Despite Pandemic, Climate Crises, Global Goals in Social Protection, Education Still within Reach, Economic and Social Council President Tells General Assembly
The Economic and Social Council used the past year to advance the Organization’s unwavering commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with a high-level meeting that zeroed in on the challenges created by the escalation of socio-economic divisions around the globe, the Council’s President told the General Assembly today.
Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), Council President, told delegates the message at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development was clear: the impacts of the pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine and climate change are reversing progress towards many Sustainable Development Goals. Held in July, the Forum spotlighted the challenges created by the pandemic and accompanying vaccine disparity, along with widening divides in education, gender equality, health and persistent poverty.
“Despite all this, there was unwavering hope in the corridors of the United Nations,” said Mr. Kelapile, as he presented the Council’s annual report (document A/77/3). “With these crises as our wake-up call and the 2030 Agenda as our guiding light, we can still embark on the transitions needed to meet the SDGs, on social protection and education, food systems, energy and digital connectivity.”
The report, which the Assembly took note of, covers the Council’s work during its 2022 session, which ran from July 2021 to July 2022. Established by the Charter of the United Nations, the Council was created in 1945 as one of the six main organs of the United Nations. It serves to advance the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.
The first in-person Forum held in two years was extremely successful, he said, and produced a Ministerial Declaration adopted by consensus at the closing of the session and end of a high-level meeting of ministers. “I believe that the Declaration provides a strong recommitment to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs as the guideposts out of the crises,” he said. The Declaration called for the implementation of the outcomes of the Secretary-General’s Summit on Integrated Food Systems; for strengthening the global health architecture and World Health Organization; and a recommitment to vaccine equity while recognizing the need for international solidarity.
The Declaration also produced a strong text on each global goal under review and on climate change; references to the elaboration of international agreements on plastic pollution and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response; and a commitment to an ambitious post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, he said. Another critical component is the commitment to address surging global debt. The Declaration calls on the Secretary-General to mobilize Governments, the United Nations system and stakeholders in preparing for the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September 2023.
The Forum elicited strong calls to marshal financial resources and solve the debt crisis in many developing countries, using vulnerability as a criterion for access to concessional resources, he said. Speakers also acknowledged the urgent need for reforms in the international finance, debt and taxation architecture.
During the past year, progress was made to advance General Assembly reforms to strengthen the Council, he said. In February, it launched its new Coordination Segment, which helps identify key areas where the Council’s system could deepen policy reflection, identify solutions or work more closely to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The importance of international cooperation to meet today’s global challenges and rescue the global goals was underscored at this year’s Operational Activities for Development Segment. The Segment laid out when deeper reform efforts could maximize the Organization’s development system efforts and help countries meet multiple crises from the pandemic to conflicts.
The 2022 Humanitarian Affairs Segment pinpointed ways to use the pandemic recovery to improve humanitarian efforts, he said. In addition to stressing the need to reinforce compliance with international humanitarian law, the Segment zeroed in on ways to close the humanitarian funding gap. This included the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Country-based Pooled Funds. The first meeting on the Transition from Relief to Development, created by General Assembly resolution A/RES/75/290 A, focused on Haiti, South Sudan and the Sahel region. Talks highlighted addressing the immediate impacts of food insecurity and displacement, promoting long-term solutions to protracted crises, and predicting and preventing new crises with early warning approaches. “The message throughout was that humanitarian access is vital to deliver life-saving assistance to those in need,” he said.
At the revitalized Economic and Social Council Partnership Forum held in February, more than 4,000 participants used the hybrid meeting format to share forward-looking actions and innovative partnerships that can support the global goals. The Forum was organized in consultation with Member States and stakeholders. The Economic and Social Council Youth Forum helped young people share information about achieving the global goals and has become a hub for best practices on youth engagement. This year’s Forum, held in a virtual format, attracted more than 22,000 participants. The Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals brought Member States together with stakeholders in the private sector, the scientific community and civil society.
Turning to the fiscal constraints faced by many development countries with the pandemic, Mr. Kelapile said the war in Ukraine has exacerbated economic difficulties by raising food and energy prices. The 2022 Financing for Sustainable Development Report identified a “great finance divide,” which has sharply curtailed many developing countries’ ability to recover from the pandemic and invest in recovery. “Risks of a systemic debt crisis have risen further. Without additional measures, protracted debt crises will put the SDGs out of reach. Solutions to facilitate effective and fair debt crisis resolution must be considered now, without further delay,” he said.
The seventh Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development follow-up, held in April, moved forward on these issues, he said. Its outcome document, adopted by consensus, points the way forward on issues needing political momentum at the highest level. These include Member States’ consideration of using the multidimensional vulnerability index for small island developing States for both concessional finance eligibility and debt relief. The importance of grant financing and highly concessional financing for vulnerable countries was also highlighted.
The Council also used the past year to forge a stronger relationship with the Assembly and the Peacebuilding Commission, he continued. Meanwhile, a Management Segment helped provide oversight and guidance to the Council’s subsidiary bodies.
Several delegates offered comments about global challenges and the global goals after Mr. Kelapile delivered his report.
Diego Pary Rodríguez (Bolivia) said the Council’s 2021-2022 session provided an opportunity to address the common challenges and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and geopolitical tensions. In highlighting the High-Level Political Forum, Forum on Financing for Development, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Youth Forum, he called for the strengthening of intergovernmental spaces to facilitate the search for urgent and agile solutions to humanity’s problems. As an example, the Council took up food insecurity and its impacts on the fight against poverty and hunger during the Humanitarian Affairs Segment and the Transition Meeting, he said. The international community must continue to strengthen humanitarian assistance based on the principles of international humanitarian law and human rights, he urged. It must also broaden its view of humanitarian assistance to envelope the daily events, losses and damages caused by climate change.
Krzysztof Maria Szczerski (Poland) noted efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda are under threat and emphasized the importance of vaccine equity, inequality reduction, post-conflict recovery and youth engagement. With less than eight years left, the 2030 Agenda must remain the guiding framework, he urged, while stressing the situation of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. Turning to his country’s hosting of the eleventh session of the World Urban Forum, he said it was the most important global event for municipal policies, transformation and development. As a candidate for the Economic and Social Council for 2024-2026, Poland will share its experiences, good practices and lessons learned ‑ especially on economic transformations, social reforms, inclusion and a just energy transition ‑ through its voluntary national review in 2023. He then reiterated his country’s commitment to regional cooperation as a way to strengthen resilience and find solutions to global challenges.
The Council also considered the report of the Secretary of the Committee for the United Nations Population Award 2022, transmitted in a Secretary-General note (document A/77/154) and prepared in accordance with Council decision 1982/112. For the award, the Committee selected Emma Inamutila Theofelus (Namibia) in the individual category and the National Population and Family Planning Board of Indonesia in the institutional category.
Mohammad Kurniadi Koba (Indonesia) said that the 2022 award was a testament to and recognition of the National Population and Family Planning Board’s diverse work in Indonesia. Since the 1970s, the agency has pioneered policies to strengthen population and family planning, produced impactful achievements on the ground and transformed the population policy paradigm from a numerical-oriented to a human development-centred approach. It is currently spearheading Indonesia’s efforts to reduce stunting by half within five years, he added. These achievements, he noted, are due to the Government’s commitment to innovation through the use of digital technologies to minimize the risk of stunting in children and resilience through a preparedness mindset which recognizes the effects of emergencies on hard-won achievements. The Government has also prioritized community engagement through the 1.2 million family planning officers who disseminate information and provide consultations for people in cities and villages. Indonesia will continue to strengthen the capacities of other developing countries on policy and family planning, he emphasized.
Also today, the Council took up its agenda item, titled “Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit”, to hold a specific meeting focused on development, in accordance with its resolution 60/265 of 30 June 2006.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 25 October, for a one-day preparatory meeting for the United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028.