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General Assembly Unanimously Adopts Text Creating United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office; Elects 18 Members to Economic and Social Council

President Hails Action as New Secretary-General’s First Major Institutional Reform

In what its President called the first major institutional reform presented by Secretary-General António Guterres, the General Assembly unanimously decided today to establish the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, while also electing 18 members to the Economic and Social Council.

Introducing the Counter-terrorism text (document A/71/L.66), Assembly President Peter Thompson (Fiji) said “This resolution will enhance the United Nations capability to assist Member States in implementing the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism strategy across its four pillars by ensuring greater coordination and coherence across the UN system.”

Through the resolution, the Assembly welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to transfer into the new Office the current Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Office and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre, together with their existing staff and all associated regular and extra-budgetary resources, out of the Department of Political Affairs of the Secretariat.  The Assembly emphasized the need to ensure that the new Office, to be headed by an Under-Secretary-General, was provided with adequate resources for the implementation of its mandated activities.

Speaking in explanation of position, several speakers representing major groups took the floor to welcome the adoption, called for the text’s swift implementation and adequate resourcing, and stressed the need to focus on preventing violent extremism.  They also emphasized the importance of ensuring strong leadership in the form of an Under Secretary-General who had experience in a range of areas and was able to foster a balanced approach that included human rights, gender equality and development.

In similar vein, Michael Grant (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said the action had come after years of efforts by those countries to improve the counter-terrorism architecture.  He praised the Assembly for creating a greater focus on prevention.

On behalf of the MIKTA countries, comprising Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia, Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu (Turkey) stressed the importance of timely, adequate and effective delivery of counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance to Member States upon their request, while underlining that the new Office would have no competence to monitor, supervise or interfere with Member States to implement the Global Strategy and the rest of the international legal framework against terrorism.

Stressing the need for a strong and efficient United Nations that drove all pillars of the counter-terrorism and extremism-prevention strategies and extensive coordination of all actors, the European Union’s representative emphasized that the bloc would closely coordinate with the Office once it was established.

Representatives of Syria, Norway, India, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia also welcomed the adoption of the resolution while emphasizing a need for effectiveness, coherence and adherence to all United Nations principles.  Syria’s representative called the establishment of the Office “a quantum leap” in the fight against terrorism, which he claimed was funded in his country by some Member States, including Saudi Arabia.  The Office must avoid politicization and financial polarization, he stressed.

India’s representative said the creation of the Office was a much-awaited first step to align the United Nations with the ever-changing global reality.  Terrorist networks, he stressed, were not bound by the bureaucratic inertia that bound the United Nations.  They used modern platforms, cyberspace and social media, and existed in a parallel world of hidden transnational networks.

Norway’s delegate, concurring that the Office would enable the Organization to implement all four pillars of the global counter-terrorism strategy in a more cohesive way, stressed that key qualifications of the Under-Secretary-General should be experience in development, as well as security, and an ability to work with a range of stakeholders.

While also welcoming the new Office, Iran’s representative said, however, that further work was needed to improve the efficiency, transparency, and impartiality of United Nations counter-terrorism efforts.  Without the provision of adequate financial resources, he noted with concern that most positions in the new Office would be funded by voluntary contributions, possibly affecting impartiality.

Citing a recent proliferation of horrific terrorist attacks worldwide, Israel’s representative stressed the urgency of measures to strengthen the fight against that scourge, adding that United Nations efforts would only succeed if the issue was not politicized and the entire international community was united in genuine commitment.

Saudi Arabia’s delegate meanwhile said he looked forward to a smooth transfer of resources devoted to counter-terrorism in the new arrangement.  He reiterated that terrorism could not be associated with any religion or ethnicity, and rejected any suggestion by Syria’s delegate that his country supported terrorism, calling on it to end its own terrorist support in the form of ties to Hizbullah.  Thanking Iran’s representative for his comments, he assured him that transparency and all United Nations principles would be respected in relation to the counter-terrorism centre.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Syria’s representative called on Saudi Arabia to allow the Syrian people to exercise their rights, end interference in its domestic affairs and stop financing terrorist groups.  Syria would, in the meantime, continue to combat Wahhabi ideology.

Regarding the elections to fill vacancies on the Economic and Social Council — held by secret ballot — the successful candidates included Belarus, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Spain, Sudan, Togo, Turkey and Uruguay.  They will hold three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2018.

The 18 outgoing members were:  Argentina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, India, Ireland, Japan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The new members were elected according to the following pattern:  five from African States; three from the Asia-Pacific States; one from the Eastern European States; four from the Latin American and Caribbean States; and five from the Western European and Other States.

As of 1 January 2018, the remaining States making up the 54-member body will be:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Guyana, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela and Viet Nam.  That includes three members elected earlier to fill the unexpired terms of office for Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sweden.

The Assembly will reconvene at a date to be decided.

Voting Results

African States

Number of ballots:

188

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid votes:

188

Number of abstentions:

0

Number of members voting:

188

Majority required:

126

Number of Votes Obtained

Malawi

184

Togo

184

Ghana

183

Morocco

177

Sudan

175

Tunisia

1

Zambia

1

Asia-Pacific States

Number of ballots:

188

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid votes:

188

Number of abstentions:

0

Number of members voting:

188

Majority required:

126

Number of votes obtained

Japan

185

India

183

Philippines

182

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

1

Pakistan

1

Eastern European States

Number of ballots:

188

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid votes:

188

Number of abstentions:

3

Number of members voting:

185

Majority required:

124

Number of votes obtained

Belarus

182

Estonia

1

Montenegro

1

Ukraine

1

Latin America and Caribbean States

Number of ballots:

188

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid votes:

188

Number of abstentions:

1

Number of members voting:

187

Majority required:

125

Number of votes obtained

Ecuador

182

Mexico

182

El Salvador

181

Uruguay

180

Cuba

2

Western European and Other States

Number of ballots:

188

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid votes:

188

Number of abstentions:

3

Number of members voting:

185

Majority required:

124

Number of votes obtained

Germany

182

Spain

181

Ireland

180

Turkey

179

France

177

Israel

1

Liechtenstein

1

Switzerland

1

Having obtained the required two-thirds majority, the following 18 States were elected members of the Economic and Social Council for a three‑year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Spain, Sudan, Togo, Turkey and Uruguay.

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Special Committee on Decolonization Adopts 2 Information-Related Draft Resolutions as It Opens 2017 Substantive Session

Delegates Vote Down Effort to Hear Petitioners on Question of Western Sahara

Opening its 2017 substantive session today, the Special Committee on Decolonization approved two draft resolutions on the transmission of information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, and on the dissemination of information on decolonization.

The first draft, approved annually for adoption by the General Assembly, would have the 193-member organ reaffirm that administering Powers should continue to transmit information under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations.

By other terms, the Special Committee would have the Assembly request that the administering Powers transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other information on the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible.

The second text, on the dissemination of information on decolonization, would have the Assembly approve activities undertaken by the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, encouraging updates to and wide dissemination of an information leaflet on what the United Nations could do to help Non-Self-Governing Territories.  By other terms, the Assembly would request that the two Departments develop ways to disseminate material on the issue of self-determination, exploring collaboration with the decolonization focal points of territorial governments, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, while encouraging the involvement of non-governmental organizations.

In other business, delegations debated whether to hear petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, as representatives of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Timor-Leste, Syria, Chile, and Bolivia said that exercise must be reserved for the Fourth Committee (Special Decolonization Political).  The Special Committee then decided — by 7 votes in favour (Antigua and Barbuda, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Sierra Leone) to 8 against (Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Syria, Timor-Leste and Venezuela), with 5 abstentions (China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali and Russian Federation) — that it would not hear petitioners.  Eight delegations were absent.

Ethiopia’s representative asked why it was only now that the Special Committee wished to hear from Western Sahara petitioners.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative said that any party involved in the matter would help to paint an accurate view of the situation on the ground.  Grenada’s representative expressed a similar sentiment, emphasizing that hearing from all petitioners was in line with the rules and procedures.  Indonesia’s speaker reiterated the need to be fair to all petitioners.  Representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Jamaica and India said there was no legal bar to hearing them.

Morocco’s representative described the vote as evidence that the Special Committee was “extremely divided”, saying the result would have been “very different” had all delegations been present.  All petitioners had a right to express themselves, he said, emphasizing that prohibiting petitioners was strictly political and a contradiction that the Special Committee would not be able to explain to history.

Algeria’s representative said “never ever” had petitioners from Western Sahara spoken before the Special Committee, adding that they would have sufficient time to speak during the Fourth Committee.

In opening the meeting, Special Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) underlined the need for a substantive debate on the Special Committee’s relevance and effectiveness, expressing hope that the behaviour of States would conform to the norms and practices governing the Special Committee, the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole.  He expressed regret at the lack of respect shown towards the Special Committee on some occasions, as well as the raising of topics that were not relevant to its work or that related solely to the internal affairs of individual States.

The Special Committee also held discussions on the questions of Gibraltar, Tokelau and Western Sahara.

In other business, the Special Committee — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples — adopted its programme of work for the session.

At the outset of the meeting, delegates observed a minute of silence in memory of Miguel d’Escoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, and former President of the General Assembly, who passed away on 8 June.  They expressed condolences to his family and friends.

The Special Committee will resume its work on Monday, 19 June.

Opening Remarks

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), Chair of the Special Committee, said the absence of action towards fulfilling its mandate had led it to suffer an increasing lack of relevance.  One of the main reasons for that reality was the attitude of certain countries towards occupation and colonialization, he explained.  The lack of interest in moving forward towards ending colonialism had had resulted in an attitude of mistrust due, in part, to the unwillingness to cooperate demonstrated on several occasions by some administering and occupying Powers.  Underlining the need for a substantive debate on the Special Committee’s relevance and effectiveness, he expressed hope that the behaviour of States would conform to the norms and practices governing the Special Committee, the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole.  He expressed regret over the lack of respect shown towards the Special Committee on some occasions, as well as the practice of raising topics that were not relevant to the Special Committee’s work or related solely to the internal affairs of individual States.  Such practices were intended to sabotage the Special Committee’s work, he said.  In that context, members should refrain from resorting to the use of force or otherwise despicable tactics, he stressed.

Action

The Special Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/AC.109/2017/L.4).

The representative of Cuba noted that administering Powers were expected to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on the economic, social and educational conditions in Territories for which they were responsible.  The information was important for the Special Committee’s decision-making and for assessing the situation in each Territory.  It should be factual and up to date, he emphasized, while noting with concern that the Secretary-General’s report showed that several administering Powers had not sent the required information.

The representative of Venezuela stressed the vital importance of administering Powers providing such information.

Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then approved the draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2017/L.4).  By its terms, the Assembly would request administering Powers to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General statistical and other technical information concerning economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they were responsible, in addition to the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments.  By other terms, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General continue to ensure that adequate information was drawn from all available published sources in the preparation of working papers on each Territory.

JANOS TISOVSZKY, Officer in Charge, Strategic Communications Division, Department of Public Information, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on dissemination of information on decolonization during the period from April 2016 to March 2017 (document A/AC.109/2017/18).  He reported that the Department had disseminated 32 press releases covering numerous statements, hearings and meetings in English and French, adding that it had also deployed press officers to cover decolonization seminars held in Nicaragua and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  They worked in close collaboration with the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs during seminars and in efforts to continuously update and maintain the “UN and Decolonization” website in the Organization’s six official languages, he said, adding that the Department also highlighted decolonization activities through its “Global Issues” and other special webpages.  The Department’s various social media accounts also promoted decolonization-related issues and was able to drive traffic to the “UN and Decolonization” website, he said, adding that the Department also provided visitors to United Nations Headquarters with educational information on the topic.

The representative of Cuba welcomed the Department’s outreach efforts, and urged it to expand its activities so as to effect the greatest possible dissemination of decolonization information, using all available platforms.  There was also need to ensure the balanced treatment of all official United Nations languages in terms of the decolonization information made available.

RIE KODOTA, Officer in Charge, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, then provided an update on its contribution to efforts to disseminate decolonization information, in collaboration with the Department of Public Information.  The Department of Political Affairs had uploaded all available statements and discussion papers on the “UN and Decolonization” website, which was now available in all six languages.  The Decolonization Unit was also responsible for the yearly preparation of Secretariat working papers on each of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, she said, emphasizing that all working papers for 2017 had been issued in the first quarter and posted on the website.  There had been a significant increase in the number of page views observed in 2016, she noted, saying that was a testament to the growing popularity of the “UN and Decolonization” website.

The Chair (Venezuela) expressed some concern over the dissemination of information on the Special Committee’s work, saying that some of the material had not been updated.  It was also critical to ensure that information flowed in a timely manner, he added.

The Special Committee then approved a draft submitted by the Chair on dissemination of information on decolonization (document A/AC.109/2017/L.5).  By its terms, the General Assembly would approve activities undertaken by the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, and encourage updates to and wide dissemination of the information leaflet on what the United Nations could do to assist Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Additionally, the Assembly would request that both Departments implement the Special Committee’s recommendations and develop ways to disseminate material on the issue of self-determination.  In that effort, they would explore collaboration with the decolonization focal points of the territorial Governments and encourage the involvement of non-governmental organizations, as well as Non-Self Governing Territories.

Taking up the draft “Question of sending visiting missions to Territories” (document A/AC.109/2017/L.6), the Chair noted with concern that the Special Committee had not been able to dispatch a visiting mission for the past two years.  It was important to comply with the mandate set forth by the General Assembly to carry out at least one mission a year, he emphasized.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said his delegation was surprised to see a proposed visit to the Sahara contained in the draft and expressed strong reservations about any such visit.  The Security Council was the organ dealing with the Sahara and such a visit would be in violation of the United Nations Charter, he said, reiterating that a political process was under way, in accordance with Security Council resolutions.

The representative of Grenada, associating herself with Côte d’Ivoire, said the paragraph proposing a visit to Western Sahara should be deleted, emphasizing that the Special Committee should visit all 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, including Gibraltar and the Malvinas.

The representative of Timor-Leste stressed the importance of planning which Territories to visit, adding that it was extremely important to visit Western Sahara.

The representative of Algeria underlined the importance of being careful with language in distinguishing between “Sahara” and “Western Sahara”.  The Special Committee had taken the decision to visit Western Sahara in 1991, he recalled, adding that all that remained was a matter of implementation.

The representative of Morocco said he was perplexed that the Sahara was the only Territory to which reference was being made, adding that the draft should include all requests for visiting missions made over the years.  Why was the Sahara singled out?  He also questioned why the Chair referred to General Assembly resolutions but ignored those of the Security Council.  The Council resolutions said there was a political process that should be allowed to play out, he noted.

The representative of France said New Caledonia could not be the only Territory visited and called for a timetable.

Also speaking were representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Venezuela and Indonesia.

Following that discussion, the Chair indicated that the Special Committee would resume its consideration of the draft resolution at a later date.

Question of Gibraltar

FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said the Chair’s comments on visiting missions “defy logic” and were totally unacceptable.  Recalling that the people of the United Kingdom, as well as those of Gibraltar, had voted to leave the European Union, he said that although Gibraltarians had voted by 96 per cent to remain within the bloc, they would nonetheless abide by the United Kingdom’s decision.  Briefly outlining Gibraltar’s history — including the cruel punishments inflicted on the Territory’s people as a result of their temerity in casting votes to remain British — he reiterated that the question of Gibraltar should have been closed 50 years ago following a referendum by which by more than 99 per cent of the Gibraltarian people had voted to remain British.  “Our right to self-determination is not vitiated by a non-existent doctrine that sovereignty disputes suspend application of inalienable rights,” he stressed.  “We will not roll over” and allow the Spanish to claim Gibraltar as a result of being worn down by years of failure on the part of the Special Committee.

The people of Gibraltar had again confirmed their choice to exercise self-determination in a 2002 referendum on joint sovereignty, he said, recalling that they had also rejected that proposal by 99 per cent.  “Our people wish to be delisted and decolonized,” he said, declaring:  “Brexit or no Brexit, if we held another referendum today on joint or full Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar, the results would be the same.”  The Gibraltarian people did not reject the notion of cooperation with their neighbour, and remained ready to return to the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue, from which only Spain remained absent, he noted.

FRANCISCA MARÍA PEDROS CARRETERO (Spain) said that she appeared before the Special Committee once again without a solution to an anachronistic colonial situation from which her country regrettably continued to suffer.  Recalling that Gibraltar had been taken from Spain by the United Kingdom, causing the Spanish-descended “real people of Gibraltar” to flee, she said the Treaty of Utrecht clearly delineated the seized territory, which had never included the surrounding waters nor the area surrounding “the Rock”.  Spain had repeatedly demonstrated that the question of Gibraltar was a matter of decolonization, she said, citing a number of General Assembly texts — including resolution 2231 (XXI) of 1966, which called on the parties to speed up the process of decolonizing Gibraltar — by which it called for a negotiated bilateral solution between the two countries.  Spain had invited the United Kingdom to the negotiating table year after year, she noted.  Calling attention to the co-sovereignty proposal Spain had presented to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) in October 2016, she said it envisioned both a local authority and a competent regional Spanish authority.  The Special Committee must not permit the delisting of Territories that remained under colonial rule, she emphasized.

RICHARD BUTTIGIEG, speaking for the Self-Determination Group of Gibraltar, said that Spain “says one thing here, but then acts very differently towards us in Gibraltar”.  Because the Special Committee continued to fail in its duty to visit, it had never been able to witness the unnecessary queues at the border or the frequent illegal incursions by Spanish naval assets into British Gibraltarian territorial waters.  Agreeing with Spain’s description of Gibraltar as “a colony within Europe”, he asked why that country continued to oppose the decolonization requests that his group had submitted.  “Spain’s position is not only hypocritical, but in fact downright malicious,” he said, adding that it wished to gain sovereignty over Gibraltar against the people’s democratically expressed wishes.  Underlining that the sharing or transfer of a nation’s sovereignty to third parties was not one of the decolonization methods stipulated by the United Nations, he said Spain’s recent proposal could in fact perpetuate Gibraltar’s colonial status.  He called upon the Special Committee to do more than merely pass a “stale resolution” every year which did not advance matters in any way.  It should inform Gibraltar what more it required if the decolonization criteria submitted so far remained unsatisfactory.  “We have been waiting for an answer for decades,” he said.

The representative of Venezuela encouraged the parties to continue discussions in order to reach a solution to the dispute over the question of Gibraltar by finding areas of common ground.

Question of Tokelau

ALEKI FAIPULE SIOPILI PEREZ, Titular Head of Tokelau, said the Territory had been practising self-governance for quite some time and had discovered that harmonizing the governance of three distinct villages was the biggest challenge.  The lack of key skills among the workforce, Tokelau’s distance from supply markets and transportation requirements made Tokelau’s situation even more challenging.  Building confidence in self-governance would be the best preparation for self-determination, as and when that decision was made, he emphasized, noting that the Tokelau Public Service Commission was now in place and able to provide support and encouragement to the incoming government, which was starting its new three-year cycle.

Noting that the United Nations had taken responsibility for managing global efforts to address the key issues relating to climate change and rising sea levels, he said that Tokelau, as a collection of three low-lying atolls, had already been impacted by climate change through significant coastal erosion and ocean acidification.  The realities of climate change were already visible in the Territory, although its current political status regrettably excluded Tokelau from direct access to financing from various climate-funding mechanisms.  He described Tokelau’s efforts — working with the Government of New Zealand — to improve the quality of education, while also highlighting the success of Tokelau’s first non-communicable disease summit.  Furthermore, a mobile network had been launched earlier this month, and fishing revenues had also increased markedly in recent years, thanks to assistance from the Government of New Zealand.

The representative of Iran noted that the population of Tokelau stood at 1,499 people, although more than 7,000 of the Territory’s people lived in New Zealand.  He noted that each atoll had its own administrative centre, which would make self-governance difficult.

The representative of Sierra Leone noted the close relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand, saying the most recent report made it evident that ties continued to grow stronger.

DAVID NICHOLSON (New Zealand), Administrator of Tokelau, said his country was committed to its constitutional relationship with that territory’s people, who faced a number of challenges as one of the world’s most geographically isolated places.  Noting that Tokelau possessed its own unique culture, language and conditions, he said successive independence referendums had not met the majority thresholds required, which had resulted in a long “pause” in the decolonization process.  New Zealand was focused on improving the quality of life on the atolls and was ready to move ahead in a very careful, deliberate and forward-looking fashion, in accordance with Tokelau’s political development, strengthened self-governance and enhanced national planning, he said.

On paper, he continued, the Administrator and New Zealand’s Foreign Minister had great responsibilities, although in practice, Tokelau’s leaders carried the majority of those duties and made the majority of decisions for their people.  New Zealand sought to ensure that Tokelau would have as much self-governance as was feasible, in line with its people’s preference.  New Zealand was working with Tokelau on rehabilitating reef passages and had helped to facilitate major upgrades that would allow the transfer of passengers from ship to shore, he said, noting that such transfer was currently extremely difficult since all three atolls were surrounded by fringe reefs.  New Zealand also supported Tokelau’s efforts to adapt to climate change and to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases while helping it to strengthen budget preparations in relation to those threats.

The representative of Venezuela expressed his delegation’s desire to continue working closely with the leaders of Tokelau in their efforts towards self-determination, adding that it was committed to ensuring that the decolonization process continued in that Territory.

Question of Western Sahara

The representative of Cuba noted that 54 years had elapsed since the Special Committee had declared Western Sahara a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  Citing a number of United Nations and African Union resolutions that, over those decades, urged the parties to ensure that the people of Western Sahara were able to exercise their right to self-determination, he said Assembly resolution 71/106 called on them to reach a just, lasting solution, to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to fulfil their commitments under international law.  To the contrary, virtually no progress had been made and the issue remained at a standstill, he said, reiterating his country’s support for the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, he outlined its help since 1976, including its dispatch of medical teams to refugee camps and scholarships that allowed young people to study in Cuba.

The representative of Venezuela, also voicing support for the right of Western Sahara’s people to self-determination, recalled that both the Security Council and the General Assembly had ratified more than 40 resolutions on that issue.  Concerned that the people were suffering because one side continued to ignore the Special Committee’s requests, he emphasized that the situation remained untenable, representing a threat to international peace and security.  Venezuela was also concerned about the humanitarian situation and the deterioration of human rights in Western Sahara, he said.  Urging concessions by Morocco in relation to the management of Western Sahara’s natural resources, he called upon all countries currently engaged in economic activities there to end them, in line with United Nations resolutions that repeatedly confirmed the need to protect and ensure the rights of indigenous peoples over their natural resources.

CLAUDE STANISLAS BOUAH-KAMON (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed concern about the stagnation in the decolonization process, saying it was due to the Territories themselves, as well as the difficult international context.  Regarding Western Sahara, he welcomed efforts to take the reality on the ground into account, as well as the Secretary-General’s effort to relaunch the negotiating process.  That could help breathe new life into the situation, he said.  He called upon all sides to demonstrate compromise and ensure that a fair, lasting and mutually agreed political solution could be found.  Côte d’Ivoire awaited the official appointment of a new Special Envoy, as well as the new “road map”, he said.

KEISHA A. MCGUIRE (Grenada) said Morocco’s proposed initiative represented a serious step towards ending the dispute, and took note of the Security Council’s strong encouragement for enhancing cooperation on the issue of Western Sahara, particularly the facilitation of further visits to the region.  Grenada supported fully the Council’s latest resolution, which called for the registration of refugees to guarantee the protection and promotion of human rights.

BIRUK MEKONNEN DEMISSIE (Ethiopia) said it was unfortunate that the Western Sahara situation had been lingering for so long and expressed hope that the appointment of a new Special Envoy would be instrumental in reinvigorating negotiations.  Ethiopia had always supported efforts for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of Western Sahara’s people, he said.

The representative of Dominica said the ultimate objective was a mutually agreed, good-faith political solution, as recommended by various Security Council resolutions.  Voicing support for the “serious and credible” autonomy plan presented by Morocco in 2007 — which would allow the Sahrawi people’s full enjoyment of the right to self-determination, and reinforce stability and security in the region — she also drew attention to Morocco’s new development model, launched in 2015 to improve the Sahrawi population’s living standards.  She welcomed the peaceful, transparent and democratic holding of two crucial elections in 2015 and 2016, as well as Morocco’s work in the area of human rights.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, associating herself with Grenada and Dominica, said the Special Committee should act on a case-by-case basis and base its solutions on compromise.  She also described Morocco’s autonomy proposal as innovative, serious, credible and consistent with international law.

The representative of Nicaragua expressed solidarity with the Sahrawi people and support for efforts for a just, lasting solution to ensure their ability to exercise the right to self-determination.  Expressing concern over the lack of progress on the question of Western Sahara — due to one side’s refusal to respond to the Special Committee’s appeals, as well as its efforts to prevent the holding of a referendum — he urged Member States to support the Secretary-General’s efforts to encourage negotiations, and called upon Morocco to end its occupation.

SAM TERENCE CONDOR (Saint Kitts and Nevis) associated himself with Dominica, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) expressed full support for the Frente Polisario as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara, and for the Secretary-General’s efforts to find a political solution, including through the appointment of a new Special Envoy.

AHMED BOUKHARI, Frente Polisario, described the crimes that Morocco had committed against his people as “unspeakable”.  History would judge that country fully one day and reveal the tragic nature of those crimes, which included use of prohibited weapons and mass killings.  The people of Western Sahara had been the victims of violence, rape, torture and other indignities that had resulted in death, he said, recalling that the  Committee on Human Rights had expressed its concern over the use of torture and other treatment of Western Sahara’s people.  Many observers and journalists attempting to visit occupied zones had been expelled, he noted.

The Sahrawi people had been victims of colonialist harm for more than 42 years and had faced armed aggression in the battlefield, he continued.  Where did the referendum stand today and who was obstructing it?  Morocco had agreed to the referendum, but had subsequently manipulated it to implicate the United Nations and the African Union, he said, emphasizing that to state that the United Nations had abandoned the self-determination referendum was simply false.  The Organization could arrange a new one in just a few months, and the obstacle preventing things from moving forward was the lack of political will.

He went on to describe the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) as a prisoner of the occupying Power, which forced it to “look aside” and not inform New York about the serious incidents taking place there.  Recalling Morocco’s recent expulsion of MINURSO staff and its having prevented then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from visiting the region, he said that country had initiated a military confrontation, in violation of the ceasefire agreement, and done everything in its power to delay the designation of a new Special Envoy.  The Sahrawi people had full confidence in the Special Committee’s work, he said, extending an invitation for a visiting mission.

The representative of Grenada emphasized that the previous speaker had delivered his statement as a representative of the Polisario Front, not of the people of Western Sahara.  While the Assembly had made that designation, it had never been an endorsement of the Polisario Front as the “sole representative” of the people of the Western Sahara, he said, adding that that designation had later been formally amended.

The representative of Antigua and Barbuda associated herself with Grenada’s statement.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, also endorsing Grenada’s statement, voiced his clear opposition to the Polisario Front’s participation as representing the people of Western Sahara.

The representative of Sierra Leone warned that unless the Special Committee was viewed as being equitable, it risked eroding its own credibility.

The representative of El Salvador called for the early resumption of negotiations, underlining the importance of protecting colonial Territories against all attempts to break them up because such actions were incompatible with the principles of the United Nations.  Morocco’s return to the African Union “gives us hope” by providing the opportunity to engage in a negotiation process under the auspices of that regional body, he said.

ELTON KHOETAGE HOESEB (Namibia) pointed out that the people of Western Sahara continued to wait for the referendum, expressing concern over the continuing denial of their right to self-determination.

MATÍAS PAOLINO (Uruguay) defended the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and called for resumed negotiations.  Hopefully, the next Special Envoy would be able to begin work at once, and there would be greater cooperation between the parties.

LOIS YOUNG (Belize) emphasized that the Sahrawi people must be permitted to exercise their right to self-determination in a free and democratic manner.  Belize called upon the Special Committee to undertake an official visit to Western Sahara in the next three months, and recommended that the Fourth Committee adopt a resolution that would determine a date for the referendum.

DARLINGTON M. KADYAUTUMBE (Zimbabwe) noted that the people of Western Sahara remained under foreign occupation and were being denied the right to self-determination, while many of them were living in poverty or had been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

FRANÇOIS SOUMAH (Guinea) emphasized the importance of resuming negotiations in order to find a mutually acceptable political solution.

The representative of Gabon, noting that the Maghreb region continued to be undermined by terrorism, described the Moroccan autonomy proposal as “optimal” because it was both in line with international law and reflected the right to self-determination.

The representative of Morocco said only in the Special Committee could someone enter a United Nations meeting and take the floor without registering a formal request.  Indeed, the speaker for the Frente Polisario was not listed and appeared to be receiving special treatment, a violation of procedure.  In all the years that the Frente Polisario had been addressing the Fourth Committee, that body had received and reviewed documents containing formal requests, he said, noting that such a procedure had not been followed today.  Indeed, the Special Committee had lost its honour and become politicized since the present Chairman had taken up his post, he said.

The Chair interrupted the representative, calling on him to refrain from speaking in offensive terms.

The representative of Morocco went on to warn that “somebody is pushing for their own agenda” against the Special Committee’s wishes by violating the consensus.  The matter was not really about the Sahara but about the Special Committee’s credibility and the respect it deserved.  Outlining the history of Western Sahara’s colonization, he said that history confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt that “the Sahara is Moroccan” and should no longer be on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  After years of stalemate, the Security Council had called on all parties to move towards a negotiated political solution, and Morocco had, therefore, put forward a compromise-based autonomy plan, he said.  Recent United Nations resolutions enshrined the international support for that proposal, which reflected a constructive spirit.

In contrast to that expression of goodwill, he said, others continued their obstructionist positions, posturing in ways fundamentally opposed to the principles of the United Nations.  Indeed, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other high officials had declared that basing a solution on a referendum was not realistic or attainable, and since then, various entities and organs of the United Nations had welcomed Morocco’s autonomy proposal as “serious and credible”.  Citing evidence of fraud on the part of the Frente Polisario leadership, he drew a contrast to Morocco’s successful and peaceful conduct of local, regional and legislative elections in recent years.  He underlined that the General Assembly must not make any recommendations on a dispute currently under consideration by the Security Council unless the latter requested it to do so.

The representative of Senegal reiterated his appeal for a fresh look at the changing situation in Western Sahara in light of Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative.  That plan was a basis for the current political process, and was seen by the Security Council as both serious and credible.

The representative of South Africa emphasized the need to ensure that all actions and initiatives relating to Western Sahara were in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

The representative of Algeria said the international community must not abandon its commitment to the people still living under colonial rule in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The people of Western Sahara had been waiting 42 years for the United Nations to fulfil its responsibility, he said, noting that all relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council reaffirmed their right to self-determination.  Indeed, those resolutions recognized no ties whatsoever between the Territory and any other country, he pointed out, expressing regret that the paper recently produced on the question of Western Sahara did not accurately or fully reflect developments on the ground.  Citing various legal and diplomatic opinions supporting that view — including those of the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations Legal Counsel — he stressed that MINUSRO had been deployed to organize and supervise a referendum.

He went on to recall the Secretary-General’s 2015 statement to the effect that the definitive status of Western Sahara was subject to a negotiation process under the auspices of the United Nations — and that the 2007 proposal of the parties had not opened the way to such negotiations.  Encouraging Member States to read the relevant resolutions, he said the African Union, the General Assembly and the Security Council were the sole referees in the dispute, and all unilateral actions attempting to impose a fait accompli should be rejected.  The African Union had continuously committed itself to advancing the decolonization of Western Sahara as a priority issue, he said, recalling that the regional bloc’s recent Summit of Heads of State had unanimously voiced its support for the right of Territory’s people to self-determination while also calling on the General Assembly to set a referendum date.  “Algeria will never back down,” he vowed, emphasizing that there was no alternative to a free choice for the Sahrawi people, as determined by a free and fair referendum organized and supervised by the United Nations.

The representative of Morocco said the Frente Polisario speaker’s request to address the Special Committee had not been formally distributed because he had been attempting to take the floor as a representative of Western Sahara.  “You, Mr. Chair, hide that document”, he said, describing that as an attempt to allow the speaker to take the floor in that capacity.  That reflected a real problem in terms of the Special Committee’s rules, he added.

The representative of Algeria expressed concerns about Morocco’s statement, including the delegate’s use of the word “schizophrenia” and his reference to “Moroccan Sahara”.

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Secretary-General Calls for Strategic Vision, New Model of Governance to Save World’s Seas, as United Nations Ocean Conference Opens

The inaugural United Nations Ocean Conference opened today with a call for urgent action to improve the health of the world’s seas, now in peril after decades of pollution, overfishing and the unattended effects of climate change that were decimating marine life, and in turn, livelihoods.

The Conference, which runs through 9 June, will explore how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14:  conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Opening the event, Secretary-General António Guterres told world leaders that unless they could overcome the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress, the state of the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  “We need a new strategic vision,” he said, a new model of ocean governance.  The first step was to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and the health of our seas.

Concrete steps were needed, he said, from expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution and cleaning up plastic waste, the latter of which, if left unchecked, would outweigh fish in the sea by 2050.  The political will which had led to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must now be translated into funding commitments.  Better data must be gathered and best practices shared.

“Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism,” he said. “We created these problems.  With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them.”

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  Illegal fishing and harmful fisheries subsidies were driving fish stocks to collapse, he said, while greenhouse gases were causing sea levels to rise.

The task was to ensure that Goal 14 received the support necessary to meet its targets, he said.  “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Co-President of the Conference Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, said the ocean was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times.  Big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent, and in some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.  Without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  She called on Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders to start making a real difference.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and Conference Co-President, said oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.  He urged participants to act in concert to protect marine resources, stressing that no one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda.

Stressing that oceans had a direct impact on poverty education, health, economic growth, food security and job creation, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, added that solutions must be put into place to ensure that oceans remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.

Wu Hongbo, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said special attention should be paid to the means of implementation for Goal 14, including capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.

The afternoon featured a partnership dialogue on marine pollution, during which world leaders, along with senior officials from Government, the private sector, scientific community and civil society, explored challenges relating to particular pollutants, such as microplastics, and broader trends, such as the rapid growth of coastal cities, which would require more scientific research, knowledge sharing and governance arrangements.

The Conference — officially titled the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development — opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony, featuring three calls of a ceremonial conch shell, a Kava drinking ceremony and cultural dance.

In other business, delegates elected Mr. Bainimarama and Ms. Lövin as the Presidents of the Conference.

The Conference also adopted, without a vote, its rules of procedure (document A/CONF.230/2) and agenda (document A/CONF.230/1), as well as a Secretariat note on organizational and procedural matters (document A/CONF.230/3).  Twelve Vice-Presidents were elected by acclamation:  Algeria, Croatia, Estonia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.  Arthur Amaya Andambi (Kenya) was elected Rapporteur-General.

The nine members of the General Assembly Credentials Committee — Cameroon, China, Malawi, Netherlands, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia and the United States — were meanwhile appointed members of the Conference Credentials Committee without a vote.

The Ocean Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 June.

Opening Statements

ISABELLA LÖVIN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, and Co-President of the Conference, described the global ocean conveyer belt as a sort of ocean bloodstream that connected everybody.  The ocean accounted for 97 per cent of the living biosphere, contained 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water and provided 50 per cent of the planet’s oxygen.  Mankind always believed it was endless, infinite and impossible for humans to affect in any significant way, she said, but today it was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times, big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent and surface waters were getting warmer.  In some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.

She recalled an interview a few years ago with an Australian yachtsman who, while crossing the Pacific Ocean, saw rubbish floating everywhere, including toys, car tires and telegraph poles.  More recently, researchers on uninhabited Henderson Island, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, found 38 million plastic items on its shore.  “By now we know one thing for certain — the ocean is not endless, not infinite,” she said.  “But it has no borders.  It knows nothing about nations.  It is just one united ecosystem and we are part of it.”

Environmental protection and economic development were inseparable, she said, adding that without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  Sweden was committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and called on all Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders, to start working towards making a real difference.  “We know what needs to be done.  We know the ocean is broken.  We now need to sit together and make the long to-do list we all need to be ticking off together in order to fix it,” she said, adding that a better moment to do so would never come.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji and Co-President of the Ocean Conference, said climate change and the state of the world’s oceans could not be separated.  Rising sea levels and ocean acidity had a direct impact on people’s lives and countries’ prosperity.  “We come from opposite sides of the Earth but we are united in our determination to meet the challenges head-on,” he said, appealing to young people in particular to become agents for change, whether by collecting bottles from a beach or banding together to clean up coastal areas.  “Our waterways are choking,” he said, and oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  Turtles, dolphins and sharks were being caught in nets, and whales had stomachs full of rubbish.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.

He said the degradation must stop, appealing to the world’s people to act in concert to protect marine resources.  “That effort starts now,” he said, pressing to participants to send a message that time was running out to save our seas and oceans.  No one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  As a Fijian, he had the Pacific Ocean “running through my blood,” and it said it pained him to see the deterioration of that precious resource.  Where there once had been an abundance of fish, boat hulls were now increasingly sparse or non-existent.  Greedy nations and commercial interests were robbing countries like Fiji of food and livelihoods through over-fishing.  Noting that small island developing States lacked the means to police their economic zones, he said Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda and he encouraged all participants to make the Ocean Conference a success.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said oceans and seas covered two thirds of the planet, providing food, energy, water, jobs and economic benefits to every country.  They were a crucial buffer against climate change and a massive resource for sustainable development.  Many nationalities, including his own, had a special relationship with the sea.  The truth was, the sea has a special relationship with all of us.  Yet pollution, over-fishing and the effects of climate change were severely damaging ocean health, he said, with one study finding that plastic in the seas could outweigh fish by 2050.

Indeed, oceans were becoming more acidic, he said, causing coral bleaching and reducing biodiversity, while fisheries in some places were collapsing.  Dead zones — underwater deserts where life could not survive due to a lack of oxygen — were growing rapidly.  Conflicting demands from industry, fishing, shipping, mining and tourism were stressing coastal systems.  While numerous reports, global commissions and scientific assessments had described the serious damage to the world’s most vital life support system, Governments were not making full use of the tools available, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We created these problems,” he said.  “With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them”.  The Sustainable Development Goals must be the road map.  The essential first step must be to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and ocean health.  Strong political leadership and new partnerships were needed, based on the existing legal framework, and he commended all who had signed the Call for Action, to be formally adopted this week.  From expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution to cleaning up plastic waste, he called for a step change locally, nationally and globally.  The ongoing work to create a legal framework on conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was particularly important in that regard.

Further, the political will of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be translated into funding commitments, he said, stressing that better data, information and analysis were also required, because “we can’t improve what we don’t measure”.  Finally, best practices and experiences must be shared.  For its part, the United Nations was committed to providing integrated, coordinated support for the implementation of all historic agreements of the past year.  He was personally determined to break down barriers to improve the Organization’s performance and accountability.

He said the United Nations was building partnerships with Governments, the private sector and civil society, as well as working with international financial institutions on innovative financing to release more funds.  It was harnessing big data to improve the basis for decision-making.  A new strategic vision was needed and he called on Member States to define a new model for ocean governance.  Unless the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress for too long were overcome, the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  He urged participants to set aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe, stressing that “conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, stressed that the Conference offered the best opportunity to reverse the cycle of decline that human activity had brought upon the seas.  Sustainable Development Goal 14 — the ocean’s goal — was humanity’s only universally agreed measure to conserve and sustainably manage its resources.  The task ahead was to ensure that the Goal received the support necessary to meet its critical targets.  “To do that, we need to hear the truth about the state of the ocean,” he said. “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Indeed, he said, the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  “We have unleashed a plague of plastic upon the ocean,” he said, defiling nature in tragic ways.  Illegal and destructive fishing practices, along with harmful fisheries subsidies, were driving fish stocks to collapse, while greenhouse gasses were driving climate change and causing sea-level rise through ocean warming, threatening ocean life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The central conclusion was clear, he said:  To secure a future for our species, action must be taken now on the health of the ocean and on climate change.  With Goal 14 in place within the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement ratified, it was time to demonstrate fidelity to those two life-saving agreements.  Describing the mantra of the Ocean Conference as “human-induced problems have human-devised solutions”, he pledged that participants would work to advance Goal 14 targets of 2020, 2025 and 2030.  They would follow-up with diligence on commitments made, “all along holding ourselves responsible to bequeath a conserved and sustainably managed ocean to the stewards of the future”, he declared.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the collective focus this week would be on scaling up efforts to halt ocean degradation and reverse a cycle of decline.  Urgent action needed to be taken.  Noting that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, among other agreements, had been in place for some time, he said what was now needed was implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“The issue of conserving and sustainably using our oceans is very complex, as oceans have a direct impact on poverty eradication, health, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods and decent work,” he said.  At the same time, biodiversity and the marine environment must be protected and the impact of climate change addressed.  Political guidance from the high-level political forum that would be held on 10-18 July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council would be critical for promoting integrated consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals.

He described the Ocean Conference as a unique place to raise awareness and to underscore solutions that must be put into place to ensure that the world’s oceans and seas remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.  The Call to Action that would be adopted by the Conference must be a cooperative effort that ensured a pooling of financial and technical resources as well as technology sharing and capacity-building, he said.

WU HONGBO, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that without oceans and seas, there would be no life on the planet.  Yet, oceans faced a variety of threats, including climate change, marine pollution, extraction of marine resources, and erosion and destruction of marine and coastal habitats.  Member States had committed to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources through Sustainable Development Goal 14.  The message of the Call for Action was clear.  “The time to act is now,” he said, noting that its 22 specific actions promised to galvanize global commitments and partnerships.

He said the number of voluntary commitments was growing daily, and, importantly, covered all targets of Goal 14.  The coming days were a great opportunity to rally support at all levels, as the Conference was a platform for Governments, United Nations agencies, major groups and others to identify the ways and means to support implementation of Goal 14, by building on existing partnerships and stimulating new ones.  Special attention should focus on the means of implementation, such as capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.  With broad support from all stakeholders, the Conference would bring about solutions for saving the ocean and advancing implementation of Goal 14.

Partnership Dialogue

In the afternoon, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “Addressing marine pollution”.  Moderated by Elliott Harris, Head of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and co-chaired by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia, and Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, it featured a panel discussion by Nancy Wallace, Director, Marine Debris Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce; Kosi Latu, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme; Peter Kershaw, Chair of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment; and Sybil Seitzinger, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, University of Victoria, Canada.

Mr. PANDJAITAN called plastic and microplastic debris a major threat to marine and coastal diversity.  Such debris resulted mostly from solid waste management.  Summarizing Indonesia’s recently launched ocean policy as well as research initiatives, he said the country had come up with a plan of action that incorporated, among other pillars, behavioural change and reducing waste leakage.  He emphasized that plastics manufacturers must be involved in fighting marine pollution.  “We can get rid of this problem because we care and we can,” he said, underscoring the need for action at the national, regional and global level.

Mr. HELGESEN said marine litter was possibly the fastest-growing environmental problem as well as a shared challenge.  Providing an example, he said 30 plastic bags and other pieces of plastic debris were found this past winter in the stomach of a beached whale in Norway.  It was both possible and necessary to act, he said, describing a programme in his country that included waste management as a key component in fighting marine litter.  He said his country was also considering extended producer responsibility, and emphasized the need for a higher level of political attention and united action.

Mr. HARRIS said it was a painful fact that oceans, seas, lakes and other waterways were being damaged — or slowly being strangled — by human activity.  Most ocean pollution originated on land, he said, adding that by some estimates there were more microplastics in the world’s oceans than stars in the galaxy.  Many countries were taking courageous action, he said, citing a Canadian ban on microplastics in personal care products, a French restriction on plastic cutlery and a prohibition on plastic bags in some African countries.  More, however, needed to be done.

Ms. WALLACE said the world’s oceans were overflowing with man-made items that did not belong there, including disposable plastic bags, cigarette butts, derelict fishing nets and abandoned vessels.  Lost and discarded items threated health, safety and wildlife.  Marine debris was a complex global problem that called for a wide array of solutions, she said, the ultimate solution being preventing such debris from getting into the oceans in the first place.  Waste management offered a myriad of solutions, but every country had unique challenges in that regard.  Programmes to increase the value of waste would encourage its collection, she said, underscoring the paramount importance of sharing information on challenges and solutions.

Mr. LATU said that countries in the Pacific region — an area that was 98 per cent water and 2 per cent land, with the world’s most important tuna fisheries — had adopted a Cleaner Pacific Strategy, which addressed all forms of waste, including marine plastics and oil leaking from World War II shipwrecks.  Poor waste disposal, mainly on land but also at sea, contributed to the problem.  Research on fishing vessels found that 37 per cent of the waste dumped overboard was comprised of plastics, he said, emphasizing the need to effectively implement relevant international conventions.  Other solutions would include awareness-raising, encouraging recycling and improved practices on vessels.

Mr. KERSHAW said marine litter was a global problem with regional differences.  Microplastics came in many forms, from those used in toothpaste and facial scrubs to plastic resin beads and the secondary fragments of larger plastic items.  A further challenge was that many durable plastics contained modifying chemicals with toxicological properties.  Some solutions were relatively easy, such as removing microplastics from personal products in which they were not needed, he said.  Others, such textile fibres and vehicle tire dust, were more problematic.  Once it was known how microplastics were leaking into the oceans, then solutions — including partnerships — could be sought.

Ms. SEITZINGER discussed the impact of excessive use of nutrients, including toxic algae blooms, hypoxic regions and coral reef degradation.  Fertilizer and manure were the leading source of inorganic nitrogen, but its impact varied between regions.  No single solution was possible because there were multiple sources related to food and energy production, she said, adding that sewage treatment facilities should be designed to capture nitrogen and phosphorous for reuse.  Noting that billions of dollars were spent on subsidies to encourage the use of fertilizers, particularly in China and India, she said that fewer subsidies could lead to reduced fertilizer use with little impact on grain production.  She went on to suggest that consideration be given to laboratory-grown meat, which would reduce land, water and fertilizer use and eliminate manure production.

In the ensuing interactive debate, ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Member States and international organizations discussed the effects of marine pollution in different parts of the world, as well as measures being taken to address the problem.

MARION HENRY, Secretary of Resource and Development for the Federated States of Micronesia, said that, on his walks along the beach in his country, he saw fewer almonds than he did in his childhood, but many plastics.  Perhaps the easiest solution to the problem would be to stop debris from entering the oceans in the first place.  Comparing ocean debris to dumping garbage over a fence onto a neighbour’s backyard, he said “the ocean is our backyard”, and requested that other States be good neighbours in that regard.

NICOS KOUYIALIS, Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of Cyprus, said pollution problems were more profound in enclosed or semi-enclosed seas, such as the Mediterranean.  Another serious problem was eutrophication due to treated and untreated domestic sewage and other discharges from land-based sources, he said, noting that his country, in that regard, had since the early 1980s maintained a “no drop of water in the sea” sewage policy.

KAMINA JOHNSON SMITH, Minister for Foreign affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, said marine pollution had severe consequences for her country.  Forging new partnerships and strengthening existing ones to protect and preserve the maritime space was a responsibility that Jamaica took seriously, she said, citing as an example its participation in the Global Ballast Water Management Project to address the transmission of potentially invasive species.

JOHN SILK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, said his country had recently banned the importation and use of single-use plastic bags, which had become more common than fish along its shores.  He added that the Pacific was also struggling with the legacy of events it did not cause, including naval shipwrecks, unexploded ordinance and radioactive contamination.

The representative of the Netherlands said his country’s positon was simple:  litter did not belong in the marine environment.  The Netherlands was committed to an integral approach that emphasized prevention, he said, noting that a ban on plastic bags at point of sale went into effect on 1 January 2016.

The representative of the Stiftelsen Stockholm International Water Institute emphasized the importance of engaging upstream sources of marine pollution.  Otherwise, she said, communities located well away from coastal areas might not feel motivated to take relevant action.

The representative of China said his country was taking a number of steps to address marine pollution, including improving urban sewage treatment systems and adhering to the principles of recycling.  At the international level, China advocated the sharing of successful experiences.  It was also striving to reduce fertilizer use while assessing what further measures would be required.

The representative of The Ocean Cleanup said his organization was developing advanced technology to collect existing marine debris through a system that involved natural ocean currents and a fleet of artificial coast lines.  Once deployed, it could clean up 50 per cent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years, he said, adding that it would be easy later on to develop spin-off systems that could intercept plastic debris before it could reach the ocean.

His counterpart from World Animal Protection said the issue of abandoned and lost fishing gear, also known as ghost fishing gear, must feature near the top of the agenda.  It represented 10 per cent of all marine debris, but it was the deadliest to marine life, and after overfishing it was most responsible for declining fish stocks, she said, inviting participants to support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

Responding to the discussion, Ms. SEITZINGER said an opportunity existed to address the problem of nutrient pollution.  She added that the benefits of working together should always be present in people’s minds.

Mr. KERSHAW said it was encouraging to hear so many positive initiatives, adding however that better partnerships with industry were needed to deal with solid waste before it come become microplastics.

Mr. LATU said that, in devising solutions, it was important to remember that pollution knew no boundaries.  He added that while some countries seemed to have strong waste management policies, others needed to do more work in that regard.

Ms. WALLACE said she had never seen so much commitment and passion on the marine pollution issue.  The next step would be to turn plans into action.

Mr. PANDJAITAN said that, without action, there would be more plastic in the sea than fish.  No single country could work alone, he said, emphasizing the need to strengthen regional and international measures, with the international community acting at the United Nations level to a clear timeline.

Mr. HELGESEN said he took away from today’s meeting a number of important steps, including stronger enforcements of existing measures, the need to develop new and stronger international commitments to combat marine litter, a process to further harmonize measures to monitor marine debris and forging partnership along the entire plastics value chain to promote a circular economy.  Quoting the “famous philosopher” Elvis Presley, he appealed for a little less conversation and a little more action.

Also participating in the discussion were ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Estonia, Italy, Panama, Netherlands, Peru, Turkey, Indonesia, Algeria, Israel and Honduras, as well as the European Union.

Also taking the floor were representatives of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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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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With Technology Rapidly Transforming Society, Countries Need Delivery Models to Implement Development Goals, Speakers Say as Innovation Forum Concludes

Technology was transforming people’s realities, and the benefits of those advances were evident, speakers stressed today, as the Economic and Social Council concluded its two-day Science, Technology and Innovation Forum.

“Change is here to stay,” declared Augustin Jianu, Romania’s Minister of Communications and Information Society, who went on to underscore the importance of finding a model that countries could use to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

From the use of smartphone apps to route traffic, to the use of social media by world leaders as a governing mechanism, technology was changing the world at a rapid pace, said Mr. Jianu, who added that at times, people seemed unaware of the impact and persistent nature of that change.

Given that start-ups were a key engine in powering gross domestic product (GDP) in countries that had demonstrated strong economic growth over the last two decades, funds should be distributed to such businesses in large, open, nationwide competitions, he said, highlighting that in doing so, Governments would not only be investing in businesses, but would also be able to align that investment to national priorities.

The world was in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, which was moving at a pace that was at least 10 times faster and 100 times more global than the previous industrial revolutions, said Mary Snapp, Corporate Vice-President of Microsoft Philanthropy at the Microsoft Corporation. 

With that revolution, however, came concerns that individual gains would not be as great as Government and business gains, and in that context, it was imperative that no one was left behind, emphasized Ms. Snapp, adding that there would be disruption and also breakthroughs which would cause anxiety that would need to be overcome.

Underscoring how science improved livelihoods, Romain Murenzi, Director of the Division of Science, Policy and Capacity Building at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), called on countries to equip themselves with policies that built capacity and synergy and promoted public participation.  In that context, it was noteworthy that women only accounted for 30 per cent of all researchers worldwide, he lamented.

An increasing number of countries were developing more formal science advisory mechanisms within their own domestic contexts, which were playing an important role in development, highlighted Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. 

The United Nations needed to focus more on providing coherent and consistent scientific advice to States, he said, underlining that while the Scientific Advisory Board established by the Secretary-General had potential, its lasting impact was questionable.

Policymakers often ignored science at their own peril, warned Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, emphasizing that Governments not only needed to follow the laws of their countries when making policies, but to also respect the laws of nature.

Understanding the needs of stakeholders would be crucial and should not be an afterthought, she stressed, adding that her organization was a fully independent scientific advisory body to the United States Government and received all its funding from outside sources.

Throughout the day, the Forum featured five panel discussions on harnessing the potential of science, technology and innovation in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Wrapping up the meeting, Economic and Social Council President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe) said that the two-day Forum had held intense discussions covering a range of issues and had collected myriad recommendations.  “We have learnt much over these days,” he said.  The Forum had identified ways to address broader cross-cutting issues, including on how to best leverage national science, technology and innovation plans, policies and capacity-building. 

The work of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism must be more than just an annual two-day discussion forum, he stressed.  It should become the yearly culmination and outcome of intersessional work, drawing on most relevant international events that focused on science, technology and innovation.  The Forum would benefit from events organized by Member States to take the conversations further, he added.

Bill Colglazier, Co-Chair of Mechanism’s 10-Member Group, said it was important to find greater synergy and strengthen the science interface at the United Nations.  Emphasizing the need to bolster stakeholder engagement and create business opportunities to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals, he said horizon-scanning exercises could help bring forth opportunity.

Forum Co-Chairs Vaughan Turekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the United States Secretary of State, and Macharia Kamau (Kenya) also made closing remarks.  Mr. Turekian said using science, technology and innovation to impact some of the world’s most wicked problems required geometrically-driven data, while Mr. Kamau said he hoped that participants could bring together ideas in a way that would truly transform people’s lives.

Panel I

In opening the first panel of the day, titled “Lessons learned in improving the impact of science, technology and innovation on the Sustainable Development Goals — highlighting the cross-cutting nature of science, technology and innovation”, Macharia Kamau (Kenya), Co-Chair of the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, said that making Governments smarter and more fit for purpose, and policymakers more responsive and focused on outcomes, was imperative.  Science, technology and innovation would be key in those endeavours.

Heide Hackmann, Executive Director of the International Council for Science and Co-Chair of the Technological Facilitation Mechanism 10-Member Group moderated the panel, while the speakers included Augustin Jianu, Minister of Communications and Information Society, Romania; Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand; and Mary Snapp, Corporate Vice-President of Microsoft Philanthropy, Microsoft Corporation, United States.

Ms. HACKMANN said that the Forum was designed to shed light on key issues related to improving the impact of science, technology and innovation in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were cross-cutting in nature.  She recalled that the previous day’s discussions focused on the particular role of science, technology and innovation in implementing the specific Goals that were under review this year.

Mr. JINAU highlighted that the benefits of technology and innovation were evident; from the use of smartphone apps to route traffic, to the use of social media by world leaders as a governing mechanism.  Such technologies were gradually transforming people’s realities, and yet, at times, people seemed to be unaware of the impact and persistent nature of that change.  “Change is here to stay,” he declared, which was why it was important to find a model that countries could use to achieve the Goals.

Romania had a unique blend of domestic challenges and opportunities, he said.  The country faced hurdles in terms of job creation, while also enjoying an ever-increasing number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates.  To create new jobs and engage in innovation at the national level, Romania knew it would need to do more than invest locally.  It would also have to invest nationwide in an efficient manner.  While observing the activities of countries with strong economic growth over the last two decades, Romania had learned that start-ups were a key engine in powering national gross domestic product (GDP).  With regard to meeting social and economic needs, Romania determined that countries with strong start-up cultures had demonstrated that the best strategy for distributing resources was maximizing the drive, creativity and initiative of a nation.

In that context, the solution for Romania became clear — national priorities should be translated into broad criteria, targeting large dimensions of the economy that needed to be developed, he said.  Funds should then be distributed to start-ups in large, open, nationwide competitions and business cases with the largest social, economic or technological impacts should be supported, provided they continued developing their concepts.  In such a scenario, Governments would not only invest in start-ups, but would also align that investment to national priorities.

Mr. GLUCKMAN said that policymaking was based on options which involved different trade-offs, which affected different stakeholders, in different ways.  An increasing number of countries were developing more formal science advisory mechanisms within their own domestic contexts, which were playing an important role in development.  The United Nations needed to focus more on providing coherent and consistent scientific advice to States.  The Scientific Advisory Board established by the Secretary-General had potential, but he questioned its lasting impact.  The Sustainable Development Goals were ultimately based on national decisions, made by national Governments, about national implementation.  There must be greater links between global recommendations and national implementing bodies.  Science, technology and innovation were critical, yet a thorough gap-analysis between national needs and available resources was still lacking.

Ms. SNAPP highlighted that the world was in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, which was moving at a pace that was at least 10 times faster and 100 times more global that the previous industrial revolutions.  One concern associated with the revolution was that individual gains would not be as great as Government and business gains, and in that context, it was imperative that no one was left behind.  There would be disruption and also breakthroughs which would cause anxiety that would need to be overcome.  There would be primarily three main areas of innovation — physical, which included things such as 3D printers and autonomous cars; biological, which included improvements in health-care systems; and digital, which included smartphone applications.  The promise of technology had not been fully realized, and never would be as long as 60 per cent of the world still did not have access to high-quality and affordable internet.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Ethiopia said that it was clear in his region that Governments needed scientific advisory bodies, yet, there was a lack of close cooperation between academia and Government.  A representative of the International Organization of La Francophonie stressed the need for stronger links between the scientific community and policymakers, particularly with regard to the distribution of scientific knowledge in a multitude of languages.  The representative of Zambia expressed concern that Government ministries did not seem to grasp how critical science, technology and innovation were for success, while the representative of South Africa questioned whether a framework existed that would ensure that countries were being inclusive in their approach to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Panel II

Focusing on “National science, innovation and technology plans and policies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”, the second panel of the day was moderated by Bill Colglazier, Senior Scholar, Center for Scientific Diplomacy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and member of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism 10-Member Group.  The panellists included Abdullah Lootah, Director-General, Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, United Arab Emirates; Michiharu Nakamura, Counsellor to the President, Science and Technology Agency, Japan; and Marcia McNutt, President, National Academy of Sciences, United States.

The panel began with an innovation pitch from Rebecca Firth on “Missing Maps”, which was a project that helped people in developing countries map out their communities, which otherwise did not exist on formal maps.

Mr. COLGLAZIER said that now was the time to turn aspirational words into real actions, and to utilize feedback from the science, technology and innovation community to make appropriate adjustments as those efforts moved forward.  All sectors of society would need to be engaged, including the private sector, civil society, the scientific community, and others.

Mr. LOOTAH recalled that the United Arab Emirates’ national innovation strategy was launched in 2014 and was designed to embed a culture of innovation across the public and private sectors, while reinforcing six broad development goals.  The country was working to improve public services by tapping into innovation, while also placing a strong emphasis on human capital and global development endeavours.  The country’s national committee on the Sustainable Development Goals was created in January 2017 and was tasked with creating a plan for the implementation of the Goals.  The governance structure was unique in that it empowered members to develop innovative solutions to achieve their goals.

Mr. NAKAMURA noted that science, technology and innovation were important assets in overcoming national issues and the cornerstone of the country’s international cooperation.  Japan was poised to share its experiences in  implementing the Sustainable Development Goals globally.  He stressed that global data should be utilized to address a wide range of challenges and that different national and international sectors should be more unified, with the special needs of local communities kept in mind.  There was a need for human resources development so that technologies took root in each community, including in newly emerging countries.

Ms. MCNUTT noted that in the United States, leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals largely came from the non-profit sector, which in her opinion was a positive development.  The National Academy of Science was a fully independent scientific advisory body to the Government and received all its funding from outside sources.  Policymakers often ignored science at their own peril.  Governments not only needed to follow the laws of their countries when making policies, but to also respect the laws of nature.  Understanding the needs of stakeholders would be crucial and should not be an afterthought.  Science, technology and innovation should be taken into account when implementing the Sustainable Development Goals by supporting the critical role of independent scientific advisory bodies.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China said that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should be integrated with national science, technology and innovation programmes.

Also speaking were the representatives of Qatar and Swaziland.

Panel III

Opening the next panel on “Science, innovation and technology capacity building for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”, the Forum heard from  Jiwon Park and Bailey Ulbricht, both winners of the Call for Innovation for the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, who presented their innovation pitches “CodePhil in the Philippines” and “Paper Airplanes”, respectively. 

Moderated by Romain Murenzi, Director, Division of Science, Policy and Capacity Building, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the panel included the following three speakers: Geoffrey Boulton, President, Committee on Data for Science and Technology, International Council for Science; Bitrina Diyamett, Executive Director, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization, United Republic of Tanzania; and James Querry, Associate Professor, Philadelphia University, United States.

Mr. MURENZI, underscoring how science improved livelihoods, called on countries to equip themselves with policies that built capacity and synergy, and promoted public participation.  Scientists must be directly engaged in such efforts as well, he added, emphasizing that developing countries faced myriad challenges in quality education and research.  Basic and engineering sciences must be at the cornerstone of education to effectively harness research and contribute to countries’ sustainable development.  He also recognized the need to address the fact that women only accounted for 30 per cent of all researchers worldwide.

Mr. BOULTON said the relatively recent replacement of analog processes ushered in a digital revolution in the way knowledge was acquired, disseminated and used.  Scientists, businesses and whole societies were facing challenges to understand the implications of such a major change.  They were also realizing that they were at their most powerful when data and information were open.  The scientific community worldwide had been seizing new discoveries, he continued, recognizing the need for equitable advancements worldwide.  The paper world was the past, and digital opportunities could only be fully grasped if fully embraced.  Although science was an international enterprise, it was usually done within the framework of national silos.  Funding remained a challenge, he added, stressing the need for national entities to provide the requisite resources for education and research.  It was important to address how rapid automation would affect workforces worldwide.  Major efforts were needed in capacity-building, particularly in Africa and Latin America.  He asked: What can the United Nations do?  “Something is happening.  It’s happening quickly and it’s going to affect all our lives.”

Ms. DIYAMETT underscored several issues that needed to be addressed in poorer countries to facilitate development of science, technology and innovation.  She emphasized the need to train scientists, provide quality science, technology, engineering and math education and address the gender gap.  Markets alone could not allocate resources to innovation, and to that end, policy guidance was instrumental.  Most policies, in the context of Africa, were not informed by evidence due to a lack of expertise in science, technology and innovation.  There was a problem of governing, coordinating and evaluating, she continued.  For poorer countries, innovation was dependent on various factors, including technology transfer.  Policymakers must be trained in the basic understanding of how science, technology and innovation related to poverty.  The private sector must also be guided in how to look into innovation.  She also noted that trade had significantly changed in recent years, due to rapid automation, which had significantly lowered the cost of goods and services from developing countries.

Mr. QUERRY noted how geospatial technology could help facilitate implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Geospatial technology was simply “getting a computer to act like a map”, the benefits of which included better understanding of challenges and opportunities on the ground.  Officials and scientists could develop a common language and break down silos.  The United Nations, at the international level, must focus on providing funding and technical assistance.  As an educator, researcher and practitioner, he said it was quite clear to him that all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were interrelated and must be approached as such.  “Without location, you lose a great opportunity to solve problems in a very meaningful way,” he added.  Underscoring the need for better collaboration and citizen engagement, he underscored the important role of communities in decision-making.  He also recommended technical and financial assistance to develop systems that were able to share data.  Data-sharing policies and practices were the responsibility of the Governments.  It was also important to promote citizen engagement and give everyone an opportunity to have a voice. 

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of China emphasized the vital role of partnerships, including with young scientists and with setting up a network of practitioners.  In addition, China had worked with United Nations entities in order to enhance capacity-building in Member States.  The representative of Bangladesh said that most policymakers believed that science, technology and innovation was not their responsibility.  Also weighing in, a representative from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said developing countries must adopt a proactive role in building national capacities.

Panel IV

Focusing on “Emerging frontiers: evolving science, technology and innovation developments with implications for the Sustainable Development Goals”, the fourth panel was moderated by Miguel Ruíz Cabañas, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mexico.  The speakers included: Xiaolan Fu, Professor of Technology and International Development, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; Ellen Jorgensen, Founder of GenSpace, United States; and Jose Ramon Lopez-Portillo, Chairman of Board, Zenith Energy, and Co-Founder, Centre for Mexican Studies, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Mr. RUÍZ CABAÑAS said the main purpose of the session would be to look at opportunities and challenges related to emerging science, technology and innovation issues, particularly disruptive technologies, and their current and future impact on sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda.  During the discussion, panellists would focus on exponential technical changes and how those changes could impact development now and in the future.

Ms. FU highlighted that the world had seen numerous technological breakthroughs in recent times in a number of disciplines, including robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and many other areas.  The impact on the Sustainable Development Goals was mixed; there were opportunities but also challenges that must be addressed.  There had been efficiency gains and improvements in working conditions, but at the same time, labour replacement had taken place and income inequality exacerbated.  Job replacement was not only taking place in blue collar environments, but also in skilled environments, which created difficulties in re-employing some workers, as well as political instability and social unsustainability.  Policies should be put in place to assist developing countries in terms of technology transfer and scientific training. 

Ms. JORGENSEN said that emerging biotechnologies would have a profound impact on the Sustainable Development Goals in a multitude of areas, including through improvements in DNA sequencing technologies, precise editing of DNA, tissue engineering, improved imaging systems for living organisms, and many others.  The most significant sustainable development impacts of biotechnology included new products and innovation opportunities that may lead to economic growth versus disproportionate distribution leading to inequalities.  There were also important questions that remained regarding ecosystem stewardship versus destruction.  Efforts should focus on the youth by funding science education and supporting the development of international methods and standards for risk evaluation as well as open science.

Mr. LOPEZ-PORTILLO warned that humanity was at a turning point, and that it was difficult for institutions and societies to adapt effectively and in a timely manner to the dramatic technological changes that were taking place.  The rise of artificial intelligence had changed the playing field, while the challenges created by the emergence of new technologies must be urgently addressed.  The consequences of not doing so could be more severe and devastating than predictions of climate change.  There was undeniable evidence that scientific change could unleash the full potential of societies as they sought to find solutions to some of the most pressing challenges they faced.  Some argued that the exponential growth of technology was about to end, while the expectation of what that growth could accomplish remained high.  There was an unavoidable ignorance of how much transformative technologies could disrupt social and economic arrangements, which resulted in fear and discontent.

In the ensuing discussion and in response to a question from a representative of a stakeholder group, Ms. FU noted that there had been a shift whereby more production was taking place on the local level using local resources, but through automatic processes, rather than through the use of skilled local labour.  The representative of the International Labour Organization said that while technological advancements were inevitable, progress was a choice.  The representative of Zambia said that companies were more interested in taking resources out of countries, rather than supporting skills development, while the representative of the International Organization of La Francophonie stressed the need for greater emphasis on corporate responsibility.

Panel V

The Forum held a final panel discussion on “Supporting the implementation of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism”, moderated by Heide Hackmann, Executive Director, International Council for Science, and Co-Chair, Technology Facilitation Mechanism 10-Member Group.  The panel included the following speakers:  Shantanu Mukherjee, Chief, Policy Analysis Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Klaus Tilmes, Director of Trade and Competitiveness, World Bank; Nina Harjula, Co-Founder and board member of the Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and Chairman of the Board, Nordic Innovation Accelerator, Finland; and Kurt Vandenberghe, Director, Climate Action and Resource Efficiency, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission.

Ms. HACKMANN provided an overview of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, underscoring the need for longer-term investment.  Collaboration must remain flexible and take into account the diverse efforts of various agencies working on the Mechanism, she stressed.

Mr. MUKHERJEE said it was useful to look back at the commitments of Member States to the 2030 Agenda and to identify best practices and lessons learned from developing and developed countries.  It was important to ask why users now expected online mechanisms to be more productive and useful than analog mechanisms.  The online mechanism was “spectacularly effective” in certain instances.  To that end, platforms must be designed carefully and content must be up to date, as it was likely to become obsolete rather quickly.  Any online market place must adapt rapidly.  He also emphasized the need for long-term commitment and engagement with multifaceted partners.

Mr. TILMES said that there were multiple actors and stakeholders contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Outlining the work of the World Bank, he said technology and innovation-focused programmes were funding entrepreneurship start-ups in developing countries, particularly in Africa.  He raised the question of whether resources were being deployed in the most appropriate and effective manner at the international level and whether the United Nations system was set up for purpose particularly in such a fast-changing world.  Looking back to the experience of the Millennium Development Goals, he noted the time it had taken for campaigns to truly make an impact.  It was important to consider the best division of labour and how to mobilize the private sector.

Ms. HARJULA, representing the grassroots sector, said her work involved supporting organizations focused on technology and innovation.  She made the connection between resilient regional economies, sustainable growth, secure jobs and human well-being — all of which were largely enabled by the large-scale deployment of low-carbon technologies.  Access to capital, markets and insights was critical, she continued, highlighting her work with more than 10,000 companies in some 30 countries.  The goal was to get people together, she said, adding that discussions were very important in advancing the 2030 Agenda.  “We want to bring out the hidden champions” and facilitate their meetings with people who could help them.  Highlighting her work with connecting those stakeholders digitally, she noted that sometimes it was impossible for start-ups and innovators to travel to connect.

Mr. VANDENBERGHE focused his presentation on what public institutions could do to enable actors to work together to realize the transformative potential of science, technology and innovation.  Cross-border cooperation was instrumental, he added.  He pointed to the European Union’s programme in innovation, which focused on collaboration and cross-border and cross-disciplinary programmes, and urged researchers around the world to work with the European Union in the area of research.  Outlining various European Union programmes, including on food and nutrition, he stressed the need for and the power of international cross-border cooperation.  Effective, impactful and sustainable solutions must be co-created with those who stood to benefit from them.  Solutions must come from a systemic, integrated approach coupled with private sector and social innovation.

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At Economic and Social Council Meeting on Taxes, Keynote Speaker Says Mobilization of Domestic Resources Vital to Transforming Countries

The financing of development expenditures in most developing countries was heavily reliant on taxes, a challenge to those lacking the capacity to collect enough revenue, the Economic and Social Council heard today as it held its annual meeting on taxes.

Patience T. Rubagumya of Uganda’s Revenue Authority, in her keynote address to the Special Meeting on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, said that in her country’s case 70 per cent of the structure of budget financing was collected from domestic resources with the rest coming from grants and loans.

“We are not very comfortable with that and would like to get to the point where we can fund 100 per cent of our budget,” she said, adding that the mobilization of domestic resources was vital to transforming any country.

Some policies were outdated and did not meet most current challenges, she continued, underscoring the need to look at domestic laws where amendments were needed to meet targets.  Treaties, often abused based on how industries were structured, were negotiated “way back” and did not include recent work done by the United Nations and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

A lack of information about worldwide activities and the operations of multinational entities was also concerning, she said, adding that there was little data and analysis that could be used for transfer pricing.  Some entities had also created cash boxes in preferential tax regimes.  That eroded the tax base of developing countries through the payment of royalties and interest without substantial presence and value creation in those jurisdictions.  In addition, local staff did not have the experience or resources to deal with complex tax matters.

“It takes a lot of years to build expertize of staff who can handle international taxation matters,” she continued, underscoring the need to invest in building up the capacity of staff.

Uganda had just discovered oil and gas which brought with it a number of new challenges it was not used to in the past, she said.  It was important to change laws which were not clear on taxing.  On Internet transactions, she said current laws were unable to target those business entities.  There were still a lot of gaps, she said, calling for increased dialogue between countries and a balance between collecting revenue and creating an environment still attractive to investors.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said today’s deliberations served to bring Member States up to date on the most recent developments in international cooperation in tax matters.  Convened immediately after the last session of the current membership of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, today’s meeting offered an opportunity to reflect on major achievements and to look to future contributions.

The Committee had already reviewed and updated the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries.  To complement that, the Committee had produced a Manual for the Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties between Developed and Developing Countries.  That training tool sought to provide guidance to tax treaty negotiators in developing countries, in particular those who negotiate based on the United Nations model.  It also dealt with all the basic aspects of tax treaty negotiation and focused on the realities and stages of capacity development of developing countries.

Taxation of natural resource extraction had a strong effect on countries’ ability to mobilize domestic resources, he continued, adding that the Handbook on Taxation of the Extractive Industries in Developing Countries, containing guidelines, would be launched in October.  The Handbook would continue to serve the purpose of correcting the asymmetry in specialist information and expertise between multinational companies and developing countries.

National tax authorities and ministries of finance in developing countries must develop more effective and efficient tax systems, he continued.  The United Nations programme of capacity development was carried out through the collaborative engagement of tax officials from developing countries, members of the Committee, other world-renowned experts, and relevant organizations and regional organizations.  It featured training courses, publications and other capacity development tools, with the focus on three main areas:  double tax treaties; transfer pricing; and tax base protection for developing countries.

Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, recalled that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda provided a holistic and coherent framework for financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  It had acknowledged that taxation was among the most important ways in which developing countries could mobilize resources for investment in sustainable development and recognized the globalized nature of business and finance.  There were limits to what countries could do on their own through domestic policies, so the Addis Agenda also emphasized the importance of international tax cooperation and the need to combat illicit financial flows.

Taxation was one of the most important ways in which developing countries could mobilize resources for investment in sustainable development and meet the ambition of the 2030 Agenda.  However, while strong development-oriented tax policies, modernized tax systems and efficient tax collection procedure were essential at the national level, they must be strengthened through international tax cooperation and efforts to combat illicit financial flows.

The Economic and Social Council and the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters also held five interactive dialogues including:  “United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries”; “United Nations Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries”; “Handbook on the taxation of extractive industries in developing countries”; Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows to foster sustainable development”; and “Strengthening Tax Capacity in Developing Countries”.

During a general discussion, speakers highlighted national and international projects and made suggestions for further improvements, including efforts to combat tax evasion, mobilizing domestic resources, ensuring developing countries’ participation in tax-related initiatives and a need for continued dialogue on tax matters.

Initiatives to eliminate financial havens to stem tax evasion and illicit financial flows would target those and related actions that were negatively affecting development, said María Carola Iñiguez Zambrano (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  Calling upon States, organizations and other stakeholders to contribute to those efforts, she said mobilizing domestic resources could help countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Indeed, there was a need for informed discussions on tax matters in the context of sustainable development, said Lois Michele Young (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).  Her region boasted well-regulated financial centres and was committed to participating in tax-related initiatives.  However, much work remained to be done to assist developing countries so they could participate in those endeavours.

In every initiative, said Stefanie Ulrike Schmid-Luebbert (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, all countries must have an equal voice.  Welcoming recent proposed initiatives, she provided a summary of the bloc’s efforts and the holistic approaches it was taking to tackle tax evasion and other matters.

Echoing a common thread, Ephraim Leshala Mminele (South Africa) expressed appreciation for the 2016 Council decision to hold such meetings on tax matters with a view to developing an intergovernmental mechanism.  However, he said, it was disappointing that obstacles that had appeared during the implementation of related initiatives had not been met effectively.  With regard to Africa, the estimated annual $50 billion of illicit financial flows could better be used for advancing development, he said, underlining the importance of closing loopholes and ending tax evasion.  When focusing on implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Agenda, there was a clear need to swiftly update relevant policies and systems.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Egypt, Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil, United Kingdom and India.

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