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Economic and Social Council: Special meeting on innovations for infrastructure development and promoting sustainable industrialization

Note: Following is a partial summary of today's special meeting of the Economic and Social Council. After the conclusion of the afternoon meeting, a complete summary will be available by close of business today as Press Release ECOSOC/6845.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, in opening remarks on the theme “An Integrated Approach to Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 9” said that in his travels across Africa, he had seen how limited access to reliable transportation, energy and communication could restrict people’s opportunities.  At the same time, he said, he was amazed by the region’s desire to create and innovate.  Recalling that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognized the importance of industrialization and innovation for eradicating poverty and expanding opportunities, especially for the world’s poorest, he said progress on Goal 9 would have a ripple effect on other Goals regarding poverty, hunger, health, education, water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, and sustainable cities and communities.

Today’s meeting would engage high-level representatives from key sectors and stakeholder groups with respect to Goal 9 in order to forge recommendations and propose practical steps for the Council to support and move forward, he said.  Recalling the preparatory meetings that took place in Dakar, Senegal, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, on “Innovations for infrastructure development and sustainable industrialization” and “Agriculture and agro-industries development towards sustainable and resilient food systems” respectively, he said the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had identified two important initiatives that they would announce in their respective interventions.  Their proposals — the Programme for Country Partnership and the Accelerated Agriculture and Agro-industry Development Initiative PLUS known as 3ADI+ — best reflected what the United Nations and its partners could do when working in tandem.

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said infrastructure development and sustainable industrialization, captured by Sustainable Development Goal 9, served a catalytic and cross-cutting role across the 2030 Agenda and the other 16 Goals.  With sufficient investment, when innovatively and effectively planned and implemented, infrastructure and industrialization could have enormous multidimensional benefits, being key tools for achieving poverty eradication and sustainable development.  Access to those tools and the promotion of sustainable industrialization was essential for inclusiveness.

Achieving it, he said, would require new ways of thinking and working, moving beyond “business as usual” in technology, policymaking and how poverty was addressed and the Goals achieved.  Challenges included the current global infrastructure gap, which was being addressed by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda’s Global Infrastructure Forum.  There was ample space for collective action to fill the infrastructure financing gap, estimated to be about $1.5 trillion annually in developing countries.  National projects needed to be financed by domestic resource mobilization, focused official development assistance (ODA), private investment and other sources and channels.  Leadership, policy integration and coordination were needed at all levels.  Additional challenges were urbanization and the importance of building and applying effective technology for resilient infrastructure and industrialization in rural areas.

“Now is the time to take action,” he said, pointing to elements such as integrated policy advice, capacity-building, partnerships, information and data on infrastructure for follow-up and review, and engagement of relevant stakeholders.  Multi-stakeholder engagement should be supported, with a focus on development banks and the private sector.  An evidence-based approach was instrumental to support policy evaluation.  The United Nations supported the institutionalization of resilient, sustainable, inclusive and equitable infrastructure and industrialization across the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental.  The Economic and Social Council, including its forums and segments, served to identify trends, analyse and affirm policy options and forge policy integration, thus supporting an effective follow-up and review of progress towards resilient infrastructure and industrialization.

Keynote Addresses

LI YONG, Director-General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said that at the Dakar and Victoria Falls preparatory meetings, there was a consensus that structural transformation through industrialization was a pathway towards poverty eradication.  Empirical evidence demonstrated that that consensus was warranted.  Countries and regions which had successfully developed their manufacturing sectors had made spectacular progress in reducing poverty, including among women and young people.  Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people living in poverty in East Asia and the Pacific had declined from 1 billion to 71 million.  In sub-Saharan Africa, although poverty numbers had increased, there were signs of progress, he said, citing the creation of 50,000 decent permanent formal jobs in the textile and garment sector in Ethiopia and an influx of $300 million of foreign direct investment into landlocked Rwanda.

Such success stories demonstrated that industrialization could be an engine of growth, but for the least-developed countries, the road ahead was long, he said.  Most of those countries lacked the capacity to meet social and environmental standards, while infrastructure remained a critical missing piece of the puzzle, with 1.1 billion people — many of them in sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries in Asia — lacking electricity.  The international community, including the United Nations system, could play a critical role in helping those countries to overcome such challenges, he said, citing UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnership and FAO’s African Agribusiness and Agro-industry Development Initiative known as 3ADI.

He described the UNIDO Programme as an innovative model for accelerating inclusive industrial development, with Ethiopia, Senegal and Peru participating as pilot countries.  UNIDO was assisting them in setting up integrated industrial parks where small producers could add value to their export-oriented products.  For example, UNIDO had provided a master plan for an industrial park in the south of Ethiopia that would create 134,000 new jobs, particularly among women and young people.  For its part, 3ADI sought to speed up the development of the agro-industrial sector by supporting investment programmes.  As a result of the Victoria Falls meeting, it was proposed that the 3ADI initiative be scaled up, to be known going forward as 3ADI+, underpinned by a value-added approach.  “The only thing we need now is action, action, action, and we need to deliver now,” he said, announcing that the General Assembly would hold a high-level meeting in September on the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa and that UNIDO would expand the Programme for Country Partnership by seeking a few more countries to participate in it.

JOSÉ GRAZIANO DA SILVA, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said, in a video message, that agro-industry was fundamental to achieving Goal 9 and other global goals on poverty eradication and ending hunger.  The recent Zimbabwe meeting had identified critical constraints, including limited access to finance and a lack of coordination of activities.  FAO would continue to support the Economic and Social Council to advance the outcome of the Victoria Falls meeting and enhance cooperation with key partners.

General Discussion

JONATHAN VIERA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said developing countries were the most affected by the lack of sustainable and resilient infrastructure.  At the same time, they faced serious financing challenges.  The result was a wider global infrastructure gap, he said.  Technical assistance and capacity-building needed to be channelled urgently to developing countries, which also required increased access to technology transfer on favourable terms.  He went on to emphasize the need for urgent action to bridge the technological divide, including a strengthening of the international intellectual property regime and full operationalization of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries.

“Without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting to a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries,” he said.  Those countries needed adequate policy space for their industrialization and development efforts, he said, appealing to industrialized partners not to kick away the ladder upon which they had climbed to their current level of industrialization.  Developing countries needed an enabling global environment to complement their national efforts in achieving inclusive and sustainable industrial development, he added.

LIU JIEYI (China), also speaking on behalf of Brazil, Russian Federation, India and South Africa, said the international community must support industrialization and mass entrepreneurship while assisting the growth of small-, micro- and medium-sized businesses to improve progress in developing countries.  With a view that industrialization could improve people’s lives and encourage economic growth, the Group encouraged assistance to create a favourable policy environment for innovation and enabling conditions for entrepreneurship.

He said attention must focus on building infrastructure, including roads, information and communications technology and electricity, and developing countries must be supported to be able to seize the opportunity to transform industry in ways that would achieve sustainable development.  Mobility of professionals and workers also needed to be facilitated.  For its part, the Group had already achieved positive results, including the establishment of a development bank to promote progress among least developed countries and to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

TAREQ MD. ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said one of the major challenges to unlocking the potential of vulnerable States was a lack of adequate resilient infrastructure, which hampered economic diversification and social development.  Industrial development was critically important for structural transformation, employment generation and sustained economic growth.  Raising several concerns, he said the value-added share of manufacturing among the Group’s members had remained stagnant for the last decade.  While the Istanbul Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda had addressed existing financing gaps, he said the state of science, technology and innovation remained poor, with disparities between least developed countries and the rest of the world.

Public-private partnerships, he said, were an effective method to address that divide, with regional infrastructure projects, including in transport, energy and tourism, providing additional benefits.  While the global market’s various venture capital and pension funds could be a significant financing source for Sustainable Development Goal-related infrastructure projects, the main challenge was the long-term nature of returns.  Therefore, packaging infrastructure projects to make them attractive from a profitability perspective was an important first step, coupled with increased engagement between States with bankable projects and the managers, owners and shareholders of those financial resources.  Relevant United Nations agencies and other stakeholders could help least developed countries to address that aspect and continue to support financing-related projects.

Least developed countries must take appropriate steps to significantly increase inclusive and environmentally friendly industrialization with a view to enhancing the share of manufacturing in their total economic basket and diversifying local productive and export capability, he said.  “Modern infrastructure development, seamless access to energy, market access for products and increased foreign direct investment can play a catalytic role in fostering industrialization,” he said.  Innovation and access to modern technology were also vitally important for rapid industrialization.

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International Cooperation to End Tax Crimes Crucial for Achieving Sustainable Growth Agenda, Speakers Say as Development Financing Forum Concludes

The global movement under way to stamp out international tax fraud was central to ending the booming illegal cross-border flow of money and capital obstructing realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Economic and Social Council heard today, as it wrapped up its Forum on Financing for Development follow-up with a series of expert panel discussions and related events.

Since the financial crisis, there had been a growing awareness of international tax crimes, said Eric C. Hylton, Executive Director of International Operations for the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in the United States, during an expert discussion on “Promoting international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development”.

“This has never been the case in my 20 something years,” Mr. Hylton said, stressing that since 2009, the Internal Revenue Service had aggressively pursued international finance institutions helping people from the United States evade taxes.  The Service’s forensics accountants were experts at following the money, he emphasized, specializing in illicit financial flows, international criminal tax evasion and money-laundering.

Illicit finance and tax evasion was an area in which the Service could help Governments increase revenue, he stressed, adding:  “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have development aid if it’s coming in one door and going out the other,” he said, describing it as a national security issue and noting that two thirds of criminal activity related to tax evasion.

Tax avoidance was central to illicit financial flows and hindered gross domestic product (GDP) particularly in lower-income countries, said Alex Cobham, Director of the Tax Justice Network.  Financial secrecy underpinned every major corruption and tax abuse case around the world, from the British Virgin Islands to Delaware, characterized by opaque corporate accounting that covered profit shifting and tax avoidance.

“We see increasingly, not least within the ongoing process to develop targets in the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts to remove multinational tax avoidance from the definition of illicit financial flows,” he said.

In 2007, the Network created a Financial Secrecy Index that identified jurisdictions, like Switzerland, as central to producing corrupt flows elsewhere, he said.  While the United States had worked to break the Swiss commitment to banking secrecy, international cooperation was essential to require a fully multilateral approach.

In the last 50 years, illicit financial flows had cost sub-Saharan African countries $528 billion, lamented S.O. Olaniyan, Deputy Director, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, who added that his country was losing an estimated $15.7 billion annually, more than what the continent received in official development assistance (ODA).

Domestic resource mobilization was the most crucial element to national sustainable development efforts, which could be achieved by blocking illicit financial flows that were aided by bad governance, corruption and weak institutions, he stressed.  In that context, it was imperative for African countries to overhaul their financial services and investment engineering.

The question of why Africa was among the richest continents in terms of natural resources but poorest in terms of income had led to a 2010 event in Malawi, said Adam Elhiraika, Director, Macroeconomic Policy Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), adding that a High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows, chaired by Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, was formed afterward.

The Panel’s main finding was that Africa lost $80 billion annually and resources must be better managed, while State capacity must be improved, he said.  Furthermore, the Panel had found that 65 per cent of illicit financial flows out of Africa were due to abusive trade mispricing, while 30 per cent were due to criminal activities and 5 per cent due to outright corruption.

During the day, the Council also held an expert round table on “Trade, science, technology, innovation and capacity-building” and an expert discussion on “The specific challenges to finance sustainable development for countries in special situations”.

In addition, the Council held an interactive dialogue with civil society, the business sector and other stakeholders and received updates on the outcomes of the forums mandated by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as key voluntary initiatives launched at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.

At the end of the meeting, the Forum approved its draft report and the Council President, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), made closing remarks.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Expert Round Table I

The first expert round table under the theme “Trade, science, technology, innovation and capacity-building” was moderated by Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) New York Office.  The panellists included:  Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework, Nepal; Mark Henderson, Directorate General for Trade, European Commission; Sirimali Fernando, Chairperson, National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka; and Joon Kim, Head of Global Trade, BNY Mellon.

Ms. CARPENTIER noted there had been a persistent slowdown in global trade growth, as the world was experiencing its slowest decade of trade growth in 70 years.  At the same time, slowing international trade had raised concerns about “de-globalization” and had been compounded by political scrutiny of trade, especially in Europe and North America, where trade had taken on a central role in a number of electoral contests, creating divisions between those who were pro- and anti-globalization.  From the perspective of UNCTAD, too much of the trade focused on rules and negotiations, giving the impression that trade could not promote development unless there were rules changes.  The role of technology in financing for development was also at risk with a deepening digital divide, which had manifested itself in a sharpening digital economy divide.  Whether the dislocation of jobs and the painful economic adjustment many countries were experiencing in recent decades was due to expanding international trade or to technological changes was central to the debate about globalization.

Mr. ADHIKARI noted that the Enhanced Integrated Framework was a small global development programme dedicated to the least developed countries and others that had recently graduated from that status.  The Framework represented a partnership of major international actors, working in collaboration with the World Bank, the United Nations, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and others.  To date, it had funded more than 150 projects with a total of $200 million.  The global community had recognized trade as key to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as it was directly related to at least 11 targets under nine of the Sustainable Development Goals, and was indirectly related to nearly all of the Goals.  Much more must be done to boost the trade capacities of the least developed countries, which suffered from poor infrastructure, outdated technology, limited access to finance and low production capacities.  It was important to continue to ensure that investment in aid for trade worked towards development that was sustainable in the long term.  The Framework had also worked to help build more resilience, diversified production capacities and structural transformation for States that had recently graduated from least developed status.

Mr. HENDERSON said there were many examples of how the European Union’s trade policy contributed to development through bilateral and regional trade agreements.  The bloc continued to be the largest donor of aid for trade, with more than €12 billion in 2014.  The stronger the trade investment relations the Union had with partners, the more it could tailor its aid offers.  Such partnerships worked and helped countries boost exports towards higher-yield arrangements.  He recalled that zero tariff arrangements had allowed for greater recognition of the key role of trade as one of the means of implementation for the Goals, as established by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 17.  But the Unions’ efforts did not stop there.  Its “Trade for All” was the first policy adopted after agreement had been reached on the 2030 Agenda, and laid out the specific means through which the Union’s trade policy would directly support and reinforce sustainable development.

Ms. FERNANDO emphasized that Sri Lanka’s current trade environment was of some concern.  The majority of the country’s exports were made up of commodity items and low-technology products, which highlighted the need to move towards higher-end technologies.  The country hoped to increase high-tech exports from the current level of 1 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020.  Sri Lanka recognized the imperative of trade and had put in place a science, technology and innovation strategy that was geared towards rapid socioeconomic development.  The strategy took into account the need for economic development, social justice and environmental quality through capacity-building and technological entrepreneurship.  Investment was needed in research and development and a scaling up of technology, which would then result in industrial and commercial production, and finally, market penetration.  Skills, infrastructure, systems and processes would all need to be financed and developed.

Mr. JOON noted that the relationship between trade and finance had been traversing a challenging landscape over the last few years, although bankers were doing everything possible to promote trade finance going forward.  Since the financial crisis, bankers were trying to “derisk”, which was an effort to move away from particular countries or regions once doing business there became less cost-efficient.  Part of that dynamic was due to increased costs associated with changes made to the regulatory landscape.  There were significant impediments to trade finance, including low country credit ratings and regulatory requirements.  Bankers were trying to innovate and provide technology solutions so that trade transactions could be done in the most efficient manner.  There was no question that trade finance was operating in a challenging environment, but with the right collaborative effort whereby the bankers were working in harmony with other stakeholders, there could be a bright future in the trade finance arena.

In the ensuing discussion, a member of civil society expressed concern that the financing for development conversation had focused primarily on the private sector and failed to take into account the situation of workers.  In response to a question from the representative of Mexico on how the move towards higher-end technologies impacted human capital, Ms. FERNANDO noted that at the outset, her country had to develop programmes to scale up the capacities of workers, adding that one positive development was that the country had been able to bring back some of their highly skilled expatriates thanks to new high-tech jobs that had been created.  A representative of the business sector stressed that trade was a powerful vehicle for sustainable development and supported broad deployment of innovative technologies.  In response to a question from the representative of Algeria on the growing trend towards protectionism, Mr. JOON said that the creation of more restrictive trade measures had resulted in many businesses focusing more inward on domestic opportunities.

Also speaking were the representatives of Chile, Nepal and the International Trade Centre.

Expert Discussion I

The Forum then began an expert discussion on “Promoting international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development”.  Moderated by Simone Monasebian, Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), New York Office, it featured presentations by:  Eric C. Hylton, Executive Director, International Operations, Internal Revenue Service — Criminal Investigations, United States; S.O. Olaniyan, Deputy Director, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Nigeria; Adam Elhiraika, Director, Macroeconomic Policy Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); and Alex Cobham, Director, Tax Justice Network.

Ms. MONASEBIAN said General Assembly resolution 71/213 on illicit financial flows urged States to join the United Nations Convention against Corruption, while the Forum’s outcome document, adopted on 24 May, likewise called for more cooperation on that issue.  UNODC worked with States to prevent illicit financial flows.  Existing normative frameworks to prevent corruption or money-laundering must be more effectively used to combat illicit financial flows.  The return of stolen assets was provided for under the Convention, for which UNODC was custodian, and work was under way to prevent such flows through assistance to countries to strengthen anti-money-laundering regimes, enhance enforcement systems and return proceeds from stolen assets.  “We still have to overcome the challenges posed by our different systems,” she said.

Mr. HYLTON said he was the only United States authority that could bring criminal charges.  Since the financial crisis, there had been a global movement to address international criminal tax.  Many leaders were talking about the issue.  “This has never been the case in my 20 something years,” he said.  Internal Revenue Service forensics accountants were experts at following the money, and looking at illicit financial flows, international criminal tax evasion and money-laundering.  Since 2009, the Service had aggressively pursued international finance institutions helping people from the United States evade tax.  Illicit finance and tax evasion was an area in which the Service could help Governments increase revenue.  “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have development aid if it’s coming in one door and going out the other,” he said.  It was a national security issue.  About 40 countries participated in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Task Force on Tax Crimes and Other Financial Crimes, and the fifth OECD forum on tax and crime would be held in November.  Advocating a whole-of-Government approach, he said two thirds of criminal activity related to tax evasion.  The United States was working in joint investigation teams, comprised of competent judicial and law-enforcement authorities, which were established for a limited duration to carry out criminal investigations.

Mr. OLANIYAN said illicit financial flows originated from such behaviour as tax evasion, abusive transfer pricing, drug trade, illegal arms deals, money-laundering and theft by corrupt Government officials.  In the last 50 years, sub-Saharan African countries had lost $528 billion.  Nigeria was losing an estimated $15.7 billion annually, more than what the continent received in official development assistance (ODA).  Illicit financial flows were aided by bad governance, corruption and weak institutions.  It was imperative for African countries to overhaul their financial services and investment engineering.  Domestic resource mobilization was the most crucial element to national sustainable development efforts, which could be achieved by blocking illicit financial flows.  One area of inequality was tax-related:  Many developing countries failed to raise domestic revenue to meet their needs, he said, citing abject poverty, poor infrastructure, and underdeveloped health and education sectors in that context.  Global efforts to reduce illicit financial flows included transparent information-sharing, assets recovery, and observance of the “arm-length principle”, whereby a company could show it was not involved in abusive transfer pricing.  Nigeria’s efforts to combat illicit financial flows had enhanced the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offenses Commission, and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal.  It also had consolidated all inflows from all national agencies into a single account in the Central Bank.  Nigeria was committed to sustained international cooperation and would host a conference from 5 to 7 June on that topic.

Mr. ELHIRAIKA said the question of why Africa was among the richest continents in terms of natural resources but poorest in terms of income had led to a 2010 event in Malawi to tackle that question.  A High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows, chaired by Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, was formed afterward.  Its main finding was that Africa lost $80 billion annually and resources must be better managed.  State capacity remained a major issue.  For years, African countries had lost the capacity to manage their economies.  Global coalitions must also be built to support them.  The Panel had found that 65 per cent of illicit financial flows out of Africa were due to abusive trade mispricing; 30 per cent were due to criminal activities and 5 per cent to outright corruption.  It recommended that a working group and consortium be formed to follow-up on its recommendations, and African Heads of State were requested to present annual reports.  The Consortium to Stem Illicit Financial Flows out of Africa was set up, with a focus on advisory services and capacity-building for African Governments; public and diplomatic advocacy campaigns, and building customs and tax data bases.  The issue of tax incentives, which did not really work, must also be addressed.

Mr. COBHAM said that the Tax Justice Network was created in 2003 because international policy discussions on the issues of tax and financial transparency had not reflected the scale of the problem.  While now increasingly discussed, policies had not been delivered in a manner that ensured full inclusion.  He raised the alarm about a political threat — attempts to subvert global international agreement underpinning the Goals.  The illicit flows agenda had emerged as an opposition to a view of corruption which, at the time, had been seen  as a problem mainly in lower-income countries.  In 2007, the Network had created a Financial Secrecy Index that identified jurisdictions, like Switzerland, as central to producing corrupt flows elsewhere.  They were the central driver of the problem.  Financial secrecy underpinned every major corruption and tax abuse case around the world, from the British Virgin Islands to Delaware, characterized by opaque corporate accounting that covered profit shifting and tax avoidance.  While the United States had worked to break the Swiss commitment to banking secrecy, international cooperation was essential to require a fully multilateral approach.

“We see increasingly, not least within the ongoing process to develop targets in the Sustainable Development Goals, efforts to remove multinational tax avoidance from the definition of illicit financial flows”, he said, despite that it was the biggest element in those flows.  It was a bigger problem in lower-income countries in terms of impact on gross domestic product (GDP).  It was under pressure to be removed from the target.  The other problem was that, despite the formation of a high-level United Nations panel, avoidance was central to the use of illicit financial flows.  When sustainable development target 16.4 was agreed, avoidance had been included.  [Target 16.4 calls for significantly reducing illicit financial and arms flows, strengthening recovery and return of stolen assets, and combating all forms of organized crime.]  Now, there were efforts to remove it.  It was possible that the target could subvert the entire global agreement contained in the Sustainable Development Goals and questions now centred on whether the United Nations could establish a tax commission to oversee such issues.

In the ensuing interactive discussion, Nigeria’s delegate underscored the need for an intergovernmental body to handle the matter raised by Mr. COBHAM, which was an attempt to water down illicit financial flows.  He requested that in terms of forensic activity, the Internal Revenue Service could help countries tackle financial secrecy so that the issue of impunity could be addressed.  Ghana’s delegate said tax incentives had not worked as planned, but politicians had engaged in such incentives because it was a race to the bottom:  if one country did not do it, it would not keep up with its neighbours.  Multinationals threatened to move to a neighbouring country and she asked about the role of regional bodies to ensure countries did not engage in such behaviour.  She also asked about double taxation agreements.  Ethiopia’s delegate advocated greater global cooperation and a better understanding of what illicit financial flows constituted.  Ecuador’s delegate underscored the need for an intergovernmental body on illicit financial flows, and asked about the next steps for strengthening cooperation on tax matters, as called for in Addis Ababa.  South Africa’s delegate asked why trillions of dollars flowed to safe havens, and whether the United States and other developed countries had a code of conduct for their own multinationals to do business in other countries.

Mr. OLANIYAN replied that if African resources were flowing to other places, then all countries had a responsibility to address that issue.

Mr. HYLTON said that capacity-building training was being conducted throughout the world.  On double taxation, he said United States citizens were taxed on their global income.

Mr. ELHIRAIKA replied that there was a need for more coordination and an international body to address that issue.

Mr. COBHAM said major financial secrecy jurisdictions were good at “paying lip service” and not delivering change.  “We need indicators that measure the degree of cooperation,” he said.  It was also important to think about how countries could cooperate to eliminate the race to the bottom.  One idea was to consider, regionally, the development of a minimum corporate tax, and setting aside OECD rules, which could have “dramatic” revenue effects.

Expert Discussion II

The Forum then held an expert discussion on “The specific challenges to finance sustainable development for countries in special situations”.  Moderated by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it featured presentations by:  Tevita Lavemaau, Minister of Finance and National Planning, Tonga; Nim Dorji, Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Bhutan; Margarida Rose da Silva Izata, Director of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of External Relations, Angola; and William Jose Calvo Calvo, Deputy Chief Negotiator for Climate Change and Sustainable Development Official, Costa Rica.

Mr. MARTÍNEZ-SOLIMÁN said this year’s outcome document underscored the need to focus efforts on where the challenges were the greatest.  The session would focus on strengthening private investment, ensuring graduation was smooth and countries retained financing in terms appropriate to their needs, and supporting countries with structural constraints.  More than 50 per cent of UNDP resources were allocated to least developed countries, and it helped countries prepare for graduation by identifying requirements and promoting South-South cooperation.

Mr. LAVEMAAU said small island developing States faced considerable structural constraints in efforts to mobilize domestic resources for sustainable development, due largely to their small and dispersed populations, which made revenue collection difficult, high costs of service provision and infrastructure investment, large agriculture and informal sectors, trade liberalization that had eroded tax bases, and vulnerability to climate change impacts.  International support was essential for boosting domestic tax systems, as was political commitment for reform in those States.  Tonga’s tax revenues comprised 22 per cent of its GDP, higher than the small island developing State 19 per cent average.  To help combat non-communicable diseases it had increased taxes on tobacco, fatty food and sugary beverages.  However, tax revenues could contribute much more if they were mobilized effectively.  There was wide variation in the capacity of small island developing States to mobilize domestic resources.  While some had managed to broaden their personal income tax base, many relied on such indirect taxation as value-added and sales taxes, which could be regressive.  For Tonga, he advocated increased international support to review the tax system with a focus on consumption tax, build capacity to improve tax revenue administration and compliance, promote South-South cooperation, strengthen public financial management and upgrade technology systems.

Mr. DORJI said least developed countries were “literally at the bottom of the development ladder”, with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development report citing the need for more progress in the seven action areas of the Addis Agenda.  In Bhutan, a least developed and landlocked country, low productivity, inadequate infrastructure, a weak private sector, reliance on commodities and capacity constraints were just some of the challenges, along with vulnerability to climate change impacts.  Yet, its comparative advantages of political stability, rule of law, good governance and a focus on environmental and cultural conservation had helped Bhutan achieve good economic progress.  To reach the next development phase, all financial instruments must be tapped.  While foreign direct investment and investment promotion regimes had the potential to bring about transformative change, “on this, I’m afraid the news is not very encouraging”, he lamented.  Generally, the total share of foreign direct investment in least developed countries was low and had been concentrated in very few countries.  To reverse that trend, it was important to start with the right policy framework to ensure that the growth sectors were aligned with the development vision.  To address capacity constraints, it would be useful to have a “nodal” investment promotion agency to help least developed countries with advisory and technical support.  It was also important to inject confidence and predictability into the graduation process, with partners adopting smooth graduation as a development priority and accommodating the reality that abrupt withdrawal of international support could endanger hard-won gains.

Ms. DA SILVA IZATA said Angola was transitioning smoothly from a least developed to a middle-income country, and it was important that the graduation process did not jeopardize its development.  While each country had primary responsibility for its economic and social development, international finance played an important role in complementing countries’ efforts to mobilize domestic public resources.  Advocating that investment promotion regimes in least developed countries be strengthened, she said support in tax collection enhanced domestic enabling environments and built public services.  While the international community recognized the unique needs of countries in special situations, such as small island developing States and landlocked least developed countries, it was paramount to enhance international cooperation to benefit developing country growth.  The Global Environment Facility was a vital platform to address such concerns, and she advocated grant and concessional resources be provided to support such projects in countries such as Angola.

Also, efforts to create a Technology Facilitation Mechanism, called for in Addis Ababa, must be stepped up, she said.  The same was true for a technology bank for least developed countries.  She welcomed market access efforts, and suggested revision of the European Union’s “everything but arms” preferential trade scheme to enable all least developed countries to profit from it.  “How many LDCs [least developed countries] are really exporting to the EU [European Union],” she asked?  Angola was preparing a zero draft on lessons learned, outlining gains and losses related to the graduation process at the sector level, with coordination by the Ministry of Planning and Territorial Development.  By July, Angola would start consultations with the private sector, non-profits and academics, addressing those perspectives and highlighting possible implications of the process.

Mr. CALVO said middle-income countries faced specific challenges to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  Efforts should be made to foster an exchange of experiences, as well as provide better support from the United Nations development system and international financial institutions.  Those bodies must consider the diverse needs of middle-income countries in a tailored manner in relevant policies and strategies.  The middle-income country category created by the World Bank was inaccurate and harmful.  The United Nations must take a more comprehensive approach that recognized their diverse realities, especially as similar criteria were used by OECD.  Middle-income countries promoted implementation of Addis Agenda paragraph 129 to develop transparent measurements of progress based on recognizing sustainable development in a manner that went beyond simply measuring per capita income.  Some United Nations agencies, including UNDP, had developed multidimensional criteria that captured the realities in those countries.  Noting that by 2030, 28 Latin American countries would graduate to middle-income country status, he said the Forum should create a road map for a new United Nations strategy that considered such needs.  There had been concerns over whether it should be a strategy or action plan, but “the name is not important here”, he said.  Rather, system-wide guidelines must be developed to help middle-income countries achieve the 2030 and Addis Agendas.  Graduation policies, which were unfair and lacked consistency with the Goals, must be adjusted to middle-income countries’ experiences.  Within the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, countries had proposed designing a platform for a sustainable development transition.

In the ensuing discussion, Zambia’s delegate said landlocked developing countries faced unique challenges stemming from their geography, resulting in trade costs that were three times higher than for coastal countries.  Measures to address such structural constraints included assistance in building tax bases and enhancing productive capacities, especially in the transport sector, along with trade facilitation and efforts to strengthen accountability.  She underscored the importance of capacity-building to create “bankable” projects and design policies that supported sustainable infrastructure investment.  Mexico’s delegate said the financing for development agenda was one of cooperation, which developing countries could use to leverage their resources to achieve the Goals.  He asked the panellists about building a system that was not a zero-sum game of ODA, but rather included concessional flows, green funds, and South-South cooperation.  A balance was needed to ensure all countries received the support that best suited them.

Honduras’ delegate stressed the importance of moving beyond an income understanding of development, while Bangladesh’s delegate expressed disappointment that the Forum had failed to address implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change or refer to climate finance or access to it.  She outlined various trade challenges, including market access.  The European Union delegate said the bloc, the largest market for least developed country products, could boost their exports by up to 10 per cent.  He recognized that market access alone was not enough; aligning development assistance was the number one priority in the review of the European Union Aid-for Trade strategy.

Stakeholder Dialogue

Moderated by Alexander Trepelkov, Director of the Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the speakers for the stakeholder dialogue included Stefano Prato, Society for International Development; Emilia Reyes, Equidad de Genero; Hui Chan, Citi Bank; Wild Ndipo, Mayor of Blantyre, Malawi; and Daviz Simango, Mayor of Beira, Mozambique.

Mr. TREPELKOV recalled that civil society, the private sector, parliamentarians and local authorities had been involved in the financing for development process since its inception.  With their diverse voices and priorities, those stakeholders had provided substantive inputs to both the ministerial and expert segments, as panellists, moderators, keynote speakers and with many thoughtful contributions from the floor.  The stakeholder dialogue would draw on the important work of civil society, the private sector and local authorities in collaboration with the United Nations.

Mr. PRATO noted that civil society was concerned with ensuring that necessary, critical actions were taken to unlock the capacity for sustainable development.  In that regard, there was a need to change the existing business model.  There was a gap between what was legal and what would be adequate to reach the Goals.  Civil society was duly concerned with all cases in which the private sector was called to deliver on public goods and services.  Public interest should be the primary factor when framing such initiatives.  While including the public sector in the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda was welcome, efforts must be made to ensure that public policy spaces were protected from conflict of interest and that the integrity of policy processes were maintained.  He recalled that when analysing the area in which public and private sectors interfaced, there was a specific call in the Addis Agenda to establish a set of guidelines with respect to public-private partnerships.

Ms. REYES said that rather than addressing individual problems, her organization was seeking to identify the points of entry that would change the interconnections between those problems.  In that regard, gender equality had a crucial role.  If there was a large-scale value placed on women’s unpaid, domestic care work, there would not be enough money in the world to pay for all such work that women performed.  Women’s human rights should not be commodified and there needed to be a change in the narrative that sustainable development could be achieved if women were “included”.  Her organization had called for comprehensive fiscal measures with a clear gender perspective.  Women’s empowerment alone was not enough to address the issues surrounding human rights.  As had been said by others, the negative repercussions of illicit financial flows had an impact on gender equality.

Ms. HUI said that Citi promoted innovative financing for development through various mechanisms.  The funding needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals was estimated at $4.5 to $6 trillion annually.  Given those huge requirements, there would need to be an increase in ODA, although the only way to fill the expected funding gap was by working with the private sector.  The “good news” was that there was no shortage of private-sector capital.  While there had been momentum in the current scale and pace of private-sector investment, those efforts would still not produce the money needed.  Without appropriate risk mitigation, private-sector investment would continue to fall short.  There must be a move beyond traditional financing systems and philanthropy to create new investment opportunities that would attract private-sector capital.  Moreover, without profits and returns, the level of private sector investment would remain far below what was needed.  Blended finance — the strategic use of private finance to deliver social, environmental and economic benefit — was one viable and important option.  The United Nations should involve the private sector early on and make it a partner for designing solutions.

Mr. NDIPO said that the common challenge was to reach the Goals, which would require more strategic investment and partnerships.  There was an urgent need to empower local governments by bringing them into policy design.  Efforts must be made to give local and regional governments the means to mobilize resources.  From the perspective of local governments, new innovative partnerships must be designed to link finance to local needs.  The dialogue between the various levels of governments must be enhanced.  He was pleased to report that the public-private partnership environment was taking shape in Malawi, as was evident in several on-going projects.  Cities had become anchors for international trade and national economies.  To promote a more balanced development framework there must be a fairer distribution of public revenues across the various levels of government.  In Malawi local governments did not have the ability to maximize local potential due to a lack of power to manage land use and taxes.

Mr. SIMANGO recalled that through the 2030 Agenda, the international community had committed itself to improve ways to invest in people in the areas where they lived and worked, to support liveable cities, towns and rural areas and include local governments in that partnership.  Local governments often saw decisions made on the national level without taking into account local realities.  The majority of cities in less-developed countries had a lack of resources and capacities.  Local governments would be a “game changer” when it came to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  His city in Mozambique, Beira, had managed to leverage some international funds when creating its long-term development plan.  The international community would not be able to meet the tremendous challenges ahead if cities were unable to access long-term, external resources.  Reaching local governments could be a powerful way to generate development cooperation.  The world would not be able to reach its development objectives if investment in local and regional governments were not empowered to move beyond the short-term.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Mozambique questioned how the resources of the public sector should be harnessed to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of society.  A member of civil society expressed concern that the Addis Agenda follow-up lacked specific references to emerging issues such as austerity, ecological risks, tax reform, stranded assets and military expenditures, as well as others.  Furthermore, there were limited references to youth in the follow-up.  Another member of civil society emphasized that he did not share the same enthusiasm for public-private partnership as had been expressed by the panellists, stressing that there was a severe lack of understanding about those complex schemes, which largely fed the shadow banking system.

Mr. PRATO said there was a blurring of what was public, what was private, and who was responsible for which tasks.  He went on to emphasize that the public interest must remain paramount.

Ms. REYES said there was great emphasis placed on getting more money, but she questioned what was happening with the money that was already circulating, citing illicit financial flows, tax avoidance and corruption as major issues of concern.

Ms. HUI stressed that reaching the most vulnerable would require particular focus on partnerships and risk mitigation, as well as bringing all actors together to structure solutions that worked.

Mr. NDIPO said one challenge was that most lending institutions did not trust local councils.

Mr. SIMANGO said his city had already managed to enjoy some success in garnering private-sector investment for various projects.

Presentation of Outcomes from Addis Agenda Forums

The Forum then heard presentations on the progress made in forums mandated by the Addis Agenda and key voluntary initiatives launched at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.  Moderated by Alexander Trepelkov, Director, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, it featured presentations by:  Carlota Cenalmore, Acting Representative of the European Investment Bank; Luis Miguel Castilla, Manager, Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness, Inter-American Development Bank; Shantanu Mukherjee, Chief, Policy and Analysis Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and F.M.M. Shava, President, Economic and Social Council.

Mr. TREPELKOV said the session would look at the contribution of mandated fora to the Addis Agenda.

Mr. CASTILLA reported on the outcome of the Second Global Infrastructure Forum, which took place in Washington, D.C., on 22 April.  With 650 participants from nearly 70 countries, the spectrum of stakeholders included Governments, the private sector, academia, civil society and multilateral development banks, as well as the OECD and the United Nations.  Discussions focused on how multilateral development banks worked with regional financial institutions to catalyse public and private resources for infrastructure.  There was broad agreement that plenty of resources existed to finance sustainable infrastructure, such as pension funds.  Multilateral development banks had been created to mobilize private capital and could bridge gaps.  Planning, good project preparation and the engagement of all parties from the start was critical to success.  For their part, multilateral development banks and Governments had a key role to play, he said, noting that adaptability was an increasingly important aspect to sustainability.  Government willingness to show long-term commitment was also essential, as infrastructure assets required significant up-front costs.  New sectors and lesser developed countries presented some of the best opportunities.  For the first time, the Forum held a plenary session on the topic of diversity, which could lead to better policy outcomes.

Ms. CENALMORE, also reporting on the Infrastructure Forum outcome, outlined progress made by multilateral development banks since last year, highlighting a spirit of partnership.  Compared to last year, the number of joint initiatives had substantially increased.  “This trend will continue,” she said, noting that the key role of the private sector had been recognized and included in the agenda of multilateral development banks.  The outcome document had set priorities for the immediate and long-term future up to 2030.  Noting that national development banks, including from Brazil, Turkey and South Africa, had participated in technical sessions, she said such banks represented a crucial role in infrastructure finance.  The Forum had underscored the commitment of multilateral development banks to sustainable and inclusive infrastructure, and demonstrated a willingness to tackle the challenges with other key players.  With that, she announced that the Asian Development Bank would host the 2018 Forum in Bali, Indonesia, on the margins of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group in October.

Mr. SHAVA presented the work of the 2016 Development Cooperation Forum, stressing that its key message was about putting into daily practice a transformative focus on results.  Developing and developed countries, along with civil society, parliamentarians, international organizations, development banks, the private sector and philanthropic foundations had gathered for the Development Cooperation Forum’s fifth biennial high-level meeting.  They embraced a concept of development cooperation that included financial resources, as well as capacity development, technology transfer, cooperation and partnerships.

In its recommendations, he said, the Forum stressed that development cooperation should continue its distinct role in supporting the poorest, which required making large-scale investments, using new evidence-based tools, strengthening domestic institutions and providing long-term budget support.  More ODA should be allocated to those with the weakest policymaking capacities.  Second, the Forum should advance understanding of how to strengthen incentives for the private sector, with blended finance one such vehicle.  ODA should be closely monitored against its effectiveness in eradicating poverty, not simply increasing the volume of finance.  Further, the full potential of South–South cooperation must be tapped to reduce asymmetries in order to access sustainable development opportunities and directly respond to local demands.  Finally, there was an unprecedented need to improve multi-layered monitoring and review of development cooperation.  The Forum had identified tremendous capacity gaps and new opportunities in that regard.

Mr. MUKHERJEE reported on the second Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation, held on 15 and 16 May, noting that its outcome was being prepared and would be presented at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.  Led by Kenya and the United States, that Forum was supported by the Inter-Agency Task Force and included 800 scientists, innovators and technology specialists, as well as representatives of civil society and Government.  An innovation hub exhibited examples of how to harness science, technology and innovation in implementing the Goals.  Science, technology and innovation touched on several Goals and targets simultaneously, making the Forum a perfect place to discuss an integrated agenda.  Many advances bore fruit among several Goals, notably in making energy services available to all people.  Multi-stakeholder approaches were essential in order to use science, technology and innovation — all of which were rapidly advancing — for the Goals, especially through matchmaking opportunities.  While not explicitly mentioned in the 2030 Agenda, biotechnology, automation, artificial intelligence, or rapid data proliferation and use could determine — individually or collectively — how well that framework was realized.  Twelve innovations were presented on how technology was rapidly influencing peoples’ lives.  One demonstrated how remote censors were predicting weather with 89 per cent accuracy, with text messages sent to farmers to help them plan their planting.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, speakers reported on the progress of various voluntary initiatives and partnerships, with the representative of the Netherlands commenting that one launched by Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and his own country at the Addis Ababa conference had doubled cooperation on taxation.  Australia’s delegate said innovation exchange had been created to work with the private sector, as had entrepreneurship and impact investing initiatives.

The Forum then approved its draft report (document E/FFDF/2017/L.2), which Mr. SHAVA explained would be updated by the Secretariat, in consultation with the Council President, and issued as a full procedural report of the Forum’s meetings, for consideration by the Council.

Mr. SHAVA, in closing remarks, said 20 ministers and vice-ministers, as well as a large number of high-level officials had participated in this year’s Forum.  “I deliberately set a high bar for our discussions,” he said.  “I believe that we have delivered.”  The outcome document committed the Forum to a range of new policies and actions to accelerate national and international efforts in all areas of the Addis Agenda.  He called for implementing those commitments in due time and in full.

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World Must Move Beyond ‘Globalization of Exclusion’, UNCTAD President Says, as Economic and Social Council Opens Financing for Development Forum

Populism and xenophobia were challenging global solidarity at a moment when States should be working together to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, speakers stressed today as the Economic and Social Council opened its forum on financing for development follow-up.

The future of globalism was in question, warned Christopher Onyanga Aparr, President of the Trade and Development Board, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in the forum’s opening session, highlighting that global output had slowed to 2.2 per cent in 2016, down from 2.6 per cent in 2014 and 2015, while large emerging economies had registered weak or negative growth.

The world must move beyond a “globalization of exclusion”, which had left behind the poorest, including those in the developed world who embraced nativism and populism, he emphasized.

Due to difficulties following the 2008 financial crisis, 2017 would likely be the sixth year of trade growth below 6 per cent, a state seen only once in the 70-year history of the global trading system, noted Yonov Frederick Agah, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  “This situation deserves our attention,” he emphasized, adding that it was difficult to imagine a robust economic recovery without growth in trade, although with the right mix of policies, trade could drive economic recovery.

Protectionist rhetoric was cause for alarm, stressed the representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, who called for an inclusive, non-discriminatory trading system under WTO auspices in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Developed countries must also play their role and honour their official development assistance commitments, she stressed.

Despite signs of global economic recovery, a distrust of globalization had led to a tightening of policies that compounded uncertainty, said Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), speaking on behalf of the five United Nations regional commissions.  The debate on the management and composition of tax systems needed to intensify, she stressed, pointing out that people’s willingness to pay taxes were influenced by perceptions as to how well those revenues were used.

Public resources must be used in a smarter way, including as a catalyst to mobilize more public and private funding, said the representative of the European Union.  He went on to describe a new European Union external investment plan that would earmark some €4 billion from the bloc’s budget to hopefully generate at least €44 billion in additional investments in higher-risk sectors in developing countries.  “We are determined to make our development cooperation more effective and to assist others in their efforts,” he declared.

Countries were thinking more systematically about how to mobilize domestic and international resources to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, and efforts were under way to align financial flows and policies with those objectives, said Tegegnework Gettu, Acting Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Nevertheless, an implementation gap remained amid the slowest global growth rate since the 2008 financial crisis, he said, adding that it was critical to complement long-term investment — in resilience and sustainable infrastructure, for example — with measures to help the poor.

In a video message, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), underscored the importance of securing adequate financing for development and stressed that cooperation between institutions was critical for success.  In that context, she emphasized the important relationship between IMF and the United Nations, saying that the only way to achieve the Goals was through open communication and collaboration.

Domestic resource mobilization was a major area of focus for the World Bank Group, highlighted Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships, World Bank Group.  Analysis suggested that many lower-income countries had the potential to increase their tax ratios by at least 2 to 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), without compromising fairness or growth, he added.

The first priority of bolstered investments in sustainable development could stimulate global growth, said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who continued that growth alone would not eradicate poverty.  That would need more targeted measures, with social protection floors directly ameliorating the lives of the poor and vulnerable, he noted.

In the afternoon, two panel discussions took place on fostering policy coherence in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as on inequalities and inclusive growth.

General statements were also delivered by representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Panama, Kiribati, Nepal, Guatemala, Tonga, Belarus (on behalf of Like-Minded Countries Supporters of Middle-Income Countries) and the Netherlands.

The forum will continue at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 May.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, opened the 2017 forum on financing for development, recalling the 2015 adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and with it, a comprehensive financing framework to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  Realizing the Goals in a timely manner made the Addis Agenda more important than ever.  “The eyes of the world are upon us,” he said, stressing that there was no option but to live up to expectations.

Recalling that the forum brought together stakeholders to identify challenges to the financing for development outcomes and delivery of the means of implementation for the Goals, he said its recommendations included a range of policy measures to change the trajectory of the global economy.

He said the special high-level meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions, World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had served as a focal point since 2002 for major institutional stakeholders to interact with Member States, offering an invaluable opportunity to promote coherence, coordination and cooperation in common efforts to implement financing for development outcomes.  Noting that the schedule included ministerial round tables, he said the forum had a moral duty to “use this opportunity wisely” to advance the world toward achieving the Goals and ensure that promises made were promises kept.  As mandated in the Addis Agenda, the outcome of the forum would be fed into the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaking via video message, recalled that the Addis Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change had provided a road map for a better future for all.  Key elements of that road map would come under scrutiny during the forum, she said, including the need for long-term, high-quality investment and urgent measures to improve the well-being of the poor and vulnerable.  The forum was an opportunity to reaffirm the collective commitment to action for sustainable development, which was the best mechanism to prevent further crises.

She encouraged participants to share their experiences with others and urged all countries to seek out and forge meaningful partnerships.  A true global partnership for sustainable development must be grounded in equality, solidarity and human rights.  Developed countries needed to deliver and countries of the global South had to pursue further South-South and triangular cooperation.

CHRISTINE LAGARDE, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), delivered a video message in which she underscored the importance of securing adequate financing for development and stressed that cooperation between institutions was critical for success.  She underlined the important relationship between IMF and the United Nations and said that the only way to achieve the Goals was through open communication and collaboration.  The Addis Agenda was vitally importance and in that context, the Fund was advancing it in several ways.

The IMF continued to strengthen the global financial architecture and assist countries seeking outside financing, while also boosting domestic revenue mobilization, which would be critical for developing countries, she said.  The Fund had also boosted capacity-building support and increased cooperation with the United Nations, while also evaluating the negative impact of illicit financial flows on development efforts, including by supporting reforms that addressed money‑laundering and terrorist financing through systemic risk assessments.  The IMF was engaging with small States to help them build their macroeconomic and financial resistance to natural disasters and climate change.  It continued to work with a variety of public and private shareholders to promote debt sustainability and develop innovative instruments to manage public debt.  She recalled that report of the Inter-agency Task Force for Financing for Development showed that while significant progress had been made, cooperation must be strengthened going forward.

MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships, World Bank Group, delivered a statement on behalf of World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, describing the forum as a critical platform for monitoring progress on commitments to finance efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and end extreme poverty.  Undoubtedly the third International Conference on Financing for Development had helped start a joint conversation within the World Bank Group and other multilateral development banks on how international financial institutions could contribute to the enormous task of funding the Goals by mobilizing the financial resources required to achieve them.  Official development assistance (ODA), which last year totalled $142 billion, remained critical, particularly for the poorest nations, but it would never be enough to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

The World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest nations, the International Development Association, had a record replenishment of $75 billion, to be committed over the next three years to the neediest countries, he said.  Domestic resource mobilization was a major area of focus for the World Bank Group, particularly as analysis suggested that many lower-income countries had the potential to increase their tax ratios by at least 2 to 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), without compromising fairness or growth.  The World Bank Group was continuing to invest in knowledge and programmes to build durable global public goods on issues such as climate action, crisis response and infrastructure finance.  Furthermore, the Group was working to pull in the private sector whenever possible, combining those efforts with the Group’s technical and local knowledge to make that capital work for those who needed it most.

YONOV FREDERICK AGAH, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization, said the multilateral trading system supported efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, including the Addis Agenda.  A driver of economic growth, world trade between 1990 and 2000 had expanded more than 7 per cent annually, double the rate of global growth, which had helped to increase incomes and raise living standards across the world.  Due to difficulties following the 2008 financial crisis, 2017 would likely be the sixth year of trade growth below 6 per cent, a state seen only once in the 70-year history of the global trading system.  “This situation deserves our attention,” he said.  It was difficult to imagine a robust economic recovery without growth in trade.  With the right mix of policies, trade could drive economic recovery.

Noting that the gap between developed and developing countries had narrowed, viewed by many as the most important economic event of our time, he said the integration of developing countries into the global trade system had been crucial to their economic take-off, with their share of global trade rising from less than one third in 1980 to almost half at present.  It was difficult to imagine how developing countries could grow at that rate without further trade expansion.  The global trade system brought predictability and security to international relations.  When countries had disagreements, rather than resort to unilateral measures, they asked WTO step in, using rules that both sides had agreed and helped to design.  The priority needs were to strengthen the system and resist the imposition of new trade barriers.  Such reforms would ensure WTO would continue to deliver positive outcomes.  Ahead of WTO’s next ministerial conference in December, a range of areas were being discussed, with a continued focus on issues related to the Doha Development Round.  “We must ensure we do more to spread the benefits of trade,” he said, which in turn, would create jobs and support growth.

Intergovernmental Representatives of Institutional Stakeholders

CHRISTOPHER ONYANGA APARR (Uganda), President of the Trade and Development Board, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, said the future of globalization was in question.  Populism and xenophobia were challenging global solidarity at a moment when States should be working together to meet the Goals.  Global output had slowed to 2.2 per cent in 2016, down from 2.6 per cent in 2014 and 2015, while large emerging economies had registered weak or negative growth.  Global trade had grown only 1.3 per cent in 2016 in volume terms, marked by a general decline in the first half of the year.

Moreover, he said, the green shoots of recovery were vulnerable to structural challenges, among them, rising income inequalities, slowing productivity, fragile financial markets, growing debt burdens in developing countries, climate change and migration.  ODA to least developed countries and to economic development in general, had declined, while the digital divide continued to grow.  UNCTAD’s fourteenth session was the first where developing countries, rather than developed, had led the defence of globalization.

He said the world must move beyond a “globalization of exclusion”, which had left behind the poorest, including those in the developed world who embraced nativism and populism.  The Goals and Addis Agenda commitments must serve as a road map to the next phase of a more inclusive, just globalization, which would only succeed if it empowered those left behind.  Reviving the global partnership on development, a commitment of the Addis Agenda, was more urgent today than when that instrument was agreed.  Going forward, the forum must consider how developing countries could improve domestic resource mobilization amid falling trade revenues, how the global trade and investment regimes could be reformed, and how the voice of developing countries could be heard more clearly in global economic governance.

YVONNE TSIKATA, Vice-President and Corporate Secretary of the World Bank Group, provided a brief overview of the ninety-fifth meeting of the Development Committee, part of the Spring Meetings with IMF.  At that 22 April meeting, governors said the global economy was gaining momentum, but stressed that risks remained tilted to the downside and improvements would require policies fostering inclusive and sustainable growth, addressing vulnerabilities and creating jobs and economic opportunities for all.  Calling on the World Bank Group and IMF to provide and support the advancement of such policies, deliver the 2030 Agenda and protect the most vulnerable, she said the discussion addressed a range of issues, including inequality and recent developments in the implementation of the World Bank’s “Forward Look” vision for 2030, which had identified areas for improvements, including to bolster agility and responsiveness in working across public-private sectors and to pay special attention to stabilizing the economy and supporting growth in situations of fragility, conflict and violence.

She said Development Committee members had supported the Bank’s scaled-up activities, including in the areas of crisis preparedness, prevention and response, and were encouraged by the Bank Group’s efforts to become more efficient through reforms of its operational and administrative policies.  Welcoming progress and discussions on strengthening Group’s financial capacity, they had been encouraged by the successful International Development Association replenishment negotiations, which had delivered a record $75 billion and had recognized the innovative measures introduced to help catalyse additional resources for Association member countries.  The governors had also been encouraged by progress on diversifying World Bank Group staff and management and they supported similar progress on gender diversity in the Group’s Executive Board of Directors.

PATRICIA ALONSO-GAMO, Deputy Secretary, International Monetary and Financial Committee, International Monetary Fund, noted that global growth was strengthening, but that outlook was subject to much uncertainty, as many countries were operating below their potential.  While trade and integration had brought enormous benefits, some segments of society had missed out on their rewards, leading to increased doubts about progress.  A disruption of trade could reverberate around the globe as geopolitical tensions continued to rise.  The international community must work together to enhance the resilience of economies and increase multilateralism, and in that regard, each country must play its part.  The IMF’s approach placed emphasis on structural, fiscal and monetary policies, which sought to create a more inclusive global economy by taking care of those left behind, including by prioritizing education and skills development and helping those who had lost their jobs.  “Future generations should not be left to fix our mistakes,” she stressed.

Multilateral cooperation was critical, she said, stressing the importance of working together to level the playing field for all, avoiding inward-looking measures and addressing taxation issues, she said.  The IMF would continue to provide policy advice, financial support, and capacity development, while also advocating for multilateral cooperation.  The Fund supported policies that expanded opportunities and multilateral solutions, while also seeking to support low-income countries and small and fragile States.  To foster sustainable growth and a more inclusive global economy and technical progress, it was studying how trade and capital flows affected countries.  The Fund also continued to deepen its analysis of structural reforms on growth, employment and income equality and would continue to support policies that stressed good governance, fostered cooperation, updated business environments and promoted competition.  The international community must collaborate to find multilateral solutions to challenges, accelerate gains and improve living standard where the needs were the greatest.

Keynote Presentations

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the 2017 report of the Inter-agency Task Force of Financing for Development was part of a broad effort to implement the Addis Agenda and represented the first comprehensive and substantive assessment of progress.  Emphasizing that the report would provide implementation guidance to all actors worldwide, he highlighted several findings, including that progress had been reported in all seven action areas:  domestic public resources; domestic and international private business and finance; international development cooperation; international trade as an engine for development; debt and debt sustainability; addressing systematic issues; and science, technology, innovation and capacity-building.  However, a difficult global environment had impeded individual and collective efforts and many implementation gaps remained.  National efforts had been affected by such economic factors as low commodity prices and trade growth and volatile capital flows alongside political and environmental factors.  Despite projected improvements for 2017 and 2018, the current growth trajectory would not deliver the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and least developed countries would fall short by large margins.

Yet, he said, the global development agenda contained elements to reignite growth and a combination of national and international actions could change the trajectory.  The first priority of bolstered investments in sustainable development could stimulate global growth, but growth alone would not eradicate poverty.  That would need more targeted measures, with social protection floors directly ameliorating the lives of the poor and vulnerable.  The report offered options to address financing challenges related to such floors and underlined that policies and actions on investment and vulnerabilities must be gender-sensitive.  The development of integrated national financing frameworks was a promising sign, he said, underlining that national efforts must be accompanied by a supportive global environment and that many countries continued to rely on support, including ODA.  In that regard, international cooperation was as vital as ever, he said, encouraging actors to use the web portal, which provided data and analyses for each of the more than 100 clusters of commitments and actions across the Addis Agenda.

MUKHISA KITUYI, Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, speaking by video message, called for enhanced political momentum to achieve the Addis Agenda.  “We need to speak boldly about the obstacles hampering implementation,” he said, as well as about innovative financing instruments.  He also advocated scaling up partnerships with the private sector, stressing that UNCTAD had a proven record of working in that regard.  At the same time, he cautioned against turning away from calling out the risks of public-private partnerships, which must be studied in order to ensure they did not create debt burdens for future generations.  He called on participants to “walk the talk” on commitments made in Addis Ababa, Doha and Monterrey.

TEGEGNEWORK GETTU, Acting Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), noting that the Programme contributed to Inter-agency Task Force reports, said that in the first year of the 2030 Agenda, countries were thinking more systematically about how mobilize domestic and international resources to meet the Goals, and efforts were under way to align financial flows and policies with those objectives.  Yet, an implementation gap remained amid the slowest global growth rate since the 2008 financial crisis.  Noting that the Addis framework included support for global trade as a way to increase investment in the Goals, he said it was critical to complement long-term investment — in resilience and sustainable infrastructure, for example — with measures to help the poor.

Fulfilling the 2030 Agenda also required proactive policies for education, health and credit availability, he said.  There were variety of options to finance social protection floors at the local level, including through fossil fuel subsidies, and he welcomed the proposal for the Task Force to review funding mechanisms for social protection and to report back with recommendations to the 2018 financing for development forum.  He also welcomed efforts to broaden criteria for financing eligibility, noting with concern that ODA allocated to least developed countries had dropped, despite commitments to increase such aid.  While it was important to meet international commitments to refugees, resources spent in donor countries hosting refugees should not reduce funding for meeting the Goals in developing countries.  UNDP had helped 143 countries access $3.1 billion in financing, an investment that had liberated another $14 billion in co-financing.  In response to the growing demand for support in navigating the financing for development landscape, UNDP had carried out assessments to help Governments explore how to harness financial flows.

SHAMSHAD AKHTAR, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), speaking on behalf of the five United Nations regional commissions, said that despite signs of global economic recovery, a distrust of globalization had led to a tightening of policies that compounded uncertainty.  Fiscal policy needed to play a greater role in addressing inequality and expanding the fiscal safety net.  Sustainable and well-calibrated fiscal policy could lead to inclusive sustainable development and reduce inequality.  The regional commissions had announced consultations and analytical work related to the Addis Agenda, with 50 analytical papers having been prepared over the past four years.

The commissions’ efforts were focused on four key areas, including working to promote domestic resource mobilization, she said.  Research had demonstrated that tax incentives and weak compliance had eroded the tax base across all regions.  The debate on the management and composition of tax systems needed to intensify, she stressed, noting that people’s willingness to pay taxes were influenced by perceptions as to how well those revenues were used.  Fostering infrastructure investment was a priority, including climate-resilient infrastructure.  The fiscal requirements of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals could only be achieved by building more efficient and effective tax systems through multilateral approaches.  It was important to acknowledge that countries were moving at difference paces and sequencing their reforms differently, and that social expenditures needed to be enhanced.  Declining ODA was a cause for concern she stressed, highlighting that it continued to fall far short of commitments.  Improving the capacities of Governments to effectively structure private-public-partnership transactions was also vital.

Statements

NEVEN MIMICA, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, European Union, saying the Addis Agenda was a means to an end, insisted on ensuring full coherence and coordination with the 2030 Agenda.  All actors must play their part, he said, understanding the importance of relevant international conventions, including the Paris Agreement.  The European Union expected to sign the European Consensus on Development in June, framing action to deliver on Addis commitments.  As the largest provider of ODA, bloc member States would continue their efforts.

To achieve greater impact, he said, public resources must be used in a smarter way, including as a catalyst to mobilize more public and private funding.  A new external investment plan aimed at doing that, using €4 billion from the European Union budget to hopefully generate at least €44 billion in additional investments in higher-risk sectors in developing countries.  That plan also included the new European Fund for Sustainable Development, provisions for technical support and a focus on improving the investment climate through policy dialogue and cooperation.  Through those and related efforts, he said, “we are determined to make our development cooperation more effective and to assist others in their efforts”.

IGOR CRNADAK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said bold steps must be taken to bolster national steps, including fostering industrial development, and multilateral development banks must work more closely in areas such as fostering private-public partnerships.  “If we want to success in this complex undertaking, we will have success stories,” he said.  “We need to be flexible and willing to learn from those who moved faster on the Sustainable Development Goals path.”  That included sharing knowledge, experience and innovative approaches or use of the transfer of technology if the Sustainable Development Agenda would be achieved by 2030.

DULCIDIO DE LA GUARDIA, Minister for Economy and Finance of Panama, endorsing the statements to be made by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said his country had been the focus of a documents leak in 2016 on tax fraud that implicated many countries, including some in the Group of 20.  All countries must show a united front in tackling tax issues, including senior officials in international organizations.  Among a range of actions, he said fiscal policies should take into account the characteristics of each country of concern.  Discussions should focus on issues such as knowledge, productivity and competitiveness of all States, particularly least developed countries.

TEUEA TOATU, Minister for Finance and Economic Development of Kiribati, said his country’s development, along with that of other small island developing States, had been hampered by isolation from world markets, vulnerability to external shocks and climate change.  Existing efforts and assistance must be scaled up to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing questions such as how to climate-proof related initiatives.  Financial constraints and limited financial resources were inhibiting ongoing national efforts.  “We cannot do it alone,” he said, emphasizing that outstanding commitments must be honoured.  In that regard, he asked private and donor communities to be more forthcoming in their support.

NABINDRA RAJ JOSHI, Minister for Industry of Nepal, said his country’s new Constitution incorporated universally accepted democratic and inclusive norms, which would help create an environment conducive for implementing all internationally agreed development agendas.  Nepal’s goal to graduate from least developed country status by 2022 required “huge” additional investments, and Nepal also aimed to emerge as a middle-income country by 2030.  Challenges included tackling institutional, financing and capacity constraints, he said, noting that the private sector had played a key role in development.  To mobilize domestic resources, Nepal had widened its tax base by formalizing the informal sectors, and had created special economic zones.  Beyond traditional development finance, development partners should also fulfil ODA commitments, facilitate trade and encourage investment and technology flows.

MIGUEL ANGEL ESTUARDO MOIR SANDOVAL, Secretary for Planning, Planning and Programming Secretariat of the Presidency of Guatemala, advocated working towards a multidimensional definition of ODA.  Urging a focus on prevention and pre-investment in addressing climate variability, he said foreign direct investment was needed, as were strategies with innovative models for pre-investment and legal institutional tools to foster investment in ways that promoted national priorities.  Guatemala’s national development plan aimed to reduce poverty and extreme poverty; ODA was essential to that end.  He advocated dialogue to set out development priorities and respond to commitments made under the Addis Agenda.  Guatemala was committed to foster human sustainable development, notably through international cooperation and various modes of assistance.

TEVITA LAVEMAAU, Minister for Finance and National Planning of Tonga, said his country stood with other Pacific small island developing States to implement the Goals.  Noting the need for adequate resources to support the regional coordination and national implementation of the Goals, he expressed support for Fiji’s Presidency of the twenty-third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to advocate for innovation in climate change adaptation for island nations.  While acknowledging the work of IMF, the World Bank and others, he urged refining the definition of fragility to include the drivers of vulnerability in the Pacific, which included dependence on imported fossil fuels.  Potential options for ocean finance were also critical.

VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, on behalf of Like-Minded Countries Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, emphasized the significant challenges faced by those countries in achieving sustainable development.  Middle-income countries should comprise all groups of developing nations, especially because as countries moved from low- to middle-income status, the assistance provided was reduced.  He underscored the need to exchange experiences, improve coordination and focus the support of the United Nations development system, international financial institutions and others.  He expressed concern that access to concessional finance was reduced as national incomes grew, and recalled the importance of technology transfer in the spirit of closing the economic and social gap.  Multilateral development banks must devise graduation policies that were sequenced and phased.  There was also a need for more nuanced, transparent country classifications, beyond the per capita income criteria, while international engagement should be tailored to middle-income country needs.

CHRISTIAAN REBERGEN, Vice-Minister for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, endorsing the European Union, said the promise of leaving no one behind was a serious commitment, serving as a litmus test at the United Nations.  The Addis Agenda focused on how to serve those most in need, he said, emphasizing that tax issues in that regard had been examined.  Resources were being used to catalyse more investments, he said, noting that the Netherlands had made efforts in that area.  The United Nations must play its role in setting norms and convening power, he said, emphasizing that there should be a moratorium on lofty outcome documents until results had been delivered on promises already made.

MARÍA CAROLA IÑIGUEZ ZAMBRANO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the forum’s draft conclusions and recommendations, adding that agreement had been reached on minimums, but not on forward-looking actions, including on climate change, trade and international development cooperation.  Financing for development was key to implementing the 2030 Agenda and predictable financial flows were indispensable on that quest.  Calling for a range of actions, she said greater international cooperation was needed to combat illicit financial flows and global economic governance must be improved to create a development-friendly environment.  Alarmed by protectionist rhetoric, she called for an inclusive, non-discriminatory trading system under WTO auspices in line with the Addis Agenda.

The Group remained committed to addressing climate change, she said, calling for further action and predictable and sustainable support, taking into account the needs of developing countries.  The international community must consider the severe difficulties faced by countries and peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, she said, reaffirming a rejection of the imposition of laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact and all other forms of coercive economic measures, including unilateral sanctions.  Developed countries must play their role and must honour their ODA commitments.

Opening Remarks

Mr. SHAVA noted that the Addis Agenda and the Paris Agreement had scaled up support for people in countries whose needs were the greatest.  Representatives of Governments had a responsibility to ensure that their institutions, despite their different mandates, governance and expertise, worked coherently towards the common vision enshrined in the 2030 Agenda.  Over the last two decades, the world had made progress in reducing global poverty and narrowing economic gaps between countries, although inequality around the world remained high.  Experience had shown that addressing inequality did not necessarily sacrifice efficiency.  Investment in inclusive and resilient infrastructure was an important way to address inequality in access to markets, finances and technology and other opportunities.  Policy frameworks should be geared towards long-term investment so as to mitigate the risk of increased investments in infrastructure focusing on a limited number of countries, and only on sectors with potential cash flows.

HERVÉ DE VILLEROCHÉ, Co-Dean, Board of Executive Directors, World Bank Group, noted that the forum represented a critical platform to help follow-up on commitments towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and ending extreme poverty.  ODA would need to be strategically utilized to catalyse public and private investments and mobilize additional capital.  The International Finance Corporation had introduced a new long-term strategy to scale up the impact of its financing to the private sector, at large.  The World Bank Group was committed to using its balance sheets to deliver on the Goals, but was also convinced that achieving the development objectives would only be possible with continued efforts to address policies.  The Bank put particular emphasis on the importance of a growth-friendly environment, the mobilization of additional domestic resources and the need for continued momentum towards the development of global public goods.

HAZEM BEBLAWI, Executive Director, International Monetary Fund, said the focus should be on whether IMF, WTO, UNCTAD and others had been able to align their activities with the Addis Agenda to support members achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and promote global imperative for inclusive growth.  The Fund’s executive Board would consider proposals to improve debt sustainability framework.  There was a close parallel between global economic recovery and sequence of actions by major institutions and stakeholders to support the Addis Agenda.  There were gaps to be tackled and risks of setbacks and unintended consequences.  Two years after the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, “we have already made good progress across a wide range of objectives”, he said, stressing the need for continued cooperation with other institutions and stakeholders, in line with the Addis mandate.

Mr. APARR said UNCTAD’s work to move global economic governance onto a more inclusive footing offered examples of how policy coherence could address the wide inequalities characterizing the global economy today.  All countries must work to grow exports and reform trade by moving beyond a narrow focus on multilateral trade rules and taking national steps to use trade as part of domestic and regional policies, with an eye to structural transformation.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) and investment promotion actions also could be taken.  Key to that was holding donors accountable for increasing ODA to at least 0.2 per cent of gross national income.  “FDI cannot be a substitute for ODA,” he said.  Private finance and development bank efforts to catalyse domestic finance were needed, as was a more nuanced analysis of blended finance and public-private partnerships.  Addressing illicit financial flows must also be prioritized by bringing discussion of tax evasion and fiscal paradises to the fore at the United Nations and advancing international discussions on debt.  Noting that UNCTAD was working to operationalize principles on responsible sovereign borrowing and lending, he said closing the inequality gap required addressing a key area of unfinished business to address systematic issues stressing the financial system, which held back international policy coordination.

Interactive Discussion I

Moderated by Sara Eisen, CNBC, the first interactive panel, titled ”fostering policy coherence in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda”, featured Frank Heemskerk, Executive Director, Cyprus, Israel and Netherlands, World Bank Group; Daouda Sembene, Chair, Executive Board Committee for Liaison with the World Bank, the United Nations and other International Organizations, International Monetary Fund; and Nabeel Munir (Pakistan), Vice-President, Economic and Social Council, as lead discussants.

Ms. EISEN said that the discussion would focus on the promotion of inclusive economic growth in the pursuit of sustainable development.

Mr. HEEMSKERK said that the United Nations should continue to foster coherence by benchmarking performances of member States and by exerting pressure on the private sector, including both larger and smaller companies, which may be interested in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.  It was important not to forget that the best form of leverage would only come from a well-functioning State; including those that followed the rule of law and made appropriate investments.  The international community must make sure that investments were well-spent and not diluted.  There was a lot of talk about public-private partnerships and blended finance, although there were many different definitions for both of those terms in use.

Mr. SEMBENE noted that IMF supported domestic policies, including by deepening policy diagnoses and advice, scaling up capacity-building and enhancing the financial safety net.  He highlighted that there were weaker growth prospects relative to the projections made in 2015.  The IMF had committed to scale up its policy diagnostics for the 2030 Agenda in key areas, including through infrastructure policy support and supporting fragile States and small, developing countries by addressing their challenges and vulnerabilities.  The Fund was also scaling up its support for capacity development in five key areas by boosting support for domestic resource mobilization and building State capacity for scaling up public investment.  Liquidity needs were growing among developing countries, which had prompted IMF to put in place a 50‑per‑cent increase in access for all concessional facilities and debt relief for countries experiencing public health disasters.

Mr. MUNIR highlighted that, at the national level, countries continued to face major challenges with formulating multisectoral, integrated and coherent policies and actions towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Many countries were still at the very early stages in establishing mechanisms for mainstreaming the Goals and the Addis Agenda in their national development strategies, he said, highlighting that changing institutions and mindsets were not easy processes.  For countries that were least capable of implementing such changes more international assistance to support their transition was warranted.  At the regional level, different coordination mechanisms, platforms and dialogues had helped bring together Governments around region-specific objectives.  More also had to be done at the global level to increase the coherence between national policies and global development policies.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Kenya, speaking on behalf of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the synergies between the 2030 Agenda and the peacebuilding architecture in creating sustainable peace were evident.  The Peacebuilding Commission stressed the need for adequate, predictable and sustained financing to assist countries in building and sustaining peace.  The Addis Agenda recognized the existence of a “peacebuilding financing gap”, which should be narrowed by strengthening partnerships with financial stakeholders, including the multilateral financial institutions.  The representative of the International Chamber of Commerce stressed that if countries wanted to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, they must ensure trade policies allowed businesses to create new jobs, while the representative of the World Trade Organization underscored that although reforms were important, greater emphasis must be placed on building trade capacity.

Also speaking were the representatives of Indonesia and the United Kingdom.

Interactive Discussion II

The forum then held an interactive discussion titled “inequalities and inclusive growth”, which featured presentations by Patience Bongiwe Kunene, Executive Director, Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa, World Bank Group; Nancy Gail Horsman, Executive Director, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Ireland, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, International Monetary Fund;  Masaaki Kaizuka, Executive Director, Japan, International Monetary Fund; and Jürgen Schulz (Germany), Vice-President, Economic and Social Council.

Ms. KUNENE noted that the World Bank’s expertise included agriculture, energy, education, climate change, conflict and violence, gender issues and resilience among many other areas.  A key question to be addressed was what sort of access was being provided to the services being produced by international organizations, Governments and the private sector.  Success was not only about having opportunities, but about having access to quality opportunities.  In that context, it was important to take into consideration things such as the strength of education systems and whether through those educational opportunities it was possible to address equality gaps.  Connectedness was very low in many African countries, including access to cell-phone and broadband services.  When looking at the access to trade and air travel, one could see why there was much more that needed to be done with regard to connectedness.  It was important to create credible evidence-based solutions that utilized data.  Some of the available data still had gaps.  The Bank had organized a meeting to brainstorm what a “strong World Bank” would look like in 2030, during which participants stressed the need to appeal to all of the financial institution’s clients in an interconnected fashion.

Ms. HORSMAN said growth had narrowed income gaps across countries.  Within most advanced and some emerging economies, inequality had increased over two decades, while slow growth since 2008 had exposed the difficulties of some groups to adjust to technical progress.  Wages of low- and middle-skill workers had stagnated, leading some to question the value of global trade and the multilateral framework underpinning it.  Technological change, more so than integration, appeared to be behind labour’s falling share, which led many to question how multilateral institutions could align their work with the goals of inclusive growth.  “Protectionism and inward-looking polices are not the answer,” she said.  The Fund was working to ensure its policies were supportive of inclusive growth by encouraging States to implement measures that boosted economic opportunities and reduced trade-offs.  She cited measures to promote financial inclusion to support long-term growth and smooth income fluctuations.  Coordinated actions by countries could boost growth, and avoid negative spillovers of policies among countries.

Mr. KAIZUKA said the Fund had several tools available to address inequality and inclusive growth, describing policy surveillance as a regular exercise for devising policy recommendations.  Such consultations with his country focused on how to solve labour market realities, including how to enhance women’s labour participation.  Country specificity should be highly appreciated in such work, he said, noting there were many policy options for inclusive growth.  The real application of policies for infrastructure, education and labour market reform, for example, should be prioritized.  Equally important was to ensure country ownership.  The Fund provided capacity-development programmes tailored to country situations, which were important to monitor.  In many IMF board meetings, members stressed that the Fund should not deviate much from its mandate to promote macroeconomic financial stability.  Yet, it was sometimes difficult to draw a line between the core and non-core mandates.  Fiscal policy must play pivotal role in reducing inequalities, as should social policies.

Mr. SCHULZ said the gap between the wealthy and the poor had widened, with Goal 10 calling on the international community to reduce inequality both within and among countries.  Rising inequality compromised social justice and human dignity.  As such, it had been at the core of the Economic and Social Council agenda and he called for the creation of inclusive institutions, combined with the right policies and regulations to ensure that everyone benefitted from economic gains.  More must be done to ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth, as well as to address systemic issues by ensuring that developing countries were fully heard in economic and other institutions.  Data disaggregation was essential for reaching those most in need, with the dynamics between and within vulnerable groups — based on gender, race and ethnicity for example — understood.  He advocated redoubled efforts to implement Addis Agenda commitments on inequality.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates asked how to tackle the digital divide and reverse the trend of deepening inequality, with Costa Rica’s speaker asking about actions to ensure women’s economic empowerment.  Others described domestic and international drivers of inequality, with Ghana’s delegate pointing to a one‑size-fits-all approach to national development.  She asked how much of budget was going into social protection floors.  “Where you put your money is where your heart is,” she stressed.

Mr. KAIZUKA responded to Ghana’s delegate that social protection floors would be discussed later this week in Washington, D.C.  The Fund, working with low-income countries, set indicative targets for where the floor in the budget formulation should be set.  It was an evolutionary process.

Mr. SEMBENE added that IMF was working to ensure women’s participation by making the point that their participation was essential for countries to reach their growth potential.  The IMF also promoted gender budgeting.  It had released a tool kit last July and a book titled Women, Work and Economic Growth:  Levelling the Playing Field, in March.

The representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spoke about the importance of policy solutions for poverty alleviation, stressing that investing in children was not only morally right but made economic sense.  Recent evidence had shown that children’s exposure to toxic environments was “costing nations a lot”, with some forfeiting two times their GDP due to additional spending on health, resulting from a lack of investment in the early years.  “We don’t need to spend much more to get the results on the ground,” she said.  Resources required to scale up child-focused interventions for achieving the Goals were moderate.  Children under age 18 comprised more than half of the global poor.

The representative of Citi Group, noting that Governments alone could not finance the Goals, said the current size and pace of private sector support would not be enough to support success.  Large, deep and liquid markets were one solution, with a transactional level focus.  The Goals’ objectives presented risks far beyond those traditionally taken by the private sector.  “We’ve not solved Rubik’s cube of using blended finance structures,” he said, noting that the public sector did not need to take significantly more aggregate risk to facilitate those transactions.  Rather, it must be better at targeting risk that often coalesced in the private sector.  He described the “integrity challenge” as crippling, with corruption as the Achilles heel of reaching the Goals.

The representative of the Financial Transparency Coalition focused on tax reforms to reduce inequality and the need for progressive taxes, which had important implications for addressing gender bias in tax structures.  Efforts to increase tax bases should shift the burden away from women.  A transformative change in international tax was needed to combat tax evasion and avoidance.

The speaker from the World Trade Organization spoke about trade finance, which played a key role in helping developed, developing and least developed countries participate in global trade.  The sixth global review of Aid-for-Trade would be held from 11 to 13 July with a cross-cutting theme of how that programme supported achievement of the Goals, notably for poverty eradication and women’s empowerment.

Ms. KUNENE added that the World Bank had a gender-diverse board, with staff incentives for women to become senior managers.  For countries, she cited educational projects for adolescent girls and cross-cutting solutions focused on gender.

A speaker from Yes Bank said the tool that could bring the $218 trillion global capital markets and the $256 trillion in global individual wealth into the Goals was impact investment.  Alternative investment funds in India and the Social Impact Bond Act in the United States were other mechanisms that allowed people to pool funds and become part of the development story.  Social entrepreneurs were also looking to address access to health and education, she said, citing the “Start Up India, Stand Up India” programme in that context.

Other speakers from the International Monetary Fund also spoke, as did the representative of Liberia, the United States representative at the World Bank and a speaker from the Women’s working group on finance for development.

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Speakers at Caribbean Regional Seminar Call for Effective Approaches in Fulfilling Decolonization Mandate, Urging United Nations to End Long Impasse

KINGSTOWN, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 17 May — The United Nations must break its long impasse and tailor effective approaches to self-determination that would lead swiftly to a future based on the aspirations of people living under colonial rule, delegates said today, as the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization entered its second day.

Echoing a common concern, Special Committee expert Judith Bourne said popular interest and involvement in any United Nations-based decolonization effort had lagged.  “Without a drastic and thorough re-evaluation and restructuring of work of the Committee, without any diminution of its aims and ideals, this Third International Decade may simply morph into the fourth and fifth until the effort simply dies from neglect and inactivity,” she cautioned.  “This would be a tragedy for the peoples of the remaining mostly small-island Territories on the list.”

With the last declaration of independence from colonial rule having been that of Timor-Leste in 2002, the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the United Nations were still awaiting their turn to exercise their right to self-determination, speakers told the Regional Seminar, organized by the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — known informally as the Special Committee of 24.

If the Non-Self-Governing Territories continued to languish on the list, the very credibility of the Special Committee was as risk, speakers said during discussions related to the theme for the 2017 Seminar “Implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism:  the future for decolonization in the Non-Self-Governing Territories:  what are the prospects?”  Hosted by the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the event, held 16 to 18 May, was organized on the occasion of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Organized by the Special Committee, the Regional Seminar has been held annually since 1990.  (For background, see Press Releases GA/COL/3306 and GA/COL/3307.)

During discussions on and with some of those Non-Self-Governing Territories, delegates explained their unique positions and identified challenges and grave concerns about their future, calling on the Special Committee to discharge its mandate.  Part of what was needed was for the Special Committee to fine-tune its activities to bolster more success stories, speakers said.

Committee members shared some suggestions, including one from the representative of Papua New Guinea encouraging the Special Committee to hold additional meetings devoted to each listed Non-Self-Governing Territory with a view to identifying challenges such as institutional weaknesses and take steps to engage with administering Powers for improved and better understanding.

Some speakers said the Special Committee must do more to advance progress in all of the Non-Self-Governing Territories on its list:  American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, French Polynesia, Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara.  Some urged bolstered efforts to engage with the administering Powers:  France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.

Similarly, the representative of Sierra Leone, noting the absence at the Seminar of many administering Powers, said trust must be built among all stakeholders.  Enhanced cooperation by all parties would help to identify practical means to be pursued and to better evaluate the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  “But, we need to have results,” he said, suggesting a closer examination of what help the Special Committee could give to those Non-Self-Governing Territories that were on the verge of declaring independence.

The representative of Chile said that while delegates were blaming the Special Committee, there were limitations that had been imposed on it.  A one-size-fits-all approach did not work, as Non-Self-Governing Territories were different and unique solutions must be found.

Many speakers agreed that the people must lead the process.  “A process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization:  it is an extension of colonization,” expert Michael Lujan Bevacqua said.

Pointing to some examples, expert Carlyle Corbin said some references that had been made to “Constitutions” were in fact misnomers, adding that such instruments were predominantly constitutional orders.  In the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, a recent constitutional order was one example, he said, adding that all British overseas territories must also submit their budgets to the administering Powers for approval, essentially being told how to spend their own money.  Decolonization with absolute political equality had been clearly defined in a number of General Assembly resolutions, he stressed, emphasizing that colonialism by consent was still colonialism.

Sharing another perspective, a representative of Gibraltar stressed that Spain’s new proposal to become a joint administering Power with the United Kingdom was an attempt to prevent Gibraltar’s decolonization and perpetuate colonial rule.  “The Committee’s role is not to concern itself with competing real estate claims, but with the rights of peoples who do not enjoy full self-government and to help them obtain this, in furtherance of their human rights,” he said.  “We are one of the 17 such peoples and the Committee continues to fail to do its duty by us.”

Other speakers said the Special Committee must pay close attention to territories affected by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.  Expert Jessica Byron, who said United Nations organizations, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), other international groupings like the Commonwealth and regional groupings had a major responsibility to support the case of the territories during the difficult transition in their relationship with the European Union.

The Regional Seminar also held a discussion on “Strengthening cooperation with the administering Powers, the Non-Self-Governing Territories, concerned Member States and other stakeholders on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, according to the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially its economic dimension, taking into account the indivisible nature of the Sustainable Development Goals:  In the Caribbean region, Pacific region and other regions”.

Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), in a statement delivered by Douglas Arcia Vivas, said the success of the 2030 Agenda depended on a global partnership, with attention focusing on those furthest behind.  As the decolonization process remained pending, the world was calling for action and decisions must be made to finally put an end to colonialism.  One of the conditions for implementing the Goals, he said, was that those living under colonial or foreign occupation were allowed for themselves to select the goals they wished to set with the full pursuit of independence as their first right, he said.

Representatives of the United Nations Development Programme and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean provided an overview of their activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.

During the day-long meeting discussions were also held on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, Gibraltar and Western Sahara.

The Regional Seminar will reconvene on Thursday, 18 May, to conclude its work.

Second Meeting (continued)

The Seminar then concluded its discussion on “Perspectives of the administering Powers, territorial Governments, concerned Member States and other stakeholders, as well as views of experts on the decolonization process:  Political developments in the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Caribbean region, Pacific region and other regions”.

MICHAEL VICTOR SUMMERS, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, said the Territory, with a population of 3,400, had been economically self-sufficient since 1990, and a new constitution promulgated in 2009 had confirmed its post-colonial status.  With full internal self-government except in foreign affairs and defence, the population had voted overwhelmingly in 2013 to remain an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, and there was no current wish to associate with “an aggressive and unfriendly Argentina”, he said.  That country still claimed the Territory and had sought to colonize them and deny the Islanders’ right to self-determination.

Providing a snapshot of recent developments, he said the Governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina had issued a joint statement in 2016, agreeing to work for the reversal of restrictive measures on economic activities that were not conducive to improving relations.  Yet, sanctions remained in place, he noted.  The Special Committee had not done very much to benefit the people of the Islands, which remained on its list, he said.  Pointing out that it had been established to protect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, encouraged all States to withhold support for Argentina’s wish for bilateral negotiations on sovereignty with the United Kingdom in all multilateral forums.  He also urged Caribbean countries to consider the importance of self-determination in their own political development.

JOSEPH BOSSANO, Gibraltar, said Spain had taken the step of attempting to “bend our will, by use of blackmail”, contrary to the United Nations Charter.  “We are the Gibraltarians and our rock, the six km2 lump of limestone that guards the entrance to the Mediterranean, is what we call home,” he declared.  Spain’s case for denying Gibraltarians the right to self-determination was that they were squatters rather than indigenous to the Territory.  However, Gibraltar’s constitutional relationship with the administering Power had come a long way since the 1967 referendum, but not yet sufficient for delisting, because there was only one delisting criterion the Special Committee would apply:  the transfer of power from the administering Power to Gibraltar.  Once that happened, “we shall be decolonized”, he said, emphasizing that the Special Committee was not empowered to determine whether a Territory should belong to one State or another.  “Your role consists in monitoring the relationship with the State that you consider to be responsible for the Territory and the people of that Territory, to assess the people’s progress on the road to full self-government,” he said, adding:  “That is all the decolonization resolutions require you to do.”

Turning to Spain’s new proposal, he said it sought to take advantage of Gibraltar’s intended departure from the European Union in 2019, and mirrored a previous attempt to establish joint Spanish-British sovereignty over the Territory.  That proposal had already been rejected in the past through a referendum that had seen 98.5 per cent of the population voting against it, he said.  The United Kingdom had said it would not discuss such a proposal without Gibraltar’s prior approval, he recalled, welcoming Spain’s proposal because it exposed the Spanish case for what it was — an attempt to prevent Gibraltar’s decolonization and perpetuate colonial rule.  He called on the Seminar to reflect his analysis in its meeting records and to ensure that no step was taken to commit the Special Committee to supporting Spain’s proposal.  “The Committee’s role is not to concern itself with competing real estate claims, but with the rights of peoples who do not enjoy full self-government, and to help them obtain this, in furtherance of their human rights,” he said.  “We are one of the 17 such Territories and the Committee continues to fail to do its duty by us.”

AHMED BOUKHARI, Frente Polisario, said the issue of Western Sahara had been discussed and resolved by the United Nations and the African Union.  In doing that, those international organizations had established principles based on decolonizing the continent’s last colony on the basis of the right to self-determination and the military character of Morocco’s illegal presence in Western Sahara.  Noting that lessons of pragmatism and maturity had been learned with the referendum in Western Sahara, he said United Nations resolutions had declared Morocco’s presence illegal.  In fact, Morocco had no mandate in administering Western Sahara and the European Court recognized in 2015 that Western Sahara was separate from Morocco, thus resolving the debate.

However, he said, what remained to be done must clear obstacles to self-determination.  All stakeholders, including the Security Council, were involved in doing so.  Meanwhile, in 2016, Morocco had expelled personnel in the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), had started to build a road in the buffer zone and continued to exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources, including phosphates, currently totalling more than $1 billion.  Western Sahara was ready to hold a referendum on self-determination so it could start building a viable State that participated in international relations.  For its part, Western Sahara had almost completely eliminated illiteracy and had doctrines of security and regional cooperation, but not the necessary resources States needed.  The Special Committee was the target of an assault, with some wanting to be judge and jury.  It would be risky, in terms of the Special Committee’s credibility, to reopen debates that had already been settled, he said.  “We can achieve anything in a dignified way,” he said to his counterpart from Morocco.  “We all have a right to exist.”  To ensure progress, he said the next negotiations needed to start.

Delivering statements were experts Carlyle Corbin, Jessica Byron, Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Judith Bourne, Mickael Forrest and Stéphanie Graff.

Mr. CORBIN said there was distinction between colonial reform and decolonization.  The modernization of arrangements without providing for political equality lent to guising self-government as what amounted to a continuation of colonialism.  In French Polynesia, he said, a recent accord was a case in point.  The re-inscription of French Polynesia on the Non-Self-Governing Territories list had been based on observations on powers controlled by the elected officials and by the administering Power.  Decolonization with absolute political equality had been clearly defined in a number of General Assembly resolutions.  Colonialism by consent was still colonialism, he said, emphasizing the difficulties in certain cases in defining self-government.

Some references that had been made to “Constitutions” were in fact misnomers, he said, saying such instruments were predominantly constitutional orders.  In the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, a 2008 constitutional order was one example.  The “nuclear option” had been used in the British Virgin Islands to override power with regard to issues of public safety.  Those territories must also submit their budgets to the administering Powers for approval.  That essentially meant that they were being told how to spend their own money.  The United States territories had similar situations, with Congress making all rules unilaterally, and cases could be found in colonies administered by the Netherlands.  Those issues must not be examined in isolation, but on a regional basis, he said.

Ms. BYRON explored the impact of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union on the political, social and economic opportunities available to British overseas territories in the Caribbean.  As their populations were not members of the United Kingdom’s electorate, they could not vote in the 2016 referendum, even though they were severely affected by the consequences of decisions and developments on which they were minimally consulted and over which they have no control.  Outlining their strong ties with the European Union, she said vulnerabilities and aspirations must be addressed.  Apart from their status within the European Union, links with the Commonwealth and the United Nations, inclusion in the small island developing States and their participation in regional groupings, the territories had little access to international forums.  For their part, the territories had been proactive in leveraging their networks and expertise to analyse the impact of Brexit and to seek to protect the benefits they enjoyed.  However, they are severely challenged by their status as low-visibility third parties in the negotiations, by the protracted and highly political nature of the process and by the ongoing uncertainty for their economies.

Going forward, she recommended a range of actions.  United Nations organizations, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), other international groupings like the Commonwealth and regional groupings had a major responsibility to support the case of the territories during the difficult transition in their relationship with the European Union.  While the focus of analyses of Brexit repercussions for independent developing countries had been on the future relationship with the United Kingdom since their relationship with the European Union remained unchanged, it was the inverse for the territories’ predicament and less attention had been given to possible solutions to their dilemma.  The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) should be asked to set up a monitoring group on Brexit negotiations and to do a cost-benefit analysis of the future options available to the territories for a beneficial relationship with the European Union.  In addition, UNDP and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) should pay special attention to the territories access to climate change mitigation financing.  The territories’ decolonization efforts must also be addressed.

Mr. BEVACQUA, expert, presented recent developments in Guam’s quest for decolonization, saying local activities included education outreach campaigns focusing on illuminating the future possibilities for Guam should it become an independent country.  Leading those efforts were the Independence for Guam Task Force and the Commission on Decolonization, the Government body tasked with efforts geared towards holding a self-determination plebiscite.  The campaign had seen more than three dozen community meetings held and ongoing discussions were considering a decision to hold a plebiscite as early as 2018 or 2020.  However, he said, a United States court decision in March 2017 on the case Arnold Davis v. the Guam Election Commission had ruled that such a referendum must be open to all residents and not just Guam’s Chamorro people, the island’s native inhabitants, who currently comprise 37 per cent of the population.  In that case, Mr. Davis, a Caucasian man who had been a long-time resident of Guam, sued the Government of Guam in 2011 over a proposed self-determination plebiscite that was designed to ensure the voices of the island’s native inhabitants would be heard in terms of determining a future political status for the island, calling the referendum discriminatory and unconstitutional.

“A process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization:  it is an extension of colonization,” he said.  The plebiscite was not in fact race-based, but time-based; those who were native inhabitants and could vote were those who were residents of Guam, and their descendants, at a time when the United States Congress had recognized that Guam had a unique and definable “people” through the passage of its Organic Act for the island in 1950.  The population at that time had comprised approximately 90 per cent of indigenous Chamorro people and 10 per cent other groups.  In addition, the court had deemed a plebiscite was of the same character as regular elections.  The decision had had a chilling effect, he said, further exacerbating the administering Power’s lack of concern for United Nations resolutions and increased military presence on the island.  Weeks after the March 2017 court decision, Guam’s legislature had passed a bill defending the right of Guam’s native inhabitants to determine their destiny without overt or undue interference by the administering Power and Guam’s Attorney-General announced her intention to appeal the United States court decision.  In closing, he shared the words of Ed Benavente, who had led the group Nasion Chamoru, who had passed away in 2016: “I may not see decolonization in my lifetime, but I can leave this world knowing that the next generation will continue to fight for the rights of our people.”

Ms. BOURNE, expert, provided an update on the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories administered by the United States — American Samoa, Guam and the United States Virgin Islands — saying that popular interest and involvement in any United Nations-based decolonization effort had lagged.  In 2010, the delegates to the United States Congress from the three Non-Self-Governing Territories asked for a bill to be passed to provide funding for educational programmes on political status options.  “The comprehensive programmes that were needed then are needed even more now,” she said.  The centennial of Denmark’s transfer of the United States Virgin Islands to the United States, marked in March 2017, should have been an opportunity to reflect on the current situation.  While the Government of the United States had funded one year of activities to address that, discussions had so far failed to find a way forward.  “Without a drastic and thorough re-evaluation and restructuring of work of the Committee,” she said, “without any diminution of its aims and ideals, this Third International Decade may simply morph into the fourth and fifth until the effort simply dies from neglect and inactivity.  This would be a tragedy for the people of the remaining mostly small island territories on the list.”

The generalized dwindling of interest in the concept and reality of self-determination amongst the people of the islands was neither natural nor inevitable, she said, underlining a lack of focused and targeted information linking those concepts and realities to the lives of the people.  If the purpose of the Special Committee was to eradicate colonialism, she said, it could not simply sit, collect data and listen to repetitive or even disturbing reports from Non-Self-Governing Territories while politely asking the administering Powers to act in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and resolutions.  It must find ways to assist the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories with the tools needed to move forward, on a case-by-case basis, to freely determine the option they preferred and to move forward to implement that decision.  Education and knowledge were key, she said, urging the establishment of a small expert group to evaluate the resources of the United Nations and its associated agencies and the needs and resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories with regard to the issues addressed by the Special Committee.  Such a group could also recommend how the former could beneficially interact with the latter to generate positive movement towards the goal of eradicating colonialism.

Mr. FORREST, expert, said the sole goal was independence in New Caledonia.  A draft Constitution had outlined a vision for an independent Kanak nation.  The Margarita Declaration had recognized the right to self-determination and the 2014 visiting mission had bolstered the synergy towards a referendum.  What was needed now was a complete, transparency referendum list, he said, calling upon the Special Committee to send a mission to New Caledonia to help to prepare for the planned 2018 referendum.  The situation on the ground was extremely tense and fragile because of mass immigration organized by France, and the Kanak people had little control over natural resources management.

Turning to events leading to independence, he said the Nouméa Agreement of 1998 had provided a blueprint for success.  With that in mind alongside the United Nations decolonization mandate, he asked the Special Committee to support New Caledonia to achieve independence, which would be a win-win situation for even the administering Power, France.  It would help France to “learn to decolonize”, freeing itself from the shackles of colonialism as a colonial Power, he said, calling on the Special Committee to help in that regard.

Ms. GRAFF, expert, said France had always been against the independence of the Kanak people and had adopted strategies to prevent that from happening.  Even today, France was operating a system of expansion, with the newly elected President Emmanuel Macron unwilling to change that position.  At the current crucial point at the last phase of the Nouméa Agreement, a referendum would be held in 2018 on New Caledonia’s independence.

Concerns remained, including that one quarter of voters were being denied that right.  Pro-independence movements, she said, had demonstrated that France had tried to impose its rule on New Caledonia.  Recently, the Special Committee had received two reports on electoral lists explaining the situation clearly.  The representatives of France were trying to say there were no problems with the electoral lists.  The administering Power must meet its obligations and to support a free, transparent referendum process.  Independence must be gained through a vote and strategies to prevent that must be addressed, including refusing to provide information.  The rise of popularity of the right-wing politicians, demonstrated by 47 per cent of New Caledonian voters supporting Marine Le Pen, was another concern that was rooted in France’s aggressive immigration strategy.  Approaching the 2018 referendum, she asked the United Nations for assistance in ongoing efforts.

During the ensuing discussions, participants raised a number of concerns and offered examples of ways to advance the decolonization mandate.

The representative of Spain said decolonization was among the United Nations priorities and the end of the yoke of colonialism was almost over.  However, the situation in Gibraltar was a concern.  The Special Committee was playing a key role in that regard.  With regard to Gibraltar, the dispute had stemmed from occupation in 1704, when the use of non-legitimate force had led to the expulsion of the Spanish people.  Spain had never given the isthmus to the United Kingdom and its continued occupation was illegal.  Since 1965, the General Assembly had requested the resolution of the dispute.  It was a matter of decolonization.  The original proposal, in 1964, had recommended bilateral negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom.  Subsequent General Assembly resolutions supported those views.  Since the United Kingdom, the administering Power, had made a decision to leave the European Union, Spain had proposed to open negotiations on joint sovereignty.  The interests of the inhabitants of Gibraltar should be taken into account, he said, adding that Spain had extended an invitation to negotiate to move forward in resolving the dispute of Gibraltar.

The representative of Argentina regretted to note that 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories still existed around the world.  Sharing his view on the case of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas*, he provided a brief history, noting that a peaceful solution had been sought.  International organizations, including the United Nations and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, had urged the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to negotiate a solution, which was the only way to end the dispute.  Unlike other cases of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the inhabitants of the Islands were not a victim of colonialism and the principle of self-determination did not apply.  Argentina was ready to establish fruitful discussions with the United Kingdom that would address all topics of concern, including maritime and military activities.

Third Meeting

Douglas Arcia Vivas (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Special Committee Chair, and expert Wilma Reveron-Collazo delivered statements on the theme “Strengthening cooperation with administer Powers, the Non-Self-Governing Territories, concerned Member States and other stakeholders on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, according to the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, especially its economic dimension, taking into account the indivisible nature of the Sustainable Development Goals:  In the Caribbean region, Pacific region and other regions”.

Mr. ARCIA VIVAS, on behalf of the Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño, said relevant United Nations Member States must protect the peoples of the Territories they administer and, whenever appropriate, to ensure that they could pursue economic and development aspirations.  Turning to development-related issues, he said the Special Committee had recognized the impact of the global financial crisis and its effects on Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals aimed at leaving no one behind, including the people living in colonized territories.  Those Goals must not lose sight of General Assembly resolution 1514, which stated that colonization undermined the right to self-determination, he said, emphasizing that the call to end colonization did not contradict the Sustainable Development Goals.

One of the conditions for implementing the Goals, he said, was that those living under colonial or foreign occupation were allowed for themselves to select the goals they wished to set with the full pursuit of independence as their first right.  In many colonial situations, the mainland had stripped resources in the territories, preventing the people from managing those resources and efforts to protect the environment.  The 2030 Agenda and its implementation must provide fair compensation to the peoples of territories who had had their natural resources exploited by administering Powers.  The success of the 2030 Agenda depended on a global partnership, with attention focusing on those furthest behind.  As the decolonization process remained pending, the world was calling for action and decisions must be made to finally put an end to colonialism.

Ms. REVERON-COLLAZO, expert, said Puerto Rico, like many other territories, had no control over its economic development.  Colonialism had one goal:  the exploitation of territories for the benefit of the administering Power.  Prospects for the Non-Self-Governing Territories were directly tied to their economic development and rights to take decisions based on their specific needs.  The right to self-determination would become a meaningless sound bite unless it was accompanied with other rights.  The General Assembly had called on States to ensure respect for a range of human rights, she said, adding that administering Powers must allocate adequate funding in that regard.  In Puerto Rico, she said, labour reforms had, since January 2017, curtailed a number of workers’ rights, the Criminal Code of Puerto Rico had criminalized the right to protest and the privatization of the electricity grid had been approved.

The Special Committee, she said, must adopt concrete measures to address financial crises with regard to administering Powers.  Steps should include helping to establish models of self-governance.  The United States was in flagrant violation of its obligations to the 2030 Agenda, including Sustainable Development Goals on reducing hunger, promoting well-being and guarantees to clean water.  She made a number of suggestions on how the Special Committee could address that harsh reality, including by drafting an updated report on the economic situation in territories and request the Special Rapporteur on sustainable development to address the situation in Puerto Rico and other similar territories.  It could also ask the General Assembly to demand compensation for damages that had been caused by the administering Powers due to their colonialist practices.

Fourth Meeting

The Regional Seminar then opened a discussion on the “Role of the United Nations system in providing development assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories taking into account the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions:  presentations by the funds and programmes, specialized agencies, regional economic commissions and others”.  Delivering statements were Stephen O’Malley, United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and Dale Alexander, Focal Point for Associate Member Territories of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Subregional Headquarters in the Caribbean.

Mr. O’MALLEY, speaking on behalf of UNDP and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presented an overview of the United Nations system’s role in providing development assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  With activities in Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands alongside one Non-Self-Governing Territory in the Pacific, Tokelau, the United Nations agencies continued to collaborate with all, with the exception of the United States Virgin Islands, yet not every agency operated in every territory.

Sharing a range of examples of efforts being taken in the Caribbean region, he pointed out the United Nations recent Multi-country Sustainable Development Framework for the 2017-2021 period, covering 18 countries and territories.  There were four main priorities areas:  health; sustainability and resilience; safety and justice; and inclusiveness and prosperity.  Projects addressed a range of issues, he said, including UNICEF programmes in Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands and World Health Organization (WHO) projects in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.  Other recent efforts had focused on Montserrat, including environmental remediation and protection and post-disaster needs assessment workshop.  He also provided an overview of projects in the Pacific region.

Mr. ALEXANDER, Focal Point for Associate Member Territories of the ECLAC Subregional Headquarters in the Caribbean, delivered a presentation on its achievements during the 2015-2016 period.  Among a range of activities, a comprehensive assessment had been taken of the international political developments that would likely impact the ability of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to exercise their rights to self-determination, including the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.  Elaborating on the impact of that decision, he said early indications had shown that certain benefits could be jeopardized.

During the reporting period, he said, strategic interventions included promoting energy efficiency and capacity-building and sensitization initiatives on the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Commission had also adopted a strategic and deliberate approach to supporting the Territories in mainstreaming the Goals into their own development planning processes.  Activities included a December 2016 subregional consultation on the development of a set of core indicators for monitoring implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and the Samoa Pathway in Caribbean Small Island Developing States and a February 2017 Caribbean symposium on mainstreaming the Goals in national development planning.

Discussions

The Regional Seminar then held discussions on the above-mentioned items, during which speakers offered their perspectives and suggestions on ways to advance decolonization goals.  Some mentioned the absence of Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories at the Regional Seminar.

FE’ILOAKITAU KAHO TEVI, Melanesian Spearhead Group, said that as part of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, all its members had adopted an approach to governance, including constructive engagement with a view to addressing peoples’ political aspirations.  The Group had taken a number of missions to examine the situation on the ground, including with the Kanak people of New Caledonia.  The Nouméa Agreement had outlined the path and the result of the referendum must be transparent, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations keep abreast of the Agreement’s implementation.  The Group had also visited Vanuatu and would make further visiting missions.

ALEJANDRO BETTS, expert, said the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)* was different than other decolonization cases as the act of force with which the United Kingdom had taken them from Argentina had been illegal in 1833 as it was today.  Argentina had consistently claimed the restitution of the full exercise of its legitimate sovereignty over the occupied territory.  Today’s inhabitants of the Islands were not distinguishable from the 65 million inhabitants in the United Kingdom.  They were full British citizens, who lived in the archipelago under the administering Power’s laws and obeyed all its protocols with respect to flag, national anthem and public holidays.  In addition, actions of building up military presence had been a threat to both Argentina and the region.  This question, he said, was by no means a “typical” or “classic” decolonization case, but an interdisciplinary one that included aspects of international law that demanded that a powerful world State respected and gave way to the equality of rights of another less powerful State.  In spite of Argentina’s reiterated, declared will to renew the sovereignty negotiations, London had indefinitely persisted in ignoring the question in open violation of multiple prevailing United Nations resolutions on decolonizing the occupied Islands and their surrounding maritime spaces.

The representative of Cuba said the next Special Committee session should examine the case of New Caledonia based on appeals that had been heard today.  The Falkland Islands (Malvinas)* was a case involving the sovereignty dispute, she said, appealing to the Governments of Argentina and United Kingdom to continue a dialogue.  Turning to Western Sahara, she noted that in 2016 the General Assembly had requested the Special Committee to continue examining the issue and had expressed support for negotiations to lead to self-determination of the Saharans, urging efforts to support those initiatives.  With regard to Puerto Rico, it was not on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories due to a political farce launched half a century ago, but the Special Committee must pay special attention to the situation there, particularly with regarding to its current condition, including poverty, illiteracy and other effects of economic austerity plans.

The representative of France, noting that her country had fully cooperated with the Special Committee over the past two decades on New Caledonia, said information under Article 73 e of the Charter had been communicated and a report on the work of the United Nations electoral experts had been transmitted to the Special Committee.  France supported the smooth functioning of a democratic process with a view to the population deciding their future.  The Nouméa Agreement had led to a law of 1999, which had defined the purview of authorities in New Caledonia.  France received a request for dispatching a visiting mission to the Territory which was currently being examined, she said, but New Caledonia should not be the only territory the Special Committee visited and such a visit should occur at an appropriate time.

The representative of Papua New Guinea, noting the absence of Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories at the Regional Seminar, offered several suggestions to reduce the number of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The Special Committee should, among other things, hold additional meetings devoted to each listed Non-Self-Governing Territory with a view to identifying challenges such as institutional weaknesses.  It should also take steps to engage with administering Powers for improved and better understanding and could consider establishing a strategic approach to shrinking the list with special attention to be given to Non-Self-Governing Territories on the verge of the final stage of self-determination.

The representative of Chile said that at the end of the Third Decade on Decolonization, almost nothing had happened and the Special Committee played no role in the independence of Timor-Leste in 2002.  While delegates were blaming the Special Committee, there were limitations that had been imposed on it.  A one-size-fits-all approach did not work, he said.  Non-Self-Governing Territories were different and unique solutions must be found, he said, expressing Chile’s longstanding commitment to decolonization.  Turning to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, a dual sovereignty solution had been suggested by the United Kingdom in 1974 and perhaps that option could be reconsidered.

The representative of Zimbabwe, noting that his country had declared independence in 1980, raised concerns about Western Sahara, an issue that had remained unresolved for more than 25 years.  Relevant Security Council resolutions must be implemented, he said, expressing hope that in the absence of an administering Power the United Nations could support Western Sahara and its people’s aspirations for self-determination.  He suggested that the Special Committee plan a visiting mission to assess the situation itself.

The representative of Indonesia said rigorous efforts must be undertaken to ensure the full discharge of the Special Committee’s mandate.  It must closely examine each Non-Self-Governing Territory to move the process along, as there was no one-size-fits-all model.  Respecting the national position of members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, she said Indonesia had placed constructive engagement at the forefront.  Yet, the Special Committee’s mandate was clear, and its dialogue must be focused, she said, rejecting any political discussions that fell outside its purview.

The representative of Sierra Leone said the Special Committee had a clear mandate.  However, trust must be built among all stakeholders, he said, noting that many administering Powers were absent from the Regional Seminar.  Enhanced cooperation by all parties would help to identify practical means to be pursued and to better evaluate the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  “But, we need to have results,” he said, suggesting a closer examination of what help the Special Committee could give to those Non-Self-Governing Territories that were on the verge of declaring independence.  Sierra Leone condemned all acts of colonialism, yet believed that peaceful means were the only options available, as the administering Powers were more powerful than the territories they held.

Mr. SUMMERS, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)*, said history demonstrated that the British had claimed the Islands in 1776, prior to Argentina’s claim of an invasion, and the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom had signed an agreement in 1849.  Negotiations were difficult and if all issues were to be put “on the table”, then self-determination should be one of them, he said, noting that many believed that the Islanders were not entitled to that right.

The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis regretted to note the lack of participation of regional stakeholders.  On Western Sahara, she expressed support for the work of the Secretary-General and the United Nations to seek a resolution of the dispute.  The Moroccan autonomy initiative, which was in line with United Nations principles, was a good compromise solution, she said.

The representative of Timor-Leste said her country was the last territory that had been taken off the decolonization list and would soon turn 15, a testament of the Special Committee’s work.  The Special Committee still had a crucial role to assist peoples in choosing their future, be it independence, integration or free association.  Self-determination was an inalienable right of all people, she said.  Turning to Western Sahara, she said the people had not exercised their inalienable right.  Resumed negotiations would ensure the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and a peaceful solution.  Concluding, she said similar situations were possible in the listed Non-Self-Governing Territories, as it had been in Timor-Leste.

The representative of Dominica wondered whether there should be a refocus on Brexit implications and other development-related issues to identify actions that would benefit both Non-Self-Governing Territories and countries in the region.  More broadly, he said the time had come to consider an integrated approach to ameliorating the situation of the 17 listed Non-Self-Governing Territories on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. BOSSANO, Gibraltar, said Gibraltar would be more affected by Brexit than other territories that were further away in distance.  If there was a price to be paid for self-determination, “we would rather eat dry bread” and pay the price, he said.  For the benefit of others, the Special Committee should pay attention to Brexit implications with regard to those on the road to self-determination.

The representative of Grenada expressed support for the Security Council-led process to achieve a peaceful solution to the situation in Western Sahara.  The Moroccan initiative was a valid proposal to end the dispute, he said, noting that the Secretary-General had relaunched the political process to reach a solution in the spirit of compromise.

The representative of Argentina said negotiations required compromise and his country was ready to engage with the United Kingdom to find a solution.

The representative of Algeria said the Special Committee played a crucial role and the international community must continue to help it fulfil its mandate and eradicate colonization.  Turning to the people of Western Sahara, who had continued to be subjected to occupation, he said biased solutions would not contribute to a peaceful future for the region.  Morocco was not complying with resolutions.  The Special Committee had always sought to allow the Saharan people to exercise the right to self-determination, he said, expressing support for Security Council efforts and actions that were being taken by the Secretary-General.  Recalling decisions by courts that had recognized Western Sahara was not part of Morocco, he said the Special Committee must lend its support to achieve, with the African Union, a lasting solution to the problem, including by sending a visiting mission.

The representative of Morocco said Western Sahara had been placed on the decolonization list in 1963, years before the establishment in 1974 of the Frente Polisario, which had been set up by Algeria.  For its part, Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan was a way to end the dispute.  In the most recent elections in October 2016, voter turn out was “highest in the Sahara”, he said, adding that Morocco intended to turn the Sahara into a hub of education, transportation and maritime development to serve the region.  By a Security Council resolution, he said, neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, had been called upon to support the current negotiation process.  Noting that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had called for registering the Tindouf refugee camp population, he wondered why Algeria was blocking that effort.  Morocco had chosen a negotiated solution, he said.  Turning to visiting missions, he said they should not be politicized.  While Morocco had left the African Union because it had admitted a non-State entity, his country had returned to the organization.  Morocco gave freedom, not colonization, he said, hoping the peace process would soon resume under the Secretary-General’s leadership.  However, he said, there could be no solution without the direct involvement of Algeria.

The representative of Algeria said the Special Committee must address the issues of human rights and of occupation.  There was only one occupation, which violated international law, he said, emphasizing that the case of Western Sahara must be examined, as Morocco had annexed part of that territory with expansionist aims.  With regard to the referendum, there had been many references to such an activity in many United Nations resolutions.  The people had a right to self-determination, he said, emphasizing that Algeria had never been a party to the conflict.  Algeria was ready to make every possible effort to support a solution to the situation.

Mr. BOUKHARI, Frente Polisario, noting that there had been a gratuitous distortion of facts, provided a series of clarification.  Morocco had blocked the proposed referendum, the Security Council had taken note of proposals from both Morocco and Frente Polisario and Western Sahara was in fact under military occupation, as written in two General Assembly resolutions.  Morocco could not simultaneously be judge and jury, he said.

The representative of Morocco said his country had issued 18 standing invitations to various special rapporteurs and Algeria had discouraged them.  Morocco was not afraid of human rights scrutiny, he said.  He asked if Algeria, as an observer, was being neutral when it provided weapons to separatists.  Urging engagement in addressing the issue, he said, noting that a solution would take place with or without Algeria.

The representative of Algeria said King Hassan II had suggested that the territory was shared.  Morocco had already taken part of the territory and wished to swallow it up whole.  Algeria had always stood ready to contribute to peace efforts through United Nations processes.  Morocco had expelled many journalists and parliamentarians who asked certain questions.  Amnesty International had reported on human rights abuses, including systematic torture and a crack-down on all individuals expressing support for a free Western Sahara.

The representative of Morocco appealed to the Special Committee to examine the situation of the Kabil people, who had lived for nine centuries under Algeria’s control.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela, Ecuador and Antigua and Barbuda.  Also participating was expert Ms. Bourne, Mr. O’Malley, of UNDP, and a representative of French Polynesia.

__________

*     A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

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Answer – Cost of Mugabe's birthday party: EUR 1.9 million – E-001595/2017

The EU’s objective in Zimbabwe is the full normalisation of relations with the country and to support the Zimbabwean people’s aspirations on the consolidation of democracy, peace and stability, prosperity and sustainable development. EU development cooperation is therefore systematically designed to have the Zimbabwean population as its ultimate beneficiary. To that end, programmes under the bilateral envelope of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) (EUR 234 million) focus on three main areas: health, agriculture-based economic development and good governance and institutional building. In agreement with EU Member States, the implementation of the 11th EDF National Indicative Programme is gradual and cautious. All EU programmes follow the standard EU procurements procedures, subject to audit.

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Concrete Action Needed to Tap Potential of Science, Technology in Solving Global Development Challenges, Speakers Tell Innovation Forum

Science, technology and innovation had an undisputed role in achieving the global development goals and sustainable development, in general, speakers said today as the Economic and Social Council kicked-off its Science, Technology and Innovation Forum.

In opening the two-day annual meeting, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, warned that, despite all the potential of science and technology to identify and design solutions to mankind’s challenges, no tangible progress would be made without real action on the ground.

In that context, the international community must collectively step up efforts to leverage science and technology in support of concrete steps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, stressing that such cooperation might not only prove to be highly effective, but could also help bridge divides across national borders and between various communities.

Highlighting that rapid advances in science, technology and innovation had revolutionized the way people lived, worked and communicated in recent years, Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, noted that, increasingly, such transformation was taking place on a global scale.

Addressing unequal access to innovation and technology and increased connectivity, especially in Africa, would be critical, Mr. Thomson added, calling for the establishment of strategic partnerships and broader participation of women in the field.  It was also important to do more to understand and manage the social, political, economic, ethical, security, security and human rights risks associated with technological advances, he underlined.

The private sector must do its part to put technologies at the service of sustainable development by providing the goods and services, while civil society could steer production and consumption towards sustainable solutions, said Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking for Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  Pointing out the wide range of stakeholders participating in the Forum, Mr. Gass said their presence demonstrated that the spirit of innovation and cooperation was alive and well.

Science, technology and innovation had an amazing impact on societies in modern times, recalled Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who delivered a video message to the Forum.  While they were not “silver bullets”, science, technology and innovation could help “unlock miracles”, he stressed, while adding that Governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations all had a role to play in those efforts.

Without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting towards a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries, said the representative of Ecuador, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  She went on to emphasize the  urgent need to channel effective, sustainable technical assistance and capacity-building tailored to the specific needs and constraints of developing countries, and to address technology infrastructure gaps, as well as capacity constraints.

Increasing the availability of technology could help weaker and vulnerable countries build resilience, while also helping to eliminate poverty and promote good governance and financial inclusion, highlighted the representative of Bangladesh, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, and aligning himself with the Group of 77.  Least developed countries needed suitable technologies and relevant know-how to adapt to local requirements, he said, underscoring the need for adequate financial support to harness science, technology and innovation, as well as the important role of private-public partnerships, and South-South and triangular cooperation.

Also speaking today during the opening segment were the representatives of Cameroon (on behalf of the African Group) and El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

Throughout the day, there were also seven panel discussions that explored the key opportunities and priorities for the use of science, technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Forum will continue at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 May.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that science, technology and innovation had an undisputed role in achieving the global development goals and sustainable development, in general.  Yet, for all the potential of science and technology to identify and design solutions to mankind’s challenges, no real progress would be made without real action on the ground.  Given that reality, the international community must collectively step up efforts to leverage science and technology in support of concrete actions towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Such action-oriented cooperation might not only prove to be highly effective, but could also help bridge divides across national borders and between various communities, as well as strengthen communication and collaboration.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Forum would bring together a wide and diverse sampling of public and private actors, ranging from decision makers and regulators, to entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as scientists and civil society representatives, he said.  The mandated objectives of the Forum were to identify and examine technology needs and gaps, including with regard to scientific cooperation, innovation and capacity-building, and to help facilitate the development, transfer and dissemination of relevant technologies for the Sustainable Development Goals.  In that regard, the Forum must consider a range of sources of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, and provide an opportunity to strengthen the dialogue between stakeholders, while also facilitating exchanges on science, technology and innovation solutions.  The summary of the Forum would be fed into the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which would be held from 10 to 19 July, he noted.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, noted rapid advances in science, technology and innovation that in recent years had revolutionized the way people lived, worked and communicated.  Increasingly, such transformation was taking place on a global scale.  Smart mobile devices were being used to provide banking services to people without bank accounts, to diagnose medical disorders and to remotely manage chronic illness care.  Also highlighting technological advances made in solar energy and in combating illegal fishing, he urged the international community to continue to unlock the potential inherent in innovation.  Properly done, such actions could help achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Addressing unequal access to innovation and technology and increased connectivity, especially in Africa, would be critical, he continued.  Urging the establishment of strategic partnerships, he called on the international community to broaden participation in science, technology and innovation by women.  It was also important to do more to understand and manage the social, political, economic, ethical, security, security and human rights risks associated with advances in innovation and technology.  That included protecting systems against mass-scale malicious cyberattacks as seen across the world last week.

“We’ll also have to address privacy concerns relating to the collection, retention and distribution of personal data,” he continued, emphasizing that the automation replacing industrial jobs would have to be carefully managed.  “We cannot all be employed polishing robots,” he added.  The Forum had both an explanative and a constructive role to play as it had become the pre-eminent, global platform to bring together key stakeholders.  Welcoming the December 2016 General Assembly decision to establish the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, he said to function effectively, the Technology Bank, as well as the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, were in need of increased financial resources.

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, delivering a statement on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require transformation on many different levels and scales and would require the kind of change that could only happen through science, technology and innovation.  Science pushed the boundaries of the unknown and inspired practical solutions, while technology and innovation helped transform science into real results that affected everyday lives.  The world was experiencing a time of rapid progress that affected all lives in every aspect — economic and social, as well as environmental.

The international community must put technologies at the service of sustainable development, he said.  Many people must work together to make that happen, including the private sector which needed to provide the goods and services.  Furthermore, civil society needed to steer production and consumption towards sustainable solutions.  The United Nations stood ready to do its part, including by facilitating technology transfer, particularly as most Member States recognized the importance of science, technology and innovation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Forum served as a collaborative space, with the objective of harnessing and disseminating science, technology and innovation.  The participation of such a wide range of stakeholders demonstrated that the spirit of innovation and cooperation was alive and well.  By participating in the Forum with its global reach, stakeholders were in the “right place at the right time” to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

YANEZ LOZA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting towards a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries.  There was an urgent need to channel effective and sustainable technical assistance and capacity-building tailored to the specific needs and constraints of developing countries, and to address technology infrastructure gaps as well as capacity constraints.  There was also a need to fully operationalize the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, recognizing its potential to foster productive capacity, structural transformation, poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The Group reaffirmed that international cooperation, especially North-South cooperation, remained a fundamental catalyst to sustainable economic growth and urged developed countries to fulfil their unmet official development assistance (ODA) commitments.  In the same vein, it was essential to mobilize domestic resources to support science, technology and innovation, while also recognizing the central role of tax systems in development.  Technology transfer and diffusion on concessional and preferential terms from developed countries were also needed.  The Group also underlined that traditional knowledge should be fully considered, respected and promoted while developing policies, strategies and programmes to foster science, technology and innovation.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that countries in Africa were continuing to mobilize resources to meet the 2030 Agenda.  In that regard, science, technology and innovation had been established as a “game changer” for the socioeconomic development of Africa.  Recognizing the Forum’s potential to help create jobs, he noted the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in sharing knowledge and building on experience.  African countries continued to heavily rely on technology in order to shift to a more sustainable path.  However, many challenges persisted, particularly in levelling the playing field and addressing the persistent digital divide.

Unless such challenges were addressed, many developing countries, particularly least developed countries in Africa, would continue to lag behind, he added.  African countries were facing many obstacles, with regard to finance, capacity-building and research and development.  An effective technology innovative system could help bridge the gap.  Welcoming the setting up of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, he called on the United Nations to fast-track its operationalization.  It was of utmost importance to improve the state of science, technology and innovation in least developed countries.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that the 2030 Agenda aptly recognized that science, technology and innovation had great potential to accelerate human progress.  Availability of technology could help weaker and vulnerable countries build resilience.  It could also help eliminate poverty and promote good governance and financial inclusion.  A stronger commitment and political will of the international community was essential to help the least developed countries utilize science, innovation and technology to realize the 2030 Agenda and the Istanbul Programme of Action.  He welcomed collective efforts that led to the adoption in December 2016 of the charter of the Technology Bank.

He recommended enhancing vertical coordination between policies and strategies adopted by countries to ensure more public investment in research and development.  That would help ensure availability, affordability and accessibility to technology.  Least developed countries needed appropriate technologies and relevant know-how to adapt with local needs.  Noting also the need for adequate financial support to harness science, technology and innovation, he highlighted the role pf private-public partnerships, and South-South and triangular cooperation.  There must be more concrete initiatives among the countries in the South to exchange their lessons learned.

JAIME CALDERON (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said science, technology and innovation had enabled the building of knowledge societies.  Collaboration in innovation was particularly important to finding competitive solutions to local, national and regional challenges.  To that end, it was essential to refrain from carrying out unilateral measures that could foster conflict among States, he said, also highlighting the need to protect the right to privacy of all individuals.  While science, technology and innovation were central in advancing the 2030 Agenda, he reiterated that not every problem had a technological solution.

Various sources of knowledge, including indigenous understanding, must be utilized, he continued.  Technology transfer was a powerful driver of economic growth and a tool to bridge the digital divide.  He stressed the role of capacity-building, particularly in least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries.  Women, children and persons with disabilities must have access to technology.  Technology transfer, capacity-building and the dissemination of information were key drivers of economic growth.

BILL GATES, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, then delivered a video message to the Forum, in which he highlighted that science, technology and innovation had an amazing impact on societies in modern times.  Since 1990, childhood mortality had been cut in half, which meant some 122 million lives had been saved.  He was optimistic about the Sustainable Development Goals and how innovation could help meet those goals.  Science, technology and innovation were not “silver bullets”, but they could help “unlock miracles”.  There needed to be new vaccines, more innovation in agriculture, and reliable, affordable clean energy.  Governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations all had a role to play, which was why the Forum was so important.

Panel I

The first panel titled, “Harnessing Science Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals — the key to unlocking science, technology and innovation potentials”, was moderated by Elenita Daño, Asia Director, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, Philippines.  It featured brief remarks by the Forum Co-Chairs Vaughan Tuekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary Of State, United States, and Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations.  The panellists were Indira Nath, Professor, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, India, and Taikan Oki, Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University.

Mr. TUEKIAN said that the Forum had brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, as well as youth, which spoke to the optimism and creativity that would be needed to achieve the future development goals.  He hoped the next two days would provide participants an opportunity to meet with colleagues and exchange ideas and solutions, as well as think about ways to “bend the science, technology and innovation curve” to address some of the great challenges the world faced in a collaborative manner.

Mr. KAMAU noted that the gap between the knowledge and the available science and policies was huge, and it was up to the Forum to address that gap.  There needed to be greater coherence between the various scientific and technological communities so that they spoke to each other across boundaries to ensure a collaborative outcome.  Only 13 years remained to complete the tasks that had been laid out in the 2030 Agenda.  Science, technology and innovation could be transformative and accelerate change; now was the time to ensure that the policymakers “got it”.

Ms. DAÑO said the objective of the discussion was to provide long-term vision on how and to what extent the world could harness science, technology and innovation for the 2030 Agenda and to ensure better human well-being in the future.  Science, technology and innovation should not only focus on high-technology solutions, but there must be acknowledgement of a diverse range of sources, as well.

Ms. NATH said that human health was not only about humans and diseases, but was also about human well-being.  There were an increasing number of infectious diseases and the destruction of animal habitats was contributing to the spread of infectious disease.  The emerging epidemics the world was dealing with related to the spread of diseases from animals to humans.  Sustainability would not be possible unless the relationships between animals and humans were understood, and there must be a better understanding of the health of the total planet.  Some of the early signals of epidemics that affected humans were first evident in animals, but the connection had not been made, which meant that surveillance and reporting must be expanded to avoid that phenomenon.  Rapid urbanization and internal migration also needed to be studied more carefully as they related to the spread of disease.

Mr. OKI recalled that the Sustainable Development Goals pursued both inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development, although that could not be achieved without holistic approaches that strengthened the pillars of sustainable development through good governance, social inclusion and environmental conservation.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require an immense amount of work and determination, and in that regard, science, technology and innovation had a fundamental role to play by equipping humankind with better tools to progress beyond social hurdles and environmental hazards and reaching development equality across nations.  By supporting developing countries to implement the Sustainable Development Goals on their own, science, technology and innovation had the potential to become a form of ODA.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China said that science and technology were important links to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, eradicating poverty and promoting better human health.  The representative of Ethiopia, associating himself with the statement of the Group of 77, recalled that the Forum was an outcome of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and stressed that the transfer of science, technology and innovation from developed to developing countries was of great importance, particularly for the least developed countries.  The representative of Canada said that the Forum should help build the enabling environment required for science, technology and innovation to be best utilized to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  A representative of a stakeholder group, meanwhile, stressed that “silo solutions” must be broken down.

Panel II

Opening the second panel, the Forum heard an innovation pitch from John Gibbons, winner of the Call for Innovations for the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, on “Babajob in India”.  Babajob was a website in India that helped connect employers with job seekers.  By doing so, it had also acquired a wealth of data on employment trends in India.

Titled “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation to end poverty in all its forms everywhere (Goal 1)”, the panel was moderated by Gillian Tett, the United States Managing Editor, Financial Times.  Participating in the discussion were the following speakers:  Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Belgium; Priyanthi Fernando, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Poverty Analysis, Sri Lanka; and Anne Kingiri, Senior Research Fellow, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, African Centre for Technology Studies, Kenya.

Mr. FRANSAER said integration was critical to fostering innovation and remained vital to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  The integration of the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development were essential to find myriad solutions to current development challenges, relating particularly to science, technology and innovation.  For example, a Government programme focusing on purifying water would be aided by also including aspects of sanitation, sewage, waste and energy consumption.  “We start from problems and we look at how integrated solutions could help bring forth solutions,” he added.

Ms. FERNANDO, noting that poverty was not an abstract concept, said women and girls were disproportionately affected by the phenomenon.  Less than 46 per cent of Indian women used mobile phones; that was substantially less than Indian men.  In India, mobile phone usage by women was seen as undermining tradition.  Such social attitudes limited female autonomy, restricted women’s job searches and perpetuated the gender gap.  More than 1 billion people still lacked access to electricity, with women particularly affected.  “Babies are delivered in the dark,” she added.  Governments had failed to invest significantly in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable citizens and private investment alone would not resolve the gaps.  She urged Governments worldwide to demonstrate political will and stop discounting women’s potential.  “Women are technology producers and innovators”, and not just consumers, she stressed.  Respecting that potential would prevent multinational corporations from exploiting resources and local populations.

Ms. KINGIRI focused her presentation on the importance of enhancing capabilities which she said must be a priority for all Governments that wished to achieve sustainable development.  Multi-stakeholder collaboration and sustainable learning depended largely on the capacity of domestic and local actors.  Interactive learning, whether at the level of project, national innovation system or global value chain, was critical to sustainability.  It often led to capacity-building conversations including on how to conceptualize and form business models.  She highlighted the importance of rethinking the role of science, technology and innovation policy in building platforms and promoting collaboration between enterprises and universities.  Examining the social aspect of innovation helped expose complex dynamics of access, affordability and distribution, she added, highlighting the need to invest in domestic capabilities.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China outlined steps her Government was taking to eradicate poverty, particularly by mobilizing resources and focusing on technology gaps.  China would continue to partner with developing countries and share its experience and expertise at international conferences. 

The representative of Zambia said with so much international competition, knowledge-sharing was instrumental in breaking down silos.  Echoing that sentiment, Ms. KINGIRI highlighted the need to change mind sets and start new conversations.

Panel III

Opening the third panel, the Forum heard two innovation pitches; the first from Asher Hasan on “doctHERs in Pakistan”, which was a home-based technology that connected young, female doctors in India to patients.  The second innovation pitch was from Adama Kane on “JokkoSante in Senegal”, which helped families, including those with young children, store necessary medicines in their homes.

Titled “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation for ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, the panel’s opening remarks were delivered by Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.  The moderator was Paulo Gadelha, Senior Advisor, FIOCRUZ, Brazil, and the panellists were Livio Valenti, Co-Founder, Vice-President of Policy and Strategy, Vaxess Technologies, and Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, United States; and Sarah Marniesse, Director, Mobilization of Research and Innovation, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, France.

Ms. KYTE said that, by focusing on energy and health together, it was possible to seek solutions that may in fact scale up and expedite the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals related to each area.  Fortunately, there was a plethora of data available on both energy and health, and it was clear that there was both a public and private sector interest in finding solutions to energy and health challenges.  International, national and local policy makers would all need to be involved.  Closing the energy access gap was a clear target laid out in the future development agenda, but, without concerted efforts, that goal would not be met until 2040, at the earliest.

There were real challenges to bringing the existing science, technology and innovation to market in the most effective way, including insufficient human capital and managerial capacities within institutions which were not always forward-looking.  Unfortunately, there was a weak enabling environment for health care and sustainable energy, which also slowed progress.  A constant push from the top would be required to make the two complex systems work together to provide solutions.  There was, however, some “low-hanging fruit” which could be addressed immediately for quick, positive results, such as pushing for clean cooking, which would reduce indoor air pollution and the associated illnesses and loss of life.

Mr. GADELHA said that health was one of the Sustainable Development Goals most closely related to human well-being and social rights.  He noted that more than 60 per cent of health problems were due to communicable diseases, while only 1 per cent of money allocated for research and development in health care was devoted to the most predominant communicable diseases in developing countries.

Mr. VALENTI said his group was most focused on ensuring vaccines were made available to those who needed them the most.  In that context, the creation of vaccines that did not require refrigeration or that could be administered without the use of needles was the primary aim of his organization’s research.  Through the use of new technologies, it was possible to envision a dramatic decrease in the cost of vaccination campaigns in the near future.  His organization had created a patch through which vaccines could be administered, and in which individuals could receive two doses at once, making the entire process far more efficient.  There was a sense of urgency to his work, although additional funding was also of critical importance.

Ms. MARNIESSE recalled that about 16,000 children were dying every day.  From that figure, it was clear that more needed to be done to prevent and treat diseases, improve nutrition, and other efforts; all under the umbrella of universal health care.  A holistic approach would be required to mobilize synergies across the Sustainable Development Goals.  Silos needed to be broken down and research institutions in developing countries must be supported in order to bolster local research outcomes, while innovation had to take into account local social and cultural aspects.  As evidenced by the success of anti-malaria campaigns, which were largely focused on the proper use of bed nets, more research was necessary on the social determinants of health.  Most health challenges were locally specific, which called for improved local research and capacities at the core of any viable solutions.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of a stakeholder group stressed that knowledge gained from publically funded research should be made available to everyone and be publically owned, while the representative of another stakeholder group highlighted that assistive technologies could help persons with disabilities to obtain equal access to health care.  The representative of Zambia emphasized that people needed to understand all the determinants of health, rather than simply focusing on prescribing drugs, while the representative of Ethiopia stressed that the number of deaths in Africa from preventable diseases was unacceptable.

Panel IV

Launching the second afternoon panel, the Forum played a video of Emmanuel Owobu, also a winner of the Call for Innovations for the Science, Innovation and Technology, who presented his innovation pitch “OMOMI in Nigeria”.

Focusing on “key priorities for engaging science, technology and innovation to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, the panel was moderated by Myrna Cunningham, President, Centre for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples in Nicaragua, and member of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism.  It featured presentations by Susil Premajayantha, Minister for Science, Technology and Research, Sri Lanka; Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations; and Dalia Francheska Marquez, member of the Women’s Leaders Committee, Organization of American States-Youth United in Action, Venezuela.

Ms. CUNNINGHAM said that, as an indigenous woman, she represented more than  150 million indigenous women from seven sociocultural regions of the world.  They were knowledge-bearers and transmitters of culture, history, languages, traditional medicine, agricultural systems and biodiversity.  The 2030 Agenda was critical for indigenous women in that it recognized that realizing gender equality was crucial to progress.  While expanded opportunities for women and girls could reduce poverty and inequality through better education and health, women only accounted for 28 per cent of the world’s researchers, she noted.

Mr. PREMAJAYANTHA highlighted the work of her Ministry, saying that new information and communication technology had immensely contributed to the empowerment of women, especially in the developing world.  Noting a village programme that provided a midwife to advise pregnant women, he underscored the role of the midwives, who now enjoyed access to iPads to find information and do research to help pregnant women with their delivery and beyond.  Harnessing the potential of women and girls required a multi-stakeholder approach, he continued, citing progress in engaging science, technology and innovation towards that goal.  A higher number of women were involved in science and medicine, and were helping contribute to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  Women were participating in university science departments.  Female faculty had been performing much better than their male counterparts.  “It is a matter of pride for us,” he said.  However, challenges persisted, especially in the private sector, which had a higher gender imbalance.  The private sector preferred to recruit men, due to myriad gender perceptions including that men were available to work later in the day.  For those reasons, women must have a role in decision-making in both the private and public sectors.

Mr. NUSSEIBEH said that, as a small country with big ambitions, the United Arab Emirates recognized that progress would not be possible without the empowerment of half of its population.  As a historically oil-based economy, economic diversification depended largely on building-up a highly skilled pool of labour.  Women were encouraged to participate in various sectors, including science and medicine, she said, noting another programme to educate young girls in the sciences.  While the gender-based digital gap in the United Arab Emirates was marginal, the Government remained committed to bridging it and called on the United Nations to prioritize closing that gap at the international level and empowering women through science and technology.  Women’s empowerment and protection was a major pillar in the economic development of the United Arab Emirates.  That empowerment had to begin in schools with Government-supported curriculum.  Resource allocation also remained critical in making science and technology accessible to women and girls.

Ms. MARQUEZ said women were less likely to have a mobile phone which today was seen as a major driver of innovation.  “We still face a glass ceiling which keeps us far away from prestige,” she said.  Women faced many gaps, both economic and social.  Sexist education played a major role, she said, noting that, while boys were encouraged to play strategic games, young girls were encouraged to follow paths associated with motherhood and household activities.  The best way to achieve equity was through fair learning.  Her organization set up educational workshops and supporting women researchers focusing on human rights.  “We bet on education,” she said.  Training in entrepreneurship was crucial, as well, she continued, emphasizing the need to guarantee access to education that was nor sexist and not gender-biased.  Economic dependency on partners or family limited women’s potential and remained a major challenge in Latin America.  The private sector must support women entrepreneurs.  “If we cannot innovate, we stagnate,” she said.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Zambia, referring to the presentations focusing on gender progress, said of her country, “we have not gotten there yet” due to culture biases limiting women to “non-difficult professions”.  It would be important to enact policy that put women in science and technology positions.  “I think it should start at home,” she added, emphasizing the need to educate young girls about the past achievements of their gender.  Responding to a question by the representative of Panama on whether national successes had been driven by grass-roots or global progress, Mr. PREMAJAYANTHA said that in Sri Lanka most graduates in science and technology were women, who then become engaged locally, educating and empowering other women and girls.  Ms. NUSSEIBEH said that, in the case of the United Arab Emirates, direction from the top was critical.  There were currently eight women Ministers in the Cabinet and the Government was further focused on achieving gender parity in the coming years.

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Speaker Underlines Importance of Institutional Capacity, Reliable Data to Improving Health, Education, as Economic and Social Council Continues Segment

Many Delegates Outline Challenges Related to Climate Change, Constrained Resources

Government officials from around the globe today outlined efforts — often inspired by the deeply cross-cutting nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — to implement integrated, multisectoral policies, as they addressed the Economic and Social Council’s integration segment.

Entering the annual session’s second day, the Council heard a variety of perspectives related to this year’s theme, “Making eradication of poverty an integral objective of all policies:  what will it take?”  Speakers during a morning panel discussion on “national experiences” relayed both opportunities and challenges, citing policies ranging from private sector investment incentives to the establishment of social protection floors for the most vulnerable.

Paulo Luiz Moreaux Lavigne Esteves, General Supervisor at the Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) Policy Centre, was among the speakers citing concrete national policies as well as measurable results.  In that regard, he described Brazil’s recent enrolment of almost 14 million families into a conditional cash transfer programme, noting that it had led to improvements in health, education and gender rights.  That success was largely due to favourable sociopolitical conditions — including strong institutional capacity and reliable data — on the ground, he said.

Edward Sambili, Professor at Egerton University and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, outlined that country’s “interagency road map” for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which he said involved Government, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and other partners.  Drawing attention to Kenya’s increasing focus on poverty reduction, he said social initiatives — such as the provision of both primary and secondary education and social protection schemes targeting the marginalized — were critical.

Striking a different tone, a number of delegates outlined rapidly accelerating challenges related to climate change, food insecurity and constrained resources — both natural and financial.  Several speakers recounted national efforts to take such emerging issues into account in their policy approaches.

In that regard, Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said supporting the sustainable development of small island developing States meant boosting human resources and technical capacity, particularly around data collection and analysis.  Attracting private investment remained a challenge for such States due to their size and remote locations, he said.

During the ensuing interactive dialogue, discussions emerged about the specific needs of middle-income countries, small island developing States and others in special circumstances.  In that regard, Mr. Sareer warned against categorizing countries into “different baskets”, recalling that despite Maldives’ 2011 graduation to middle-income status it continued to face major structural challenges.

In the afternoon, the Council held a panel discussion on “Policy instruments for an integrated approach to poverty eradication”, moderated by Sanjay Reddy, Associate Professor of Economics at the New School for Social Research.  It also concluded its general debate, during which representatives outlined additional policies aimed at integrating the various elements of sustainable development.

Speaking during the general debate were the representatives of China, Thailand, Zimbabwe and Azerbaijan.

The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 10 May, to hold a panel discussion on the eradication of poverty in Africa.

Panel Discussion I

The Economic and Social Council held a panel discussion this morning on “National experiences”, moderated by Elizabeth Thompson, former Government Minister and Senator of Barbados and former Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  It included the following panellists:  Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States; Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru; Miska Simanainen, researcher, Social Security Institution of Finland; Paulo Luiz Moreaux Lavigne Esteves, General Supervisor, Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Policy Centre; and Edward Sambili, Faculty Member, Economics Department of Egerton University and former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Kenya.

Mr. SAREER said the first step to achieving policy integration was through improving coordination and coherence at different levels of governance.  Economic, social and environmental challenges must not be considered independently, but rather as cross-boundary issues.  In order to assist small island developing States tackle gaps and vulnerabilities, there was a need for increased human resource and technical capacity, particularly around data collection and analysis.  Attracting private investment remained a challenge for small island developing States due to their size and remote locations.  However, despite those challenges, those States continued to work to incentivize investments.  Oceans remained the main resource for small island developing States.  In the case of Maldives, achieving fisheries through pole and line fishing while restricting other harmful methods and preserving the marine environment remained crucial.  His country faced limitations in public spending, as well as limited space and infrastructure.

Mr. MEZA-CUADRA said recent figures had demonstrated a radical change and reduction in poverty in Peru; however, “the background is much more complicated”.  He said his country had entered a period of political instability in the 1990s, which did not see economic development reach the most vulnerable.  Since 2000, a number of political changes took place, bringing forth long-term policies that involved civil society.  A basic development consensus had been established, he said, outlining how different sectors had worked together to reach rural areas and the most remote.  Peru met its Millennium Development Goals by investing in infrastructure, telecommunications and hygiene.  Specific programmes targeted vulnerable groups, he continued, emphasizing the need to take into account dimensions of poverty beyond income.  For instance, 40 per cent of the Peruvian population was anaemic, he said, adding that the Government was working to reduce that number.  Describing a programme that provided rural mothers funding, he said such initiatives benefiting specific groups remained critical.

Mr. SIMANAINEN played a video describing Finland’s pilot scheme that pays its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum for two years, irrespective of whether they find work or not.  He said his Government’s main goal was to enact policy that improved employment and to study the effect monetary work incentives had on the employment rate.  Basic income at that level could not be considered as a policy for eliminating poverty.  There were lessons learned during the design and implementation stages of the experiment.  In Finland, there were strong constitutional and other limitations on what could be experimented on.  Designing a treatment was as difficult a task as designing a real policy, he said.  Trials would take time, he continued, adding that experimentation was a learning process. Large scale system reforms may be too difficult to experiment with, he concluded.

Mr. ESTEVES outlined how Brazil by 2012 had enrolled almost 14 million families into a conditional cash transfer programme, which had a positive impact on their health, education and gender rights.  The success was largely due to favourable sociopolitical conditions on the ground, including a set of institutional capacities in place and a reliable database of families living in poverty.  In the same vein, there were bottlenecks that had to be overcome with the help of the United Nations.  The Government of Brazil joined forces with the United Nations development system to create centres to foster policy.  Those centres, namely the International Poverty Centre for Inclusive Growth and the Centre of Excellence against Hunger, had been successful in monitoring and assessing the impact of the country’s national development policy.

Mr. SAMBILI described Kenya’s “interagency road map” which included Government, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and Council of Governors partnering for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Over the last two decades, the Government had enhanced its focus on poverty reduction initiatives.  In 2016, Kenya had launched a transparent and open social platform that allowed players to share knowledge and experiences.  The social dimensions of poverty reduction initiatives included providing primary and secondary education, and social protection schemes targeting the marginalized.  However, challenges persisted including a lack of jobs, high population growth, high youth unemployment, poor economy and rampant corruption.  To address some of those issues, the Government had reserved 30 per cent of its contracts for youth, women and persons with disabilities.  At least 30 per cent of public sector jobs had also been reserved for women.  Regarding the environmental dimension of sustainable development, the Government had implemented school tree planting programmes and community driven forest management.  Still, corruption, quality of data, lack of expertise and Government rigidity remained challenges.

In the ensuing discussion, answering a question posed by Ms. THOMPSON about the funding challenges of small island developing States, Mr. SAREER said that categorization of countries into “different baskets” was where the issue really “creeps up”.  Maldives had become a middle-income country in 2011, but that “doesn’t really change anything on the ground”.  Maldives still faced major structural challenges.  “It’s a remarkable thing to see a country do well in its development,” but the small island developing States category is not one to graduate from.  The moment a country becomes middle-income, concessionary loans become limited.

Answering a question on the new rise in groups that rejected social safety nets and how it could potentially impact social protection policies worldwide, Mr. SIMANAINEN said there was clear evidence that better health, equal access to education and better employment reduced poverty. 

Mr. ESTEVES, responding to a query about how Brazil monitored abuse of the conditional cash scheme, said the initiative was transparent.  There were however challenges facing graduation from the programme, he added, asking:  would people want to graduate from programmes that provided them with grants?  It was, however, important to remember that the cash programme was conditional and the conditions included school attendance, doctor visits and immunizations.

Responding to a question on how the United Nations could help bring different parties to the table, Mr. SAMBILI said that Governments would remain the drivers of the development of long-term strategy.  Bringing in the private sector, Government, civil society and the United Nations enabled different parties to look at how the issues align, particularly on the economic and social goals.  However, alignment on environment issues was more challenging as the effects of climate change were not immediate and therefore delayed action.  He welcomed the United Nations role in getting parties on the same page in that area.

The representative of Brazil outlined the important role of Brazilian civil society in designing and implementing policy, adding that their role would only grow in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Ecuador’s delegate said conditional cash initiatives were critical in helping developing countries.

Responding to a question posed by Norway’s delegate about the outcomes of the income experiment in Finland, Mr. SIMANAINEN said the main objective of the experiment was to see the effect of monetary incentives on the employment rate.  “We have ground to believe this will have a positive effect on employment,” he said, emphasizing that the basic difference between the income and the unemployment benefits schemes was the unconditionality of the former.

Responding to a question posed by the representative of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development on rallying investments from the renewable energy industry, Mr. MEZA-CUADRA said the Peruvian Government aimed to have diversified investments.  His Government had invested in solar energy, he continued, adding that renewables were crucial to Peru, which remained very vulnerable to climate change.

Adding to that, Mr. SAREER said his Government had also been focused on addressing climate change challenges largely by reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and moving toward depending on renewables.  The private sector had been instrumental in supporting the Government’s goal.

Delivering a statement, the representative of the International Committee for Peace and Reconciliation urged the international community to wake-up to eliminate poverty which had affected too many people worldwide particularly, women, young people and the displaced.

Panel Discussion II

This afternoon, the Council held a panel discussion on “Policy instruments for an integrated approach to poverty eradication”.  Moderated by Sanjay Reddy, Associate Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research (United States), it featured the following panellists:  Bente Angell-Hansen, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations in Vienna and Chair, Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its sixtieth session; Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, United Nations Global Pulse; Hanaa Elhelaly, Managing Director, Amwal Financial Investments (Egypt); and Shoaib Sultan-Khan, Chairman, Rural Support Programmes Network (Pakistan).

Mr. REDDY, describing today’s world as one in which expertise “is clearly devalued”, said there was nevertheless a critical role for expertise in the formulation of development policy.  “The policy instruments we seek should be ones that bring together the role of expertise as well as democratic legitimacy and consensus,” he stressed in that regard.

Ms. ANGELL-HANSEN, citing strong links between poverty and drugs, said the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was working to implement the three important United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)-related conventions.  During its recent sixtieth session, more than 1,000 delegates, including representatives of civil society, had discussed ways to build on the success of the General Assembly’s 2016 special session on the world drug problem, focusing on issues related to supply and demand sides, as well as human rights, gender and youth.  The Commission on Narcotic Drugs’ agenda dealt closely with all three of the United Nations core pillars — namely security, development and human rights — she said, adding that the estimated $2.1 trillion annual illicit drug trade represented a major impediment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  While the Commission already cooperated on a number of issues with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Statistical Office, the Commission on the Status of Women and other entities, she stressed that the Economic and Social Council could play an important role in “connecting those dots”.

Mr. KIRKPATRICK said modern data sources — including social media and mobile technology — offered a tremendous opportunity to measure and improve human development “in real time”.  The United Nations Global Pulse was working to harness big data for the public good, in particular sustainable development and humanitarian action.  “Data revolutions are characterized by letting us see things that used to be invisible,” he said, pointing to x-rays and genetic analysis as examples.  Today, social media, online news, retail advertising and other public sources of data — as well as more private, highly-guarded ones such as online searches, web traffic and financial transactions — could complement statistics and help researchers better understand human behaviour.  Global Pulse was engaging a variety of businesses, encouraging them to share their data in a safe, anonymous ways that would allow it to be used to support human well-being and sustainable development.  While the risk of misuse of data was real, he concluded, the non-use of those data could also risk “perpetuating ongoing preventable harm”.

Ms. ELHELALY, focusing on social protection systems, outlined a number of manifestations for such systems:  health care for the poor, conditional cash transfers, school feeding programmes, ration cards, social housing, slum development, labour-intensive projects and insurance and pension schemes.  Noting that over one third of Egypt’s population was classified as “poor”, she recalled that while the country had enjoyed a 6 per cent annual growth rate before 2011, that growth did not “trickle down” to the poor.  Today, the Ministry of Social Solidarity was engaged in a public of protection schemes, including a conditional cash transfer programme known as “Takaful” or “solidarity”.  Emphasizing that such programmes were crucial to supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized, she described the creation of autonomous “social funds” in Egypt as well as her own work in helping Liberia establish social safety nets during the recent Ebola crisis.

Mr. SULTAN-KHAN, noting that 20 per cent of the world’s population currently consumed 80 per cent of its resources while its poorest 20 per cent only accounted for 1.3 per cent, stressed that the centrepiece of poverty-alleviation policy framework must be the mobilization of the poor, in order to enable them to participate directly in the decisions that affected their lives.  Governments typically consisted of two pillars — an administrative one and a political one — but, critically, lacked a socioeconomic pillar.  Noting that such a pillar required an institutional mechanism “with the resources of a Government and the flexibility of a non-governmental organization”, he called for a multi-tiered, holistic approach.  He also relayed a number of personal observations from his work on the ground in Pakistan — stressing that many communities only needed the support of an organization to “unleash their potential” — and underscored the importance of using the time-tested principles of development “rather than reinventing the wheel”.

As the floor was opened for discussion, the panellists responded to a number of questions, including one posed by NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and Chair of this afternoon’s session, on the topic of microcredit schemes and conditional cash transfer programmes.  Among other things, he asked them to explain the difference between those instruments and to outline their comparative advantages.

To that, Ms. HELALY described Mexico’s “poverty targeting toolkit”, which helped the Government deploy the right instrument for the right population.  Noting that microfinancing played a critical role in Egypt’s rural areas — with non-governmental organizations distributing the loans — she said female-headed households represented the bulk of the beneficiaries.  Increasingly, loan recipients were managing those funds and repaying them with the help of mobile technology, she added.

In that regard, Mr. KIRKPATRICK said “granular-level” data emerging from the use of loans and cash transfers could prove helpful in learning whether communities did, or did not, benefit from those programmes.  Partnerships with the private sector would be necessary to access such data in a safe and responsible way.

The representative of Mexico welcomed the panel’s discussion of the General Assembly’s special session on the world drug problem.  He called that session a “new paradigm” in global efforts to combat the global drug problem which, in particular, linked those strategies with the 2030 Agenda.  All United Nations agencies must remain involved and engaged in those efforts.

Ms. ANGELL-HANSEN emphasized the importance of incorporating drug prevention programmes in a wide range of the United Nations work, including its growing work to support refugees and migrants.  She also spotlighted the role of public-private partnerships in creating alternative livelihoods for drug producers, citing one such partnership between Nespresso and the Government of Colombia aimed at substituting coca plant production with coffee farming.

In response to a question posed by Mr. Reddy, Mr. SULTAN-KHAN said communities were often able to develop their own plans to lift themselves out of poverty if provided with the adequate resources.

Statements

LIU JIEYI (China), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries, said the international community must step up its work in a number of critical areas, including speeding up its global poverty reduction efforts.  It should also strengthen cooperation in that area, paying particular attention to the financing needs of developing countries.  For their part, developed countries should fully honour their official development assistance (ODA) commitments and provide developing countries with debt relief and broader market access.  Calling, in that regard, for an open world economy and a “fair, inclusive and orderly” global financial system as essential preconditions for poverty eradiation, he outlined some of China’s own poverty reduction strategies.  Having already reduced poverty among its rural population by some 700 million people, the country was on track to achieve full poverty eradication by 2020.

NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77, declared:  “We need to recognize that poverty goes beyond the lack of income,” encompassing the lack of jobs, opportunities and access to basic services.  Thailand had mainstreamed poverty eradication into its 20-year national strategy, as well as its economic and social development plans.  It had also long pursued a people-centred approach that enabled individuals to transform their thinking and escape the vicious cycle of poverty, employing the principles of moderation, resilience and reasonableness, guided by knowledge and moral considerations.  Thailand had also been sharing that approach through South-South and triangular cooperation frameworks, and planned to present its national voluntary review at the Council’s high-level session in July.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country was focusing on food security, social services and infrastructure.  Highlighting the interlinkage between them all, he said it would not be possible to eliminate poverty without ending hunger.  Addressing health and education was dependent upon addressing gender equality, water and sanitation, sustainable energy, and job creation.  All the goals were linked and dependent on one another, he added, urging the need for multi-stakeholder participation and partnerships across the board.  He also called for investments in the empowerment of women and girls.  “As long as we remain farms and quarries we will forever be susceptible to boom-bust cycles of commodity prices,” he added.  It was therefore important to add value to the rich natural resources and agricultural products.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that with some 20 million people facing starvation and famine, worldwide funding was critical to avert the calamity, which further demonstrated that there could be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.  For its part, the economic policy of Azerbaijan aimed to improve citizens’ socioeconomic standing.  By incorporating the 2030 Agenda into its national plans, the Government had made progress in diversifying the economy, increased spending on agriculture and created more decent jobs.  It had also provided social protection to low-income families.  In the last decade, the poverty and unemployment rate had been reduced to 5 per cent and some 3,000 schools and 600 hospitals and health centres had been built or renovated.  Emphasizing that particular attention must be paid to internally displaced persons, he noted that some 250,000 had already been provided with housing.

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