Speech

Address by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the opening of Copenhagen Consensus May, 23, 2004

Check against delivery

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to open the Copenhagen Consensus.

You have gathered here to identify some of the greatest challenges facing the world today - and to identify the solutions to these problems.

But the world is a big place and, to think big, we sometimes have to think small. For example, during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa I paid a visit to the Johannesburg township of Kliptown. Here I met bright, happy children living a life which, for us, would be quite unacceptable. Their parents were dying from AIDS, a lack of natural fuels meant that they burned plastic for heat and cooking and, if they wanted to go to school, they had to walk 10 miles to get there.

And Kliptown is not unique. Indeed, compared to some, these children are lucky. They have water. They have sanitation. But our challenge is to make their lives better and to improve the lot of those even worse off.

However, no challenge is insurmountable - we are getting there. Global resources may be limited but, as politicians, it is our duty to utilize what we have and get the best returns for our money.

Some may say that decisions on solving the world’s largest problems should not be based on cost-benefit analysis. That it is not as simple as that.

It is true that in the real, complex world in which we live sound choices cannot be based on one single premise or rationale. It is also true that neither democracy nor improved environments come at a fixed price. Economic measures are only part of the solution. But, like it or not, the economic consequences of our choices are most certainly relevant. We must cut our suit according to our cloth. We must prioritise our efforts within the limited means available.

No problem has ever been solved by blindly throwing money at it. It is only by careful comparison of need and required investment that we can ensure that the money lands where it can do the most good.

Of course, if more resources were available more could be done. If all OECD countries honoured their obligation to provide 0,7 pct. of GNI in development assistance it would add up to an additional 120 bill. USD. But we would still have to prioritise.

Here, at the Copenhagen Consensus, recognised experts on economy will gather to discuss, analyze and rank the options corresponding to the ten chosen challenges. Not an easy task. But success will provide us politicians with an important tool and a sounder footing for prioritizing our work for sustainable global development.

Your job is to provide us with the facts and figures. We, as accountable politicians, need to make the difficult decisions - and the relevant policy mix to achieve our goals. That is our job. We owe it to the children of Kliptown, and all the other children of the world, to make sure that our choices are the right ones.

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Copenhagen Consensus is a visionary, ambitious and inspired effort to mobilise the global community for action.

Visionary, because it seeks to widen the scope for choice.

Ambitious, because it seeks to prioritize solutions to the World's major problems by means of a common cost-benefit framework.

Inspired, because it seeks to bring new insights on how we can alleviate the most pressing of the world's problems.

The road towards sustainable development has been mapped out at a number of Global Summits. Agenda 21, the UN Millennium Goals for Development and the Johannesburg Plan of Action - they all tell us how to make economic development, the fight against poverty, protection of the environment and sustainable use of natural resources mutually supportive. So we are not short of ideas.

In fact we have already made unprecedented progress in the fight against poverty, and the production of food is increasing.

But hunger, disease and war continue to wreak havoc on the lives of millions. Every day, corruption, trade barriers and subsidies cut into the efficient use of already scarce resources. Unsustainable agricultural practices are eroding the soils and precious water is lost. Existing poverty results in pressure on scarce natural resources. A vicious circle.

Obviously, we have an obligation to help the hundreds of millions living in absolute poverty. An obligation to look for new ways to promote decisive action. And - obviously - we shouldn’t underestimate the economic approach.

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I hope, and believe:

That a Copenhagen Consensus can provide us with fresh insights and bold suggestions that will challenge the views of decision-makers and public opinion in donor countries and developing nations alike.

That it can lead us to more informed choices on how best to pursue economic growth, combat poverty and improve the environment.

That it will help us shortcut the path from words to action.

We owe that to all our children, whether they live in Kliptown or the house next door.

Knowing more about the economic impacts of different choices can help us make better decisions in the future. Help us prioritize among the solutions to the global problems. Cost is not everything – but it is seldom irrelevant. Because the more we save, for the same result, the more we can spend to achieve ever better results.

It is difficult to imagine a stronger team of experts helping to achieve this end than the one gathered here today. So thank you all for responding favourably to the call of the Environmental Assessment Institute. And, in particular, many thanks to Mr. Bjørn Lomborg and the Institute for instigating this forum.

If a Consensus can be reached, I am sure that your collective expertise will assure worldwide attention to the results.

I wish you the best of luck with this visionary, ambitious and inspired initiative.