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UN Economic Conference Offers Hope to Developing World

Many NGO and humanitarian organizations are following developments at the U.N. economic conference in New York this week, waiting to see what will be done to help developing nations.

Among them is the Catholic development organization, CIDSE, which has presented a report on the crisis. The report, funded by the Dutch government, outlines the effects the downturn is having on developing countries.

Aldo Caliari, director of the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project, and a member of CIDSE, spoke to VOA from New York about the UN conference.

"We are happy that the UN has been able to speak with one voice on the crisis. And this product that the UN has issued is actually a lot better... than what the Group 20 produced two months ago in London," he said.

However, he's concerned about whether the United Nations can act fast enough.

"There are many millions of people who are falling into poverty…losing their jobs," he said.

Dealing with debt

This week's meeting could produce a new framework for debt relief.

"This would have to happen very fast because as we speak debt is mounting at such high levels. We never had a debt crisis in an environment where there is no trade, like now. Trade is contracting 10 percent worldwide," Caliari said.

In March, a U.N. commission recommended the creation of a global economic council, saying it would be a "globally representative forum to address areas of concern in the functioning of the global economic system in a comprehensive way."

Caliari is calling for immediate approval of such a council.

"This is a proposal that has been put on the table, supported by many countries now. It would be a way to democratize decision-making in the system. I think with so many poor countries affected by a crisis in which they have no say it would be very important," he said.

However, the United States and other developed nations are opposed to a global economic council, reluctant to give up some of the control they now have to the United Nations.

"I think there is a question of who controls the decisions on global economic policy. But I think there is an undeniable argument of justice when you have seen that probably the United States is the country in the least tenable position in opposing such a council," he said.

He said that's because the epicenter of the financial crisis is found in the United States "and now a lot of other countries are being affected by it."

The United States and other G-20 countries pledged over $1 trillion in April to spur the global economy. Much of that money will be funneled to the International Monetary Fund for loans to poor countries.