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United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14

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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Ocean Conference

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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Ocean Conference

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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Better Policies, Investment in Infrastructure, Industrialization Key for Creating Thriving, Sustainable Societies, Speakers Tell Economic and Social Council

Unlocking developing countries’ potential for green growth depended on using the right keys, learning from past mistakes and shaping new ideas based on bolstered, more coordinated action, speakers told the Economic and Social Council today at a special meeting on innovations for infrastructure development and promoting sustainable industrialization.

Despite a plethora of obstacles, working together to foster equitable, inclusive growth — in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development — could produce concrete, lasting and environmentally friendly results on the ground, speakers stressed.

Structural transformation through industrialization was indeed a route to poverty eradication, said Li Yong, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).  Countries and regions with burgeoning manufacturing sectors had achieved spectacular progress, he said, noting that between 1990 and 2013, the number of people living in poverty in East Asia and the Pacific had declined from 1 billion to 71 million.  In sub-Saharan Africa, although poverty numbers had increased, there were signs of progress.

While such success stories demonstrated that industrialization could be an engine of growth, the road ahead was long for the least developed countries, he said.  Most lacked the capacity to meet international social and environmental standards, with infrastructure remaining a critical missing piece of the puzzle.  “The only thing we need now is action, action, action, and we need to deliver now,” he said, announcing that the General Assembly would hold a high-level meeting in September on the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).   The international community, including the United Nations system, could play a critical role in helping countries to overcome challenges, he stressed.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that with sufficient investment and effective planning and execution, infrastructure and industrialization could be key drivers of sustainable development.  That would require new ways of thinking and working, moving beyond “business as usual” in technology, policymaking and how poverty was addressed and the Sustainable Development Goals achieved.  There was ample space for collective action to fill the infrastructure financing gap, estimated to be about $1.5 trillion annually in developing countries.

Speakers suggested a number of ways to close that gap.  Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoilamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said public-private partnerships had an important role in tackling challenges facing many of the 92 States her office represented.  Multilateral development banks must provide technical support to vulnerable countries to attract foreign direct investment and there was great potential for regional cooperation, which could help boost countries’ economic development.  Transport, with regard to the industrialization-infrastructure nexus, and financing were critical areas that needed to be addressed.

New approaches were necessary, said Liberia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s declaration that 2016 to 2025 was the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa, he said the previous two decades had never been translated into concrete projects.  “If we are to expect different results, we need to avoid repeating the same mistakes,” he said, emphasizing that predictable financing and resource mobilization were key to realizing industrial development.  Efforts should focus on bankable projects and on helping Member States mobilize donors for specific programmes while harnessing regional integration for industrial development.

Obstacles included financing and technology transfers, speakers said, with some pointing at the current dearth of industrialization and sustainable infrastructure.  “Without a breakthrough in international cooperation in the field of technology, shifting to a more sustainable path would be very difficult and burdensome for developing countries,” said Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.

Echoing that view, China’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Brazil, Russian Federation, India and South Africa, encouraged creation of a favourable policy environment for innovation and enabling conditions for entrepreneurship, and a focus on building infrastructure, including roads, information and communications technology and electricity.  Similarly, the representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said a blend of efforts could produce tangible results.  “Modern infrastructure development, seamless access to energy, market access for products and increased foreign direct investment can play a catalytic role in fostering industrialization,” he said.

The special meeting included three interactive discussions on “The industrialization-infrastructure nexus in developing countries”, “The potential of agro-industry and agricultural systems for sustainable development” and “Building capacities and mobilizing resources for infrastructure, industrialization and innovation”.

The first discussion featured speakers from Africa, who pointed out that the continent’s miniscule contribution to global growth was due to a lack of industrialization.  Ibrahim Mayki, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), said that opportunities existed for Africa to leap-frog forward using the right technological and institutional innovations.  The continent could finance its industrialization through remittances, mineral revenues, stock-market capitalization and other means.

Economic and Social Council President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe) delivered a statement during the opening segment.  José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) spoke in a video message for the occasion.

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

Opening Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

Keynote Addresses

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

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

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

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

General Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Address

FEKITAMOELOA KATOA ‘UTOILAMANU, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the link between industrialization and poverty reduction was crucial to vulnerable countries.  Many of the specific challenges in the 92 States her office represented were highlighted in the 2030 Agenda, with industrialization also highlighted in the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020, Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024 and Samoa Pathway for Small Island Developing States.  Outlining obstacles, she said many vulnerable countries had limited productive capacities and declining value added in manufacturing and agriculture.

Elaborating on that point, she said the 48 least developed countries, with a population of 900 million, had seen slower structural transformation, with a general consensus that building infrastructure was a precondition for structural transformation and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.  Poor energy access remained a key impediment.  The 32 landlocked developing countries suffered from geographical disadvantages, with infrastructure deficiencies and poor trade facilitation.  Similarly, small island developing States shared geographic remoteness, narrow economic bases and isolation from major global markets.

Highlighting common challenges among the three country groupings, she said transport played a key role in the industrialization-infrastructure nexus and achieving growth would require financial and technical support and strong partnerships with various stakeholders.  Access to financing was another challenge, with major constraints including a lack of scale and substantial local investment, poor credit ratings and low project preparation capacities and skills to deploy financing models that encouraged blended finance to attract more funds.  Public-private partnerships would have an important role to play, being specifically tailored to meet each country’s aspirations.  To attract foreign direct investment, multilateral development banks must provide technical support to vulnerable countries.  There was great potential for regional cooperation, which could help boost countries’ economic development.

Session I

The Council then held its first session of the day on “The industrialization-infrastructure nexus in developing countries”.  Moderated by Macharia Kamau (Kenya), it featured presentations by Ibrahim Mayki, Chief Executive Officer, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); Abdou Mamane, Minister of Industry of Niger; Brian Mushimba, Minister of Transport and Communication of Zambia; and Maria Kiwanuka, Special Presidential Adviser, Uganda.

Mr. KAMAU said the world was in the throes of a new industrial revolution that was expected to be global, to leave no one behind and to transform the lives of all, with the 2030 Agenda guiding the way forward.  He also noted that the panel was made up entirely of Africans — a rare event which he suspected had never happened in the Council before.

Mr. MAYKI said that Africa’s 0.1 per cent contribution to global growth was due fundamentally to the fact that it did not significantly add value to its products because of a lack of industrialization.  By comparison, China accounted for 15 per cent of the global economy, having made significant investments in its industries under a policy going back to the 1970s.  However, opportunities existed for Africa to leap-frog forward, using the right technological and institutional innovations.  It could finance its industrialization through remittances, mineral revenues, stock-market capitalization and other means.  It only needed to focus on what its key priorities were in terms of policies and projects.  Identifying African pension funds as a financing source, he said infrastructure projects should be reclassified as an asset class so as to attract investment.

Mr. MAMANE said that one of the benefits of infrastructure development and industrialization was that it promoted investment and helped build human capacity.  International cooperation and private-sector support were indispensable for meeting challenges.  In Niger, the Government had undertaken a number of reforms to promote investment and industrialization, including the creation of a dry port at Dosso to serve as a logistical platform between the port of Cotonou in Benin and the interior of the country.  A railroad between Cotonou and Ouagadougou via Niamey was meanwhile under construction, as well as a trans-Saharan road network.  With regard to agriculture, he said the Government had put into place a development programme for agro-business and agro-industry that included the 3ADI initiative.

Mr. MUSHIMBA noted the challenges faced by landlocked developing countries, including their geographical location and the feeling that they were isolated and marginalized.  Market access for those countries was difficult, their economies were under-diversified and Internet and mobile-phone saturation was limited.  Significant resources would be required to close existing gaps, he said, noting Zambia’s vulnerability to price fluctuations in copper, its main source of foreign earnings.  Describing the Vienna Programme of Action as a good guide, he said Zambia wanted to ensure that it could improve infrastructure and industrialize its economy, adding value to its raw materials by exporting semi-finished and finished products, thus creating more jobs and reducing poverty.

Ms. KIWANUKA, noting that all the countries represented on the panel were landlocked, said the nexus between infrastructure and industrialization must be considered on a country-specific basis.  Uganda was 1,000 kilometres from the sea, but it considered itself “land-linked” through its neighbours, which imported Ugandan food.  Each country needed to assume a holistic approach and recognize its advantages.  She added that infrastructure, while accounting for more than 50 per cent of Government expenditures, was a support structure for agriculture, industry and mining that must pay its way.  In Uganda, the Government needed to concentrate its limited resources and capacities in those areas where it alone could act, including the creation of a stable macroeconomic framework and a regulatory system that ensured a level playing field for all investors.  She emphasized the need for Government to work in concert with the private sector to develop human resources and create skills that the market — rather than academicians in ivory towers — wanted.  Describing the private sector as very agile, she said it could run rings around any Government any day before lunch, and then eat the Government for lunch.  She added that Governments needed to ensure that whatever was foregone in tax exemptions was less than the benefits accrued for the country as a whole.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the United Arab Emirates discussed the outcomes of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, hosted by the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi, which sought to promote a road map for future industrial development to echo the evolution in international trade and global best practices.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan, noting the structural challenges faced by landlocked developing countries, described her country’s nationwide digital transformation programme, which would provide a unique opportunity for making a rapid breakthrough in its economic development.

Session II

In the afternoon, the Council held a session on “The potential of agro-industry and agricultural systems for sustainable development”.  Moderated by Gerardo Patacconi, Acting Director, Department of Agri-business Development, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, it featured presentations by Lisa Dreier, Head of Food Security and Agriculture Initiatives, World Economic Forum LLC; Magnus Arildsson, Head of Internet of Things, Product Management, Ericsson; Bill Polidoro, President and CEO, ACDI/VOCA; and Andrew Ndaamunhu Bvumbe, Executive Director, Africa Group I, World Bank Group.

Mr. PATACCONI said the discussion would look at the connection between innovation, industrialization and the agro-business sector, and how by adding value agriculture could lead to new jobs, new technology and new markets.  A bigger issue would be urbanization and its impact on food and other agricultural products, he said, adding that solutions would be found through partnerships, innovation and the avoidance of fragmentation.

Ms. DREIER said that part of the work of the World Economic Forum involved catalysing public-private collaboration in order to achieve food security and agricultural development.  Currently, the food system was not serving the planet in the way that it should.  Many issues and obstacles needed to be overcome and that would require systemic change, she said, proposing a concept called “system leadership” that would bring together all stakeholders behind a shared goal and facilitate their efforts towards achieving that goal.  Mobilizing decentralized action was the spirit behind system leadership, she said, referring to such initiatives as the Grow Africa Partnership and Grow Asia Partnership.  Multi-stakeholder partnerships were not the solution to every problem — they could be complicated and slow, with high transaction costs — but in the long run, she said, the results could have a big impact.

Mr. ARILDSSON described the “internet of things” as a network of sensors that would send data to a central system that would process the information and send back commands, such as opening doors and turning on lights.  With sensors poised to outnumber mobile phones, he said his company was moving away from communications and into the internet of things.  He presented several examples of how sensors could be used in agriculture, including planting one in the stomach of a cow, making it possible to more accurately monitor its health over its lifetime and immediately alert farmers to problems.  Sensors could also be used for soil monitoring, thus helping to determine when fields needed fertilizer, pesticide and irrigation.  “We can do a whole lot more than we are doing,” he said, adding that the benefits would affect many people.

Mr. POLIDORO, recalling his organization’s roots in the cooperative sector in United States agriculture, described produce storage as a binding link between the various Sustainable Development Goals.  With a warehouse receipt system, he said, farmers would take their commodity to a licenced warehouse, get it graded and stored, then obtain a receipt that could then be used as collateral for loans.  Local context and scale mattered, he added, saying that in places that lacked infrastructure, it could be hard to get the basics in place.  Having a regulatory infrastructure in place was incredibly important.  Benefits would include reduced post-harvest losses, better quality, market price stability, improved food security and more formal agro-business practices.

Mr. BVUMBE, focusing his remarks on challenges faced by agriculture in Africa, said subsistence farmers could not be expected to connect with agro-business when they were still using hoes in the twenty-first century.  Most land tenure systems in Africa did not support financial inclusion; without security of tenure, problems would continue.  He went on to emphasize the need for skills development and support to farmers, as well as the effects of droughts and climate change.  Turning to financing, he said it was critical to look into de-risking lending to smallholder farmers in Africa.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of the FAO emphasized the need to shift to more sustainable, inclusive and resilient agricultural and food systems in order to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals’ promise of leaving no one behind.  She added that smallholders required better infrastructure in order to access markets.

Thailand’s representative described measures being taken in her country, such as the creation of water retention areas that stored rain-season water for use in dry seasons, thus mitigating the effects of drought.  She added that infrastructure development needed to go hand in hand with capacity-building so as to provide farmers with the knowledge, expertise and skills they needed.

The representative of Ethiopia asked what policy measures could be taken to encourage the private sector to invest in long-term projects.

The representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) asked about the challenges involved when a single large buyer of agricultural produce had to buy with many smallholders.

The representative of Mexico asked to hear more about productivity chains.

Responding, Ms. DRIER said policy measures to incentivize long-term investment depended on the type of investment.  One that involved a new seed variety might be different from another required for a processing plant.  Given the broad variety of incentives that could be employed, she suggested that Governments maintain a dialogue with the private sector to discuss policy barriers and how they might be addressed.

To the question posed by the IFAD representative, she said that, from the experience of the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture, it appeared that private-sector companies were not accustomed to including smallholders in their value chains.  They considered doing so to be risky and expensive.  Others, however, were finding ways to engage smallholders to be part of a larger value chain while providing technical expertise to meet quality standards.

Mr. BVUMBE said that, whatever the policy, clarity and consistency were important for the private sector, especially with regard to land tenure.  Dialogue was also critical.  He also described how, in India, smallholders had come together at the village and community level, thus reducing transaction costs when dealing with buyers.

Mr. ARILDSSON said it was a matter of building ecosystems — something that businesses did all the time.  For farmers, such ecosystems would be different in each country, but it was important to ensure a win-win situation at all levels.

Mr. POLIDORO said that not all smallholders were created equal.  Sometimes, warehouse receiving systems could be brought down by incorporating too many smallholders too fast.

General Discussion

REMONGAR T. DENNIS (Liberia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said industry was an important driver of economic transformation and growth, job creation and human development.  The Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa, included in the African Union Agenda 2063, emphasized that prosperity depended on the development of a robust industrial sector.  The continuing gap in productive industrial capacities on the continent stemmed from many linked factors, including a lack of related finance and investments and technological capacities, inadequate entrepreneurship, energy and infrastructure bottlenecks, small and fragmented markets, low purchasing power and limited demand.  Financing remained the main challenge.

Welcoming the General Assembly’s declaration that 2016 to 2025 was the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa, he said the previous two decades had never been translated into concrete projects.  “If we are to expect different results, we need to avoid repeating the same mistakes,” he said, emphasizing that predictable financing and resource mobilization were key to realizing industrial development.  The new Decade and its promoters must establish inter-agency mechanisms for coordination and for the strategy’s implementation.  Efforts should also focus on bankable projects and helping Member States mobilize donors for specific programmes while harnessing regional integration for industrial development.

Underlining the importance of increasing investment and improving the quality and productivity of existing and new investments, he said more public funding should catalyse private investment.  Africa’s contribution to the global value chain must be raised because almost 70 per cent of it occurred in developing countries.  Since developed countries’ investments in Africa included high value-added activities such as research, innovation, design, sales and marketing in their headquarter countries, priorities must include promoting domestic manufacturing capabilities in high value-added sectors or technology-intensive sectors.  In that regard, the role of Governments and adequate policy space were essential.

He said additional efforts must focus on enhancing domestic resource mobilization to create fiscal space to boost public investment in infrastructure.  At national, regional and international levels, attention must be paid to curb capital flight, including through preventing tax evasion and illicit cross-border capital transfers.  As such, rules must be introduced to ensure that multinational companies did not shift profits across borders to avoid taxes.  He encouraged the United Nations development system, bilateral and multilateral partners and private-sector operations to join hands in translating the Decade from a statement of intentions into concrete actions.

Session III

The Council’s final session for the day on “Building capacities and mobilizing resources for infrastructure, industrialization and innovation” was moderated by Ms. Dreier.  It featured presentations by Tadeo Garcia Zalazar, Mayor of Godoy Cruz, Argentina; Marcos Bonturi, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Special Representative to the United Nations; and Paul Winters, associate vice-president, a.i., Strategy and Knowledge Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Ms. DREIER said the dialogue would focus on Sustainable Development Goal 9, to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, and how to bridge the financing gap with a view to achieving that objective.

Mr. ZALAZAR said Godoy Cruz, a municipality facing vulnerabilities, including climate change consequences and seismic activity, had aimed at building its resilience.  Sustainable development activities included building resilient infrastructure and joining an innovative network of 200 municipalities geared towards taking climate action such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The city had also promoted sustainable industrialization, established a high-tech park and using renewable energy.  Solar panel tax breaks were available for homes and businesses and a social housing project had mixed public-private investments, acting as a model for future sustainable development programmes.  Streamlining public policies had also worked to ensure a budget balance with local participation.  Moving forward, it was important to move from theory to practice, he said, emphasizing that Godoy Cruz had already taken steps to do that.

Mr. BONTURI asked why, if investment in infrastructure was so beneficial, it was not more common.  Donors had provided $60 billion a year for infrastructure projects in developing countries, but there was still an infrastructure deficit.  In OECD countries alone, $80 trillion in assets were held, with a small percentage used for infrastructure, primarily for member States.  Collaborating with the Group of 20, OECD had worked to help all Governments learn how to mobilize public finance and leverage private finance.  Attracting private investment must take into account the business climate, he said, noting that a study examining 60 countries had found barriers, including that energy and transport were the most restrictive sectors.  In other cases, public procurement was not transparent and green technology was highly regulated, posing additional barriers for the private sector.  But, money did not always guarantee success.  What was critical was good governance, which must work to involve the right stakeholders and ensure smooth operations while fighting corruption.

Mr. WINTERS said farmers were business people who invested.  That could be seen in results of recent FAO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports on projects that had provided cash transfers to farmers, who had spent funds investing in their communities.  Unleashing their potential could be helped by providing them with innovative opportunities.  Such initiatives included helping farmers organize to build sustainable irrigation systems.  Another project saw the construction of 2,000 kilometres of roads to bolster economic growth dairy farmers.  Urban bias in some countries had tended to ignore rural areas.  In resource mobilization, efforts had been made to ensure a balance in that regard with a view to promoting development in both urban and rural areas.

During the ensuing discussion, speakers raised concerns and examples of how they had addressed national or regional challenges.  A speaker from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said the private sector had said investment was too risky on the continent and regulations were not ideal.  In response, a continental model law governing areas such as procurement and project ownership had been drafted and was now ready to be adopted domestically.  If the private sector said there was a problem, ECA wanted to address it, he said.

Providing a national perspective, Zimbabwe’s representative said resource mobilization challenges had led to efforts to release resources to targeted projects.  Special economic zones had been created to attract the private sector.  To eradicate the perception that African projects were white elephants, Zimbabwe had created one-stop investment shops to attract investment.

Mr. ZALAZAR, responding to a question posed by the representative of Chile, said networks of municipalities had focused on concerns by pooling responses and approaches.  Networks focused on different themes.  His network addressed climate change and took action by crafting tailored plans because a one-size-fits-all approach did not work.  Answering a question posed by Argentina’s delegate, he said public-private partnerships had been addressed in a local law.  A smart fiscal approach had been taken to respond fully to the Sustainable Development Goals by local municipalities for issues including roads and green spaces.

Mr. BONTURI, responding to a question by the representative of the Republic of Korea, said blended finance included complex projects that had taken years to establish.  OECD was not designed to provide technical cooperation, but it worked with the United Nations and other partners in that regard, including with regard to domestic resource mobilization.

Mr. WINTERS, answering a query made by Chile’s representative, said money was available for microfinancing and then for projects with $1 million price tags, with little in between.  The African Development Bank was working around the $1 million level, but there was a gap in the middle-level and efforts should be made to address that.

Closing Remarks

Mr. WU, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said it was clear from today’s speakers that economic growth and job creation largely depended on enhanced productivity and upgraded industrial sectors.  However, those two factors were being held up by persistent infrastructure gaps which curtailed opportunities for progress on poverty eradication and sustainable development, especially in developing countries.  Both hard infrastructure, such as energy, transport and industrial networks, and soft infrastructure, such as institutions and capacities, were mutually supporting and reinforcing, underlining the need for integrated action in pursuing the 2030 Agenda, he said.

Citing the recent report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development, he said investment in productive sectors and sustainable infrastructure, among other areas, could spur growth, support climate-smart economies and energy, and move the world closer to the Goals.  Much was known about what worked in each area.  The challenge was the sheer scale and breadth of resources and technological know-how needed to deliver.  One finding from that report was the need to better align investment incentives with long-term funding, he said.  That would require bringing together all relevant actors.  The two initiatives announced today by UNIDO and FAO indicated how incentives could be better aligned with the new demands of 2030 Agenda.  Their potential at the national level was exciting, he said, adding that he looked forward to hearing more about their implementation and result.

Mr. SHAVA (Zimbabwe), Council President, said a key message that had been reinforced during the day had been the importance of keeping people at the centre of discussions on Goal 9.  “Ultimately, our objective should be to build societies where everyone can thrive, aided by infrastructure, industrialization and innovation,” he said.  In many developing countries where the potential for industrialization loomed large, advances in science, technology and innovation in sectors had the potential to promote employment and income growth.  Developing key infrastructure would also foster achievement of the entire 2030 Agenda and help to bolster people’s ability to meet their basic needs and fully participate in society.

Although there was broad agreement that infrastructure, industrialization and innovation were essential for poverty eradication and sustainable development, he said, gaps existed in investment, capacities and policy frameworks.  “We know the scale of the challenge,” he said, noting that the 2030 Agenda provided a road map for addressing those challenges and complemented the Addis Agenda as a framework for overcoming obstacles for investments.  Progress would also be made through the various partnerships and frameworks that had been formed as a response to those challenges, he said, expressing hope that all participants would commit to proposals that had been announced today with a view to maintaining the impressive momentum in support of infrastructure, industrialization and innovation.

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General Assembly Elects Slovakia Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák President of Seventy-Second Session, while Selecting Bureaux for Main Committees

The General Assembly today elected Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia’s Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, as President of its seventy-second session, while also selecting members to the Bureaux of its six Main Committees.

In accordance with tradition, the Assembly President’s election follows the system of geographical rotation whereby regional groups — the Eastern European States in the present case — putting a consensus candidate forward every year.

Following the election, the new President outlined six priorities, emphasizing first his intention to focus on people.  “I do believe we can do more to bring the UN closer to the world’s citizens” and make a real difference in their lives, he said.  The Sustainable Development Goals and climate action would also be important priorities, he said, adding that human rights would guide his work as an overarching principle.

He went on to highlight the importance of prevention and mediation in sustaining peace, and of calling attention to the issue of migration.  Emphasizing the importance of quality, he pledged not to launch any initiative that would result in additional burdens, particularly for smaller States, saying he would rather create a streamlined agenda, organized in clusters.

Indeed, creating a stronger United Nations, able to meet the multitude of expectations placed upon it was a common goal, he continued, adding that, to that end, he would facilitate a constructive, informed and open interaction among Member States and with the Secretary-General.  He called for greater trust between the United Nations and its members, stressing that he would do his utmost to support progress on the United Nations reform agenda.  He underlined the vital need to bolster the General Assembly’s role and improve its efficiency, and to transform the Security Council into a twenty-first-century entity.

Extending his congratulations, outgoing President Peter Thomson (Fiji) emphasized the Assembly’s critical role in setting the stage for peace and sustainable development amid massive global challenges — constant conflict, the largest refugee and humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, the spread of terrorism and the destructive effects of climate change.  He expressed confidence that, under Mr. Lajčák’s leadership, the United Nations would be strongly positioned to advance efforts to sustain peace, promote human rights and “stay the course” in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Secretary-General António Guterres also congratulated the new President, commending his “impressive” command of the Organization’s work and strong commitment to its principles.  Mr. Lajčák had expressed his firm belief that “strengthening the UN is the best investment to achieve the universal desire for peace, development, equality and justice in the world”, he recalled.

Also congratulating the President-elect on behalf of regional groups were representatives of the following Member States:  Cameroon (African States), Marshall Islands (Asia-Pacific States), Poland (Eastern European States), Haiti (Latin American and Caribbean States), Austria (Western European and Other States) and the United States (Host Country).

Acting in accordance with tradition, the Secretary-General then drew lots to determine which delegation would occupy the first seat in the General Assembly Hall during the seventy-second session.  The Czech Republic’s delegation was picked for the first seat, to be followed in English alphabetical order by all the other countries, including in the Main Committees.

The Assembly also elected the following 21 Vice-Presidents of its plenary:  Afghanistan, Bolivia, Chile, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Israel, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.  Also serving as Vice-Presidents were the five permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States.

Prior to that action, the outgoing President expressed regret that out of 16 regional nominations, only two representatives had been female.  He encouraged Member States to consider what steps they could take to advance gender parity.

A number of delegates then expressed reservations about Israel’s election as an Assembly Vice-President, with Iran’s delegate representative emphasizing that Israel was “in no way qualified”, having occupied Palestinian lands and committed flagrant violations of international law for decades.  “Israel is no friend to the United Nations,” he stressed, disassociating his delegation from Israel’s election.

Qatar’s representative pointed out that the role of Vice-President demanded respect for United Nations decisions, whereas Israel saw itself as superior to its resolutions and violated them regularly.

Syria’s representative described Israel’s election as part of a “clear policy” by the Group of Western European and Other States, as well as the Assembly’s Fourth (Special Political and Decolonization), Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) and Sixth (Legal) Committees.  Underlining that Israel was an occupying Power, he said its candidacy in elections for any United Nations entity was at odds with the Organization’s Charter.

The Assembly then held consecutive meetings of its six Main Committees to elect members of their respective bureaux.  It elected five Chairs by acclamation, while electing the Chair of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) by secret ballot.

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) elected Mouayed Saleh (Iraq) as Chair; Terje Taadik (Estonia), Alfredo Toro Carnevalli (Venezuela) and Georg Sparber (Liechtenstein) as Vice-Chairs; and Martin Ngundze (South Africa) as Rapporteur.

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) opened its meeting, Haiti’s representative announced the unanimous decision by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) to nominate Rafael Darió Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) as Chair, while emphasizing that no aspect of his country’s current political situation would prevent him from fulfilling his duty in that position.

However, the representative of the United States called for a secret ballot, expressing concern about the state of democracy in Venezuela and the ability of a representative of the Government of President Nicolás Maduro to serve as Chair of the Fourth Committee in a fair and apolitical manner.  To date, nearly 60 Venezuelans had died and hundreds had been injured or arrested in political protests, while thousands had fled to neighbouring countries, she said.  Noting that the Government was attempting to rewrite the Constitution and curbing political freedoms, she said the United States could not support the candidacy of Mr. Ramírez until democratic order was restored in Venezuela.

The Fourth Committee then elected Mr. Ramírez as its Chair after he received 133 votes, surpassing the required majority.

Mr. Ramírez (Venezuela) rejected the attempt by the United States delegation to alter the “posture and position” of the Latin American and Caribbean region as an attack on the multilateral system, aimed at imposing its own will.  “Today, we have taught [the United States] an extraordinary lesson in sovereignty,” he said, vowing to advance the Fourth Committee’s efforts to eradicate colonialism, including the dominion of the United States over Puerto Rico, among other territories.

Acting by acclamation, the Fourth Committee then elected Ahmed al-Mahmoud (United Arab Emirates) and Ceren Hande Őzgür (Turkey) as Vice-Chairs, and Angel Angelov (Bulgaria) as Rapporteur.

In a second secret ballot vote, the Committee elected Yasser Halfouni (Morocco) as the Vice-Chair by 88 votes to 58 for Zaina Benhabouche (Algeria).

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) elected Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) as Chair; Malelaos Menelaou (Cyprus), Kimberly Louis (Saint Lucia) and Valérie Bruell-Melchior (Monaco) as Vice-Chairs; and Chipulu Luswili Chanda (Zambia) as Rapporteur.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) elected Einar Gunnarsson (Iceland) as Chair; Nebil Idris (Eritrea), Alanoud Qassim M.A. al‑Temimi (Qatar) and Dóra Kaszás (Hungary) as Vice-Chairs; and Mariá José del Águila (Guatemala) as Rapporteur.

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) elected Tommo Monthé (Cameroon) as Chair; Abbas Yazdani (Iran), Anda Grinberga (Latvia) and Julie O’Brien (Ireland) as Vice-Chairs; and Felipe Garcia Landa (Mexico) as Rapporteur.

The Sixth Committee (Legal) elected Burhan Gafoor (Singapore) as Chair, as well as Duncan Laki Muhumuza (Uganda), Angel Horna (Peru), Carrie McDougall (Australia) and Peter Nagy (Slovakia) as Vice-Chairs, with Mr. Nagy also elected Rapporteur.

At the outset, Mr. Thomson (Fiji) expressed his deepest sympathies following the terrorist attack earlier today in Kabul, Afghanistan, which claimed many lives, also extending condolences to all family members of the victims of recent terrorist attacks around the world.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 1 June, to discuss implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declarations on HIV/AIDS.

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

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

Opening Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

Keynote Addresses

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

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

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

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

General Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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