Print Article

Towards Economic Recovery: Rethinking Development, Retooling Global Governance

UN Parliamentary Hearing on Towards Economic Recovery: Rethinking Development, Retooling Global Governance, New York 3-4 December 2010

One of the great benefits of a global meeting of Parliamentarians – apart from the obvious purpose of exchanging views and becoming better informed about global issues – is being able to meet representatives from so many different parliaments around the world.

It was, therefore, a great privilege to represent the British Group IPU at this annual meeting at the United Nations in New York. I was the only British delegate but had excellent support from our Permanent Mission to the UN.

My previous experience as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee was very useful as we had previously made regular annual visits to the UN, so I was familiar with the security procedures, location and, of course, our very helpful staff at UKMIS. I also knew our Permanent Representative, HE Mark Lyall-Grant from his previous Foreign Office roles and managed to have a half-hour private meeting with him on the evening of the first day of the Hearing.

The format of the sessions was well designed with a panel of up to four speakers, or “discussants” making introductory remarks based around the four or five “leading questions” on the agenda and then the opportunity for contributions from the floor and responses from the panel. The opening remarks were supposed to be limited to around seven minutes each, but most of the speakers ignored this time limit, speaking for rather longer.

When I arrived at the North Lawn Building – the temporary structure which is being used by the UN whilst the main iconic UN building is being repaired and refurbished next door – I was asked by a member of the IPU Secretariat whether I would be happy to be one of the panel for the afternoon session on the first day. I agreed, although rather unprepared, I rapidly wrote seven minutes’ worth of speech based around the afternoon’s five ‘leading questions’, whilst listening to the opening remarks and contributions from the panel during the first morning session. The theme was: “Current risks to economic recovery and the continuing structural imbalances in the global economy”. The session was chaired by Sarah Anderson, a Director of the US Institute for Policy Studies.

At 3pm, the second session began and I delivered my seven- minute contribution which was entitled “Reforming the international financial system: a critical look at key issues on the UN agenda”.

With me on the panel were: Ambassador Morten Wetland, the Norwegian Ambassador to the UN who also chairs its global financial and economic crisis working group; Isabelle Mateos y Lago, Head of Policy and Strategy for the IMF, and Dr Rodney Schmidt from the North South Institute of Canada who chaired the session. The panel introductions were all informative and stimulating and were followed by a lively debate from the floor.

The session ended in time for an informal reception at 6 pm and the chance to socialise with each other, as well as UN officials and Ambassadors. I was very flattered when a number of parliamentarians asked me for a copy of my introductory speech which, thankfully, I had managed to write during the morning session.

The second day’s sessions concentrated on Rethinking sustainable development within the current global and economic and environmental framework , and in the final session that afternoon, Providing leadership in global economic governance: empowering the UN, the role of the G20, and the need for transparency and accountability in decision-making. I contributed from the floor to this final session.

The annual hearing was well worth the time and effort and involved around seventy member countries’ representatives. Inevitably, some parliamentarians made contributions in every session whilst others said little or nothing. Interpretation was good and I found it very helpful to have a good command of French, the most commonly spoken language at the event after English.

Fabian Hamilton MP