2024 Session
5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

Opening Coordination Segment, Speakers in Economic and Social Council Discuss Durable Solutions to Reinforce Sustainable Development Agenda in Times of Multiple Crises

The Economic and Social Council opened its 2024 coordination segment today, commencing a two-day discussion centred on the efficient delivery of sustainable, resilient and innovative solutions to reinforce the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in times of multiple crises.

Akan Rakhmetullin (Kazakhstan), Vice-President of the Council, stressed that an integrated approach to foster prosperity while addressing the impacts of climate change “is more crucial than ever”.  Strategies must balance ecological conservation with the needs of communities and economies worldwide, and he underscored that breaking silos and using interlinkages to create multiplier effects is the “supreme transformative action” needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

“Our strategies and actions must reflect this complexity,” he stressed, stating that the coordination segment plays an integral role in this regard. Coordination is key to amplify the impact of efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, and he called on those present to reinforce their commitment to strengthened global coordination and cooperation.  “And act like we mean it,” he added, urging a decisive push towards a peaceful, just and sustainable world for people and planet.

Paula Narváez Ojeda, President of the Council, then recalled that the Council’s 2024 Partnership Forum emphasized the pivotal role that effective partnerships play in the pursuit of sustainable development. They serve as a crucial mechanism for pooling resources and expertise, ensuring efforts translate into tangible impacts on the ground.  The success of such partnerships, she said, hinges on respect for country ownership and local context while upholding stringent accountability measures.

Noting that the Forum yielded tangible proposals, she spotlighted the Council’s key role as a central mechanism for coordinating and guiding the UN system in social, environmental and related matters to ensure coherence in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  She encouraged those present to carry the Forum’s momentum forward over the next two days and to provide concrete guidance on transformative policies and actions to leave no one behind.

“Progress in achieving the SDGs is falling short,” observed Courtenay Rattray, Chef de Cabinet, speaking for UN Secretary-General António Guterres.  Urging that the “full force” of the UN be mustered to accelerate the global pace, he said that this must occur in a world already struggling with frequent and interconnected crises.  Rampant geopolitical mistrust is blocking effective solutions, and the institutions needed to gather countries together to tackle global problems are either not fit for purpose or do not exist.

On that, he said that the global financial system is outdated, dysfunctional and unfair, while the Security Council does not reflect today’s multipolar world.  “Within this storm of crisis and uncertainty, ECOSCOC can help deliver meaningful change and justice for all countries and peoples,” he said, calling for “all hands on deck” to live up to the 2030 Agenda’s great promise and potential.

Over the course of the day, the Council held four panel discussions on themes including tackling inequality amidst multiple crises, building resilient food systems, advancing climate action through sustainable solutions and creating effective institutions to achieve the SDGs. Speakers in each of them presented suggestions on how the international community can improve access to financing for development, develop equitable food systems and address climate change. One of them — the Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues — stressed:  “Let us remember that what we do today will impact tomorrow’s world.”

Panel 1

Following opening remarks, the Council held a panel discussion on “Translating commitments into action to get back on track, tackle inequality and eradicate poverty in times of multiple crises”.  Moderated by Akan Rakhmetullin (Kazakhstan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council responsible for the Coordination Segment, it featured presentations by:  Dario Mejia Montalvo, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at its twenty-second session; Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva, Global Director for Poverty and Equity, World Bank Group; Diene Keita, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Paola Albrito, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Mr. MONTALVO said that, for Indigenous Peoples, the global health, environmental and climate crises are interlinked and stressed that the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be based on the recognition that Indigenous Peoples have rights.  For example, lithium-based batteries provide energy with fewer emissions than fossil fuels.  However, 85 per cent of that resource is located in, or close to, Indigenous lands, and the desire to exploit lithium to promote the green energy transition has led to land and water degradation and an abuse of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.  He also pointed out that the carbon credits many companies seek to acquire are “leading to many woes” for Indigenous lands and rights, and that State sovereignty is being eroded in certain instances.  Stressing that all conservation measures should avoid undermining Indigenous Peoples’ rights, he said:  “Let us remember that what we do today will impact tomorrow’s world.”

Mr. LOPEZ-CALVA said that, given current trends, SDG 1 (no poverty) “is out of reach under a business-as-usual scenario”.  The international community must therefore rethink how policies can unleash the productive capacity of the poor to jump-start the process of inclusive, sustainable growth.  Further, there must be a more sustainable model for development and, in the climate context, the world must take the concept of a just transition seriously.  He reported that the World Bank, for its part, has — for the first time — made reducing the number of countries with high inequality an explicit goal in its “corporate scorecard”.  Getting back on track, he said, will require bold policy action and a new perspective on how to address fiscal constraints that accounts for the complex global context. He also underlined the need for a strong sense of collective leadership.

Ms. KEITA stressed that 2024 must be a year for action, acceleration, innovation and inclusion.  The international community knows what is necessary to achieve the SDGs — a renewed commitment to multilateralism and international cooperation, as called for in Our Common Agenda.  Emphasizing the need to strengthen support for countries to enhance data collection, she said that only by disaggregating data can policymakers know which societal groups are benefiting from intervention and address the barriers preventing access thereto.  Detailing UNFPA’s work towards this end in Zambia, Mexico, Cambodia, Turkmenistan, Jordan, Brazil and elsewhere, she underscored that sustainable development is only possible if the opportunity is created for all 8 billion of the world’s people to live freely, fully and equally in rights and dignity on a healthy, safe and prosperous planet.

Ms. ALBRITO said that early warning systems represent one of the best investments for saving lives and reducing economic losses. While such systems can help countries mitigate losses, however, it is best to avoid them completely by preventing disasters in the first place.  Stressing that it is impossible for countries to achieve the SDGs if they are constantly recovering from disasters, she said that countries can prevent hazards from becoming disasters if they factor climate and disaster risks into every investment decision so that resulting development is both sustainable and resilient. “This is the aim of disaster risk reduction, and this is why implementing the Sendai Framework is vital to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda,” she said.

In the following interactive discussion, speakers offered suggestions on how the international community can best improve access to financing for development and respond to poverty and other forms of inequality.

The representative of Nigeria said that sustainable development will be impossible — especially in Africa — unless the international community works with the continent to address financial leakages. National steps to tackle tax evasion must be complemented by international collaboration, he stressed, calling for a convention that will ensure uniformity in taxation to prevent the loss of funds to tax evasion.

The representative of China, also highlighting the need to improve global governance, said building a more-just international economic order is also essential.  Further, developed countries must deliver on their official development assistance (ODA) commitments and developing countries should enhance South-South cooperation.

The representative of Canada agreed, also pointing out that — despite the fact that transnational crime is a significant source of violence and instability that destroys Member States’ ability to respond to poverty effectively — it tends to be ignored in this context.  He also called for efforts to understand the extent to which forcible displacement is causing serious disruption in the poorest economies.

The representative of Indonesia, meanwhile, said that sustainable financing and technical cooperation is critical for fuelling development, as is reforming the multilateral system.  In this vein, she urged that the SDGs be placed at the heart of the Bretton Woods system so that resources can be channelled to those furthest behind.

Building on that was the representative of Chile, who underlined the need to address the structural causes of poverty, which requires promoting equal opportunities, ensuring access to education and health care and creating decent jobs.  Further, overcoming poverty requires transforming systems and structures that perpetuate inequality.

The representative of the Universal Esperanto Association, echoing that, stressed that language cannot be ignored in efforts to leave no one behind.  Equal access to justice will prove elusive so long as linguistic discrimination continues, and inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making will be impossible unless all voices can be heard.

Concluding, Mr. MONTALVO urged enhanced coordination between various bodies working on separate issues.  Mr. LOPEZ-CALVA pointed out that a “liveable planet” is a broad concept that includes issues relating to fragility, conflict, pandemics and climate. Ms. KEITA stressed that “without data, we go nowhere”.  Ms. ALBRITO said that investment in resilience and prevention results in development that lasts longer.

Panel 2

Next, Mr. RAKHMETULLIN moderated the panel discussion “Resilient and sustainable food systems”.  The panellists included:  Noemí Espinoza Madrid, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Honduras in China, and Chair of the Commission on Population and Development at its fifty-seventh session; Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); and Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  

Ms. MADRID, stressing the connection between demographic trends and food systems, called for “a human rights approach to food”. The world currently produces enough food for the entire population, she said, highlighting the “crisis of waste”. The paradox is that those who are the most vulnerable are the ones who produce food but they find it difficult to access adequate nutrition.  Given that the world population is going to increase another 500 million by 2030, while also dealing with the effect of changing food production patterns, inclusive and equitable development is key.  Member States must create a comprehensive path to that, she said, adding that this will not be possible without multilateralism. 

Drawing attention to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)’s Plan for Food and Nutrition Security and the Eradication of Hunger 2025, she said it aims to increase solidarity in eliminating hunger and reducing malnutrition.  More responsible consumption patterns are also important, she said, adding that human rights, especially gender equality, is another key element.  Food security for all people is the foundation for human sustainability, and without “caring for our house”, namely the planet, it is impossible to achieve that.  The world is at key juncture, and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Underscoring that it provides clear and holistic solutions, she said:  “Food is not a privilege.”

Mr. TORERO, calling for convergence, stressed the urgent need for synergistic multi-stakeholder collaboration to move towards more sustainable, equitable and resilient agri-food systems.  The international community must bring forth a “transformational partnership” that is flexible enough to meet complex challenges in changing circumstances. Reaffirming FAO’s support for that, he pointed out that conflict is one of the major causes of high levels of hunger and acute food insecurity.  Further, climate change is exacerbating food insecurity through high temperatures, lack of water, excess of water and variability of climate variables, which makes it more difficult for farmers to make decisions. 

Pointing to the economic slowdowns and downturns caused by COVID-19, he said the agri-food system operates under uncertainty and is facing significant shocks all the time.  To ensure an abundance of good food today and tomorrow, climate financing should be invested in the transformation of agri-food systems.  “We are today violating six of the nine planetary boundaries,” he said, and should expect to move into an era of frequent shocks.  Resilience is essential, but the first element of resilience is to prevent.  That requires early warning tools with predictive power, but also insurance — “catastrophic insurance” will be essential given the frequency of shock events, he underscored.  Another element of resilience is the capacity of absorption and that will require scaling up climate resilience across agri-food systems.  Noting that water scarcity will be a major challenge in the future, he also called for peacebuilding efforts linked to livelihood support.

Mr. ABDI, noting that, today, almost 200 million children under five are still affected by undernutrition, also pointed to the growing epidemic of overweight and obesity now affecting almost 400 million children and adolescents.  This “double burden of malnutrition” is largely driven by the failure of food systems, which are failing to provide children with sufficient, affordable, nutritious foods, but also increasingly aggressively exposing them to unhealthy food products, very high in sugar, salt, fats, and other harmful ingredients.  The food systems transformation agenda called for by the Secretary-General is a child rights agenda which needs to address this double failure.  It must simultaneously improve access to nutritious and affordable food, while also halting aggressive marketing of cheap, nutrient-poor, ultra-processed foods and beverages, he said.

Further, he added, it is vital to move the global and national food security discourse away from food aid and more towards the nutritional security of the most vulnerable.  Highlighting the three key action areas identified by the Fund, he said the first is to improve children’s foods and diets, through actions in public policy, guidelines and standards, and food supply chains.  Equally vital is the need to improve children’s food environments, including the places where children live, learn, eat and meet.  The final action area is children’s feeding practices, he said, stressing the need to promote positive individual behaviours, caregiver practices and social norms. 

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Chile said that improving food systems is an ethical and practical imperative.  Good food improves the quality of life throughout the life cycle and healthy children study better while healthier older people have a better life. Expressing his country’s commitment to all parts of the sustainable development agenda, and especially to developing equitable food systems, he said his country has invested in structural measures, social infrastructure and citizen participation.  Stressing the importance of an ecosystem of international cooperation, he added that “we need to roll up our sleeves”. 

Responding, Ms. MADRID said that sustainable development agenda contains all the elements just talked about.  Emphasizing the importance of a holistic approach, she said it is necessary to meet current challenges and prepare for the future.  Calling on all Member States to reaffirm commitment to sustainable development, she said that it is time to step up efforts. 

Mr. TORERO added that reducing poverty is complicated, and not many countries have been able to accomplish that.  The way to achieve this ambitious goal is by reducing inequality:  “There is no other way,” he said.  Inclusivity is key to every one of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The global public is responsible for sustainable development and it is vital to change the discourse itself by emphasizing food security.  Energy systems and food systems need fundamental changes, he pointed out, noting that agriculture is harder to reform than industry.  This imbalance needs to be corrected, he added.

Panel 3

The Council then held a panel discussion on “Sustainable, resilient and innovative solutions to advance climate action”.  Moderated by Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, it featured presentations by: Ana Cristina Amoroso das Neves, Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development at its twenty-seventh session; Ligia Noronha, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Jorge Moreira da Silva, Executive Director, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS); and Sarah Hendriks, Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Programme, Civil Society and Intergovernmental Support, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

Ms. AMOROSO DAS NEVES said that green technologies play an important role in accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and combating climate change.  However, seizing their benefits is not automatic, and the response to “green windows of opportunity” in renewable-energy technology is influenced by the maturity of that technology, she said.  Mature technologies, such as solar-photovoltaic and biomass energy, are well-tested and can be adopted by latecomers.  However, these markets may be difficult to enter since incumbents have developed efficient production processes and are therefore able to trade internationally at more-competitive prices.  Immature technologies, on the other hand — such as green hydrogen — present more opportunities for newcomers to disrupt the industry, but they demand greater research-and-development capability that developing countries often do not have.  Noting that there is no lack of solutions for climate action, she stressed that the challenge lies in the diffusion of these technologies among countries.

Ms. NORONHA, underlining the importance of climate action for accelerating progress across the SDGs, said that inclusive partnerships are vital for the success of climate-action initiatives.  This is particularly true when they are rights-based and supported by political leadership and adequate resources. Detailing UNEP’s focus on investment in science, she said the Programme works to advance sectoral solutions through policy, technology, the standardization of building codes, transport efficiency and finance with an emphasis on just transitions.  Such work focuses on six sectors:  energy, transport, agriculture, building and construction, forests and nature-based solutions.  She also reported on UNEP’s efforts to build capacity in support of the Paris Agreement on climate change through public-private finance flows aligned with the goals of that instrument.

Mr. MOREIRA DA SILVA recalled the list of imperatives from the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference [Twenty-eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]:  Doubling energy efficiency, tripling renewable energy, accelerating the phasing-out of coal, transitioning away from fossil fuels, doubling finance for adaptation and establishing new commitments on climate finance.  Noting, however, that conversations are often rooted in policy and finance, he underscored the need to address capacities for implementation. This is particularly relevant in the energy sector, as 92 per cent of all SDGs depend on infrastructure.  He pointed out that 80 per cent of current emissions relate to infrastructure and, unless this is decarbonized, the world will not reach its climate goals.  A focus on resilient, sustainable infrastructure is therefore crucial, he stressed, also spotlighting the need to ensure access in the context of the energy sector.

Ms. HENDRIKS, pointing out that women and girls in the poorest countries often bear the greatest cost due to climate change, said that UN-Women works to collect and amplify data to “sound the alarm on this truth”.  Women are assuming greater burdens to ensure their households have food and water amidst growing scarcity, and they also face escalating gender-based violence as economic conditions worsen.  Further, data from the Asia-Pacific region shows that, as places become more arid, rates of early and forced child marriage are rising.  Incremental, hard-fought progress on gender equality is also under threat.  Stressing, however, that this data also stands beside the innovation, expertise, commitment and courage of women and girls demanding urgent action, she called for efforts to unlock finance and space for women’s organizations to be heard and heeded.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers presented national efforts to address climate change and offered suggestions for future action in this area.

The representative of Suriname, pointing out that her country is one of only three carbon-negative countries in the world, said that it intends to remain so even with new developments in the oil and gas sectors.  Further, Suriname aims to be one of the first countries to sell carbon credits under the new Paris Agreement scheme.

The representative of Poland said that building resilience requires better cooperation between Governments, the scientific community, the private sector, civil society and local authorities.  He also said that building resilience through infrastructure is essential for minimizing the negative impact of shocks on the provision of basic services.

The representative of Slovenia detailed projects in which his country is involved, including the acquisition of microsatellite imagery of critical ecosystems and the preparation of digital twin models. This will enable analysis of the interaction between water, soil, vegetation and human infrastructure in terrestrial marine and river ecosystems, which will facilitate optimized ecosystem management.

The representative of Colombia, stressing the need to change “the way we produce and consume”, also called for a review of the international financial system because “rather than promoting us, it is penalizing us”.  It is therefore necessary to address the limited fiscal space that all developing countries experience.

The representative of Indonesia, on that, said her country works to explore innovative financing methods.  Spotlighting her country’s floating solar power plant — the largest in South-East Asia — she said this exemplifies cooperation between stakeholders for climate action.  She also urged the Council to use its resources and expertise to strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships.

The representative of Egypt, meanwhile, emphasized that the “elephant in the room” when discussing climate action is implementation. For developing countries to achieve a just transition, the international community must focus on building adaptation and resilience in such States.

Concluding, Ms. AMOROSO DAS NEVES observed that “another elephant in the room” is coordination among the different committees and agencies within the UN system.  Ms. NORONHA stressed that “development is the best adaptor”, urging investment in health, agricultural and education systems.  Mr. MOREIRA DA SILVA underscored that infrastructure should be at the centre of discussions concerning financing for development.  Ms. HENDRIKS pointed out that the transition to low-carbon, sustainable economies provides an opportunity to address persistent inequalities in labour markets.

Panel 4

Mr. RAKHMETULLIN moderated the final panel discussion for the day, “Effective, strong and responsive institutions to achieve the SDGs and the future we want”.  The panellists included:  Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Chancellor of Nelson Mandela University and Chair of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration at its twenty-second session; Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Sarah E. Hendriks, Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Programme, Civil Society, and Intergovernmental Support, UN-Women.

Ms. FRASER-MOLEKETI, referring to previous remarks about elephants in the room, called on the international community to learn from the long memory of elephants and their matriarchal cultures.  It is crucial to use the Sustainable Development Goals as a policy framework for the future, she said, calling for stronger references to individual Goals in country-specific development strategies and national development plans.  Such strategies and plans must emphasize both economic growth and solid social policy support to fight hunger, poverty and climate change.  Coordination is crucial across the United Nations system, and within countries, and across the different spheres of Government, such as local, provincial and national, she said.

“A competent and engaged public service workforce can make all the difference,” she said, adding that this calls for capacity development, as well as changing cultures and mindsets.  Further, it is necessary to ensure that the Goals are central to not only national planning but also to budgets.  Gender-based budgeting should not be seen as “that parallel extra thing”, she said, adding that agile, data-driven institutions can improve preparedness and resilience.  “We know that the trust of citizens is undermined in times of crisis”, she said, pointing out that its essential to consider intra-country crises. “Even this august multilateral organization” is at risk of factionalization, she added.

Mr. STEINER, continuing the elephant theme, recalled the proverb:  “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffer.”  Pointing out that policy discussions often end up being arguments about things that are not worth arguing about, he said there is wide-spread agreement that effective institutions are essential for inclusive societies.  With people questioning the very institutions that they want to rely on for peace and justice, the vital social capital inherent in Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) is being eroded, he said, recalling the pandemic debates about whether vaccines were trustworthy. 

Stressing the importance of reliable data, he said the Goal 16 progress report contains a data set on all its indicators.  This data must be used to mobilize cooperation, because coordination across sectors is key to strengthening institutions.  And while that is “not exactly a profound insight”, it is no less relevant, he added.  Noting that some SDGs were written without gender in mind, he said gender equality is a crucial tool for public institutions.  Also stressing the importance of capacity-building, he said “countries don’t need to be told what their problems are today”; rather, they need support anticipating the future and taking decisions accordingly today.

Ms. HENDRIKS, noting that the “thread of trust” runs throughout the panel discussion, said it is crucial to renew the social contract between Governments and their people and within societies.  Stressing the need for a comprehensive vision of human rights, she said the escalating crises of the moment has a disproportionate impact on women's lives.  Hundreds of millions of women and girls are right now living in poverty, she said, adding that UN-Women’s data says that there will be another 236 million women and girls living in poverty and vulnerable to food insecurity by the year 2050. 

Stressing the importance of financing, she called on financial institutions to be oriented towards serving women and girls.  Long-standing inefficiencies in the financial public system have become more evident in this era of intersecting crises, she said, adding that any reforms to global financial safety nets and the international tax system must be geared towards poverty eradication with a gender lens.  In that regard, gender-responsive budgeting and robust, flexible support for women’s organizations are crucial, she added.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers stressed the importance of restoring public trust and asked how public institutions can adapt to the current moment of poly-crisis. 

The representative of Nigeria said that public institutions in his country are doing all they can to create an enabling environment for its citizens.  However, poverty is an existential threat, he said, adding that his Government is taking steps to tackle food insecurity.  The honest truth is that public institutions do not exist in isolation; they exist within the international community.  No matter how sincere policies can be, without concerted international cooperation, those policies can be futile.  Eradication of poverty should be at the centre of the “Pact for the Future”, he stressed.

A representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) said that transformative policies are crucial to accelerate the achievement of Goal 16.  Industry is the main beneficiary, as well as a key source of science and technology innovation, he said, adding that innovative systems approaches should be integrated into policy formulation. 

Responding, MR. STEINER, stressing that it is crucial to invest in institutions that will enable African countries to trade freely and effectively, highlighted the African Continental Free Trade Area.  The Sustainable Development Public sector skill sets should shift towards systems thinking, he said, calling for a transition from single-issue problem-solving to systemic transformation in multiple fronts. 

Ms. FRASER-MOLEKETI said that public institutions need to be agile to create an enabling public environment for productivity.  Highlighting the Committee of Experts on Public Administration’s policy briefs, she said that it is facilitating peer exchanges on the principles of public administration among its member countries in Africa.

Ms. HENDRIKS added that United Nations institutions must work to become relevant for the future by strengthening their foresight analytics skill.  “This is a muscle that needs to be built within staffing,” she said, describing it as the ability to perceive what the future might look like and identify the critical scenarios, policies and actions that will be necessary in that future. 

Also speaking during the interactive discussion were the representatives of Bulgaria and Indonesia, as well as a speaker from the International Development Law Organization.

For information media. Not an official record.