Panellists at the 12th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development have admitted that the lack of attention to addressing social and gender issues worldwide is inhibiting efforts at poverty reduction, accelerated development and the achievement of positive aspects of globalisation.
Mrs. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, who set the ball rolling in an interactive session at the ongoing UNCTAD XII in Accra yesterday, said the empowerment of women, as well as the reduction of poverty towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 should not be taken for granted by developing countries and the international community.
The forum discussed the social and gender dimensions of globalisation, development and poverty reduction.
Mrs Halonen said investment in the education of the people is crucial if there should be any meaningful development, especially in Third World countries.
Mr. Albert Koenders, Minister for Development Cooperation in the Netherlands, said the United Nations and the international community should now see human security and the creation of wealth as a priority.
'The time is running out for countries to achieve the MDGs by 2015. We all need to step up the effort, help and encourage those countries involved to be able to meet the targets.'
Mr Koenders said the time has come for countries to choose their own growth paths, strengthen the South-South Cooperation and promote public/private partnerships.
He noted that women were always at the receiving end of bad policies of governments citing Zimbabwe and the Congo as areas where a woman needed permission from the husband before buying a land or starting a business, respectively.
He said such policies inhibited the effort by women to take advantage of the Intellectual Property Rights to create wealth, saying 'National policies are still crucial if women are to make any meaningful impact towards development'.
Mr Bader Al-Dafa, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for South East Asia (ESCWA), said conflicts in certain parts of South East Asia is impeding the effort to eradicate poverty.
He said there is now an unprecedented recognition of the role of women in the development of the region.
Ms Patricia R. Frances, Executive Director of International Trade Centre (UNCTAD/WTO), said women businesses were starting to grow especially in developing countries but admitted that most of these businesses were yet to enjoy the global business environment.
Ms Rachel Mayanja, Special Advisor on Gender Issues at the UN, said 'for the first time the issue of gender is taking a centre stage at the UNCTAD'.
She said ICT is now improving the lot of women in spite of gender inequalities that impede their development.
'Gender wage gap is still wide and violence against women including the trafficking of women on a global scale is still a problem,' she observed.
Mr G.L. Peiris, Minister for Export Development and International Trade in Sri Lanka, who was one of the discussants of the event said the recent economic growth in developing countries is laudable but admitted that it was not enough to deal with the issue of poverty.