Heads of Regional Commissions Spotlight Strategies to Emerge Stronger from Pandemic, Ensure Inclusive Growth, as Economic and Social Council Coordination Segment Ends
Address key issues, build on interlinkages, collaborate closely and deliver concrete and context-specific actions to recuperate from the COVID-19 pandemic and rescue the Sustainable Development Goals, the Economic and Social Council heard today as it concluded its second-ever Coordination Segment.
Today’s portion of the two-day meeting — held under the theme “Accelerating the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels” — featured presentations, interventions and panel discussions highlighting the Council’s work on economic, social, cultural, educational, health, governance and related fields through its various subsidiary bodies.
During a morning panel on the theme “Leveraging regional perspectives for an inclusive and resilient recovery guided by the 2030 Agenda”, the Executive Secretaries of the United Nations five regional economic commissions shared their respective experiences with integrated approaches; presented messages from intergovernmental bodies within their regions; and provided a preview of the regional forums on sustainable development.
Antonio Maria Afonso Pedro, Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), pointed out that his region continues to be disproportionately impacted by shocks, with the pandemic resulting in more than 55 million Africans in extreme poverty; the war in Europe contributing to double digit inflation in nearly half of Africa’s countries; food insecurity and rising energy costs threatening peace and stability; and government pocketbooks being stretched thin. Despite the reversal of progress on the 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063, an inclusive and resilient recovery is still possible if it starts with green and equitable growth, decent jobs, skills, equity, inclusion and a just energy transition, he underscored. Ensuring a sustainable recovery which protects both populations and economies from future crises will require national and international reforms of fiscal policies and the global financial architecture, among other areas, he explained before spotlighting the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development as a critical opportunity to review progress and advance transformative solutions.
Raúl García-Buchaca, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), similarly pointed out that the fight against inflation has notably tightened his region’s global financial conditions, increased volatility in financial markets and augmented risk aversion. In response to the region’s projected growth rate of 1.3 per cent for 2023 and its deepening structural trap of low growth and inequality, ECLAC identified a number of strategic sectors — the health-care manufacturing industry, digital transformation, electromobility and sustainable tourism — to drive forward sustainable development. The Commission has also worked closely with its member States to analyse the impacts of graduation from official development assistance (ODA) eligibility and partnered with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union to rethink international development cooperation modalities for the region, he reported.
Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said that her Commission is also working on multiple fronts to address the Arab region’s expanding public debt ($1.5 trillion), shrinking fiscal space, rising inequality, growing unemployment and increasing demand for quality social protection and social services. While ESCWA is supporting Governments in optimizing borrowing strategies, providing targeted support to small- and medium-sized enterprises and generating knowledge for climate change adaptation and mitigation, the region still needs action, hope and opportunities. Everyone must work harder over the next seven years to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, she emphasized.
Also presenting during that panel discussion were Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Coordinator of United Nations Regional Commissions, and Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).
Throughout the day, the Council also heard presentations from the Chairs of its functional commissions and expert bodies through a fireside chat on “Reflections on the work of ECOSOC subsidiary bodies” — moderated by Navid Hanif, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development — which highlighted recommendations, initiatives and normative frameworks while showcasing collaboration with other entities and bodies. During the discussion, delegates provided comments and posed questions on their work.
Following a report by its rapporteurs, the Council then held its final panel discussion on the theme “The Way Forward: Transformative Policies and Actions”, which focused on key takeaways from earlier sessions, identified major transformative policy recommendations and emphasized interlinkages among the Global Goals.
Li Junhua, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, urged the United Nations system in his closing remarks to leverage the upcoming opportunities — namely the United Nations Water Conference in March 2023 and the midterm review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction — to harness synergies, mobilize actors and advance the 2030 Agenda. Along with the high-level political forum in July 2023, these events can pave the ground for the Sustainable Development Goal Summit in September 2023 — the halfway point to the 2030 Agenda — to be one that the world wants: a Summit of action, implementation and transformation.
It is evident that for the United Nations to be felt by people around the world, its actions must be concrete, tangible, specific and context-sensitive, Arrmanatha Christiawan Nasir (Indonesia), Council Vice-President and Chair of the Coordination Segment, stressed as he made several closing recommendations. Through creative ideas, concerted efforts, transformative actions and international solidarity, the United Nations and its Member States can remain optimistic, move beyond business as usual and advance the 2030 Agenda.
Panel Discussion V
The Coordination Segment opened with a cconversation among Executive Secretaries of the United Nations Regional Commissions on the theme “Leveraging regional perspectives for an inclusive and resilient recovery guided by the 2030 Agenda”. It featured the following speakers: Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Coordinator of United Nations Regional Commissions; Antonio Maria Afonso Pedro, Acting Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Raúl García-Buchaca, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Ms. ALISJAHBANA cited the Global Ocean Account Partnership as an example of an initiative to aid countries and other stakeholders to go beyond gross domestic product (GDP) in measuring and managing progress in ocean management and development. The recently adopted Jakarta Declaration on Asian-Pacific Persons with Disabilities 2021-2032 provides concrete entry points to build resilience for those persons against risk. ESCAP is also assisting Member States in enhancing social protection systems to strengthen regional cooperation. She noted efforts to create stronger economies that are more “climate smart” and to build resilience in trade against future risks. The Commission is also accelerating decarbonization of economies, including helping countries to build a Sustainable Development Goal 7 roadmap and accelerating digitalization, including through the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Initiative. The Bangkok Declaration will help pursue a common agenda for development in the region, protecting people and the planet and leveraging digital opportunities, she said.
Mr. PEDRO stressed that Africa continues to be disproportionately impacted by shocks, which include the ongoing war in Ukraine, tightening international financial conditions and the impacts of the climate crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest drop in Africa’s growth rate since the Second World War, with more than 55 million Africans in extreme poverty; the war in Europe has contributed to double digit inflation in nearly half of African countries; food insecurity and rising energy costs have increasingly threatened peace and stability; government purses have been stretched; and debt stocks and debt servicing costs have risen, with market access for new finance severely constrained, he explained. Despite this current pace starting the reversal of progress made towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063, an inclusive and resilient recovery which leverages and enables the human and economic potential on the continent is possible.
Such an inclusive economic recovery starts with growth, jobs, skills and equity and will need to include green and equitable growth while ensuring a just energy transition for all of Africa, he said. A new social contract will also require decent jobs, social protection, equality and inclusion as more than 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under the age of 30 and looking to an ageing world with growing demands for labour and innovation. To provide Africa’s youth with the requisite skill set to meet labour market demands, there must be the necessary human capacity development, he continued. The smart operationalization of local policies and national suppliers’ development programmes can accelerate the emergence of globally competitive small- and medium-sized enterprises in Africa, he added.
Ensuring a sustainable recovery which protects populations and economies from the shocks of future pandemics and other crises will require a range of reforms and initiatives at the national and international level, he underscored, calling for fiscal reforms, effective and coherent frameworks to increase domestic resource mobilization and reforms of the global financial architecture, to name a few. For their part, African multilateral development banks must play a more active role in de-risking investments on the continent and reduce Africa’s dependence on the rest of the world. He also emphasized free trade and digitalization as two key vehicles for the recovery process before noting that the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development will provide a critical opportunity to review progress, reflect on accelerating action and advance transformative solutions.
Ms. ALGAYEROVA, noting that the circular economy was the topic of the sixty-ninth session of the Commission in 2021 and will be in focus in April 2023 at its seventieth session, said only 8.6 per cent of the global economy is circular. Energy decarbonization and urban development have been identified as entry points in the Global Sustainability Report, she said, calling for integrated thinking on transport, housing, infrastructure and innovation. Pointing to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as war, inflation and the environmental crisis, she underscored the need to build resilient energy systems. The international community has many useful frameworks, she said, highlighting ECE’s environmental performance reviews which analyze various economic sectors and provide recommendations for different policy areas. The Commission is also involving more local actors, she said, pointing to the mayors’ forum in the European region. Also stressing the need for private-sector engagement, she noted the sustainability pledge from the textile industry. It is vital to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, she said, calling on the international community to take advantage of existing synergies among individual Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. GARCÍA-BUCHACA noted the fight against inflation has tightened global financial conditions, increased volatility in financial markets and augmented risk aversion, with ECLAC projecting a mere 1.3 per cent growth in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2023, marking 10 consecutive years in which the region’s annual growth has averaged a rate of only 0.9 per cent — an even worse performance than during the “lost decade” of the 1980s, which shows that the structural trap of low growth and inequality is only deepening. He cited an October 2022 position document identifying strategic sectors to drive forward a sustainable development pattern, including green energy transition, electromobility, cross-sectoral circular economy strategies, sustainable agriculture and bioeconomy, the health-care manufacturing industry, digital transformation and sustainable tourism.
While the ongoing conflict in Europe highlights the vulnerability of hydrocarbon importers, Latin America and the Caribbean can leverage its natural endowment to promote the transition to renewable energies including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass and strengthen capacities in energy storage technologies. In preparation for the United Nations Water Conference, ECLAC estimates that an annual investment boost of 1.3 per cent of regional GDP is required over a period of 10 years to universalize access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation
He noted ECLAC has further prepared the Plan for Self-Sufficiency on Health Matters to boost vaccine and pharmaceutical production and distribution in the region. The Commission is working closely with its member States to analyze unthe impacts of graduation from official development assistance (ODA) eligibility to counter that GDP per capita remains the sole criterion for measuring development. He expressed support for Colombia’s initiative to create inclusive, sustainable, and equitable global taxation as a permanent tax decision-making body in the region, further calling for renewed forms of cooperation with the region’s middle-income countries and small island developing States. He cited a partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre and the European Union to rethink international development cooperation modalities with the region’s predominantly middle-income countries — which for the most part are not eligible for concessional financing and ODA.
Ms. DASHTI, speaking via a pre-recorded video message, spotlighted the Arab region’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, including on access to Internet services, under-five mortality rates, clean fuel, electricity, water and sanitation, education and women in legislative bodies. However, serious challenges remain as growing public debt — an overall burden of $1.5 trillion or 55 per cent of GDP — is higher than the GDP growth rate. Meanwhile, the fiscal space continues to shrink and the demand for quality social services and the expansion of social protection services continue to grow as only 35 per cent of people in the region are covered. Inequality is also on the rise, she continued, noting that the unemployment rate in the region is the highest in the world, especially for women and youth. The region continues to suffer disproportionately, including from climate change and water scarcity, she added.
In noting that ESCWA is working on multiple fronts, she offered its social expenditure monitor as an example of helping countries and United Nations country teams to understand the dynamics of social spending and the requisite policy optimization measures for improving efficiency and impact. The Commission is also supporting Governments in optimizing borrowing strategies; convening an Arab debt management group; pushing its Climate/Sustainable Development Goals Debt Swap Mechanism to facilitate climate financing; encouraging integrated water management; and producing knowledge that is needed for climate adaptation and mitigation. Furthermore, it is pushing the discussion on inequality through providing targeted support to small- and medium-sized enterprises and innovative solutions which capitalize on the region’s greatest resource, its young people. The region, however, needs action, hope and opportunities, she said, urging all to work harder to deliver on the 2030 Agenda in the next seven years.
Presentations by Subsidiary Bodies
The Chairs of the Economic and Social Council’s functional commissions and expert bodies presented the work of their respective bodies, in a session on “Reflections on the work of ECOSOC Subsidiary Bodies”, which featured a live, interactive exchange with Member States, moderated by Navid Hanif, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.
SAKIKO FUKUDA-PARR, Professor of International Affairs, The New School, and Vice-Chair of the Committee for Development Policy at its twenty-fifth session, said her Committee has closely followed and evaluated the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, providing recommendations through its annual report, policy notes, background papers and participation in a wide range of meetings. There is a clear disconnect between the transformative ambition of the Agenda and the implementation efforts, she stressed, adding that the scale of commitment needed is not evident in national strategies. Further, the strategies for implementation generally do not reflect an integrated approach and remain siloed and fragmented without a coherent vision. “The vulnerable are frequently not just being left behind but are being pushed even further behind,” she pointed out, adding that the Committee has advocated for the use of evidence-based industrial policies to strengthen productive capacity in developing countries. Such policies must be timebound and include accountability mechanisms, she said, highlighting the importance of an inclusive and networked multilateralism.
MOHAMED EZZELDINE ABDEL-MONEIM, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Coordination Segment, stressed that the Committee is the only treaty body which is a subsidiary body of the Council, and is ready to effectively interact with all Council subsidiary bodies to achieve common goals. The Committee’s position and contributions are all closely relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals. Citing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — which incorporated most of the Sustainable Development Goals long before they appeared as a United Nations document — he noted it is a binding treaty which is also incorporated into the body of international human rights law. “If old wine in new bottles is quite attractive, old wine in old bottles provides a taste which is no less enjoyable,” he stated. The acceleration of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda cannot be reached so long as the international economic and financial situation remains uncontrollable, he stressed, as inflation and recession are new pandemics that are no less harmful. While the misallocation of world resources threatens to undermine the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda, happily, the solutions and even the resources exist — requiring the political will to apply them and to carry them into effect for the benefit of all humanity, he said.
DARÍO JOSÉ MEJÍA MONTALVO, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at its twenty-first session, underscored that calling Indigenous peoples by their names and including them in other categories such as vulnerable peoples are a basic measure of respecting diversity as well as the commitments assumed by States and the Organization’s entities. Such recognition is essential for identifying how far the world has come and how much further it needs to go, especially in the production of specific and relevant data for monitoring and decision-making. He also highlighted the necessity to recognize Indigenous peoples’ comprehensive knowledge systems, which are essential for implementing effective measures in the face of global challenges such as climate change, food security, sovereignty, energy transitions, technological processes and ocean sciences, to name several. On leaving no one behind, he noted that he often asks if those ahead are taking the necessary steps to ensure that life on the planet remains. In the face of challenges such as climate change, common action is essential especially in ensuring that the world does not go back to a path which victimizes indigenous people, he explained. For their part, multilateral and bilateral cooperation must foster measures to recognize Indigenous peoples and their territories. Turning to the 2030 Agenda, he spotlighted the Forum’s commitment to that agenda and invited Member States to its session in April 2023.
GHEORGHE LEUCĂ (Republic of Moldova), Chair of the Commission on Population and Development at its fifty-sixth session, said its work has close linkages with other subsidiary bodies. Demographic processes such as population growth, ageing and migration have major implications for economies and societies and the planet at large, he said. Highlighting the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’s World Social Report 2023, launched two weeks ago, he said it documented the vast and multifaceted impacts of population ageing on economies and labour markets as well as on poverty, inequity and exclusion. Recalling that on 15 November 2023, the world passed the 8 billion people milestone, he pointed to the challenges of rapid population growth for achieving sustainable development in low-income or least developed countries. Countries with the highest level of consumption and the greatest emissions of greenhouses gases have slow or even negative population growth, he observed. Underscoring the importance of education to sustainable development, he added that the Commission will build on the outcomes of the Transforming Education Summit.
SANJEEV SINGHAL, Chair of the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting, noted it assists countries with implementing best practices in accounting and reporting to foster financial stability, international and domestic investment, and social and economic progress. The Working Group supports countries in strengthening their national sustainability reporting infrastructure to keep up with international changes and promote sustainable finance and development, collecting and sharing lessons learned and best practices, and through new regional partnerships for the promotion of sustainability reporting — with 50 members in Africa from 26 countries, and 29 members in Latin America from 14 countries, and working towards launching one in Asia. The Working Group further collaborates with the Financing for Sustainable Development Office and the Department of Statistics in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Global Compact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. At its thirty-ninth session in November 2022, he noted the Working Group called upon the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to support capacity-building and the strengthening of sustainability reporting infrastructures and undertake research on gender equality in the accountancy profession, among other initiatives.
The representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, underlined the Council’s extremely important role in guiding its subsidiary bodies towards coherent and coordinated action towards the benefit of all States in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. To accelerate an inclusive and resilient recovery, the international community must guarantee universal access to vaccines, therapies and treatments to COVID-19; build a solid health-care system; reform the international financial architecture to provide greater access to financing on favourable conditions to developing countries; eliminate illicit financial flows; and invest in sustainable and resilient infrastructure. There must also be urgent measures against climate change and the loss of biodiversity; guaranteed financing for development; promotion of technology transfers; capacity-building; and scientific and technical cooperation to promote sustainable development. He then offered a number of suggestions for the Council’s various subsidiary bodies and encouraged that organ to ensure that the eradication of poverty in all its dimensions is at the heart of its work.
The representative of the Russian Federation, expressing disappointment about the politicized nature of regional cooperation, said it is essential to tap into the potential of regional economic agreements. He asked the representatives of the Regional Economic Commissions how the United Nations system can improve the quality of their cooperation.
Responding, Mr. PEDRO highlighted the cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on two pillars: the peace and security pillar and the development pillar. The Union has indeed called for greater support to Africa's agency, he said, stressing the need to support African Member States to take the lead in pursuing growth and development on the continent. Highlighting the need to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area, which he described as “the Marshall Plan for Africa’s development”, he said it would generate the fundamentals for the continent's recovery.
Mr. GARCÍA-BUCHACA cited the effort between Brazil and Argentina to develop a common currency to facilitate trade between the two countries, with the States studying the implications and requisites for further development in response to a scarcity of foreign currency.
The representative of Morocco, highlighting the situation of middle-income countries, asked how the Regional Economic Commissions could help those countries tackle the main challenges they are facing. She also highlighted the role of the Commissions in identifying new measurements and new indicators that go beyond GDP.
The representative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), underscoring the specificity of each region’s challenges, shared that his organization has six regional associations and has strengthened its collaboration with United Nations regional bodies. Expressing his appreciation for this cooperation, he called for the further strengthening of the Council’s socioeconomic bodies — especially specialized agencies and Geneva-based organizations — with the Regional Commissions.
Ms. ALGAYEROVA, stressing the importance of peer learning, said that the exchange of experiences is crucial. ECE is working very closely on water, energy, environment and climate change issues. Highlighting its collaboration with the Statistical Commission and the Commission on Population and Development, she pointed out that the last report of the Statistical Commission includes mentions of her Commission’s original work. Further, ECE is also focused on reforming the development pillar of the United Nations, she said, adding that one of the results of that is the use of issue-based coalitions in the region. For instance, the issue-based coalition on environment and climate change includes 17 United Nations entities working together to strengthen environmental and climate change governance, she added.
Ms. ALISJAHBANA, responding to Morocco’s delegate, noted that ESCAP supports peer learning in the Asia-Pacific region, citing the Global South-South Cooperation Expo. Responding to the representative of the Russian Federation, she cited multilateral cooperation agreements on trade and connectivity as well as mainstreaming sustainable development inclusivity, especially for least developed countries and landlocked developing countries.
Mr. PEDRO, spotlighting the work with WMO in building the narratives, options and content for the twenty-seventh Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change through Africa’s regional collaborative platform as an example, praised those regional platforms for bringing more horizontal and vertical integration within the United Nations system. Turning to the question from Morocco, he agreed that the middle-income trap is a serious issue which requires peer-learning from the significant experiences that exist within that spectrum.
Mr. GARCÍA-BUCHACA, noting the importance of this discussion for middle-income countries and countries in special situations such as small island developing States in the Caribbean, referenced several peer-learning mechanisms within the region, namely voluntary national reviews and communities of practice developed in close cooperation with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. ECLAC also has several subsidiary bodies — such as its regional conferences on statistics and on gender mainstreaming — in which active peer-learning takes place to coordinate work, identify and learn from lessons and share good practices, he added.
ZÉPHYRIN MANIRATANGA (Burundi), Chair of the United Nations Forum on Forests, pointed to its recently adopted omnibus resolution, which contains provisions for actions to advance the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Forests and accelerate the achievement of its Global Forest Goals. Through this resolution, the Forum also agreed on a comprehensive list of actions to be taken in preparation for the midterm review of the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests in achieving its objectives. The Forum also aims to promote synergy and coherence with Sustainable Development Goals and the global efforts to fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. At its forthcoming event in April 2023 on “Forests, energy, and livelihoods”, the Forum will showcase the important contributions of forests and sustainable management of forests to energy, livelihoods and the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, Goal 1 on ending poverty; Goal 2 on ending hunger; and Goal 7 on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.
DUANE PFUND, International Program Coordinator at the United States Department of Transportation, stressed that batteries in electric vehicles and motorized scooters and bicycles are classified as dangerous goods, but are essential to daily life. Lithium-ion batteries, fertilizers, chlorine for safe drinking water and aerosols help keep people healthy and economies moving, he noted. His expert committee works to sustainably support those materials economically, socially and environmentally, providing Governments and consumers with information on dangerous goods, including: reducing deaths and illnesses due to exposure to hazardous chemicals, reducing environmental damage and water contamination, and promoting innovation in clean energy alternatives — in support of an array of Sustainable Development Goals. He recalled that his committee’s recommendations are adopted worldwide, including on air, maritime and land transport, and on workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals, and feature in United Nations bodies and in national legislation in 70 countries. The framework for responsibly managing such critical materials exists within the Economic and Social Council. However, he called on it to invite greater participation from less represented regions to develop truly transformative science-based policies and encourage more consistent implementation in national legislations to promote health and the recovery of global supply chains.
GERALDINE FRASER-MOLEKETI, Chair of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration at its twenty-first session, pointed out that the African Union and its member States have shown a great interest in using principles of effective governance for sustainable development as a guide to strengthen institutions and policymakers to implement inclusive policies; ensure their application and integration within national development plans; and achieve institutional effectiveness, accountability and inclusiveness through available tools. The ongoing partnership between the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the African Peer Review Mechanism on the application of those principles has not only yielded satisfactory results but is also a model of United Nations-African Union collaboration, she noted. The Committee, she continued, has been actively engaging with the OECD on policy coherence for sustainable development, multi-level governance and the promotion of a more granular examination of governance and public administration challenges at the subnational level. Through informal contributions to the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, it has also worked on identifying specific governance improvements in conflict-affected settings through the practical application of principles. All of this work has been supported by a growing series of strategy guidance notes commissioned by the Secretariat. In recent years, the Committee has notably connected with voluntary national and voluntary local review processes to reflect on the use of these principles, she reported.
MARY WANGUI MUGWANJA (Kenya), Chair of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its thirty-second session, said it supports Member States in preventing and countering crime, corruption and terrorism. It also strives to promote the rule of law and make criminal justice systems more effective, accountable and inclusive. COVID-19 created new opportunities for crime and weakened criminal justice institutions, she pointed out, adding that the Commission holds annual thematic discussions to implement the commitments laid out in the Kyoto Declaration on “Advancing Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law: Towards the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia), Chair of the sixty-sixth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, called for the international community to acknowledge the devastating effects the pandemic had on efforts to address the world drug problem. New forms of drug trafficking emerged, more people were affected by drug use disorders, and fewer people had access to effective treatment and controlled medicines. It is important to implement coordinated multidisciplinary efforts to ensure recovery and that no one is left behind, as reflected in the Commission’s joint statement on the impact of the pandemic, adopted during its sixty-fourth session in 2021, and in the important resolutions adopted at its sixty-fifth session in 2022 on sustainable livelihoods and drug and firearms trafficking. In 2024, the Commission will conduct a midterm review of progress made in implementing all international drug policy commitments. He called for the important issue of the world drug problem to be considered during this year’s high-level political forum and reflected in the Ministerial Declaration.
The representative of Portugal asked how the limitations of GDP are being accounted for and how such work is also contributing to moving beyond this measure and ensuring that sustainable development is encompassed in all three of its dimensions.
The representative of the Russian Federation stressed the necessity to ensure that the principle of multilingualism is fully implemented when cooperating with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. He then asked how the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters is implementing the General Assembly resolution, which called for inclusive, multilateral tax cooperation within the Organization.
Mr. MONTALVO insisted that the implementation of the Global Goals requires using appropriate language on the collective subject of rights. Progress in the area of international recognition must be reflected in actions within national borders, which in turn implies having disaggregated data on conditions and contributions in addressing urgent needs. There must be coherence between international commitments and domestic national actions, he advocated. Among other things, he called for humility in recognizing that solutions often produce inadequate results in terms of reducing inequalities and preserving life on the planet.
Mr. PEDRO stressed that geospatial planning is crucial to decentralization. Offering one example, he said that while decentralization efforts in Africa are predicated on the transfer of resources from the center to the periphery, sometimes the periphery has human and physical assets to pursue development without necessarily depending on those transfers. Geospatial planning can help determine what are the assets based at the local level. He also highlighted a related project on developing carbon credit markets in Africa.
MANSOUR ALQURASHI, Acting Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development at its twenty-sixth session, reported that the Commission has considered policy issues resulting from rapid technological changes and is implementing its mandate — given by the Assembly in 2006 — to undertake a system-wide follow-up to the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society. Its experience and knowledge base, he pointed out, can significantly contribute to the Global Digital Compact by providing inputs or briefs for participants during the negotiation process and by offering a forum for Member States and other stakeholders to monitor implementation progress. He then spotlighted the Commissions’ coordination links with other forums and actors as well as its practical policy initiatives which included a science, technology and innovation policy review programme that provided substantive advice to over 20 developing countries. The Commission’s secretariat has also worked on a technology assessment programme to complement this work through providing tools for technological foresight, he added. However, more work must be done to bring developing countries fully into the discussion on frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and biotechnologies. Needs around the proliferation of such technologies must be discussed in terms of policy, ethical considerations and potential ethical issues, he underscored.
GABRIELLA VUKOVICH (Hungary), Chair of the Statistical Commission, noted that on 18 January, she participated in a conversation about that intergovernmental body’s future and how it can remain relevant in a changing world. An important shift is happening in the data landscape as more interlinkages between statistics and data systems evolve, and “we can no longer speak of statistics in a silo,” she stated. This wider landscape broadens the applicability of standards and methodologies overseen by the Commission, as statisticians work diligently with partners so that the systems work together and the long-term data and statistical architecture will meet the needs of the future. Over the past year, Bureau members have engaged with other bodies such as the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Commission for Population and Development to build and sustain connections to support countries in all their statistical and data needs. From Sustainable Development Goal indicators to climate change, to improving household surveys and carrying out censuses, she noted her Commission’s work provides the evidence needed to measure progress in the recovery. “The statisticians are ready to work with you,” she affirmed.
The Council also heard from Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Chair of the Commission for Social Development at its sixty-first session; Mathu Joyini, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women at its sixty-seventh session; Paloma Merodio Gomez, Co-Chair of the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management; and Pierre Jaillard, Chair of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names at its third session.
The representatives of India and Mexico also spoke.
JONIBEK ISMOIL HIKMAT (Tajikistan), stressing the Council’s role in identifying policies and measures to resolve the interlocking crises while promoting Sustainable Development Goals, said that all solutions must be locally-owned. Many speakers over the course of the two days underscored the importance of policies that build on the interlinkages between the Goals, he said, highlighting the importance of exploring synergies between Goal 13 on climate action, Goal 6 on clean water and Goal 7 on clean energy. Pointing to the importance of mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment for the achievement of all the Goals, he also recalled yesterday’s speaker who said the 2023 Water Conference must be like a Paris moment for water. Stressing the importance of addressing the energy needs of developing countries, he highlighted the importance of the energy compacts. Noting that many speakers drew attention to the implications of digital transformation, he added that health and food security digital technologies have an enormous transformational potential. It is critical to ensure a just, inclusive people-centered and rights-based digital transformation, he said.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand), also serving as rapporteur, noted that the segment allowed Member States to learn about many policy recommendations and analyses from the Council and its subsidiary bodies. Discussions revealed how diverse and vital regional commissions and other bodies are in supporting the 2030 Agenda at all levels. Regional commissions indicated that multilevel crises are sparing no region, with countries sliding back on many Global Goals and efforts to accelerate progress. Member States were urged to use the crises as opportunities to address deep structural and systemic reform, as challenges know no border. Executive secretaries had provided examples of close coordination with the United Nations system and subsidiary bodies, while chairs of functional committees and expert bodies shared their work, highlighting policy recommendations on issues including: gender equality, leaving no one behind, population trends, data and statistics, geospatial issues, forests, Indigenous people and dangerous goods. All dimensions of sustainable development were discussed, she recalled, along with the role of technology.
She cited interactive discussions, with a shared feeling that participants provided a sound basis for Council policy guidance. Recommendations from subsidiary bodies outlined the way for implementing comprehensive policies for bold, ambitious action on the Goals, while she emphasized that new approaches and deep reforms are needed to gear investment in that direction. While the principle of leaving no one behind was central, she urged that the Council must reach the furthest behind first but has not always been consistent in that ambition. She asked how the Council can draw thematically on the expertise of its system to provide data to Member States, about priority areas for accelerated recovery, and opportunities for better collaboration between subsidiary bodies and the United Nations system.
Panel Discussion VI
The Council next held a panel on “The Way Forward: Transformative Policies and Actions”, which featured the following panellists: Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Catherine M. Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and J. Jaime Miranda, co-Chair of the Independent Group of Scientists for 2023.
Mr. STEINER, urging all to rethink, replan and recognize realties, pointed out that although it is clear that the world will struggle to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, this does not make the Agenda nor the Goals any less valid. Finance is a key transformative area, he stressed, highlighting the lesson learned during the COVID-19 pandemic when the United Nations development system worked together to help countries undertake a rapid economic assessment of impacts, measured the problem and enabled both targeted responses and investment priorities especially for the most vulnerable. In collaboration with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Organization’s development system and United Nations country teams, UNDP has put forward national financing frameworks as a rapid way to help countries appreciate the scope within which they can exercise resources — be it public revenues, public sector capital, ODA or concessional financing, to name a few — and align them with emergency responses to current crises. Elaborating on the Secretary-General’s call for Sustainable Development Goal stimulus during the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Indonesia in 2022, he said that this was not an abstract notion for more funding but rather a recognition that the world needs to confront choices which include injecting liquidity in the global economy; tackling debt issues and the paralysis on Governments; and leveraging, directing and restructuring debt. “Finance is the big elephant in the room — it is everyone’s elephant but there are very different opportunities for different partners to the development challenge of this moment as we head towards September to step up and essentially allow us to co-invest in a way out of crisis and more importantly in a way forward towards where the Sustainable Development Goals pointed us in 2015,” he said.
CATHERINE RUSSELL, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said conflict, climate change and the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are wreaking havoc on children’s lives. “In just the past three years, decades of progress in children’s well-being have begun to unravel,” she said, noting that 100 million children have fallen into poverty since 2020, a 10 per cent increase from 2019. An additional 10 million girls are at risk of child marriage, global immunization rates have dropped precipitously, and a learning crisis has struck all over the world, with nearly two thirds of all 10-year-olds unable to read or write. Voicing UNICEF’s support for the Sustainable Development Goals and calling for efforts to put children at the heart of that transformative agenda, she said the rights of young people must be at the core of pandemic recovery and systems strengthening. The most vulnerable children — those in poverty, affected by conflict or with disabilities — must be reached, and high-quality data collection is needed to do so. Lastly, she called for efforts to elevate the voices of children as agents of change and to facilitate their own participation in crafting solutions.
Ms. BRANDS KEHRIS stressed that a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want — a world with universal access to quality education, health care, social protection and other human rights — is not beyond reach if the international community changes its priorities and the way it works. OHCHR, she noted, is bridging the 2030 Agenda and human rights through a human rights-enhancing economy, a concept which speaks to the need to reform economies and gives meaning to the vision of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. To address inequalities and not push the most disadvantaged further behind, people and human rights must be intentionally centred in policymaking with States aligning their human rights obligations with their priorities on public finance, taxation, budgeting, trade and debt. At the international level, the international financial system must be reformed to expand the fiscal space for human rights and sustainable development. She then spotlighted her Office’s work in Jordan on human rights-based taxation, in Kenya on strengthening human rights-based approaches to budgeting and social sector allocations and in Serbia on ensuring safe access to water, to name a few. For any policy to generate change, meaningful, inclusive and safe participation is a must, she underscored. On voluntary national reviews, she highlighted progress in applying human rights approaches to develop deeper, more granular analyses which identified blind spots, generated better data and addressed structural causes of inequalities.
MR. MIRANDA, speaking via video-link, stressed that “transformations are inevitable”. The Independent Group of Scientists’ report is an invitation to embrace transformation, he said, adding that while overall progress on the 2030 Agenda has been severely disrupted in the last three years, every little bit of progress counts. The resilience of the planet's environment and populations do not rest on one source of security alone, he said, highlighting the connections between geopolitical, energy, climate, water, food and social security. Noting that the world is changing at an accelerated rate, he said there is a greater urgency to rebuild momentum and embrace solidarity. The international community needs to use its time, resources, and financial and institutional knowledge as judiciously and effectively as possible, he stressed, calling for a systematic and strategic approach to accelerate transformation. The Group’s report intends to provide a framework for understanding the process of transformation as well as practical tools for fostering leadership and enhancing human capacities, he added.
The Chair then asked about behavioural changes required in order to get back on track for the 2030 Agenda.
Mr. STEINER then referred to the mass graves dug in the city during the pandemic and wondered about people asking how much they depended on others to survive during that crisis. That is something Member States have not dwelt on: how interdependent people have become. In the twenty-first century, he noted the quite remarkable simple notion of human security — the product of a collective security. Stressing that COVID-19 “remains all around us”, he noted the irony that vaccines became an unfair way out of the conundrum unless “you could get to the front of the queue”, at the expense of the principle of common solidarity. He called on Member States to avoid falling victim to short-term narratives and illusions about separating oneself from the other 7.9 billion people on the planet. United Nations discussions therefore should not be about “bean-counting”, as the issues are profoundly far-reaching, disruptive and transformative — analogous to the moment after the Second World War when the institution was born. He stressed that the Sustainable Development Goals are not just targets and indicators, but a “declaration of interdependence” in the words of former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Chair, noting the effects of the pandemic on children and a “lost generation”, asked about addressing this impact and ensuring that the future can meet challenges.
Ms. RUSSELL stressed that the most important thing to keep in mind is that the international community knows what to do; namely, how to ensure that children are educated, immunized and are cared for through community health systems providing better health access. The question is whether it has the will and commitment to do this, she underscored. 70 per cent of 10-year-olds cannot read a sentence, she shared with horror before questioning what sort of future the world has if its children cannot read, add or do the basics. The world must decide to commit, provide funding, back efforts and make children a priority, she emphasized.
In response to the question posed by Finland’s delegate about a United-Nations-wide approach to water security, Mr. STEINER said that the synergies between water and food security are crucial. There are cities in the world where water is reused multiple times out of sheer necessity, he said, adding that it is crucial to think of the entire hydrological cycle.
Ms. RUSSEL, stressing that access to water is critical for children, said that water policies need to be gender-responsive. Ms. KEHRIS pointed to the need for a human rights perspective and said the United Nations must mobilize and incentivize cooperation on water issues. For his part, Mr. MIRANDA, noting that these complex systems operate across multiple situations and countries, said “the way forward is to be conscious and upfront about the synergies.”
The representative of Egypt noted the main challenges for developing countries are the means of implementation, as well as financing. Citing the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Sharm El-Sheikh and the role of climate finance, he pointed to the high-level political forum on sustainable development due in September, noting those major challenges remain and asking about innovative ways to address them.
India’s delegate cited the need to address the Global Goals at the granular level, along with financing problems. Calling for partnerships to bridge divides and diversification of capabilities, he stressed that development and digital technology are inseparable. He asked Mr. Steiner about options going forward.
The representative of Indonesia asked Mr. Steiner about progress on the initiative for mapping which Goals are on- and off-track, and how the Council can improve policy implementation.
The Russian Federation’s delegate noted the need for cross-cutting solutions, citing demographic challenges some States are facing, asking how the United Nations system can provide protection and assistance to families and their roles in the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of the WMO, agreeing with UNDP on the need to have an integrated approach to see interlinkages with other Sustainable Development Goals, highlighted the importance of collaboration and cooperation among nations under the United Nations umbrella. In focusing on the decline in water information sharing since the 1980s, he stressed that “if you cannot measure, you cannot manage”. Strengthening the synergies among agencies will also add value to potential solutions, he continued. He then asked how the United Nations system can help least developed countries through financing to building their capacities on water and other Global Goal requirements.
The representative of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) stressed that progress on gender equality will remain unreached unless long-term structural barriers, including discriminatory norms, laws and practices, are addressed and dismantled. Spotlighting her organization’s recent report with UNDP on Government responses to COVID-19, she noted its concrete recommendations which focused on the need to invest in future preparedness now, strengthen social protection and public services, harness technology, deliver more effective services and strengthen democratic processes. Governments must ensure that women have an equal share of power, are at all decision-making tables and at the centre of all aspects of response and recovery as well as in development and peace processes, she underscored. To be truly transformative, all processes, policies and actions this year must be gender-responsive to be successful.
In response to the representative of Bulgaria’s question about priority areas for the Economic and Social Council, Mr. STEINER highlighted the need for integrated national financing frameworks. It is crucial to put analytical tools firmly in the hands of a State that is accountable to its citizens, he said, also stressing the importance of tax reform. Taxation can tackle the fundamental challenge of inequality, he said, adding that in many countries, there is a need to review tax systems, and shift tax burdens towards “taxing the bad” such as pollution. He also highlighted the need to leverage the private sector, pointing out that there is no country on this planet where the capacity of the private sector, capital markets and investors exceeds the fiscal capacity of State institutions.
Ms. RUSSELL said financing goes far beyond ODA, calling for innovative finance, and asking how the support systems on the ground — not just infrastructure — have multiple benefits including community health. Endorsing comments on UN-Women, she addressed the Russian Federation delegate’s reference to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is critical, noting that families and caregivers are first responders.
Ms. KEHRIS cited the importance of looking at global financing at all levels, voicing hope that transformative idea will feed into future discussions and break down financing silos. Noting that her office is working hand-in-hand innovatively with economists, she recalled the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had stated that the future of human rights will in part be decided in ministries of finance. Stressing the importance of the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, she called for a focus on data and analysis to identify who is being left furthest behind.
Mr. MIRANDA said every sector of society has a role in the Global Goals and the 2030 Agenda, calling for untapping opportunities — which will perhaps address financing in a more pragmatic way. He further called on participants to “think beyond your own Sustainable Development Goal”.
LI JUNHUA, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, underlined his dedication to support Member States’ efforts and mobilize all stakeholders to get the world on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda and emerge from multiple and intersecting crises. Delivering a summary of the past two days, he noted that the organ, its subsidiary bodies and the entities of the United Nations development system have demonstrated their commitment to the 2030 Agenda as they shared transformative policies and actions. Delegations have also identified areas where they would like the system and Council to deepen their analytical policy work on areas such as financing, gender equality, climate change and the solidarity economy. Recommendations notably emerged on where the system can work together more closely to build on the interrelations across the Sustainable Development Goals and multiply the impact of each agency’s expertise.
The system, he stressed, must leverage upcoming opportunities to harness synergies, mobilize actors and advance the 2030 Agenda. The United Nations 2023 Water Conference in March offers the chance to generate concrete actions and commitments to advance both global water agenda and Global Goal 6 with positive spill overs on the other interlinked Goals. The midterm review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction allows for an exploration of better ways to address the systemic nature of risk and advance risk-informed Goal implementation, among other areas. These events, along with the High-level Political Forum in July 2023, will pave the ground for the kind of Summit the world wants: a Summit of action, implementation and transformation that has an impact on people’s lives, he underscored. Similarly, the high-level dialogue on financing for development during the Assembly’s seventy-eighth session must reinvigorate global ambition to close financing gaps and create fiscal space to achieve the Global Goals by 2030. The Integrated National Financing Frameworks Facility enables the system to support countries in developing financing frameworks for sustainable development strategies, he pointed out before inviting participants to learn more about the Organization’s work at the national, regional and global level by visiting the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ dedicated “UN System SDG Implementation Database”.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and Chair of the Coordination Segment, stressed that with creative ideas, concerted efforts, transformative actions and international solidarity, the United Nations and its Member States can remain optimistic and move beyond business as usual. Understanding the interlinked nature of a solution can serve as a good foundation for moving away from a silo approach towards a comprehensive and integrated one to address unprecedented and intertwined challenges, he pointed out. More, however, must be done in terms of providing an enabling and conducive environment for countries to progress. In that vein, 2023 provides a good opportunity for the international community to continuously self-evaluate on what it has done through upcoming processes and high-level meetings. It is evident that for the United Nations to be felt by people around the world, its actions must be concrete, tangible, specific and context-sensitive, he emphasized, calling for various agreements, action plans and goals to be translated into concrete programmes and projects. Ensuring adequate funding and the effective and efficient role of the Council’s subsidiary bodies, United Nations system entities and specialized agencies is therefore key, he added.
He then informed the Council that its President will prepare a non-negotiated factual summary reflecting the discussions and strategic proposals which have been made during the coordination segment and the Partnership Forum. This year’s summary, he noted, will also incorporate an annex that lists good practices, transformative policies, programmes and projects which advance the 2030 Agenda. Voicing his hope that all will use this as a reference for sustainable development at the national and regional level, he underscored the continued need to focus on interlinkages among the Global Goals. The world must continue to be guided by the principles of the 2030 Agenda as it engages in other key intergovernmental processes and ensures that no one is left behind and must also continue its discussions on key financing issues.