad Melkert warns: Don't let "rich man's worry remain poor man's plight"

Apr 3, 2009

New York – The United Nations Development Programme welcomes the resources pledged by the G-20 leaders to the developing countries but stresses the need to hold donors and countries to account.

“It is a step forward in recognising that the financial and economic crisis is turning into a human development crisis, especially in the poorest countries,” said UNDP Acting Administrator Ad Melkert.  “However, when one looks at the specificity of the measures announced in the communique, there is a gap between the measures for the financial institutions and the expressions of general concern to support developing countries.”

Speaking to the Associated Press on the G-20 Summit, Melkert said that “nobody can of course calculate who's going to benefit exactly which way from different measures.  That is not specified in the text.

“So for us at the U.N., it's going to be extremely important to hold those donors and countries to account to really make sure that the rich man's worry doesn't remain the poor man's plight," he added.

"There is this discrepancy that there seems to be more specificity for financial systems and institutions, and also the resources available for lending to middle-income countries, and there is much less specificity for the poorest countries," Melkert said.

He called for "a better balance there ... to bridge the gap" between the wealthy countries and the poor.  "There is a kind of political recognition now that the financial and economic crisis and the human development crisis are inextricably linked," he said.

Analyses of past recessions reveal that poor countries suffer substantially more than their richer counterparts, not just in terms of job and income loss, but in health and education indicators – life expectancy, school enrollment and completion rates all drop.  In low-income countries, women, children and the poorest segments of society, are the most susceptible to the consequences of economic collapse.  Data gathered during previous economic downturns indicates that even among poor children, girls are more likely to be pulled out of school than boys.

As remittances slump, trade collapses and commodity prices continue to be highly volatile, more families are falling into extreme poverty.  Increases in poverty rates, almost mechanically, translate into increased mortality.  For instance, a three-percent decrease in Gross Domestic Product for developing countries may be associated with between 47 and 120 more infant deaths per 1000 live births. Already in some of the developing countries, the probability of a poor child dying is almost four times higher than a wealthier child in that same country and during economic downturns, the increase in infant mortality is five times higher for girls than for boys.

UNDP is currently working with governments to monitor the situation and help mitigate the crisis, design social protection measures, keep health and education services intact, generate employment programmes and develop food security initiatives.

Related Information:

UNDP and the Economic Crisis

UNDP Around the world