Strong Social Protections, Food Systems Key to Ending Poverty, Hunger, Speakers Stress, as High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Continues
Beginning its review of progress made in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the High-Level Political Forum today took an in‑depth look at country-level efforts to achieve the first two Goals on the eradication of poverty and hunger.
Tasked with evaluating progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Forum held two panel discussions today, followed by a thematic review, as it continued with its second annual session involving Government, private sector and civil society participants.
Decent work was critical to poverty reduction and universal social protections were a driver for reducing both poverty and inequality, stressed Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General for Policy of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in the first panel discussion that took up Goal 1 on poverty eradication. Underscoring the need for fair growth, she noted that, in some parts of the world, the informal economy represented about 80 per cent of all work, which pointed to the need for social protections. Unpaid care work as a huge barrier for women trying to move out of poverty, she said, calling for policies that addressed the care economy, which would be critical to enabling women to join the labour market and move into jobs with decent working conditions.
Effective monitoring of the Goals required comparable data over time and across space, stressed Janet Gornick, a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Stone Center on Socioeconomic Inequality at the City University of New York. Microdata with multiple dimensions and outcomes were needed, especially in middle- and low-income countries, she said, while emphasizing the importance of efforts aimed at making comparable microdata widely available for research and analysis.
In the day’s second panel discussion addressing Goal 2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture, Esther Penunia, Secretary-General of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development, lamented that, despite producing as much as 70 per cent of its own food, Asia was home to the world’s poorest and hungriest people. “We are hungry because we are poor,” she said, adding that eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition required a holistic approach to development that was socially just, environmentally sound and economically viable. Policies and programmes were needed that promoted secured land rights, created easier access to financing and strengthened farmers’ position in value chains, she emphasized.
Privatization, reduced social spending, trade liberalization and growth‑driven development were being promoted as the magic wand to eradicate poverty everywhere, underlined Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina in Zimbabwe. Yet, those policies had created poverty in the first place. She went on to highlight that solutions must come from the very people the Sustainable Development Goals were designed to help.
For the first time in many years, there was evidence that gains made in ending hunger were at risk due to conflict, climate change, and a lack of appropriate policies and investment, said the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking also on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Just two years after the Goals were agreed, some 20 million people were at risk of famine, while millions more faced food insecurity. Sustainable agriculture, resilience and productive food systems were needed, as well as a transformation of the rural economy that put smallholder farmers at the centre.
In the afternoon, the Forum conducted a thematic review on eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world, taking into account multi‑stakeholder perspectives. Delivering a keynote address during that segment, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, recalled that the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Goals were the result of a truly global, inclusive and transparent negotiation process, which had included civil society, the private sector, grass-roots actors and many others.
The type of broad participation that characterized the creation of the future development agenda would also be required in its implementation, he said, stressing that “having everyone on board is crucial”. Also underlining the need to create a sense of ownership among those actors, he said people must realize that the Sustainable Development Goals were about their daily lives and that they had a role in implementing them.
The High-Level Political Forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 July, to continue its work.
The first panel of the day was titled “review of implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 1 (end poverty in all its forms)”, and was moderated by Caroline Sanchez-Parama, World Bank, with Stefan Schweinfest, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, providing a statistical overview. Panellists included Martin Ravallion, Edmond D. Villani Professor of Economics, Georgetown University; Yang Zhi, Mayor of Jingzhou, China; Yaw Ansu, Chief Economist, African Center for Economic Transformation, Ghana; and Janet Gornick, Professor, Political Science and Director, Stone Center on Socioeconomic Inequality, City University of New York. The lead discussants were Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General for Policy, International Labour Organization (ILO) and Wellington Chibebe, Deputy General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.
Mr. SCHWEINFEST said that, despite progress, 750 million people still lived in extreme poverty. He noted, however, that nearly 1 billion people had escaped poverty since 1999. About half of the world’s poor lived in sub-Saharan Africa and among the working poor, young people were most likely to live in extreme poverty across all regions of the world. Social protection coverage varied and did not reach many vulnerable populations, he said, noting that less than half of the world’s population was covered by at least one social protection scheme. Only 30 per cent of children, 41 per cent of women giving birth and 68 per cent of people above retirement age were covered by some form of social protection.
Ms. SANCHEZ-PARAMA noted that, although there had been progress over the last 10 to 15 years in eradicating poverty, almost 800 million people continued to live in depravation, which was unacceptable in a world that had the means to end extreme poverty. The extreme poor were concentrated in particular households and regions of the world, many of which were located in rural areas and worked in agriculture. More than half of the extreme poor were children and most had little to no education. Further, the majority of extremely poor people lived in places that were prone to natural disasters or in fragile or conflict-affected States. She expressed concern that the risks of climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in poverty by 2030.
Mr. RAVALLION said that there had been good overall progress against absolute poverty, but there were continuing challenges in reducing relative poverty and making sure that “no one is left behind”. Poorer countries had relied less on direct interventions against poverty, as economic growth had done the bulk of the work, which was a dynamic that may need to change. Poverty measurements focused exclusively on absolute poverty, which was not consistent with social thought and the aims of social policies. There needed to be lower and upper bounds on global poverty measures that took into account the country in which people lived. In other words, richer countries should have higher poverty lines and vice versa when measuring poverty in developing countries. There had been progress in the number of people who were absolutely poor, although less progress in the number of people who were relatively poor.
Mr. YANG highlighted that, by the end of 2016, the impoverished population in Jingzhou under the absolute poverty level had dropped from about 409,000 to 156,000 people. He stressed that, to end poverty, it was necessary to boost confidence and establish a mechanism of joint cooperation among all sectors of society. An important characteristic of poverty alleviation in China was the wide mobilization of all sectors. Further, ending poverty required greater efforts to improve infrastructure. In that context, infrastructure investment had been increased in China with an aim of enhancing the availability of safe drinking water and improving the power grid. Increasing income was a fundamental building block of reducing poverty. Development was the key to solving all social problems and the most effective solution to ending poverty, which was ultimately, the Government’s responsibility.
Mr. ANSU pointed out that agriculture contributed about 30 per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP), although that varied across countries. It was clear that improving agricultural productivity would have a strong impact on poverty reduction, while also helping to improve food security. Further, agriculture provided a major contribution to exports and foreign exchange that financed imports of other economic sectors. Close to 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated, arable land was in Africa, while the continent’s year-round sunshine and youthful population provided opportunities. However, access to land and the lack of security of tenure was a challenge, as was low productivity and the lack of profitability in farming, which meant that that youth often were not attracted to work in agriculture. It would be important to improve the production of key staples and product diversification, while also leveraging agriculture to drive industrialization.
Ms. GORNICK noted that poverty rates varied considerably among affluent countries and among countries of similar levels of economic development. For example, the United States had a much higher level of poverty than the United Kingdom, despite similar levels of economic development. Effective monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals required comparable data over time and across space. It also called for disaggregation, which required microdata. Income was one measure of well-being. Microdata with multiple dimensions and outcomes were needed, especially in middle- and low-income countries. Supranational and national investments in high-quality microdata were crucial. Equally important were efforts aimed at making comparable microdata widely available for research and analysis. Complementing high-quality microdata with national and subnational macrodata on corresponding policies and institutions was needed for effective policy analysis.
Ms. GREENFIELD said that focusing on relative poverty meant that poverty was recognized as a global phenomenon. By examining the situation of some middle‑income countries, it was evident that poverty was directly related to inequality, which was, in turn, related to stagnant wages. Decent work was critical to poverty reduction and universal social protections were a driver for reducing both poverty and inequality. It was not only about growth, but, really, it was about fair growth. Global supply chains could be engines of growth, but did not necessarily equate to good jobs. In some parts of the world, the informal economy represented about 80 per cent of all work. In those places, social protections were of key importance. Another area that needed to be better understood concerned the movement of people, as they moved from rural areas to more developed cities. Policies that addressed the care economy would be critical to enabling women to join the labour market and to move into jobs with decent working conditions. Unpaid care work was a huge barrier to moving women out of poverty.
Mr. CHIBEBE recalled that it was commonly understood that job creation was critical to ending poverty, although the reality was that poverty must be addressed through the creation of quality jobs compounded with social protections, better working conditions and democratic decision-making processes. Trade unions believed that ending poverty required access to decent livelihoods, whereby workers were adequately compensated. Minimum wages should be living wages and established through rule-setting processes with the direct involvement of social partners, including workers and employer organizations. Workers should have the right to organize, join trade unions and negotiate wages and compensation. Quality public services formed the cornerstone of efforts to end poverty. Austerity measures must be thoroughly discussed, because if they were left to Governments alone, they would cripple efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Indonesia noted that his country had undertaken serious efforts to address the needs of the most vulnerable by expanding financial inclusion and the availability of universal health coverage, among other efforts. The representative of Maldives emphasized that the combination of the effects of climate change, natural disasters and isolated locations kept many small island developing States such as hers unable to move forward with poverty eradication. In that context, she stressed that such States remained a special case when it came to sustainable development. The representative of Kenya noted that her country was implementing a national social safety net programme to improve the well-being of people in the country, particularly those who could not meet their basic needs.
Mr. ANSU noted that one challenge that remained was how to intensify agricultural production, such as through the use of fertilizers, without damaging the environment. Mr. RAVALLION recalled that developing countries were reducing poverty at a much faster rate than developed countries had a century ago. Mr. YANG noted the targeted solutions that had been put in place in his city to alleviate poverty, which were tailored to the varying conditions, both on the individual and household levels. Ms. GORNICK said her work had shown that there were many statistical offices lacking data capacity, both in terms of fielding surveys and in preparing the data for use by Government policymakers.
The representatives of Azerbaijan, Switzerland and China also delivered statements.
Also participating was a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization.
A speaker from the children and youth major group also spoke.
Moderated by Gerda Verburg, Coordinator, Scaling-Up Nutrition Movement, the second panel, titled “review of implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture)”, included panellists Esther Penunia, Secretary General, Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development, and Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator, La Via Campesina, Zimbabwe.
Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla, Head of the Latin American and Caribbean Programme, International Food Policy Research Institute; Meena Bilgi, Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management; and Patrick Caron, Chair, High Level Panel of Experts, United Nations Committee on World Food Security, were lead discussants.
Ms. PENUNIA said Asia produced as much as 70 per cent of its own food, yet it was home to the world’s poorest and hungriest people. “We are hungry because we are poor,” she said. Eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition required a holistic approach to development that was socially just, environmentally sound and economically viable. Policies and programmes were needed that promoted secured land rights, easier access to financing, strengthened farmers’ position in value chains, and investment in roads, electricity, health care and education, among other things. Affirmative action would promote gender equality in agriculture, she said, emphasizing also a need for better macrotrade policies. She went on to say that transforming agriculture would require that family farmers be viewed not as victims and beneficiaries, but as agents and partners for sustainable development.
Ms. MPOFU said privatization, reduced social spending, trade liberalization and growth-driven development were being promoted as the magic wand to eradicate poverty everywhere. However, for her organization, those policies had created poverty in the first place. Such alternatives as food sovereignty, agroecology and popular and integral agrarian reforms were being ignored. Solutions must come from the very people the Sustainable Development Goals were supported to help, she said, describing poverty as the direct outcome of extreme wealth accumulation by a few people. Now was the time for real structural transformation, to end business as usual, and to reverse inequality and unfair power relations.
Mr. DIAZ-BONILLA, emphasizing the need to separate countries in conflict situations from those that were not, said that helping the poor and hungry meant going directly to the poor and hungry. Social safety nets would help, he said, noting that they cost less than 0.1 per cent of global GDP. Other issues included the political economy of the food system, food labelling, women’s empowerment and consumers who were not doing all they could to lead healthy lives.
Ms. BILGI, noting a decline in public investment in agriculture, said transformative change in food and agriculture was necessary. That meant moving beyond increasing production without negative social and environmental impacts. Small-scale producers, who made up the vast majority of food producers worldwide, must be empowered, she said, adding that emphasis must be placed on promoting the equitable sharing of opportunities for women farmers. In India, she said hunger was approached mainly as a rural phenomenon and a question of food scarcity. The emerging challenge of rapid urbanization — and a growing disconnect between food and nutrition — needed to be identified.
Mr. CARON suggested that the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development be addressed by looking at food systems as a lever. A revolution was needed, not just incremental change, of the same magnitude of the green revolution. Agriculture would be a game changer if transformation was considered within the wider perspective of food systems. He went on to call for a “rainbow revolution” that entailed local innovations for improving resource efficiency, strengthening resilience and security social responsibility, alongside international frameworks such as the Paris Agreement on climate change and national policies to ensure the right to food.
In the ensuing discussion, delegations discussed their countries’ and organization’s efforts towards implementing Goal 2.
The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking also on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that, for the first time in many years, there was evidence that gains made in ending hunger were at risk due to conflict, climate change, and a lack of appropriate policies and investment. Some 20 million people lived at risk of famine, while millions more faced food security, just two years after the Goals were agreed. Sustainable agriculture, resilience and productive food systems were needed, as well as a transformation of the rural economy that put smallholder farmers at the centre.
The representative of Finland said gender equality was absolutely crucial, given that women comprised 43 per cent of the agricultural work force in developing countries. She cited a study that concluded that empowering women farmers could prompt a 20 to 30 per cent increase in farm yields while improving the security of their families and reducing by 100 million the overall number of people living in hunger.
The representative of the World Bank Group drew attention to the work of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme, which had delivered $1.5 billion since it was created by the Group of 20, known as the G20, in 2009. At the country level, bringing technical and financial stakeholders together produced much better results. She added that it was very important for reforms to be recipient-led, rather than coming out of an office in Washington, D.C. She went on to quote a farmer she had met in Manila who said: “No farmer, no food, no future.”
The representative of Indonesia said his country had made promising progress in providing better nutrition for its people, but much more needed to be done. Emphasizing the strong link between food security, poverty and health, as well as education, he said an integrated policy approach could ensure that food accessibility and availability were addressed effectively. Intensifying agricultural research and development might be an answer, he said.
The representative of Sudan, speaking as a member of the Committee on World Food Security, said ending hunger and achieving food security would require, among other things, raising smallholders’ incomes and securing their access to markets. Sustainable food systems with strong accountable institutions and responsible investments were also required, she said, emphasizing as well the need to prioritize women’s empowerment.
The representative of the United States said recent events had reinforced how vulnerable the world remained to food insecurity. A global response was needed, she said, describing the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as an overlooked humanitarian crisis. Emphasizing the importance of preventative action, she said bridging the gap between humanitarian action and development was vital. She went on to note that discussions were under way on better indicators for measuring progress on Goal 2.
The representative of Chile underscored the value of cooperation with other countries to promote successful ways to tackle malnutrition. She added that childhood obesity — which was related to poverty and inequality — had not been overcome, and explained her country’s implementation of food labelling regulations. Reducing malnutrition would require incorporating economic aspects.
The representative of the European Union said sustainability was prominently reflected in the Common Agricultural Policy, in line with the 2030 Agenda. European Union rules stipulated that farmers could only get European Union support if they accepted a basic layer of environmental regulations. The Common Agricultural Policy was currently being modernized and simplified, with input from a just-completed public consultation. Turning to external action, he said the European Union and its member States would continue to extend support to those facing acute food crises.
Also speaking were representatives of South Africa, Argentina, Finland, Benin, France and China.
Representatives of the food and agriculture cluster of the non-governmental organization major group and the stakeholder group for persons with disabilities also took the floor.
This afternoon, the Forum held a two-part panel discussion on the theme “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world: multi‑stakeholder perspectives”. The first segment focused on the views of major groups and other stakeholders on challenges and pathways to the achievement of those goals. Luisa Emilia Reyes Zuñiga, Co-Chair of the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders High-Level Political Forum Coordination Mechanism, delivered opening remarks, followed by a keynote address by Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Moderated by Maruxa Cardama of Cities Alliance, it featured eight panellists: Wellington Chibebe, Deputy General Secretary, International Trade Union (ITU) Confederation, workers and trade unions major group; Sehnaz Kiymaz, President, Women for Women’s Human Rights — New Ways, women’s major group; Louise Kantrow, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, International Chamber of Commerce, business and industry major group; Luis Miguel Etchevehere, President, Sociedad Rural Argentina, farmers major group; Verity McGivern, HelpAge International, stakeholder group on ageing; Jose Maria Viera, International Disability Alliance, persons with disabilities; Roberto Bissio, Social Watch, financing for development civil society group; and Katarina Popovic, Secretary-General, International Council for Adult Education, education and academia stakeholder group.
Ms. REYES opened the discussion, noting that her experience with a small women’s organization in Mexico had demonstrated the power of collective participation. In its short life so far, the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders High-Level Political Forum Coordination Mechanism had already agreed on a set of core principles, including abiding by the United Nations Charter, ensuring progress and human rights for all, and promoting the well-being of all people on a healthy planet. Spotlighting the role of women’s human rights defenders in particular, she said the session would provide a platform for representatives of all major groups to be heard.
Mr. WU said the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Goals were the results of a truly global, inclusive and transparent negotiation process, which had included civil society, the private sector, grass-roots actors and many others. As a result, the agenda was the most innovative and transformative in the history of the United Nations. That kind of broad participation would also be required in its implementation, he said, stressing that “having everyone on board is crucial”. Also underlining the need to create a sense of ownership among those actors, he said people must realize that the Sustainable Development Goals were about their daily lives and that they had a role in implementing them. Emphasizing the importance of the participation of the major groups at the Forum, he told participants that their presence today could help build the necessary coherence to achieve development and other international targets, especially by building awareness among their constituencies and creating connections with those working on concrete projects on the ground.
Ms. CARDAMA, noting that major groups and other stakeholders represented a cross section of civil society, said the Forum would have been “blatantly incomplete” without their participation. Indeed, the statements delivered today would provide a “reality check” in the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and spotlight the spirit of partnership that would be critical to its achievement. Panellists would focus in particular on identifying cross-cutting challenges and lessons learned in building coherence among various sectors in achieving development goals.
Mr. CHIBEBE highlighted the active involvement of the world’s trade unions in achieving sustainable development, including through the production of a targeted report. Noting that today’s development challenges could be overcome through inclusiveness, transparency and dialogue, he said that Sustainable Development Goal 3 on occupational health and safety could only be reached if the rights of workers were respected. Drawing attention to the findings of the ILO Global Wage Report 2017, which revealed that increased minimum wages had the potential to reduce inequalities with no significant impact on overall job creation, he went on to note that women’s unpaid work constituted an estimated $10 trillion around the world annually. He also stressed the need to advocate for the rights of informal workers, migrant workers, ethnic minorities and the disabled, and to enable collective bargaining.
Ms. KIYMAZ, pointing out that all eight individuals who held the most economic wealth in the world were men, underscored the need to overcome that “obscene” concentration of wealth and to end the deeply entrenched systemic barriers against women. Describing the work of various civil society actors in that regard — including women’s organizations in Turkey working to provide support to women and girls disproportionately affected by conflict — she said the 2030 Agenda should provide new opportunities for connections and partnerships aimed at ensuring that no one was left behind. She called for support to help amplify the voices of women’s and feminist organizations in the 2030 Agenda’s monitoring, stressing that women’s human rights defenders had to be able to work in an environment free from threats and harassment in order to bring the agenda to people on the ground.
The representative of Kenya, serving as a Member State respondent, spotlighted the importance of international cooperation in global trade, official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI) in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. However, there were many challenges in those financial flows, including the prevalence of illegal tax evasion and mispricing of products, which led to a situation “where Africa ends up supporting the West” through subsidies. Also highlighting the importance of good governance, he added that without the appropriate inclusion and participation of women, youth, the poor, the working class, indigenous people and others, the international community would lack the drive necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s various targets.
Ms. KANTROW said the business and industry major group had established the “Global Business Alliance for 2030”, which brought together a number of partners committed to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. Among other things, business was a major driver of growth and a provider of decent jobs, she said, noting that many companies had already taken the Goals on board and begun to incorporate them into their practices. Many already regularly reported on environmental sustainability, she added, noting that the business community looked forward to participating as an active, engaged partner in the Forum’s various monitoring and review processes.
Mr. ETCHEVEHERE said agriculture was the primary sector in many economies, and was responsible for guaranteeing food security — and therefore life — for people around the world. It also provided job and development opportunities to women, men and young people, and contributed to building national GDP. Describing the agricultural community’s long history of collective organization, including with other sectors, he expressed its commitment to the achievement of the Goals. Innovation could support mechanization in the fields and improve market practices, he said, adding that it was only when farmers received appropriate remuneration for their work that economies functioned properly. Sustainable agriculture required increased crop rotation, he said, adding that mixed agricultural systems based on a combination of crop and livestock farming would be critical to achieving sustainable development.
Ms. MCGIVERN said many of the changes taking place in the world today resulted from the fact that people were living longer lives. Stressing that older persons had an equal right to development, she called for a better understanding of the significant barriers they faced. Such barriers ranged from inadequate access to health and care services, increased gender discrimination in older age and a lack of relevant data, she said, calling for social protection floors based on schemes designed to do more than meet their basic needs. Indeed, national development policies and other relevant structures must protect and promote the rights of older persons and do more to ensure their active participation in decision-making processes.
The representative of Indonesia, also speaking as a Member State respondent, said that, despite the decline in extreme poverty, 786 million people worldwide remained undernourished. Governments could not lift people out of poverty alone, he said, calling for strong initiative on the part of every major stakeholder group. Among other things, he also called for progress in several specific areas, including better interconnectedness; more strategic interventions; increased incentives in the form of subsidies, tax relief or other resources; innovation, science and technology; and international cooperation with major groups and other stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and many other actors.
Mr. VIERA, introducing a report produced by the persons with disabilities major group whose goal was to evaluate the challenges related to eradicating poverty, as well as to spotlight the role of the group in the 2030 Agenda monitoring process, outlined the range of challenges faced by persons with disabilities around the world. They continued to experience violations of their most basic human rights, such as lack of participation, denial of their property rights and even institutionalization. “We cannot deny that the many economic austerity programmes imposed by States have not only expelled large groups of the population, but also put persons with disabilities at even greater risk,” he stressed, adding that the voluntary national reviews had, in many cases, failed to be inclusive of the needs of persons with disabilities.
Mr. BISSIO, noting that the civil society financing for development groups comprised hundreds of organizations around the world and cut across all other major groups, described its work to make the financing for development process credible, open, accountable and relevant. “Vision without implementation is a hallucination,” he said, urging States to go beyond their focus on ODA, which was hampered by illicit financial flows and many other challenges. International collaboration was needed to enable Governments — rich and poor — to raise their own taxes. Tax collaboration at the United Nations remained an “open agenda” as it had not been possible. Underlining the important principle of “do no harm”, he said the resources required to achieve sustainable development currently existed, but were allocated to such things as military expenditures and fossil fuels subsidies.
Ms. POPOVIC, pointing to a “crisis of values” around the world that could be changed through education, drew attention to a number of examples of the contribution of education and life-long learning to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. Those included poverty alleviation through vocational training; the reduction of harmful practices, such as early marriage, gender-based violence and discriminatory laws; and improvements in the use of clean water and renewable energies. However, many obstacles existed, including the freezing of education budgets in countries such as Brazil, rules prohibiting pregnant girls from going to school and a shrinking space for civil society. Leaving no one behind meant that everyone — regardless of sex, age, nation or religion — had access to quality, affordable education.
The representative of the Netherlands, also participating as a Member State respondent, recalled that his country had hosted international public service forum in June, from which several recommendations had emerged. Participants at that meeting had called on Governments to be more innovative, avoid working in silos and show more integrity and transparency. They had also highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder participation and respect for diversity in the coordination of Sustainable Development Goal implementation.
The representative of the Climate Action Network, noting that climate change was “front and centre” in the 2030 Agenda, urged Member States to include that issue in their national reporting, he invited them to work with the Network in the implementation of the Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change and voiced his hope that climate change would be reflected in the Forum’s outcome document.
The representative of the indigenous peoples major group called on Governments to prioritize respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers in their implementation efforts, especially by protecting and promoting their land tenure rights.
Naiara Costa of Together 2030 moderated the second part of the panel, titled “leaving no one behind: ensuring an enabling environment for effective major groups and other stakeholders implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals”. That segment featured presentations by Saul Zenteno Bueno, President, Fundación Manatí para el Fomento de la Ciudadanía, children and youth major group; Rosalea Hamilton, Founder and President, Institute for Law and Economics, and Vice-President of Community Service and Development and Professor, University of Technology, Jamaica, non-governmental organizations major group; James O'Brien, volunteer groups; Jan Van Zanen, Mayor of Utrecht and President, Association of Dutch Municipalities, local authorities major group; John Patrick Ngoyi of World Vision, on behalf of Together 2030; and Keikabile Mogodio, indigenous peoples major group.
Mr. BUENO said children and youth had a critical role in implementing the 2030 Agenda and Member States were the duty bearers. Highlighting a sample of related youth activities, he said target areas included policymaking, advocacy, capacity-building and knowledge-sharing. For instance, he said, youth had worked with Governments in many countries in drafting national reviews and with awareness-raising campaigns. Sharing best practices had enabled communities to adopt the Goals and foster context-responsive implementation efforts. From climate change in Indonesia to food security in the United Republic of Tanzania, efforts were addressing issues related to the 2030 Agenda. To ensure further progress, youth must have a platform and relevant mechanisms to be able to play their role, he said.
Ms. HAMILTON said universities, State agencies and non-governmental organizations in Jamaica were working together towards common goals. One such example was a three-year USAID project that had begun prior to the 2030 Agenda’s adoption. Executed by the University of Jamaica, the initiative addressed gender‑based violence and human trafficking and had now targeted those left further behind. Underlining the central importance of Goal 16, she said a participatory budget approach was being used to craft community-based efforts to foster meaningful and sustainable solutions. Taking note of several recommendations, she emphasized the importance of increased public education to change systemic barriers to eradicating poverty.
Mr. O’BRIEN said volunteers were promoting and fostering progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda by helping to extend the reach of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind. Citing a range of examples, he said projects included awareness-raising and reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS. Local and international volunteers were working with faith leaders to reduce gender-based violence. The power of volunteers demonstrated a successful partnership with Governments. Most importantly, volunteers wanted to share their experiences on working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Supporting strategies and volunteers’ work was needed, he said, calling on Governments to consider how volunteers were contributing to the 2030 Agenda and how their work was reflected in voluntary national reviews.
The representative of Slovenia said youth were significant contributors to achieving the targets set out in the 2030 Agenda. Slovenia had created a strategy to address needs including education and jobs. Voluntarism was a critical component that helped Government programmes and represented a visible sign of partnership among parts of society, he said, emphasizing that strong partnerships depended on creating an enabling environment.
Mr. VAN ZANEN said that more than 400,000 local and regional governments were presenting voluntary national reviews to the Forum, representing their ability to reach a total of 5.2 billion people. As Mayor of Utrecht, he said the Goals had been part of an agenda for the entire city, which was exchanging experiences with others through the Municipality4GlobalGoals campaign. “Full ownership of the Agenda at a local level is decisive,” he said, adding that the local and regional Governments were working on implementing the Goals at the local level. National Governments needed to recognize that role and involve them in setting priorities for achievement. Local governments around the world needed to be strengthened and required the legal and fiscal space to address poverty, inequality and other challenges in an integrated manner.
Mr. NGOYI said promises must transform into action, budget allocation and implementation. Participation of all stakeholders was imperative, as it allowed the expertise and contributions of all groups to speed up and enhance the quality of delivery on the Goals. Enabling civil spaces created opportunities for the poorest and most disadvantaged to engage in decisions that affected their lives while addressing challenges and devising strategies for solving them. Unfortunately, since the 2030 Agenda’s adoption, the political landscape in many countries had been creating environments that hindered participation, silenced voices and oppressed diversity, he said, asking Member States and the Economic and Social Council’s President to establish clear and meaningful mechanism that went beyond online platforms to collect, publicize and analyse reports on contributions by civil society and stakeholders at all levels.
Mr. MOGODIO said that, while indigenous peoples made up 5 per cent of the world’s population, they represented 15 per cent of the poor, largely due to historical and continuous disrespect of identities linked to lands, territories and resources. Mainstream development approaches and business-as-usual practices were fuelling unequal economic growth, devastating ecosystems and entrenching social injustice. Those underlying causes of poverty were being compounded by exclusion from decision-making processes, as was the case in the voluntary national review process in many countries, including his, Botswana. The lack of a legal identity and recognition of collective rights were major barriers to effectively participating and full contributing to sustainable development. “Unless this is addressed, we will continue to be marginalized and excluded,” he said, urging Member States to prioritize legal recognition of land tenure of indigenous peoples, ensure policy cohesion and balanced implementation of human rights-based sustainable development, and ensure the full, effective participation of marginalized groups.
The representative of Sweden provided examples of current efforts to engage with non-governmental actors, emphasizing that “the 2030 Agenda will not be fulfilled if we do not work together”. Indeed, the Government did not have the knowledge to accomplish goals alone, she said. In submitting its national review, Sweden had included contributions from a range of partners, including the private sector, civil society and academia. A committee representing various multisector actors had been assigned to inform and hold dialogue with the “breadth of society” and had proposed drafting a Swedish action plan on how to realize the 2030 Agenda.
In the ensuing interactive discussion, participants stressed that inclusion was key, as emphasized by speakers from civil society groups representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people’s caucus and faith-based organizations. A speaker representing women’s land tenure rights called for changes to legislation that would recognize challenges and advance progress for females. A representative of the persons with disabilities major group emphasized the varied contributions that could be made by all members of society.
Some speakers discussed implementation plans, including the representative of Mexico, who said a governmental working group had been drafting strategies that addressed all of the 2030 Agenda’s targets.
Private sector involvement offered vast possibilities, said a speaker representing the businesses major group. The private sector could help in areas such as distributing food to reach the hungry, he said.
Representatives of Botswana and the Netherlands agreed with taking local approaches to implementing the 2030 Agenda, emphasizing that sharing experiences among towns and cities could foster more progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.