Home » General » ECOSOC: High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Note:  A complete summary of today's Economic and Social Council meeting will be available after its conclusion.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of Economic and Social Council, noted that the current session was the second since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the first since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 70/299, which had finalized the guidance on that Agenda’s follow-up and review.  It was also the first session of the High-Level Political Forum that would discuss in-depth a set of Sustainable Development Goals — namely, Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14 — alongside Goal 17 on partnerships, which would be discussed every year.  In addition, the session’s theme, “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”, was particularly pertinent as poverty remained “one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

“There are high expectations from this global institution and it is our duty to ensure that the [Forum] lives up to them,” he said, underlining the importance of linking the planned presentations of 44 countries with the 2030 Agenda’s integrated nature.  Each session on the Sustainable Development Goals would begin with a short statistical presentation leading to presentations by panellists on identifying challenges and progress and suggesting recommendations and possible solutions.  Keynote speakers would then discuss “where we are” in year two of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  The 2017 theme would be discussed through the lens of ways in which the multiple dimensions of poverty and inequality were being addressed in countries in special situations.  Spotlighting the importance of the regional dimension, he said this morning’s panel discussion would enable the Forum to take that aspect into account in the rest of its deliberations.

Introduction of Report

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, then introduced a report of the Secretary-General entitled, “progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals” (document E/2017/66).  Noting that the 2030 Agenda recognized the international community’s common responsibility to address deprivations and ensure sustainable development for all, he stressed that “our aspirations touch all lives” and “we remain accountable to all people and to each other.”  The Forum provided the global platform to make that happen, he said, noting that an unprecedented number of stakeholders — some 2,400 — had registered to participate in the session and 44 countries planned to present their voluntary national reviews.

Outlining some of the main findings of the Secretary-General’s report — which reflected the 2030 Agenda’s integrated nature by addressing, and then bridging, all the Goals under review — he drew attention to its basis in the new indicator framework adopted by the Statistical Commission in March, the Economic and Social Council in June and the General Assembly last week.  “I am struck by how far we have come and also how far we have left to go,” he said.  While nearly 1 billion people around the world had escaped extreme poverty since 1999, over 760 million still had lived on less than $1.90 per day in 2013, with many of the extreme poor were concentrated in regions where fragility, conflict and other challenges made interventions harder.  Many also lived in pockets of poverty in otherwise robust economies.

While maternal mortality had declined dramatically in recent years, he continued, achieving the relevant global targets by 2030 would require more than double the current rate of progress.  Gender inequality persisted worldwide, depriving women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities, and close to one fifth of women between 15 and 49 reporting having experienced some form of violence from a partner in the preceding 12 months.  Challenges still remained in protecting the world’s oceans, with a recent drop in global sea ice to the second‑lowest level in recorded history.  Noting that the impacts of those challenges were faced disproportionately by the poor — who often relied directly on the world’s natural resources — he went on to underscore the urgency of ending hunger and malnutrition, and ensuring universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.  Indeed, around 155 million children under the age of 5 were growth‑stunted and 11 per cent of the world’s population still suffered from hunger.

Identifying a number of critical opportunities, he highlighted the importance of building new and resilient infrastructure and fostering innovation, pointing to a number of positive signals in global investment levels and the share of official development assistance (ODA) devoted to infrastructure.  Nevertheless, there were also signs that a stronger commitment to partnerships was needed, with ODA levels falling by more than 3 per cent from 2015 to 2016 in real terms.  “The evidence is clear and it shows us the direction we need to take,” he said, emphasizing that local, national, regional and global efforts must be better connected and stakeholders must avoid working in silos.  A stronger role was also needed for science, technologies and innovations that could help to accelerate progress.

Remarks by Major Groups and Stakeholders

VIVANIA DITUKANA TATAWAQA, Diverse Voices and Action for Equality — Fiji, and major group for women, said that, as a young woman from the global South, she was speaking to the Forum at a time when the world faced profound climate, ecological and political crises, which the international community possessed the ability to address and end.  The Forum must pursue robust, transparent and real transformation and change.  Numerous public-private partnerships among Governments, organizations and societies were already building long-term solutions to those challenges.  Real strategies must be put in place and inadequate responses must be rejected.  The roles of multiple actors, including civil society, must be clearly and substantively reflected in the Ministerial Declaration, as well as in its implementation.  The Forum should be the space to hear about challenges and structural barriers that could not be easily solved at the national level so that global solutions could be identified.  However, she feared that the Forum was failing in its mandate to provide space for accountability.  The major groups and other stakeholders’ consortium had worked for a higher standard for participation and accountability at every step of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The world was far from achieving the 2030 Agenda because Governments were still not willing to address existing structural barriers, she continued, calling for efforts to address the prevalence of financial, trade and wealth concentration, land and resource grabbing and other unsustainable practices.  Policy coherence should also be pursued to move away from systems that prioritized corporate power above the well-being of people and the planet.  Developed countries must fulfil their financing for development commitments, and efforts must be made to ensure coherence between the 2030 Agenda and binding instruments, including on trade and human rights, to ensure that public interests were no co‑opted for corporate gain.  Governments must meet their human rights obligations in areas including health, housing, education, decent work and living wages, among others.  Stressing the importance of gender equality, she called for mainstreaming of gender issues across all policy plans.  Expressing concern that by 2030, it was estimated that there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans, she said the further exploitation of the ocean must end.  Leaders should not be speaking about sustainable development while rolling back progress on climate change.

Keynote Speakers

ROBERT JOHNSON, President of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, delivered a keynote address, described the Sustainable Development Goals as “an important navigation system” that would help drive the international community as it pursued a sustainable future.  Capital markets were not “magical carriers of goodness”, but tools that reflected the desires of those with purchasing power — while Governments were not “magical entities”, but structures that needed to be informed by the desires of those they governed, he said, warning that today local governance was overwhelmed by global forces and lacked sensitivity to people’s needs.  Those “dangerous discontents” — in which the global system had not been designed to serve less-advanced economies — were now bringing dysfunction to those systems.  However, such challenges were not inevitable as those systems were entirely human-made and could still be corrected.

Outlining the benefits and drawbacks of various regional economic strategies, he described current efforts to set up a “Commission for Global Economic Transformation” aimed at addressing, among other things, challenges related to the production and pricing of new forms of energy.  Spotlighting the importance of Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, he warned that the “dreadful dysfunction” of gender discrimination and inequality could not be reversed simply by acknowledging it.  True healing, and particularly uncovering the anxieties of the perpetrators, was critical, he said, encouraging the Forum to make that issue one of its top priorities going forward.  On another urgent issue, Goal 14 on “Life Below Water”, he underlined the connection between the current devastation in the world’s oceans and poverty among its many coastal communities.

SAKIKO FUKUDA-PARR, Vice-Chair of the Committee for Development Policy and Professor of International Affairs at The New School, cautioned that a holistic approach to reviewing progress on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation would be more effective than evaluating the implementation of the individual Goals.  Such analysis must be based on both quantitative and qualitative data, she said, pointing out that the new 2030 Agenda had created a new paradigm in development and a new theory of change.  What was particularly new was that the various development policies were integrated into a single agenda and that civil society, national Governments and the private sector played a critical role.  While the demand for data was very high, the indicator framework was still a work in progress.

Drawing attention to the 2030 Agenda’s priority on strengthening the capacity of data collection, she said not enough was being done in that respect, especially in developing countries.  Calling for more attention to national statistical agencies, in particular with regard to Tier 3 of the framework’s indicators, she also underlined the need to add disaggregation by ethnic groups, minorities, sex and other important factors.  She also noted that many of the current indicators only partially reflected targets or goals and were sometimes too narrowly focused, pointing to a number of sharp criticisms from non‑governmental organizations in that regard.  Among other things, several such groups had expressed concern that the 2030 Agenda’s official monitoring and reporting arrangements omitted measurements of progress on some of its most ambitious propositions, as many of those were included in Tier 3.  Citing much discussion about “new data from new sources using new methodologies”, she said their usefulness remained an open question and could pose challenges to the accessibility, accountability and priority setting of national statistical agencies.

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