LONDON, NOVEMBER 13, 2001--Concluding their talks today at Marlborough House in London, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon and Jim Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, called for a reduction in agricultural subsidies in the developed world:
"OECD member states spend US$350 billion every year in agricultural subsidies, which is seven times their development aid budgets," Mr Wolfensohn said. Mr McKinnon stressed that "these subsidies are preventing many developing countries from being able to export to the rich countries."
They agreed that international trade was a powerful lever for reducing poverty and that future trade negotiations should have a strong development dimension. The World Bank President said: "We will not have real progress in development for as long as workers in poor countries face tariffs twice as high as workers in rich countries."
Mr McKinnon agreed with that view and expressed deep concern that economic development in poor and vulnerable economies has been severely harmed in the wake of 11 September. "We have seen declines in exports, commodity prices, tourism, foreign investment and earnings sent home to their families by breadwinners working abroad." The Secretary-General said that countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are being hit especially hard.
Mr Wolfensohn warned that the income effects alone of 11 September "are likely to bring death to another 20,000 to 40,000 children and to push another ten million people below the $1 per day absolute poverty line". If the international community does not give wholehearted support to sustain development programmes in poor and vulnerable economies, the human catastrophe will be even greater. He called on rich countries to double the present levels of overseas aid if the international community is to have any hope of meeting the 2015 goal of reducing absolute poverty by half.
They also reviewed progress in implementing the recommendations of the Commonwealth Secretariat task force report on the special needs of small states. They agreed that a great deal more needs to be done to help these countries to cope with globalisation, and this help is even more important in the current international context.