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Annan: World has become 'more unequal'
Updated: 2004-06-13 08:30

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan lamented new struggles that developing countries face in trying to pull their people out of poverty in a speech Saturday to the Group of 77, CNN reported.

"The sad truth is that the world today is a much more unequal place than it was 40 years ago," Annan told the group of developing nations.

"Debt crises have revealed serious weaknesses in the international financial architecture," Annan said. "Too many developing countries remain dependent on the export of primary commodities for all or most of their foreign currency earnings, leaving them vulnerable to price declines and volatility."

Annan's remarks were delivered at a meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to mark the group's 40th anniversary. The international body of developing nations has grown to 132 nations, though it retains the name Group of 77.

Annan called on the members to build democratic institutions at home.

"Developing countries have recognized that they have the primary responsibility for their own development," he said. "Donor countries and agencies ... are gradually ceding ownership over programs and projects. I urge you to continue along this path of reform."

Annan described the Sao Paulo conference as an opportunity to promote greater attention to the economic plight of developing nations.

He also called on leaders of the developing nations to build on progress they have made "in improving governance and economic management."

"Building democratic institutions is essential, as are popular participation in decision-making and the protection of women's rights," he said. "The most vulnerable members of society should also have a special claim on your attention, and I hope that even as you strive for fiscal prudence you will also ensure that the necessary social investments and safety nets are put in place."

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