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Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 13:36 GMT
Analysis: Mixed feelings at Monterrey
Anti-globalisation protesters in Monterrey
Many people are sceptical about the agreement
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By the BBC's Nick Miles in Monterrey

At the end of a week-long UN conference in the Mexican town of Monterrey, more than 170 countries have signed a commitment to increasing development in the world's poorest nations.

The Monterrey Consensus document outlines a broad range of commitments from developed and developing countries to help halve that figure over the next 13 years.

It's trade that really offers countries the ability to prosper

Mexican President Vicente Fox
US President George W Bush told delegates that the fight against poverty was "a fight for opportunity, because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity".

The agreement outlines a wide range of policies to achieve its goals, increasing debt relief for the poorest nations, boosting aid from developed nations, and reducing tariffs and subsidies to help trade.


At a closing press conference, Mexican President Vicente Fox said: "We all agree here that the most important lever of development is trade.

"It's trade that really offers countries the ability to prosper."

Many countries do not have the stomach for making the sacrifices necessary for beginning to end poverty

Steve Tibbett,
War on Want

For the first time at such a high level meeting, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), from development activists to environmentalists, held face-to-face talks with government ministers and officials from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation.

Gemma Adaba, the head of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said: "We've heard a lot of debate here but few meaningful commitments."

Mrs Adaba's group was among the few civil society organisations to have a place at the negotiating tables.

"The Monterrey Consensus is a misnomer," she said. "It can't be called a true consensus because pressure from the world's most powerful nations meant that our calls for a timeframe for debt relief were totally ignored."

'Huge letdown'

Other sceptical voices were more succinct.

"The agreement reached here is just the Washington consensus in a sombrero," said John Foster from the Ottawa-based North South Institute as he left the conference.

"If the developed world really wanted to help poorer nations, why didn't it put pressure on itself to reduce the $300bn it spends on protecting its industries from cheaper competition from the South?"

Steve Tibbett from the British charity War on Want called the conference "a huge letdown" because of the lack of detail or financial commitment from developed nations.

"The long drawn-out negotiations underline that many countries do not have the stomach for making the sacrifices necessary for beginning to end poverty."

As the conference drew to a close, many people were asking what concrete achievements had been made, but even the most ardent sceptics concede that at the very least the conference has helped concentrate people's minds on the plight of the poor.

See also:

23 Mar 02 | Americas
UN summit ends with cash pledge
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