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Human Rights Council President Urges Governments to Protect Fundamental Freedoms in Word, Deed, as Third Committee Considers Report of Geneva-Based Body

The President of Human Rights Council urged Governments to ensure that efforts to protect fundamental freedoms existed “not just in words, but in practice”, as he presented his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli (El Salvador), who had addressed the General Assembly plenary earlier in the day, said the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.

The situation in Myanmar deserved special attention, he said.  The Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.

Turning to Syria, he said the Council had held interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and extended that body’s mandate for another year.

More broadly, he said the Council had established a new special procedures mandate ‑ the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members — and created a joint task force to bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources.  He also informed delegates he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council.  Any such intimidation was unacceptable.

In the ensuing debate, speakers described potential areas for the Council’s reform, with Eritrea’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, stressing that the body should never be used as a tool for political purposes.  He also rejected the Council’s practice of “naming and shaming” and imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.

The representative of the European Union said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent special procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears”, attentive to emerging crises.

Earlier in the day, the Third Committee concluded its debate on refugees, with speakers from host countries highlighting the challenges of sheltering large numbers of displaced people.  The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his country had welcomed more than 318,000 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called for international support for local integration of the refugees.  Sudan’s delegate said the inflow of refugees into her country was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked, while Uganda’s delegate called for international support, as assisting refugees had over‑stretched its meagre resources.

Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, said 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian‑occupied areas of Ukraine.  Similarly, Georgia’s delegate said the ethnic Georgian population in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories.  Further, citizens were fleeing Ukraine due to crimes by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities.  The Russian Federation had offered voluntary donations to the High Commissioner for Refugees to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she added.

Also speaking in the discussion on refugees were representatives of Pakistan, China, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Argentina, Serbia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria and Mali, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Also speaking in the debate on the Human Rights Council report were representatives of Paraguay, Egypt, Colombia, Eritrea, Japan, Iraq, Syria, Botswana, United States, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, El Salvador, Latvia, India, China and Morocco.

The representatives of Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Morocco and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 6 November, to continue its work.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4216).

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) commended the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants but stressed that more must be done to find solutions to the refugee crisis.  Pakistan had sheltered millions of Afghan refugees in the past four decades, providing them with education, health care and jobs.  While the Prime Minister had said that they would not be repatriated forcibly, host countries had largely been taken for granted and their national resources stretched to cater to refugee needs.  He called for equal burden sharing and establishing long‑term solutions to address the root causes of displacement.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said the ethnic Georgian population living in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  Harsh restrictions had been imposed on education in the native Georgian language and Georgian classes had been prohibited in the Gali district and Tskhinvali region.  Further, the closure of entry and exit points across the occupation line by Russian occupation forces had also severely restricted the freedom of movement of local residents.  Those occupation forces had demolished the homes of internally displaced people from Georgia in the occupied Tskhinvali region.  She said talks on humanitarian issues in occupied regions, and on displaced people from Georgia, had been politicized by the Russian Federation.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said it was crucial to focus on both the symptoms and root causes of the refugee problem.  Root causes, such as social instability and imbalance in development, should be addressed by stepping up assistance for development.  There was also a need to resolve disputes through dialogue.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should summarize its experience and practices of pilot projects for implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and use the information for the formulation of the Global Compact for Refugees.  Negotiations of the Global Compact must be driven by Member States and should be advanced gradually.  She called on UNHCR to maintain its objectivity and neutrality and avoid interfering in internal affairs of countries and politicizing refugee protection mechanisms.

Ms. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the displacement crisis had worsened in recent years, threatening international stability.  Noting the High Commissioner’s focus on addressing its causes, she called on all States to cooperate in relevant efforts.  Pointing to the New York Declaration as a cornerstone to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants, she said Kuwait was providing assistance through pledging conferences, contributing more than $2 million to assist refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The situation of refugees without official documents was a priority, she said, and relevant documentation was being issued to those in Kuwait.

SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) said those fleeing conflict and entering Jordan had reached 2.8 million, with a majority being Syrian nationals.  Those circumstances had severely stressed public services, impacting Jordan’s development trajectory.  The Government was pursuing long‑term plans to address the refugee crisis and had established a single national framework to address the matter.  Syrian refugees without required documentation had been allowed to enrol in school, and some 200 schools now operated double shifts to allow for the attendance of refugee children.  Health services were also being provided, including gender‑sensitive attention to women and girls.  The protracted nature of the regional crisis had pushed Jordan’s assistance capacity to its limits, she said, stressing the importance of burden sharing.

MARWAN FRANCIS (Lebanon) expressed deep concern over the protracted situation of forced migration and stressed that the crisis should not become “the new normal”.  The international community must work together, he said, noting that burden and responsibility sharing were fundamental to addressing forced migration.  The causes of the crisis must also be tackled, and assistance must account for the specific context of each situation.  The return of refugees to their homes also must be a priority, he affirmed, adding that Lebanon hosted 1.2 million Syrian refugees and 400,000 Palestinian refugees.  The mass influx was straining limited assistance capabilities, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts to engage with development partners.

GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) called the adoption of the New York Declaration a step in the right direction, noting that while her country was committed to sheltering Syrian refugees, there was a need to establish sustainable regional and international solutions.  In November, Argentina would host two subregional meetings on implementation of the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action to address displacement trends.  While no country was free from the impact of refugee movements, developing countries had been most affected and there was a need to identify institutional frameworks that would help them both better address refugee needs, and particularly, the rights of women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and disabled refugees.

MARINA IVANOVI Ć (Serbia) said increasing numbers of refugees in his country had strained its accommodation capacities.  The large influx had also led to growing xenophobia and intolerance.  Serbia had offered refugees and migrants accommodation, food and health protection.  Its experience dated to the 1990s when thousands of people from the former Yugoslavia had fled to Serbia.  The country had also sheltered 200,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija since 1999.  The regional housing programme for refugees, implemented by four countries in cooperation with the European Commission, UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), was an example of partnership between host countries, countries of origin and international partners.

Ms. HWANG (Republic of Korea) said the global refugee crisis had overwhelmed humanitarian responses.  However, the New York Declaration was reason to be optimistic and the recent pledging conference for Myanmar was a timely event.  Calling for durable solutions to the crisis, she urged humanitarian actors to address the causes of displacement and redouble efforts to strengthen partnerships with the private sector and development agencies.  Underlining the principle of non‑refoulement, she said no country could cope with the refugee crisis alone.  Republic of Korea was the first country in Asia to adopt an independent refugee law and was implementing a pilot resettlement programme for refugees.

HARRISON W. MSEKE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), drew attention to the challenges facing host nations as they tried to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  A poor country, United Republic of Tanzania had nevertheless met its obligations, welcoming more than 318,000 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As part of the pilot roll‑out of the Framework, it would focus on admission and rights, emergency response, inclusion and self‑reliance, local integration of new citizens, third‑country options and voluntary repatriation and reintegration.  To the latter point, the Government would establish group processing for Congolese refugees, while ensuring that returns to Burundi were conducted in line with the principles of voluntary repatriation.  He requested international support for the local integration of 1,972 Burundian refugees who had been granted citizenship, referring to a concept note outlining proposed projects for the Kigoma region, which hosted the most refugees.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said his country had faced numerous humanitarian challenges due to the Russian aggression.  Some 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, while many others lacked basic water and sanitation services. The humanitarian response plan was underfunded and while Ukraine was grateful for support from the High Commissioner’s Office, humanitarian aid into the country had been blocked by local authorities backed by the Russian Government.  Such human rights violations against ethnic Ukrainians had forced many to flee their homes.

LESETLA ANDREAS TEFFO (South Africa), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that his country continued to “open our ports of entry to refugees and asylum seekers,” giving them the right of access to education, healthcare, jobs, legal aid and access to courts.  Voicing concern about the consequences of refugee outflows which continued to fall disproportionately on developing countries, he said that international cooperation in sharing the burden of hosting refugees had become critical in addressing such challenges.  In that regard, the momentum gained towards the elaboration of the Global Compact for Refugees through discussions on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was encouraging.  One of its key outcomes had been to ease the pressure through burden sharing; thus, the Framework should ensure adequate, predictable and equitable sharing of such burdens aimed at drastically easing the pressure on hosts.  Underlining that the establishment of development funding mechanisms should be mindful of those principles, he voiced his strong support for close cooperation and joint planning between humanitarian and development actors.

SUPATTRA AUEAREE (Thailand) said the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration were complementary, expressing support for the Framework.  In turn, that Framework would generate inputs for the international community to draft the Global Compact on Refugees, on track for adoption in September 2018.  Reviewing Thailand’s efforts, she cited efforts by her Government and Myanmar to facilitate the voluntary return of 71 displaced persons from Myanmar.  Thailand supported UNHCR’s “#Ibelong” campaign to end statelessness by 2024, and had implemented measures which would enable around 80,000 children born in Thailand to apply for Thai nationality.  The Cabinet also had finalized and implemented a screening system for undocumented immigrants and refugees, to address the problem of mixed migration.

PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Group, said Africa continued to account for a large number of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.  Displacement had resulted from protracted conflict, he said, adding that the global refugee crisis was a stark reminder of the need to assume collective responsibility for the provision of humanitarian response.  Noting that Botswana was host to 3,500 refugees, he said the repatriation process must be re‑engineered to reduce turnaround times for those wishing to return home.  Stressing the need for long‑term solutions, he said financial assistance was central to addressing the crisis.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that addressing the needs of displaced persons required the resolution of armed conflict, adding that attention to the issue of internally displaced persons was far from sufficient.  Armenian aggression had resulted in large‑scale displacement in her country.  Azerbaijan was making progress in providing assistance to displaced persons, she said, adding that several United Nations agencies had reported positively on the matter.  She underlined that approaches to alleviate the plight of internally displaced persons would be incomplete if they did not place repatriation as their priority.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said the global humanitarian crisis was spreading, with Africa particularly affected by displacement.  He commended the efforts of sub‑Saharan States that had welcomed refugees and urged that assistance be given to them.  Several States were profiting from the refugee populations they hosted, which was the case in Algeria.  Refugees in Algeria had been stripped of their humanitarian rights, with camps in Tindouf falling victim to fraud.  Humanitarian aid was being diverted from refugee camps, he said, asking for a re‑evaluation of assistance being provided to refugees in the region.  Algeria could not continue to use refugees as a means to enrich itself, he affirmed.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) voiced concern that the High Commissioner’s budget was underfunded, citing a 75 per cent funding gap in the refugee response plan for Ethiopia.  Also concerning were the protection challenges related to human trafficking and smuggling, sexual and gender‑based violence and forced recruitment.  Assistance must go beyond repatriation, efforts which would require better collaboration between humanitarian and development actors in countries of origin.  He encouraged the expansion of resettlement opportunities as a means of international protection, stressing that partnership should remain the cornerstone of UNHCR’s approach.  International refugee protection should be guided by principle of burden and responsibility sharing, and support provided for least developed countries, which were hosts to the largest numbers of refugees.

HELLEN CHIFWAILA (Zambia) said her country hosted 57,000 refugees.  Since August, it had received some 3,360 Congolese refugees fleeing clashes between the forces of their Government and militia groups.  Noting that Zambia was ready to work with partners to provide assistance, she said the Government had introduced a law outlining provisions for the establishment of a refugee fund and refugee settlements.  Zambia was also considering the possibility of relaxing the encampment policy, in turn allowing refugees to engage in employment and achieve self‑reliance.  Around 20,406 refugees lived outside the settlements, she said, noting that the Government was providing education to refugee children in settlements.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said all States must promote the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons, and expressed concern over the welfare of refugees around the world.  The advent of Boko Haram’s insurgency had led to the establishment of camps for internally displaced persons across Nigeria, which were ensuring access to life‑saving social services.  Displaced children were being granted access to education, with safe school initiatives in place.  Nigeria was carrying out a policy of civilian protection to better protect the population from armed conflict, he said.

DIZERY SALIM, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recalled that the Uganda Red Cross had participated in drafting the terms of reference for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework Secretariat.  While local actors had a strong understanding of circumstances, politics and culture relevant to the provision of refugee protection and assistance, global actors could do more to provide a quality, sustainable and principled response.  “There are times when we treat them as contractors instead of partners,” she said, and it was essential to boost their institutional capacity and provide core funding.  A good legal framework could strengthen the role of local actors and Governments alike.  IFRC had worked for more than a decade in more than 100 countries to strengthen domestic legal frameworks to facilitate responses to large‑scale emergencies.  On refugee resilience, she said participatory assessments should include host communities, which were often vulnerable themselves and whose generosity should not be taken for granted.

MOUSSA DOLLO (Mali) said his country was emerging from a socio‑political crisis which had forced thousands of citizens to flee their homes.  Mali attached great importance to refugee crises, and had introduced both a national policy and action plan to address the needs of internally displaced persons.  It also had worked with neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, to facilitate the return of Malian refugees.  With the Government working to establish peace and reconciliation in Mali, a tripartite agreement had resulted in 70,000 Malian citizens returning from Burkina Faso.  He thanked neighbouring countries for their help in sheltering Malian refugees.

KATHLEEN HAGAN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that, despite meaningful progress, millions of people continued to be displaced by armed conflict and other violence, many within their own countries.  More must be done to prevent such circumstances and support both displaced people and their hosts.  He highlighted the need to better respond to displacement in cities, welcoming that Special Rapporteur Jimenez‑Damary had focused on enhancing the participation of displaced people in decisions affecting them.  States should mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by drawing on good practices in addressing the needs of internally displaced people.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said the geographic location and cultural heritage of her country had attracted refugees for years.  Sudan was committed to addressing the needs of refugees but faced challenges, as their inflow was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked.  As such, the Government had enacted a law against human trafficking.  But Sudan had received little international assistance to deal with the refugee crisis.  The Government had provided the best treatment possible and would continue to provide refugees with health care, security and education, while working to facilitate their return.

KINTU NYAGO (Uganda) said the large influx of refugees from South Sudan and other countries into Uganda led to the hosting of a solidarity summit on the matter earlier this year.  Assisting refugees was over‑stretching the Government’s meagre resources, he said, adding that a grassroots‑based assistance programme was being implemented with help from the World Bank and United Nations.  Termed the “Uganda Model”, that programme faced land‑management and service‑access challenges, he said, urging the international community to provide support to ensure the approach accomplished long‑term solutions.

Right of Reply

The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply in response to her counterparts from Georgia and Ukraine, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories, she said, adding that Georgia had ignored the needs of those forcibly displaced.  Further, the reason citizens were fleeing Ukraine was due to crimes committed by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities who had started a conflict in the country’s eastern regions.  The Russian Federation did not control republics and there were no Russian forces there.  It had offered voluntary donations to UNHCR to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she said, adding that the republic of Crimea was a subject of the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.

The representative of Algeria said to Morocco’s delegate on the question of refugees that Algeria was a host country for refugees.  There was no issue around Algeria’s calling into question any resolution adopted by the United Nations, he said.  It was Morocco that was “slithering away,” creating delays each time.  Algeria had been constant in its defence of self‑determination.  Morocco claimed innocence in the context of human rights, but in Western Sahara, its record was clear and confirmed, he said.  Morocco was an occupying power, not an administering power.  From the standpoint of international law, the territory was described in various United Nations resolutions.

The representative of Ukraine reminded the representative of the Russian Federation that in 2014, the latter had deployed so‑called “green men” to the territory of Crimea, and that an unlawful referendum had been held on the territory.  In 2014 the Russian Federation had fuelled war in Ukraine and now was proud of helping refugees from Ukraine.  Citing a Russian proverb, he said “no matter how many times you are going to say halva, it is not going to be any sweeter.”

The representative of Georgia said in response that the Russian Federation had misled the international community and undermined the rights of persons internally displaced from the occupied territories of Georgia.  Further, the Russian Federation had not complied with the United Nations Charter or resolutions on Georgia, and its violations had been noted by an international fact‑finding mission.  The Russian Federation bore responsibility for resolving the issue of internally displaced persons and improving the human rights situation in Ukraine.

The representative of Morocco, in response to Algeria’s delegate, said the latter country had demonstrated complete disregard for and ignorance of international law.  Algeria’s claim that Morocco had occupied the Sahara was false because the territory had always belonged to Morocco.

The representative of Algeria, responding to Morocco’s delegate, said the latter country had illegally occupied Western Sahara and Algeria was not alone in voicing that opinion.  The right to self‑determination should be exercised in accordance with international law and Algeria stood by that position.

The representative of Morocco, responding to Algeria’s delegate, said the people of the Sahara had pledged allegiance to Morocco.  Algeria sought to create a territorial problem because of its “hegemonic designs”.  Yet it had only highlighted the importance of self‑determination in the context of the Sahara, not in the context of other countries.

Human Rights Council Report

JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI (El Salvador), President of the Human Rights Council, presented the body’s annual report (document A/72/53), outlining its activities, resolutions, decisions and presidential statements adopted at its regular session, as well as its special session in December 2016.  Over the year, the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.  By the end of 2017, it would have reviewed 28 States’ human rights obligations under its universal periodic review.  Once again, the Council had seen greater participation by small island developing States and least developed countries, thanks to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund that had supported 27 delegates and fellows from 26 countries.

He said the situation in Myanmar deserved special attention and the Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.  On the situation in Syria, he said interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry had been held and the Commission’s mandate had been extended for another year.  He went on to describe other efforts related to South Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Libya, Georgia and Yemen.

In 2017, the Council had established a new mandate, namely the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and decided against extending the mandates of the Independent Experts on Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti.  He said 118 Member States and 1 Observer State had extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures, but he expressed concern that a few States had decided not to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  Calling on all States to provide full cooperation, he stressed it was also essential that civil society actors and national human rights bodies be provided with a safe space for their voices to be heard.

The Council had adopted several resolutions, with recommendations made to the General Assembly, he said, notably regarding Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It had requested the Assembly to submit the reports and oral updates of the respective commissions of inquiry on the situations in Eritrea and Burundi.  To bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources allocated to it, a joint task force had been established, which had suggested measures to help save time.  He also said he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council, emphasizing that any such intimidation was unacceptable.  He urged the international community to ensure that efforts to protect human rights existed “not just in words, but in practice”.

When the floor opened, the representative of Colombia asked how United Nations reform proposed by the Secretary‑General accounted for human rights issues.

The representative of Spain said the Human Rights Council was the primary specialized body for human rights in the United Nations system, adding more work was needed to improve coordination between the relevant agencies in New York and Geneva.  She said resources had fallen short of meeting the Council’s needs for 2018 and suggested streamlining upcoming meetings.

The representative of Japan said the Council must be subject to constant review to better meet the needs of people worldwide.  The General Assembly should pay attention to reviews of the Council and asked what priority areas had been identified in that regard.

The representative of Eritrea asked what the Human Rights Council was doing to ensure attention was being given to all rights issues, especially with regards to financing.

The representative of Hungary, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council constituted the best universal framework to protect basic rights.  Noting the needs of vulnerable groups, he called for the de‑politicization of its work.

The representative of Latvia stressed the importance of strengthening ties between the Council and the General Assembly.  Referencing reprisals against people cooperating with United Nations human rights agencies, she asked what could be done to ensure Organization‑wide action to mitigate reprisals.

The representative of Switzerland said civil society played a pivotal role in strengthening rights and asked what obstacles had been encountered in protecting persons cooperating with the Council.  She also asked how the protection of those persons could be strengthened and what working relations should be established among relevant agencies.

The representative of Germany said the United Nations could benefit from closer interaction among its institutions.  Civil society representatives had a clear place in the Council’s work and he asked how those wishing to cooperate with it could effectively be protected from reprisals.

The representative of Austria noted the importance of responding early to emerging crises and said the Council had a broad role to play in the Secretary‑General’s prevention agenda.  He asked how the Council could contribute to those efforts.

The representative of Australia said human rights and prosperity went hand‑in‑hand and committed his Government to enhancing the Council’s effectiveness.  Turning to management reform, he asked how the Council’s work could be streamlined.

The representative of Liechtenstein asked how the Council could strengthen engagement with other relevant agencies.

The representative from the European Union said he valued the independence of the Council’s work and its engagement with civil society.  He asked how the universal periodic review process could be improved, and how Member States could address difficulties in sourcing Council meetings.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with United Nations human rights institutions and asked how the Council’s working methods could be improved.

The representative of Norway welcomed the Council’s autonomy and said that combating discrimination promoted stability.  Expressing concern over the Council’s increasing workload, he asked how work could be made more efficient.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council was performing well, but questions remained regarding the promotion of universal participation in its work.  He asked how Member States and observers could foster a more inclusive Council.

The representative of South Africa said the Council’s status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly had been maintained in relevant resolutions and attempts to review the Council should only be done through the relevant framework.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community must take on abuses wherever they occurred, and called on all countries, particularly new and existing Council members, to cooperate with the Special Procedures.  He asked how the States could best protect civil society space at the Council and, in turn, how the Council could support the mainstreaming of human rights across the United Nations system.

The representative of Bahamas asked for an evaluation of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and for reflections on what impact small developing countries such as the Bahamas could have on the Council’s work.

The representative of Iraq said human rights reports should be presented in a periodic manner, and asked if the legal framework must be strengthened in the context of pursuing terrorist groups committing war crimes and genocide.  He also wondered how States could be encouraged to improve their interaction with the Council.

The representative of Indonesia asked about strategies for ensuring that genuine dialogue with the Council was sustained.  Human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  They must be treated in a fair and equal manner, and those principles should guide the Council’s work.

The representative of Guatemala acknowledged the importance of strengthening the Human Rights Council, and his country would continue to support its work in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  He asked how Member States in New York could ensure better coordination between the Third Committee and the Council.

The representative of Argentina said there should be smooth cooperation between New York and Geneva, expressing concern about reported attacks on mandate‑holders and a lack of cooperation with them by Member States.  All States must respect for the Council’s independence.  Argentina urged all to bolster cooperation with Special Procedures, and States to uphold their reporting commitments.

Mr. MARTELLI responded to questions about reform by stressing the importance of information flow.  The international community must consult at the grass‑roots level on how suggested reforms could take place.  Underscoring the importance of implementing resolutions, he said they must reach communities and local governments.  On the issue of resources, he said the Human Rights Council had started to limit speaking time, among other measures.  The universal periodic review was a valuable resource that States could not lose or waste, he said, noting that many countries voluntarily presented midterm reports in advance of deadlines.  Parliaments must be included in human rights work, as they ensured that new international legislation could be transposed into domestic law.

The United Nations human rights system was an admirable one, he said, noting that, in the previous cycle of meetings, 900 interventions had been made by civil society.  Emphasizing the importance of accurate information, he said States must not politicize the Human Rights Council, though the world was politicized; they must work according to universality and respect for the legal framework.  On the links between New York and Geneva, he noted that there were procedures in place that allowed discussion to take place before decisions were taken by the 47 countries voting in the Human Rights Council.  Prioritization remained crucial, but ultimately, complementarity between New York and Geneva existed and must be bolstered.  The goal was to improve decision‑making in a more holistic fashion in a future‑oriented perspective.  Human rights work would never fade from the agenda; it was a process.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed that the Council’s mandate must be driven by the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue free from politicization, selectivity and double standards.  The universal periodic review was the pillar of the Council’s work, he said, calling for the adequate funding of mechanisms that would allow States to implement Council recommendations.  Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, he commended the Council’s work in the area of practical enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  Fulfilling those rights was key to eradicating extreme poverty, he assured.

The African Group prioritized dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil human rights obligations, he said.  Meeting those obligations required recognizing that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted violations of human dignity, he said, voicing concern over the apparent “hierarchy of rights”.  He also expressed concern over attempts to undermine the Third Committee’s mandate by having the Council’s report submitted to the General Assembly without the Committee’s endorsement.  To that end, the African Group would continue to present its annual resolution on the Council’s report, he assured.

CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union delegation, said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate to help prevent rights violations must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.  Underscoring the importance of the Council’s independence, he strongly opposed any attempts to undermine its institutional position within the United Nations.  In Syria, the Council’s efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity were crucial, he said, also describing its work related to Yemen, Sri Lanka and its assistance to other countries including Haiti, Libya and Mali.

The European Union condemned violence, harassment, intimidation, reprisals or threats thereof to civil society and human rights defenders, he said.  Noting that Council members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, he urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with the international expert group, and Burundi to do likewise with the Commission of Inquiry.  The European Union welcomed the Council’s establishment of an Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission to Myanmar, as well as the extensions of the Special Rapporteur mandates addressing human rights in Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Belarus, as well as the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that during its membership on the Council, his country had worked to promote productive dialogue and championed several initiatives to benefit all people.  Paraguay had pursued initiatives to strengthen monitoring of implementation to accomplish the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  He underscored the importance of appropriate national rights protection mechanisms and assistance from the United Nations to promote and protect human rights of all people.  Rights must be enjoyed in a just and equitable fashion, he said, underscoring the need to strengthen the Council through the provision of necessary resources.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council could only work effectively if its efforts were applied in the context of genuine inter‑Governmental dialogue.  The Council’s mandate was outlined by the General Assembly and he expressed concern over efforts to alter its mission.  There was a need to streamline the Council’s work and he affirmed the interdependence of all rights, including the right to development, which must be pursued on equal footing.  He welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development.

MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia) insisted that efforts were needed to streamline the number of resolutions considered by the Council.  The body helped to advance respect for all rights, notably by strengthening the structures that protected those rights.  Still, colossal challenges remained, she said, welcoming the start of the third universal periodic review cycle.  The review process could foster global cooperation on human rights issues, she noted, commending implementation of recommendations made during the review cycles.  Pointing to Colombia’s recent peace agreement, she expressed the need to promote human rights in rural areas and support gender‑specific approaches.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group, underscored the importance of ensuring the Human Rights Council was not used as a tool for political purposes, noting that it had been established to address the manipulation and double standards characterizing the Commission on Human Rights.  Eritrea rejected the practice of “naming and shaming” and of imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.  It was unfortunate that the Council continued to be embroiled in a regional conflict, she said, singling out the universal periodic review as the appropriate forum for discussions.  Human rights were interrelated and indivisible, but some countries continued to ignore economic, social and cultural rights in favour of civil and political rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan) said his country had been promoting and protecting human rights in the Asia‑Pacific region, sponsoring country‑specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council.  The international community should render the Council more effective and efficient, and it was worth considering a review of the schedules, frequencies and procedures of the human rights mechanisms as a whole, he said.  As Special Procedures were essential functions, a review of them by a third party could be helpful to improving their quality and efficiency.  Indeed, the Council was becoming ever more important and should keep updating itself.

ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country’s Constitution ensured all people were equal under the law.  As the international war on terror persisted, Iraq understood the consequences of terror and vowed to remain at the forefront of the fight.  Social problems like poverty and injustice were at the root of negative phenomena across the world, he said, urging efforts to “dry up” sources of terror.  He called for implementation of programmes that countered exclusion and enhanced human rights in all countries as a means to spread a culture of acceptance.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) expressed opposition to the Council President’s report and in particular to sections referring to Syria.  The report threatened the credibility of the Council and universal periodic review, he said, condemning efforts to politicize human rights issues.  Noting that the President had gone beyond his mandate, he said the Council had failed to identify Syria’s efforts to combat terror, as well as the negative effects resulting from unilateral measures imposed against it by certain Member States.  The President also had failed to condemn violence in Yemen caused by Saudi Arabia, he said, objecting to selectivity in addressing human rights.

Mr. GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council’s work load continued to grow, threating efforts to mitigate rights violations.  The increased scope of the agenda called for reflection on how to effectively use resources.  Botswana had held multi‑stakeholder consultations in drafting human rights legislation and was drafting a bill to transform the Ombudsman’s office into a hybrid national human rights institution.  The universal periodic review and national efforts had strengthened the bridge between the State and civil society, he assured, stressing that holistic approaches were vital to preventing rights violations.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) said the Council’s credibility had been damaged by the presence of members with poor human rights records and hostility to its primary mission, as evidenced by the election of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Reform of its agenda was needed.  All States must work to strengthen the Council through positive action in New York and Geneva, she said, underscoring that civil society must be able to engage with the United Nations without fear of retaliation.  The United States was appalled by direct threats of retaliation, including by Human Rights Council members; Special Procedures had also reported on reprisals.  The international community must do more to put end to such threats.  The Council must be a voice for people fighting for human rights, and as such, must have members committed to human rights.

CASTILLO SANTANA (Cuba) said the Human Rights Council had been established out of a need to tackle double standards and political manipulation, all traits characterizing the defunct Commission.  Yet, the trend to impose selectivity and double standards was concerning; cooperation and respectful dialogue should steer the Council’s work.  Special Procedures mandate‑holders should also observe the Code of Conduct.  As long as an unjust and exclusive international economic order persisted, along with unilateral coercive measures and blockades, the Council must demand the end to those practices.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) affirmed her country’s commitment to constructive dialogue on human rights issues in the Human Rights Council.  Yet, the Council was being exploited for political purposes, and politicization was eroding the benefits of the universal periodic review.  Stressing that the Council had been developed to ensure impartiality, she said country‑specific resolutions only fomented confrontation.  They diverted resources that could be used to promote human rights and she disassociated herself with sections of the Council report referring to Iran.  She underscored the role of the Council in confronting discrimination and terrorism, and urged it to raise awareness of the destructive power of terrorists and their supporters.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, expressed support for the Council’s mandate.  Emphasizing that it should be carried out in line with the principles of cooperation and dialogue free from politicization and double standards, he said Algeria had presented its third universal periodic review in 2017, and voiced support for that mechanism’s neutral and cooperative approach to reviewing countries’ human rights situations.  Because economic rights were as important as political and civil rights, he stressed that the Council should consider questions regarding the right to food, the effects of foreign debt and the impact of unilateral coercive measures.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, underlined his country’s role — as the largest democracy in Africa — in formulating key international human rights policies and agendas.  Noting that Nigeria was a State party to such instruments, and that it had recently been re-elected to the Council for the 2018‑2020 term, he cited the 1996 creation of a National Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with Government obligations.  In addition, Nigeria had put in place a national action plan on human rights and a national consultative forum to articulate the means of fulfilling recommendations adopted by the Government during various review cycles of the Council’s machinery.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador) said human rights were a state policy for his country and a pillar of its foreign policy.  El Salvador had ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child pertaining to Communications Procedures.  It also had reformed the family code to prohibit child marriage.  As a Human Rights Council member, El Salvador had championed the rights of migrant children and adolescents, presenting a resolution adopted by consensus on that subject.  While a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, the Council had its own remit, reflected in the fact that civil society was involved in its work.

Ms. GINTERE (Latvia), associating herself with the European Union, said the international community must ensure the Council was able to respond to challenges in an effective and timely manner, noting that her country had served as a member for the past three years, advocating for gender equality and freedom of expression both online and offline.  It was heartening that the number of standing invitations to Special Procedures had increased, and she pressed all States to ensure genuine cooperation with them.  The Council faced a growing workload, challenging its ability to respond to crises.  Latvia supported initiatives aiming to strengthen its effectiveness, emphasizing that Member States must not only criticize the Council but renew their political will.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said a main responsibility of the Council was the timely response to gross rights violations.  Greater attention must be paid to the development of conceptual approaches to abuses such as crimes against humanity and genocide.  He commended the Council’s special procedures and universal periodic review, saying they promoted protection of rights across the world.  The cooperation of all relevant human rights actors was needed to ensure that review processes were transparent and that States were accountable for their actions.  Expressing appreciation for the Council’s contributions in addressing the situation in the occupied Crimean peninsula, he said Russian‑backed terrorists were conducting a war against the people of Ukraine and called for an impartial assessment of all rights violations.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the Human Rights Council had the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, and as such, should serve as an effective platform for constructive dialogue.  The Council faced multiple challenges, including confrontation and politicization of its work, he said, adding that different types of human rights were not being promoted in a balanced manner.  Noting that some special procedures were going beyond their terms of reference, he underscored the need to enhance the Council’s credibility and urged it carry out its work according to its mandate.

MAJDOLINE MOUFLIH (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group, said the Council had become the principal United Nations body in charge of human rights, and had made technical assistance one of the foundations of its work.  Special procedures played an important role, providing the Council with expertise on thematic issues.  The international community had an obligation to protect the Council from being used for other reasons.  The increasing importance of human rights required an active Human Rights Council with increased visibility, she said, yet there had been few references to its work in the media.  The Council should adopt a media strategy to increase the visibility of its work.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the allegation of the European Union’s delegate, stressing that non‑interference in the internal affairs of other countries should be strictly observed.  He also rejected the Council’s resolutions because the body was completely politicized and had no relevance to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The most serious rights violations were being committed in European countries.  The European Union should focus on its own deplorable human rights situations, rather than on non‑existent issues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

News

Speakers Critical of Criteria for Graduation to Middle-Income Status, as Second Committee Takes Up Globalization, Interdependence

Middle-income countries had initially reaped globalization’s benefits, but were now suffering from the so-called “megatrends” of labour market shifts, rapid technological advances and climate change, speakers said today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up globalization and interdependence.

Countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had witnessed globalization both as an impetus to growth and threat to survival, said the representative of Barbados, speaking on the group’s behalf.  Small island States contributed little to climate change but were most vulnerable to its impacts, as underscored by destruction wrought in recent hurricanes.  Making it difficult for CARICOM members to rebuild following a disaster was their inability to access concessional financing, he said, as many were middle-income countries.  It was “unthinkable” that States reduced to abject poverty within hours due to a hurricane were barred from accessing funding needed to rebuild, forcing them to borrow at market rates.

Similarly, the representative of Maldives said graduating from least developed status to middle-income had failed to protect it from exogenous shocks or equip the country with additional instruments to bounce back.  Graduation meant the country was no longer eligible for official development assistance (ODA), concessional financing or export markets.  Just six days after the General Assembly graduated the Maldives, in December 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit the country, he said.  The damage it caused after just a few minutes came to more than 62 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).  The short- and long-term financial and economic impact on the Maldives took years to recover.

El Salvador’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), also expressed concern over graduation criteria for countries eligible to receive ODA and trade benefits.  Those criteria, based on a skewed approach to development, which only used per capital income of countries to measure development, failed to reflect deep inequalities in his region.  He stressed the importance of implementing multidimensional methodologies Governments had agreed on to measure a country’s level of development and define adequate criteria to allocate ODA.  Those methodologies must go beyond per capita income in a balanced and integrated fashion, recognizing diverse needs and challenges of each country in CELAC.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s reports were Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, on fulfilling the promise of globalization: advancing sustainable development in an interconnected world (document A/72/301); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Director of Technology and Logistics, Shamika Sirimanne, on science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/257); and Department of Economic and Social Affairs Senior Economic Affairs Officer, Dawn Holland, on development cooperation with middle-income countries (document A/72/329).

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) New York Liaison Office Director, Marie Paule Roudil, introduced the report of the UNESCO Director-General on culture and sustainable development (document A/72/336).

Also speaking were the representatives of Ecuador (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Singapore (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Bangladesh (for the Group of Least Developed Countries), Armenia (for the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries), India, China, Philippines, Belarus, Cuba, Guatemala, South Africa, Chile, Namibia, Honduras, Iraq, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Botswana, Thailand, Rwanda, Nepal and Ukraine.  Representatives from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) as well as the Holy See also spoke.

During an afternoon session, the Second Committee took up information and communications technologies (ICT) for development, with speakers highlighting the continuing digital divide and need for international investment in capacity‑building and improved Internet access, especially in developing countries.

Noting that more than half the world’s population was still offline, Ms. Sirimanne, said 84 per cent of the population had Internet connectivity in Europe, as opposed to only 18 per cent in Africa.  Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/72/64), she added that International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates had shown that women were 12 per cent less likely to use the Internet globally, compared to 25 per cent in Africa.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, Ecuador’s delegate emphasized the need to bridge the digital divide between countries as well as between men and women.  There were 90 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people in developed countries as compared to 41 in developing countries and less than 20 in the least developed States.  Such figures were cause for concern, he added, calling for international cooperation in improving affordability, capacity-building, multilingualism, investment and appropriate financing.

The representative of India said ICT had tremendous power to change lives, while noting that the digital divide could expand existing inequalities.  His country was implementing a range of programmes focused on empowering vulnerable sections of the population and those living in remote areas.  E-services on offer included tele-education, tele-medicine and agricultural information services that provided crop prices, weather forecasts and new farming techniques.

Also speaking were the representatives of Thailand (for ASEAN), Trinidad and Tobago (for CARICOM), Bangladesh (for the Group of Least Developed Countries), Maldives (for the Alliance of Small Island States), Philippines, Singapore, Iran, Cuba, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Kenya, Nepal, China, Togo, Brazil, Mexico, Bahrain, Vanuatu, South Africa, Russian Federation, Nigeria and Ethiopia.  Representative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke.

The Committee will meet again on Monday, 16 October, at 10 a.m. to take up agriculture development, food security and nutrition.

Introduction of Reports

LIU ZHENMIN, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on fulfilling the promise of globalization: advancing sustainable development in an interconnected world (document A/72/301).  He noted that globalization had exerted a significant influence on global wealth and sustainable development, but came with challenges and risks, often caused by imbalances in the distribution of benefits and costs.  To ensure that globalization supported inclusive economic growth, it was essential to analyse the current system as well as emerging trends to devise policy solutions addressing them.  Three large and sustained global shifts with wide impact and the power to shape the future — so-called “megatrends” — were impacting globalization.  First, global shifts in production had spurred deep changes in labour markets in both developed and developing countries.  Second, the rapid advance of technological change had made knowledge and information exchange using information and communications technology (ICT) and networks increasingly important.  Finally, a growing body of evidence pointed to globalization as a contributing factor to climate change and environmental degradation.

SHAMIKA SIRIMANNE, Director of the Technology and Logistics Division, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/257).  She said the report analysed the technological megatrends of the fourth industrial revolution and illustrated the benefits, such as enhanced early warning systems, big data to monitor disease outbreaks, improvements to farming conditions, artificial intelligence (AI) for diagnosing cancer, mobile payment systems to improve financial services and more.  Despite those benefits, she cautioned that technology could exacerbate existing economic and social divides, particularly in the labour and employment sectors.  The Commission on Science and Technology for Development examined how science, technology and innovation could achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including through food security and smart cities.  Throughout multi-stakeholder consultations, States agreed that greater assessment would be necessary to evaluate the development potential of new and emerging technology.  UNCTAD would continue that work while addressing concerns about the gender dimension of development, financing for innovation, and regional and international cooperation.  She highlighted collaboration with China in furthering training and seminars for innovative technologies, and encouraged other States to join in similar efforts.  Capacity-building would be essential in supporting the deployment of technology and innovation.  To that end, the Conference would continue to develop a broadened framework of policy reviews that integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into science, technology and innovation policymaking and implementation.

MARIE PAULE ROUDIL, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Liaison Office in New York, introduced the report of the UNESCO Director-General on culture and sustainable development (document A/72/336).  She stressed that the international community could not achieve its goals of sustainable cities, quality education, economic growth, sustainable consumption and production as well as environmental sustainability and inclusive, peaceful societies without integrating culture into development policies.  Cultural and creative industries were among the most dynamic sectors in the world economy, generating $2.25 billion in revenue and 29.5 million jobs worldwide.  Member States had invested in the field, embraced the potential of digital technologies and forged new partnerships with United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), high-level experts, academia, the private sector and civil society.  Safeguarding cultural heritage and promoting the diversity of cultural expression, while fostering values and behaviours reflecting non-violence and building tolerance played an instrumental role in the social cohesion of societies and peacebuilding.

DAWN HOLLAND, Senior Economic Affairs Officer in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on development cooperation with middle-income countries (document A/72/329).  Noting that those countries faced significant challenges to development, including high inequality, issues relating to the environment and consequences from climate change, she said national efforts should be enhanced through improved and more focused cooperation.  Economic growth in those States slowed noticeably since 2011 and many may be caught in a “middle-income trap” resulting in a protracted period of subdued growth rates.  Public debt increased from 2015 to 2017 as stagnating or contracting output in major economies and lower commodity revenues led to higher fiscal deficits.  Since the global financial crisis, there had been a decline in labour productivity growth, which undermined national efforts for sustainable development.  If that trend continued, 6.5 per cent of the world’s population would still live in extreme poverty by 2030.  Policy options to address those challenges included more proactive fiscal policy measures, strategies to diversify production, support to innovation and improved trade and foreign direct investment (FDI).  Country classifications based solely on per capita income, she continued, did not effectively reflect the complex nature of development challenges, thus comprehensive strategies should refer to a broader set of multidimensional measures of economic, social and environmental progress.  Adequate provision of development finance would also remain crucial.

Questions and Answers

The representative of Nigeria asked whether mechanisms were in place to ensure that the benefits of globalization were more evenly distributed, so that economic growth could be translated into lifting households out of poverty.  He also questioned how the United Nations system was prepared to help developing countries catch up with rapid technological development and effectively use science and technology to improve employment, trade and sustainable development.  In addition, he asked what strategies were put in place to improve their capacities in monitoring progress of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A representative of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs said the 2030 Agenda itself noted that many issues of development were related to globalization, science and technology.  Benefits from those areas began at the national level by putting in place appropriate policy and legal frameworks.  The United Nations was actively involved in that process, engaging with Governments to develop them.  Globally, there was increased recognition that a more sustained dialogue on globalization’s benefits as driven by science and technology was needed.

Ms. SIRIMANNE added that the United Nations was engaged in policy discussions with Governments, in both developed and developing countries.  Sustainable development ministries were involved, but they tended to be lower down and such discussions could not occur in isolation.  Discussions were focused on science and technology as well as education to prepare for emerging technology.

Ms. ROUDIL, noting that engineering and science were part of the UNESCO mandate, said engineering was becoming a top priority.  Her organization had launched a specific initiative to support development of education in engineering, especially for women and girls at both secondary and higher levels of education.

Statements

HENRY JONATHAN VIERA SALAZAR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the 2015 intergovernmental agreements had laid the frameworks for engaging on economic, social and environmental issues in a balanced, equitable and sustainable manner.  “This is not the time to question what was agreed but time for implementation”, he said.  The fast pace of globalization had been facilitated by the rapid developments in ICT.  Technology transfer and diffusion on concessional and preferential terms from developed countries were needed to address the adverse impacts of climate change and development of developing countries.  Those issues could be addressed with coordinated and coherent action at the global level, he said, mentioning the 2030 Agenda in that regard. 

He said the United Nations was the only global body to strengthen international cooperation for promoting development in the context of globalization and for the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals.  The Organization should promote greater coordination with relevant international financial and economic institutions to ensure coherence with the United Nations development agenda.  He reiterated the urgent need to ensure that the diverse development needs of middle-income countries were appropriately addressed, as 73 per cent of the world’s poor lived in those States.  To cope with inequality at the country level, he said there was a need to put job creation at the centre of economic policies.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore) spoke on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligned himself with the Group of 77.  He expressed concern that isolationist and protectionist voices were gaining force, while noting that complex global challenges, such as terrorism, cybersecurity, pandemics and climate change required global solutions.  Multilateralism was critical in addressing those threats, he stated.  His region’s commitment to community-building processes was demonstrated in economic, political-security and sociocultural areas.  Efforts were undertaken to cooperate with external partners on the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.  The United Nations, together with international organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), must ensure that the global economic framework remained conducive for sustained and inclusive economic growth, particularly in developing countries.  In that regard, he said ASEAN valued continued partnerships to secure conditions for peaceful and sustainable economic development.  The ASEAN-United Nations Plan of Action for 2016‑2020 and the annual regional dialogue would prove to be important platforms for exchanging insights and best practices.  He also welcomed the support of the Organization in efforts to narrow the development gap.

SHANCHITA HAQUE (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating herself with the Group of 77, said there were significant science, technology and innovation gaps between the least developed nations and the rest of the world.  Noting inequalities in patent filing and the number of scientific articles published by the least developed countries, she highlighted obstacles related to limited data and low spending on research and technology.  She said those countries were isolated from global research networks and lacked the technical expertise and skills necessary to contribute in research and development initiatives, which were often contingent on the availability of and access to technology.

Stressing that technology could contribute to sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty, she recalled efforts by States to contribute to the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries.  She urged other States and donors to contribute to that fund, and to enhance public investment in research and development while improving coordination at all levels.  In that regard, she called for greater public‑private partnerships and support from the international community, particularly through a robust framework for technology transfer, knowledge sharing and official development assistance (ODA).

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said technology transfer, capacity-building and dissemination of innovations and knowledge were important drivers of development and economic growth, which could significantly reduce the existing technology gap between and within countries.  However, he expressed concern with the current graduation criteria for the list of countries eligible to receive ODA and trade benefits applied by various international organizations. Those criteria, based on a skewed approach to development, which only used per capital income of countries to measure development, did not reflect the integrated character of sustainable development or existing deep inequalities in his region.

ODA was still required in the CELAC region to reduce inequality and structural gaps as well as generate and strengthen its capacity to achieve sustainable development, he said.  In that regard, he called for developed countries to fulfil their commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to ODA and for international organizations to address the diverse and specific development needs of CELAC countries.  He stressed the need and importance of implementing multidimensional methodologies agreed on between Governments to measure a country’s level of development and define adequate criteria to allocate ODA.  Those methodologies must go beyond per capita income in a balanced and integrated fashion, recognizing diverse needs and challenges of each and every country in Latin America and the Caribbean.

MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia), speaking on behalf of the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, said his Group had adopted a ministerial declaration regarding the unique challenges faced by middle-income nations and said the classification of developing States should be redefined.  Advancing towards criteria that went beyond per capita income was key to understanding the challenges that such countries faced.  He said a whole category of States were left behind from coordinated assistance and urged that the United Nations elaborate a comprehensive strategy aimed at facilitating sustainable development with those countries.  He called for an open dialogue for innovative approaches that encouraged “graduation” policies which were sequenced, phased, and gradual and resulted in tailored solutions.  In that regard, he welcomed the call to build on the experience of the Committee for Development Policy, but expressed concern that access to concessional finance reduced countries’ income growth. 

He stressed the importance of addressing structural gaps and stated that improvements in macroeconomic indicators did not reflect an improvement in efforts to eradicate poverty, given that inequality remained pervasive in countries with high economic growth.  Targeted and differentiated strategies in cooperation for development were needed and he called for assistance to overcome the effects of climate change.  The quadrennial comprehensive policy review would present an opportunity to transform the development system and build capacity to address development challenges of middle-income countries.  The needs of those countries must be addressed in a comprehensive manner, including through enhanced technological assistance.

KEITH HAMILTON LLEWELLYN MARSHALL (Barbados) spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associated himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States.  He said CARICOM members experienced in varying degrees the impact of globalization: both impetus to growth and challenges to their very survival.  The “megatrends” disproportionally affected small island developing States and underscored the need for restructuring the mode of interaction of the international community with those vulnerable States.  The destruction wrought by recent hurricanes underscored that small island States contributed little to climate change but were most vulnerable to its impacts.  Now was not the time to renege on commitments made in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, but to redouble efforts to prevent further degradation of the environment.

RENUKA CHOWDHURY (India) said the rising power of digital technologies and social media was transforming the way Governments and businesses worked.  The global economic and financial integration had, on occasion, led to dramatic collapses.  Emerging areas such as cybersecurity and global geospatial information management had cross-cutting impacts.  More, not less, effective multilateralism was needed, therefore, to manage opportunities and challenges faced collectively.  The realization of the interdependence and the collective nature of peace, prosperity and security for all had been reflected in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  Their implementation would lead to a better future for all.  India continued to play its part in strengthening the multilateral successes on addressing climate change and meeting sustainable development challenges, including through South-South cooperation.

TANG TIANXI (China) said globalization had promoted an increased flow of goods and economic growth, but had also produced governance dilemmas and inequalities.  Countries should strengthen cooperation in response to globalization’s challenges in producing more balanced results.  They must also embrace innovative concepts for development, promote structural reform and create new jobs.  The international community should remain an open world economy through interconnectivity and investments in trade, opposing all forms of protectionism.  It was necessary to reform international trade rules, with each country enjoying equal rights and opportunities.  Emerging markets in developing countries should have increased representation and a stronger voice in the international trading system.  China had benefited from globalization, as evidenced by its rapid economic growth.  Looking ahead, the country was willing to work with all parties in bringing in a new industrial and digital revolution.

MARIA ANGELA PONCE (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN, the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries and the Group of 77, said her nation was among the 109 middle-income States with specific challenges and diversified income, growth drivers and governance structures.  While the Philippines had achieved high growth, poverty and inequality were also high, and underemployment was a problem.  In supporting recognition of a middle-income countries category within the United Nations, “we do not seek to take away resources from other groups of countries”, she said, but rather sought to create positive synergies for developing States.  Recognizing the low level of innovation in the Philippines, the national development plan increased science, technology and innovation use in agriculture, industry and services, and also ensured that culture was built into policy formulation.

TAMARA KHARASHUN (Belarus), associating herself with the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, said the problems facing those States could only be solved through the exchange of best practices, strengthened coordination and targeted support from the development system.  So far, work on addressing the needs of middle-income States was ad hoc and lacked a unified approach to provide comprehensive support, which differed from others categories of developing countries.  She highlighted the outcomes of a ministerial meeting on that issue, and expressed hope that a resolution would be adopted to outline a long-term strategy of support to middle-income countries.  That resolution, she continued, should address the classification of States, as income alone would not adequately reflect the needs of middle-income countries.  The World Bank’s criteria for loan allocation often showed a “rosy picture” which did not reflect reality.  In response to those challenges, she called for improved indicators on economic and social progress.

JUAN MIGUEL GONZÁLEZ PEÑA (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CARICOM, said a transparent, open, non-discriminatory and inclusive multilateral system, maximizing benefits of globalization while minimizing its costs, was imperative for implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Globalization under neoliberal precepts, however, exacerbated existing inequalities and the North‑South development gap continued to grow.  Underscoring the need for a New International Economic Order, he advocated a multidimensional, more comprehensive and complete methodology for classifying the level of development, particularly for middle‑income countries.  That methodology should go beyond gross national product (GNP) and levels of per capita income while considering their characteristics and special challenges.  While struggling under the criminal blockade by the United States, his country had shown important achievement in development, he said.

DAVID MULET LIND (Guatemala) associated himself with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries.  He said the criteria and categorization of States based on per capita income and economic growth did reflect the challenges faced by middle-income countries.  In that regard, he called for greater support to the multidimensional measurement for poverty and development.  One-third of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 73 per cent of people living in poverty worldwide were living in those countries, he stated.  Thus, the international community must create a more fair and accountable development system.  He stressed the urgency of such work, and called for increased action to reform the international system.  To that end, he would welcome a resolution for middle-income countries.

Ms. RABOHALE (South Africa) said existing levels of inequality were not only morally unacceptable but economically, politically and socially detrimental.  There was a growing debate about whether globalization and new technologies had exacerbated or improved the situation, especially in developing countries.  She expressed concern about dwindling international cooperation in supporting developing States which depended on developed countries honouring their global commitments.  A prominent feature of globalization was science, technology and innovation, but greater strides were needed to bridge the technological gap between the global North and South.  She called for the international community to promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms.  Globalization had allowed for significant economic growth for many countries and had lifted millions out of poverty, but had simultaneously contributed to immense inequality between and among States.  That was particularly relevant for so-called “middle-income countries”, where the majority of the world’s poor now resided.

PATRICIO AGUIRRE VACCHIERI (Chile), associating himself with Group of 77, CELAC and the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, called for an adjustment of the classification of countries based solely on per capita income, as it was contradictory with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda.  A solely economic approach without other dimensions of development would not allow for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he stated.  Graduation from classifications should not be taken solely by the crossing of an income line without considering other variables.  He expressed support to the draft resolution on middle-income countries, and said the text would have a clear mandate with multidimensional criteria to support all Member States.  He expressed hope that the United Nations development system would enhance monitoring for countries that had moved to higher levels of development, and called on the donor community to enhance focus and support.

ELTON KHOETAGE HOESEB (Namibia) said his country had benefited from globalization and positive growth over many years, but was also heavily affected by the global economic slowdown and supposedly low growth in large neighbouring economies.  Externally, it had to contend with the impact of the commodity price crash.  Simultaneously, climate change brought severe drought over the past three years, affecting the agricultural sector as well as wet industries and the construction supply chain.  Liquidity came under pressure due to weak market confidence and consequently a tight cash flow situation.  He cautioned against the arbitrary classification of countries based on income alone, which was the current approach developed by international financial institutions and adopted by the United Nations.  That had caused Namibia, like other upper middle-income nations, to be unfairly deprived of access to concessional funding essential for development.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) associated herself with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries.  Stressing that reduction or elimination of poverty was a global strategic imperative, she called for a multidimensional approach to address those challenges.  The classification of countries based on income or GDP per capita differed with the complex economic and social reality, she said.  The current classification by income did not allow for the necessary priorities or resources for development, and incorrectly presupposed that middle-income countries overcame levels of poverty and inequality.  Thus, she urged for criteria that looked beyond income and addressed the special needs of individual countries.  Efforts should include open dialogue on innovative approaches to the graduation policy which should be set sequentially and gradually.  To that end, she welcomed efforts to adopt a resolution which would address the needs of middle-income countries.

Mr. SAFAH (Iraq), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the dangerous aggression from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) led to the destruction of building his country’s capacity, and that the country further suffered from decreased oil prices.  Science, technology and innovation could play a crucial role in development and allowed countries to gain capacity from innovations in economic, social and environmental areas and technology transfer.  He noted the importance of UNESCO and highlighted a 2005 agreement on cultural diversification to which his country acceded.  He said that the international community did not address the difference between development and cultural polices at the international level.  Noting that ISIL had destroyed a 1,000‑year‑old civilization in Iraq, he commended the support given by the General Assembly and called on the international community to provide greater development assistance to rebuild his country’s infrastructure and protect its cultural heritage.  To that end, he urged all countries who were party to UNESCO to honour their commitments, and enhance efforts to prevent conflict and combat terrorism.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the middle-income category was a paradox, with some of the largest and most diversified economies in the world and some of the smallest in terms of GDP, relying on just one or two industries.  The Maldives was among the first to graduate from least developed status to middle-income, but that did not protect it from exogenous shocks or equip the country with any additional instruments to bounce back from them.  When a small island State, with a small and extremely dependent economy, with just one or two industries was graduated from least developed countries category, the country became more vulnerable.  That was because with graduation the country was no longer eligible for ODA and had no access to concessional financing or export markets.  Those challenges made newly graduated small economies more vulnerable than they were in the least developed category.  Just six days after the General Assembly graduated the Maldives in December 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit the country.  The damage it caused in just a few minutes was more than 62 per cent of the country’s GDP.  The short- and long-term financial and economic impact on the Maldives took several years to recover, which was what a natural hazard would do to a small economy.

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica) associated himself with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Like-minded Group of Supporters of Middle-Income Countries.  He said the international community must revisit criteria for the reclassification of countries and their access to resources.  Sustainable development reports, analyses of structural gaps and the global poverty index were all important in that regard, but greater efforts would be needed to create adequate indicators and evaluate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.  He said the international community must recognize the complex realities of different countries, and called for open dialogues on the innovative and multidimensional approaches for development.  He said that broadening the international community’s vision would entail creating more focused and efficient solutions that addressed the specific needs of each country.  He also noted the challenges presented by climate change and natural hazards, stating that the international community must be prepared to address new and emerging challenges.  He urged for greater international cooperation in strengthening the multidimensional vision for development in relation to the reform efforts of the Secretary-General.  He also stressed the importance of fostering global partnerships, transferring technology and knowledge, broadening access to ODA and data sharing.

LEULESEGED TADESE ABEBE (Ethiopia) noted that globalization had contributed to global poverty reduction and economic growth, but its benefits had clearly not been shared by all.  Hence, popular discontent, driven by rising inequality and loss of jobs, had brought an enormous stress on multilateralism and governance institutions.  In making globalization deliver for all, the United Nations had a critical role in supporting countries to better cope with its risks and in assisting States and other stakeholders find global solutions respecting national diversity.  National efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda should be complemented by a fair and development-friendly international economic and financial architecture, giving more voice to developing countries.  International cooperation was also essential in addressing the widening technological divide through technology transfer and capacity-building to support efforts of developing countries.

TLHALEFO BATSILE MADISA (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that as 73 per cent of the world’s poorest and 70 per cent of the world’s population lived in middle-income countries, they deserved special consideration.  Such countries faced a mammoth task in sustaining the gains from previous decades against the rising costs of living, food and energy and decline in commodity prices, among other things.  Many had experienced economic deceleration or even recession in recent years.  United Nations development cooperation with middle-income countries should therefore be strengthened, he said, subscribing to the notion that country classification based on per capita income criteria was deficient.

PUNNAPA PARDUNGYOTEE (Thailand) said globalization had brought numerous benefits and opportunities, with countries becoming more interconnected, economies prospering and new technologies and innovations being introduced.  However, it had also resulted in numerous challenges, such as an imbalanced distribution of wealth, socioeconomic inequality and more challenging employment opportunities due to the production and labour market shift, rapidly changing technological advancement and digital divides as well as climate change.  Middle-income countries had benefited from globalization, but now faced socioeconomic inequalities undermining the possibility of achieving long-term sustainable and inclusive growth.  To break away from the middle-income trap, they needed to keep up with more developed economies in competing in the high value-added market.  At the national level, efforts must be put in place to address inequality and bridge physical and digital divides, providing equal access to knowledge as well as employment and income-earning opportunities.

Ms. BAKURAMUTSA (Rwanda), associating herself with the Group of 77, said she recognized globalization as impactful in permitting developed and developing countries to harness beneficial collaborations and create higher standards of living for all.  Her country promoted a long-lasting strategic vision for economic development through regional cooperation and trade with a conducive system of policies and incentives for investment.  Greater equitable economic integration for developing countries and increased trade and cross-border capital flows would help mitigate the risks of globalization.  Culture could be an enabler and driver of economic, social and environmental dimensions for sustainable development.  She said that in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda had focused on reconciliation and the building of a unified nation.  Her country established a community court system called “gacaca” which brought about restorative justice and reconciliation at the grassroots level.  Her country also promoted “umuganda” to nurture a shared national identity through public community work, such as infrastructure development and environmental protection.

BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said globalization had improved economic and living conditions in both developed and developing States.  However, distribution of its benefits had been uneven, with inequalities widening and technological advancement asymmetrical.  Technology had thrown the uneducated and technologically illiterate into irrelevance, as they failed to fit into economies.  Countries in special situations, such as least developed countries, were vulnerable to economic shocks triggered by globalization.  They were also at the brunt of global problems like climate change, terrorism and transnational crime.  Connectivity of roads and other transport were critical for least developed countries that were landlocked or islands.  A fair and level playing field was needed in trade and better financing solutions as well as technology transfer were needed to make globalization work for all.

The representative of Ukraine, noting that his country was a proud provider of global innovations and well-educated experts in a number of critical fields, highlighted the Ukrainian science park experts whose work had led to innovations in water, energy and cyber technologies and solutions for countries of the global South and least developed countries in Africa.  To that end, he expressed support to the Secretary-General’s report on technological capabilities to accelerate the means of education and training.  Similarly, he encouraged greater international efforts to support education through scientific scholarships, training courses, and research and development grants.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the benefits of globalization were mostly concentrated in developed countries and in wealthier regions.  International economic interdependence was strengthened by globalization and was affected by climate change.  He expressed concern that a “globalization of indifference” negatively affected those who had been excluded from the global economic system, including the poor and marginalized, migrants and refugees.  That trend also extended to those affected by environmental degradation.  He said the international community must work interdependently with an attitude of solidarity to build pathways for responsible cooperation.  “Technological progress and international solidary can indeed reduce the negative impacts of globalization, but without a change of heart, without a new attitude towards our common home and our fellow dwellers in that home, the hope for integral human development for all will remain just a dream rather than reality,” he said.

AMBER BARTH, International Labour Organization (ILO), pointed to the perception that globalization had not realized its potential and had even deepened inequalities.  Part of the globalization backlash was explained by labour markets, where fear reigned that migrants would take over existing jobs.  Considering technology’s reorganization of the labour market, one of the challenges would be to reduce income inequality.  Stagnant real wages and declining wage share had social and economic causes.  Disparity between real wages meant many families were not receiving their fair share.  In fixing globalization, the international community must develop more sustainable growth policies to ensure the employment market met the expectations of working people in attaining decent jobs.  The ILO would work with partners in the United Nations and Member States to ensure fairness for all.

HIROKO MURAKI GOTTLIEB, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), highlighted global shifts in production markets, rapid technological change and climate change.  She expressed support to various global agreements as enablers for solving global challenges, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which provided a platform for technology, science and innovation.  She also highlighted the importance of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement in furthering climate finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for sustainable development.  Noting other examples of events and initiatives that supported science, technology and innovation, she expressed her organization’s continued commitment to fulfil the promise of globalization through multi‑stakeholder engagement.

Introduction of Reports

Ms. SIRIMANNE introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/72/64).  She said the report addressed trends in access to ICT, as well as the digital divide, the impact of new and emerging technologies and recent governance developments.  Gaps between countries persisted, despite technological advancements.  Those gaps were apparent in higher broadcast speeds and lower costs of technology in developed States than in developing countries.  Estimates from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) demonstrated that more than half of the world’s population was still offline.  In Europe, 84 per cent of the population had Internet connection, as opposed to only 18 per cent in Africa.  Women were 12 per cent less likely to use the Internet globally, as opposed to 25 per cent in Africa.  Similar digital divides could be seen across youth, rural and urban areas.  In response, she said investment would be critical; however, the international community must also strengthen governance and access to the benefits.  In regards to e-commerce, she said that significant progress was made, particularly in helping businesses and small entrepreneurial ventures connect with global markets.  The rapid pace of change would bring uncertainty and risk to labour and employment markets, she continued.  In response to such risks, UNCTAD recently launched rapid assessments of e-commerce readiness which evaluated the preparedness of developing and least developed countries.  UNCTAD also launched an “e-trade for all” initiative to improve the ability of least developed countries to use and benefit from e-commerce.  In that regard, she called upon the international community to expand support to the digital economy and invited countries to collaborate around the benefits and costs of digitalization.

Interactive Discussion

The representative of Nigeria, noting the disparities between the developed world and Africa, asked for greater clarity on ICT access and affordability, as well as information on the existing gender divide.  In response, Ms. SIRIMANNE reiterated that the gender divide was widening. Despite concerns, she noted that good practices could be seen Africa, especially in terms of small- and medium‑sized enterprises engaged in e-commerce, many of which were run by women.  She encouraged States to learn from those experiences and the report in order to upscale those experiences across the continent.  Regarding access and affordability, she reiterated that massive investments would be necessary in connectivity and other forms of gaps, such as skills and capacity-building and in legal and regulatory environments.

The representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, emphasized the need to bridge digital divides between countries, as well as between men and women.  There were 90 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people in developed countries as compared with 41 in developing countries and less than 20 in the least developed States.  Such figures were cause for concern given the rapid pace of technological advancements, he said, calling for enabling policy environments, and international cooperation in improving affordability, capacity-building, multilingualism, investment, and appropriate financing. 

Calling for the full and effective implementation of the outcomes of the Geneva and Tunis phases of the World Summit on the Information Society, he added that in an increasingly interdependent world, it was important to strengthen representation and participation from developing countries in Internet governance.  Underscoring the importance of ensuring that the use of technologies should be fully compatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations charter, he added that the Technology Bank had the potential to foster productive capacity, structural transformation and sustainable development.

NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand) spoke on behalf of ASEAN and aligned himself with the Group of 77.   He noted that both the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda underscored the pivotal role of ICT, which constituted one of the most important means of implementation.  Such technologies had profound impacts on accelerating socioeconomic development, strengthening connectivity within the bloc as well as with the global community.  In particular, they represented a key driver of the economic and social transformation of ASEAN, expediting economic growth and enabling better integration with the world market.  Guided by the ASEAN Information and Communications Technology Masterplan, the bloc was currently transforming into a digital economy.  The current Masterplan was aimed at adopting and embedding such technology in all sectors of the economy and fostering growth and innovation.  Alongside hardware, software and network upgrades, it focused on connecting every individual and community regardless of location, facilitating faster access to services and creating new and better ways of doing business.  However, he noted the persistence of the digital divide within the region.  On growing cyberthreats in the region, he said some steps the bloc had taken towards the goal of a safe and secure cyberspace included the inaugural ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity and a workshop on strengthening and enhancing cybersecurity regional cooperation.

PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for CARICOM, and associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said small island developing States faced many challenges.  Those included limited resources, dependence on external markets and fragile natural environments.  Accelerated technological change, combined with competitive pressures of globalization, had expanded the digital divide between the global North and South.  Underscoring the relevance of the 2030 Agenda principle, “leave no one behind”, she said the Caribbean Community had increased its focus on information and communications technologies.

The work of the “Caribbean Single ICT Space” aimed to enhance the attractiveness of the regional environment for investment and provide fertile ground for digital production, commerce, entrepreneurship and innovation, she said, adding that “the 2030 Agenda requires the transfer of technology, resources, investment to developing countries, including small island developing States”.  The Community was mindful that the dynamism within the ICT sector had brought about new security and rights-based challenges, including on cybersecurity and Internet governance.   “We live in an interesting and dynamic age, full of countless opportunities,” she noted. 

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) spoke on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and aligned himself with the Group of 77.  He said most of the least connected nations were those in his Group, with fewer than one in 10 people connected to the Internet.  The cost of connection in relation to average household income was also higher in his Group than in other countries.  To harness maximum benefits from ICT, he recommended, among other things, that policies to ensure ICT services, including broadband technologies, needed to be coupled with modern infrastructure and service delivery systems and that the full participation of women needed to be ensured.  A more robust international cooperation was required for least developed countries to address the challenges they faced, including through South-South and triangular cooperation.

The representative of Maldives, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said that for small island States, the deployment of ICTs represented an unprecedented opportunity to address long-standing challenges, including in the area of disaster risk management.  In that context, fresh data and statistics were essential.  He therefore called for enhanced support and technical assistance from the international community in strengthening data collection and analysis.

Small island developing States also required help to leverage the use of ICTs in the area of financial services, he said.  In general, their citizens had very low access to such services due to such geography, isolation, dispersed populations, a high level of poverty and extremely high transaction costs, to name a few.  Linking financial services with communication technologies could bring such critical services to rural populations.

SWAPAN DASGUPTA (India) said that while ICTs had tremendous power to change lives, a digital divide could expand existing inequalities.  In India, the Government was implementing a range of programmes involving ICTs, including its Digital India programme that focused on empowering vulnerable sections of the population and those living in remote areas.  E-services included tele‑education, tele-medicine and agricultural information services that provided crop prices, weather forecasts and new farming techniques.  India’s deployment of ICTs to push financial inclusion was a success, with more than 300 million new bank accounts opened for vulnerable sections.  In addition, India continued to work with other developing countries in facilitating capacity-building in the use of ICTs for development.

Ms. PONCE (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said that while her country had increased its ICT infrastructure and service coverage, it continued to fall behind its peers in terms of the affordability and speed of Internet access.  It was clear that faster and cheaper Internet was required, she said.  The newly-created Department of Information and Communications was developing a national broadband plan that would address gaps in the broadband environment.  It would also lay down approaches to engage stakeholders to bring out universal broadband access in the Philippines.

GUO WEIMIN (Singapore), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States and ASEAN, noted that as digitalization continued to transform the very nature of work, it also posed both challenges and opportunities for achieving Goal 8 on decent jobs and economic growth.  To shape positive change, Governments must take an active role in establishing an enabling environment to prepare business and workers to prosper.   Setting rules that gave incumbent players a fair chance to adapt and compete was one means, as Singapore had done in regard to the new point-to-point transport industry.  Governments should also help workers acquire the skills they need, along the lines of his country’s “Skills Future” programme.  In addition, Governments should help businesses evolve, with initiatives like his country’s “SMEs Go Digital Programme”.  Becoming a “smart nation” involved not just adopting more advanced or complex technology, but using technology to solve society’s problems and making people’s lives better, he stressed.

The representative of Iran, associating himself with the Group of 77, said that many developing countries lacked affordable access to ICTs.  The international community should support developing countries’ efforts for harnessing technology to bridge the digital divide.  He called for enabling policy environments at all levels, including improved affordability, education, capacity-building and technology transfer through international cooperation.  Similarly, States should refrain from adopting measures that denied or restricted the transfer of advanced ICTs “know-how”, including technologies, and means and investment in required infrastructure.  Such efforts would only “postpone international efforts to bridge the digital divide”, he stressed.  His country had implemented policies that narrowed the digital divide at the national level through domestic programmes providing easy access to ICTs and digital-based resources.  In Iran’s sixth development plan, one‑fifth of all new job opportunities per year would come from the ICT sector.  The private sector would also continue to play a significant role, along with youth and the new generation of entrepreneurs.

The representative of Cuba, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, described deep inequalities in connectivity which resulted from the current unjust global development model.  While the necessary resources existed to bridge those gaps, changing the status quo required political will and commitment from all developed countries on financing, investment, training, infrastructure creation, knowledge dissemination and the transfer of technology and intellectual property.  “ICTs should be used to enhance people’s capacities for economic and social development, to promote peace and knowledge, to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and social exclusion” based on the strict respect for the Charter, he said.  Establishing a New World Information and Communication Order was a pressing need for developing countries to successfully assume the commitments agreed at the World Summit on the Information Society and to contribute to implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Voicing deep concern at the covert and illegal use of computer systems by individuals, organizations and States to attack other countries and potentially generate international conflicts, he said the only way to face such threats was through cooperation among all States.

The representative of Indonesia, associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said ICTs could be key enablers for development.  They could also provide new solutions to development challenges.  However, “we must be aiming at digital dividends, not digital divides,” he said.  ICTs must be adopted as an integral part of national sustainable development strategies.  As well, fostering international cooperation was crucial in order to make ICTs more affordable and accessible.  He went on to recommend preventative measures against the abusive use of ICTs.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, associating herself with the Group of 77, said that her country’s Council of Ministers communicated with all of society through mass and social media and furthered opportunities with the private sector and entrepreneurs.  A council for the fourth industrial revolution had been established, seeking to build relations between public and private institutions for technological diplomacy.  Such efforts reflected the United Arab Emirates’ commitment to modernity, openness, tolerance and the participation of all people in ICTs.  However, there was a need to bolster collective work against cyberterrorism, and she urged States to expose misleading ideas used by terrorist and extremist groups.  On a national level, numerous social media campaigns were continuing to expose extremist messages and the deceit by ISIL.  In addition, her country also participated in numerous forums and meetings that addressed the future of the Internet and emphasized the importance of international cooperation for ICTs for development.  In that regard, the United Arab Emirates also sought to strengthen multilateral cooperation and the creation of effective laws and regulations.

The representative of Qatar, associating himself with the Group of 77, said ICTs were crucial in achieving the 2030 Agenda and urged for greater dissemination of knowledge, technologies and capacity-building.  In that regard, his country had established an enabling ICT infrastructure, and had launched an annual study to calculate domestic progress relating to ICTs.  His country was actively involved in technological research and promoted education and science as essential components for the development of inclusive and peaceful societies.  Cybercrime and piracy were interlinked with organized crime, and he urged States to work together to combat and penalize those crimes.  As well, due to “illegitimate” unilateral measures undertaken against it, Qatar faced many obstacles in its efforts to fight cybercrime.  ICTs could be used for illicit purposes to violate laws, and in that regard, he called upon the international community to create a common strategy to fight those crimes.

ISMAIL RAUSHAN ZAHIR (Maldives), associating himself with the Alliance of Small Island States and the Group of 77, said that, as a small State comprising 1,190 small islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Maldives prioritized the harnessing of ICTs as part of its development strategy.  The dispersed nature of its population posed unique challenges, with the cost of providing and maintaining socioeconomic services in Maldives often four to five times higher than in other small island developing States.  In that context, the Government was undertaking several awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes, and had created an enabling environment for the private sector.  Those efforts had resulted in more widespread and affordable access to services.  New technologies were also being used in more traditional sectors, including fisheries and tourism, allowing the country’s output to be more efficient and productive. 

The representative of Saudi Arabia, associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country was carrying out major projects that focused on strategies to improve ICT infrastructure.  Everyone must have connectivity to broadband, he stressed, noting that the Government’s partnership with the private sector had helped provide broadband to 90 per cent of people in cities and 60 per cent in rural areas.  Saudi Arabia was proud to serve all faithful Muslims worldwide, most notably during their pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.  Some 13,000 mobile stations had provided services to over a million users and 700 million phone calls were supported during the one-week hajj.  He also underscored that cyberspace and data protection required “true international partnership” as well as a regulatory framework to provide digital protection to all countries.

The representative of Senegal said humankind must all be able to take advantage of ICTs and participate in creating a future for the benefit of all people.  Innovation and new technologies and information were a significant asset for sustainable development.  Many African countries found themselves in a situation of a “technological deficit”, with no access to knowledge and, consequently, the global market.  All countries, particularly developed ones, must aim efforts to bridge the digital divide between developing and developed countries.  ICT could make a substantial contribution to sustainable development and improve the lives of millions by creating important synergies among various sectors. 

The representative of Kenya pointed out that many developing countries and especially least developed countries still lagged behind in the use of ICTs, with challenges ranging from the persistent digital divide to connectivity and access.  The United Nations should fast track the operationalization of the Technology Bank as elaborated in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Outlining his Government’s investments in establishing an environment conducive to a thriving ICT sector, he said each of Kenya’s 47 counties was connected to fibre optic technology.  The country’s universities were providing higher learning in the areas of science and technology, and the Government was creating a dedicated institute in that field with the help of development partners.  Kenya’s education network, known as “KENET”, enabled the sharing of research infrastructure and services, including Internet bandwidth and supercomputing.  Additionally, it had had extraordinary success with its mobile money payments system, known as “MPesa”.

The representative of Nepal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the fast pace of ICT development had a profound impact on business and public services and offered huge potential for developing countries.  It was critical to achieve the benchmark to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet to least developed countries by 2020.  Noting the establishment of the Technology Bank, he urged support for it to ensure its effective operationalization.  He also encouraged the adoption of policies and strategies to ensure the availability, affordability and accessibility to ICT services coupled with modern infrastructure and service delivery systems.  Recalling the 2015 Nepal earthquake, he said ICTs could minimize loss during disasters through early warning systems, information dissemination, and post‑disaster rescue and recovery campaigns.

 The representative of China, associating himself with the Group of 77, said greater attention should be given to recognize the significance of ICTs for economic and social development.  States should reinforce capacity-building and strengthen efforts to bridge the digital divide at all levels.  Additional attention should be given to address the needs of developing countries through enhanced infrastructure and skills training.  There should be greater partnerships for development through strengthened North-South and South-South cooperation, as well as knowledge sharing, technology transfer and technological training.  His country had implemented a national strategy for innovation, a national ICT strategy and an international strategy for cooperation on cyberspace.  China would continue to promote synchronized ICTs thorough urbanization and agricultural modernization, while promoting international cooperation for common development.

The representative of Togo, associating himself with the Group of 77, said there was “no doubt” that science and innovation had an increasing role in development and prosperity.  It provided “modern life tools” to fight climate change, eliminate poverty and achieve food security.  As such, it was critical to remove the barriers to technology at the international level and pay attention to local needs.  Science technology and innovation must be beneficial to the poor, women, children, the disabled, marginalized, and to regions affected by humanitarian crisis and terrorism.  He noted his Government’s recent reforms and initiatives undertaken including the use of cell phones to distribute State subsidies to farmers.  Several programmes had been set up to extend the Internet to most of the population.  He reiterated his call for enhanced international cooperation and the sharing of ICT.

PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the importance of ICTs went beyond the areas spotlighted in the 2030 Agenda.  Indeed, they were also a powerful and transformative tool to foster economic growth, social inclusion and environmentally-friendly solutions, enabling advances in the three dimensions of sustainable development.  “This potential will only be fully materialized if it serves humanity as a whole,” he said, calling for efforts to bridge the digital divide both between Member States and within countries.  While Brazil upheld an applied multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, distinct issues might require specific frameworks, taking into account the differentiated roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders.  Welcoming progress achieved at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), he said he hoped that States could jointly advance the implementation of the concept of enhanced cooperation, with the aim of improving mechanisms to address international public policies related to the Internet. 

The representative of Mexico said States needed to strengthen public policy in order to respond in a more rapid way to challenges and opportunities brought by the latest technological revolution.  While technology had brought forth much progress, the inequality gap among people also had been broadened.  Technological advance had brought about significant advances in health and agricultural sectors.  However, challenges in labour, unemployment and capacity remained.  In addition, it was estimated that 2 billion jobs would be lost to automation by 2030.  “We are entering the most disruptive period of our history,” she said, noting her country’s response to the challenges.  Noting that Mexico had hosted events on how technological change and automation impacted sustainable development, she urged the United Nations and its agencies, as well as regional and international forums, the private sector, academia, and scientists to collaborate on a broad narrative on the exponential technological changes. 

The representative of Bahrain said her country carried out a comprehensive reform of the ICT sector and fulfilled more than 300 indicators in terms of Government-provided services to the population.  Her Government encouraged technological innovation through various events and initiatives, and strengthened its role in the fourth industrial revolution by promoting the exchange of knowledge and information.  She said that some electronic service companies, such as Amazon, recently announced that they would set up networks in Bahrain.  That development would make the country a regional gateway for cloud computing and would facilitate greater regional trade and e-commerce.

SYLVAIN KALSAKAU (Vanuatu) associated himself with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Group of Least Developed Countries.  He said his Government prioritized ICT infrastructure investment and connectivity as part of its sustainable development plan.  The domestic telecommunications sector was liberalized in 2008 with around 15 per cent of the population accessing telecommunications services.  Today, 93 per cent of the population had Internet access.  Despite progress, his country lacked the speed and clout that other countries harnessed in terms of ICTs.  He urged a multifaceted approach to bridge the digital divide between developing and developed countries.  His Government supported the ITU Connect 2020 Agenda for an information society which would accelerate social, economic and environmentally sustainable growth and development for all.  On the national level, Vanuatu would create a conducive environment through policies and legal frameworks that foster ICT and telecommunication development in conjunction with the private sector and through public-private partnerships.

The representative of South Africa, associating himself with the Group of 77, said the spread of ICTs was now faster than ever before, with more people having access to internet, mobile phones and related devices.  Nevertheless, data revealed a substantial digital divide in ICT access and use.  Voicing particular concern over that divide between developing countries – especially least developed countries – and other nations in terms of access to household access to ICTs, he said Africa remained the least connected region.  More efforts were needed, including through investments in infrastructure, services, skills development and content.  It was, therefore, important that developing countries, especially in Africa, were provided with coordinated support through the transfer of technology, technical assistance and capacity-building that was tailor-made to the diverse needs of each country.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that while ICT offered great opportunities, the digital divide and limited access continued to play a negative role in sustainable development.  In that context, he underscored the need to focus on building relevant infrastructure, providing high-quality training to technology professionals and promoting the use of e-government services.  Universal broadband technology must be utilized and implemented.  The Russian Federation had worked to expand access to broadband.  Its mobile access to broadband was the cheapest in the world and its cost was expected to decrease further.  The Russian Federation encouraged international cooperation in the research of cloud computing and AI.  Governments must promote partnerships in the telecommunications sector.  ICT also faced major challenges including a rise in threats of terrorism.  He called on Member States to deepen cooperation to develop laws and rules acceptable to all and build a secure and well-protected network.

ALADE AKINREMI BOLAJI (Nigeria) said ICT access in Africa had improved immensely, and increased productivity and innovation in the public and private sectors.  His country facilitated universal availability and cost-effective access to communications infrastructure and promoted the utilization of ICTs in all spheres of life.  His Government also achieved cutting-edge global ICT standards, and encouraged the rapid ICT penetration among all socioeconomic levels.  In doing so, Nigeria would increase the current coverage of active mobile broadband subscription from 20.95 per cent to 50 per cent by 2020.  His country promoted and encouraged local production of ICT hardware and software to reduce import dependence and generate foreign exchange.  Noting the disparity between the availability and use of emerging ICTs, he urged for the international community to give “pride of place” to the education curriculum and thereby bridge the digital divide.  He additionally called for digital inclusion and financial access by lowering the cost of ICT devices, traffic, applications, technician and educator training, software, maintenance and infrastructures.

YONATHAN GUEBREMEDHIN SIMON (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, underscored that more than 800 million people in least developed nations remained offline.  “Despite progress, Africa is the least connected continent,” he said, noting lingering challenges in infrastructure investment, skills and content.  It was important to enhance international cooperation and promote more public-private partnerships aimed at bridging the digital divide.  Developing countries must also provide support, including technological transfer and capacity-building.  In Ethiopia, the primary objective of using ICT was as an enabler for poverty reduction and economic growth.  He noted that ICT community centres had been opened in rural areas and also created employment for young people.  It was vital to ensure access to affordable and reliable technologies.

URSULA WYNHOVEN, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), highlighted the report, “Fast Forward Progress-Leveraging Tech to Achieve the Global Goals” and shared lessons from the discussions that had generated the report.  “Leaving no one behind means we cannot leave anyone offline,” she said, also adding that women faced more barriers to acquiring digital skills.  ICTs could be life‑changing and life-saving for women, children, workers and refugees.  Vigilance was necessary to ensure that the benefits were not confined to the privileged few.

DINO CORELL, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the digital economy, innovation, AI, robotization and 3D printing among others would contribute to structural changes within industries and labour markets.  Digital transformation would address youth unemployment, which currently affected two out of every five young women and men worldwide, who were unemployed or working but living in poverty.  Noting the priority areas of the Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth (DJY), he said the ILO had in 2016 launched a “digital skills for decent jobs for youth” campaign.  The initiative aimed to mobilize investments to equip 5 million youth with digital skills globally by 2030, realize the potential of the digital economy and promote an enabling environment for entrepreneurship.

News

Entrepreneur Urges Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Benefit of All in Second Committee, Economic and Social Council Joint Meeting

Delegates Debate Eradication of Poverty, Development Issues in Afternoon Meeting

New technology would be central to achieving development goals, with artificial intelligence (AI) leveraged to process data on health, commerce, communications and transportation, entrepreneur Stephen Ibaraki told a joint session of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and the Economic and Social Council today.

In that regard, stakeholders needed to work together to gauge opportunities and ensure technology would benefit all, he emphasized, addressing a panel discussion on “the future of everything — sustainable development in the age of rapid technological change”.

Machine learning and AI had already replaced human cognition through algorithms, assistance, augmentation, automation and autonomous intelligence, he noted.  Those advancements would mean a $16 trillion increase in gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.  Similarly, gains from AI would boost GDP by 55 per cent from 2017 to 2030 and, in 2030 alone, 58 per cent of GDP would come from consumer attitudes, he said.  Every region could benefit from AI, with the largest predicted to be China and the United States.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed concurred that technology could enhance food security, reduce waste and help local economies grow.  However, she warned that many nations would need more than just those benefits, urging the international community to form partnerships in ensuring equal technological access.

Addressing the plight of less developed countries, FarmDrive co-founder Rita Kimani stressed the need to examine root problems and tools available in assessing the best technology to use.  Her organization had learned that access to finance was among the biggest challenges for small farmers, who had no smart phones.  They used tools they already had — basic mobile phones — to send messages to the FarmDrive platform.

Presentations were also made by Hanson Robotics Chief Executive Officer David Hanson, Harvard University’s metalLAB Faculty Director Jeffrey Schnapp and Columbia University Professor Emeritus of Public and Environmental Health Dickson Despommier.

During an ensuing discussion, speakers emphasized the importance of universal technology access and its ensuing benefits, as well as the risk of negative robotic “values” and cultural personalities.

The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) representative asked the panel how the global community could achieve its goal of universal and affordable access to the Internet by 2020.  Mr. Ibaraki said public-private partnerships must be strengthened through outreach from all multi-stakeholders, especially in least developed countries.

In a similar vein, Mauritius’ representative asked how economic gains would “trickle down”, reducing poverty and ensuring technological accessibility.  Mr. Ibaraki responded that technology would continue to evolve and eventually the challenge would solve itself, as AI would likely appear in all devices.

The representative from Global Pulse underscored the urgency of addressing risks, as AI had “as much potential for good or harm as nuclear energy”.  Mr. Hanson said the international community must continue to use all available tools without waiting for regulation, but Ms. Kimani stressed that human needs must be at the centre of conversations.

Likewise, the representative of Sierra Leone asked how producers would prevent them from acquiring the “worst of human values”, while ensuring culturally relative personalities.  Mr. Hanson replied that technological producers would include abstract reasoning in artificial intelligence, and empower machines to understand consequences of their actions.

“It comes down to love,” he said, adding that technology producers would create algorithms to move artificial intelligence and computing towards wisdom and “super benevolence”.  Culturally, his robotics had a wide diversity characterized by different skin tones and cultural values.

In an afternoon session, the Second Committee took up poverty eradication, stressing the need for increased employment, resource mobilization, investments in education as well as health and global financing.

Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said good economic performance in African countries over the last two decades had failed to reduce poverty or create jobs.  Some 22 per cent of Africans lived on $.70 to $1.25 per day, while 25 per cent lived on less than $.70 per day.  Expressing concern over the lack of employment, he noted that 203.8 million people would be unemployed by 2018.  More economic opportunities were needed, along with increased mobilization of resources and adequate means for developing countries to implement policies and programmes.

Cambodia’s representative stressed the need to expand economies and invest in education and health, noting that his country had diversified exports to curb its reliance on the garment, tourism and agricultural industries.  Cambodia’s achievements in poverty reduction had been driven by robust and equitable macroeconomic growth, with strong checks on inflation, increases in agricultural production, and improved infrastructure.

Speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, Bangladesh’s representative said poverty in his group of States had fallen from 43.6 per cent in 2008 to 36.3 per cent in 2013.  However, levels of extreme poverty remained high in the group, with countries growing at the slowest pace of economic expansion since 2000.  Inequality in income, wealth and opportunities plagued those States, he said, while conflicts, climate change, diseases and economic “shocks” continued to thwart them.  Stressing that global support through financing was vital, he said he looked forward to improvements in official development assistance (ODA), trade and foreign direct investment (FDI).

At the onset of the meeting, Secretary-General’s reports were presented by Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), on women in development (document A/72/282); Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty 2008 to 2017 (document A/72/283); and Navid Hanif, Director of the Office for Support and Coordination in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on human resource development for the twenty-first century (document A/72/292).

Also speaking were the representatives of Belize, Maldives, El Salvador, Israel, China, Philippines, Singapore, Iran, Viet Nam, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Cambodia on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Tonga, Iraq, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Cuba and Malawi.

The Committee will meet again on Thursday, 12 October, to conclude its debate on poverty eradication.

Opening Remarks

MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czech Republic), President of the Economic and Social Council, said artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things changed the way the international community worked, obtained information, made bank transactions and networked.  She said AI was at the heart of online search and translation services, e‑commerce recommendations, real traffic prediction and self‑driving cars.  However, the international community did not yet know its global impact.  The long‑term consequences of deep technological changes were unknown, she stated.  AI could accelerate progress, but also would pose a range of complex challenges, including ethical questions, human rights issues and security risks.  “These questions will need to be addressed if we want our fellow citizens to embrace technological change rather than perceive it as a threat,” she said.  Public response, at national and global levels, was lagging technological progress, thus she urged for better understanding of science and technology for development.  “Let us not forget that many places around the globe still lack basic access to electricity and to a networked infrastructure,” she said.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), Chair of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), noted that his country was a small nation with few natural resources and a limited internal market.  Yet the size of the country and enterprising spirit of the people had been a huge advantage in building up an information society with high quality services.  When Estonia started building its information society about two decades ago, many in his country had no access to the Internet or the devices to use it.  It required vision and strong leadership to invest in and adopt the information technology route.  Both the public and private sectors understood the need to invest in positioning Estonia as an information society and integrate e‑governance solutions as they were created.  Turning to the use of technology in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he said it would be vital to address security concerns and privacy.  People would only use e‑solutions if they were safe, trustworthy and convenient.  Innovative technologies offered unprecedented opportunities for implementing the Goals, but also required managing the risks of those technologies.

AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary‑General, said technological progress must be well managed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  She urged the international community to engage in partnerships to leverage the power of technology equitably.  New technology could enhance food security, reduce waste and help local economies grow, among other advancements.  In Zambia, the first virtual farmers market was piloted.  Seed planting drones were tested and indirectly helped to mitigate climate change.  Mobilized construction changed how roads were built and monitored across Africa and the developing world.  Technology should not be used as a “silver bullet”, she said.  Highlighting recent technological events hosted at the United Nations, she stressed that creativity and imagination of youth must be nurtured to create new solutions and reach the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international community must also protect workers and help them adjust to technological advancements, close the digital divide and avoid exacerbating inequalities through proper education and training.  Engaging Sofia the robot, she asked how the United Nations could ensure that all people benefited from technological advancements.  In response, Sofia stated that AI could produce results with fewer resources.  Thus, AI could be leveraged to distribute the world’s existing resources, such as food and energy, in a more equitable manner.

Panel Discussion

JENNIFER STRONG, Moderator of the discussion and Host of the Wall Street Journal’s “The Future of Everything” podcast, said today’s event aimed to show how technology was shaping society.  Adding that she herself was not a technologist, she said it was all too easy to let someone else decide how technology affected our daily lives.  But leaving technology to others would be neglecting the great challenges of the time.  With her programme, she had assumed the responsibility of standing in for people who did not understand.  Through storytelling, she hoped to bring more voices into the conversation, as if technology belonged to all.

DAVID HANSON, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Hanson Robotics, said he hoped he could assist in connecting technologists and humanitarians in deciding how technology could benefit all.  His company made machines that were fundamentally human.  They took the nano properties of human soft tissue and produced mobile, social robots.  As art forms like animation had brought wonder and delight to the world, robotics could perform a similar service.  However, it was important to understand what it was like to be human.  By making AI grow up among humans, perhaps robots could really care about people and become alive.  There was a revolution at work today in the field of bioengineering, which had just begun to see the implications of work that would change the world.  He stressed that robotics must make machines reflecting the best people could be, humanizing robots as animated characters.  The goal was to make living robots that were truly ethical and could make the world a better place.

STEPHEN IBARAKI, serial entrepreneur and founding managing partner of REDDS Venture Investment Partners, said due to the rapid progress in AI, technological advancements would be central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  AI could be leveraged to solve humanity’s challenges by processing data on health, commerce, communications, transportation and more.  Thus, stakeholders must work together to evaluate opportunities and ensure such advancements would benefit all of humanity.  AI and machine learning already replaced human cognition through algorithms, assistance, augmentation, automation and autonomous intelligence, he continued.  Those advancements would result in a $16 trillion increase in gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.  Similarly, the gains from AI would result in a 55 per cent gain in GDP from 2017 to 2030, and in 2030 alone, 58 per cent of GDP would come from consumer impacts.  He said every region could benefit from AI, with the largest beneficiaries predicted to be in China and the United States.  The impact of AI would be apparent in economic, cultural and social disruption.  For example, such advancements could track poverty through satellite imagery and poverty mapping from space.  Machine learning could extend medical care through remote diagnosis and the enhancement of transportation resources.  AI could serve as a key resource in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and further promoting the development of smart cities.  As every sector would be affected, he encouraged the international community to consider liability rules, ethnical conduct, transparency and open partnerships.

RITA KIMANI, Co‑founder of FarmDrive, questioned whether robots would make a difference to rural farmers in her home country of Kenya.  It was necessary to take a step back to look at the root problems and real challenges one was attempting to address.  What were the challenges of communities and could technology be used to solve them, she asked.  Her organization had learned that access to finance was among the biggest challenges for small farmers.  So it looked at how technology could assist farmers in obtaining credit.  That was done by looking at simple revenue data from farmers, using it to assess the risk and then determining whether they could have credit.  In the case of those farmers, it was important to focus on the real problems and be aware of a community’s culture.  Small rural farmers, for example, had no smartphones, so a device they could use had to be found.  In the end, they used a basic mobile phone to send messages to the FarmDrive platform, using a tool they already had access to.

JEFFREY SCHNAPP, founder and faculty director of metaLAB at Harvard University, said the international community should not narrow the scope of our technological conversations.  He said robots come in all shapes, sizes and forms and have already transformed economic production.  Robotics and AI were already part of the everyday world, outside of warehouses and production plants.  He underscored that technological advancements augment the human experience.  Smart vehicles, for example, were used to map cities and inform urban development.  As shifts into those augmented realms, the international community must consider how information and data would be used.  The use of data would pose one of the greatest challenges, and the international community must leverage such information responsibly.  There was a trend, he continued, to treat algorithmic knowledge as a form of public knowledge and it had become part of our social and cultural lives.  As a result, educational institutions must reshape themselves and the international community must encourage lifelong learning.  Humanity must prepare and understand our relationship with the “world of devices” as digital tools, smart devices and the intensity of connectivity would continue to have greater impact.

DICKSON DESPOMMIER, Professor Emeritus of Public and Environmental Health, Columbia University, stressed that all people in the world needed to eat and drink.  The difficulty was in getting adequate supplies to them.  Sometimes, there was not enough rain to fill reservoirs and sometimes the food that was grown was raided by animals or destroyed by adverse weather.  Noting that eliminating hunger was among the primary goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said it could be accomplished if the global community tried hard enough.  The world was now faced with rapid climate change and its consequent effects on health.  The cause was primarily deforestation as well as the use of fossil fuels.  Deforestation — which had mainly occurred to clear land for farming — took away the ability of the Earth to take back carbon it had fed into the atmosphere.  Noting that farming was 10,000 years old and traditional, he said no one wanted to break with that practice.  Rather than human clearing of land, a tsunami in Japan had trashed 5 per cent of its farmland in one hour.  In that case, the solution was indoor farming — vertical multi‑story farms, rather than one‑level greenhouses.  Countries were now adopting this alternative, led by Japan, and were producing great quantities of food.  Other countries using vertical farms included Singapore, China and Germany.  The advantages of vertical farming were that it was year‑round, used 70 to 90 per cent less water and could be established anywhere in the world.

Interactive Discussion

Ms. STRONG asked Sofia what the United Nations could do to support innovation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Sofia responded that leaders must work together to build an equitable, standard infrastructure.

The moderator next asked the panel about the historical precedent of technological innovation.  Mr. IBARAKI said the implications to labour would result in a period of disruption and chaos, but economic and social benefits would manifest in the long‑run.  Mr. SCHNAPP responded that social panic around automation was recorded throughout the history of industrialization, and would be repeated with the development of AI and robotics.  So far, evidence had shown that technological advancements would not fuel job loss, but may fuel inequality.  To address that concern, the international community must do more to ensure adequate skills and capacity‑building.

The representative from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) asked how the global community might achieve its goal of universal and affordable access to the Internet by 2020, including in the least developed countries.  Mr. IBARAKI responded that public‑private partnerships must be strengthened through outreach from the United Nations.  The enhanced engagement of all the multi‑stakeholders would be required to accelerate that goal, particularly in the least developed countries.  Mr. SCHNAPP responded that the international community must urgently acknowledge broadband access as a civil right.

The representative of Nigeria asked how technological advancements in the labour markets might impact youth unemployment, particularly in Nigeria and sub‑Saharan Africa.  Mr. HANSON responded that the technological community was actively engaging Africa in research and through open robotics programmes.  He said that such initiatives were producing significant results and supported the production of low‑cost, open source tools and resources.  Such opportunities also created welcoming environments for entrepreneurship and infrastructural developments.  Ms. KIMANI said the international community must continue to address the root causes of inequalities, while also responding to technological advancements.  Mr. IBARAKI said the investment community considered Africa the greatest new opportunity on a personalization and localization basis, thus the region would continue to see greater investments, particularly around financial services and education.  Mr. DESPOMMIER said there was great interest in establishing indoor vertical farming, which would not require significant changes to skillsets.  Thus, AI in developing communities could enhance agriculture.

The representative of Mauritius asked how to ensure that economic gains would “trickle down”, reduce poverty and ensure technological accessibility.  Mr. IBARAKI responded that the greatest growth would be seen in Africa, including through investment and representation in scientific communities.  In terms of accessibility, technology would continue to evolve and eventually the challenge would solve itself, as AI would likely appear in all devices.

The representative of Sierra Leone asked how producers would prevent robots from acquiring the “worst of human values”, while ensuring culturally relative personalities and values.  Mr. HANSON said his company was working to improve deep learning through pattern extraction.  In doing so, technological producers would include abstract reasoning in AI and empower machines to understand the consequences of their actions.  “It comes down to love,” he continued.  Technology producers would create algorithms that moved AI and computing towards wisdom and “super benevolence”.  In terms of cultural design, he said his robotics have a wide cultural diversity as characterized by different skin tones and cultural values.  Mr. IBARAKI said agreements in the European Union Parliament addressed liability, employment and ethical conduct.  Global science associations and other related reports also addressed those concerns, as well as threats to humanity’s existential existence.

The representative of Brazil said access should not only be shared with consumers, but also with producers of technology.  Greater consideration should be given to developing countries as they could play a significant role in innovation and technology, including by strengthening intellectual and financial systems.  She said that other problems may not require technological solutions, but rather political ones.  Thus, the international community must not forget human responsibilities to global challenges.  Additionally, greater consideration should be given to defining who decides ethics and values.  In that regard, she noted the use of robotics and technological advancements for military use.  As a final comment, she reinforced the importance of privacy rights with respect to innovation.  Mr. IBARAKI said that the United Nations would remain a key facilitator in those discussions, and that overall, the scientific community was encouraging broad dialogue in that regard.  The open source movement and talent crowdsourcing would continue to be widely accessible, he said.  Mr. SCHNAPP reiterated that the open source community was an open community and that most operating systems were open source.  Mr. DESPOMMIER noted a media laboratory which was working to enhance vertical farming, and the information from which would be open source.  Mr. HANSON said blockchain would help to decentralize economic initiatives and facilitate entrepreneurship.

The representative of Zambia urged that the international community continue dialogue on such issues, while ensuring a global governance system which incorporated universal codes of conduct.  Regarding job loss, he said many economies were based on low cost products, many of which would be replaced by new innovations.  In that regard, he asked how Governments might tax labour, given that humans would be replaced by robotics.  Mr. IBARAKI said taxation had already been addressed in many high‑level discussions.

The representative of South Africa asked about the future of human beings, and how to combat the unequal division of benefits.  Mr. IBARAKI said there would be a coexistence of robotics and humans.  Concerning job loss and governance, innovation would create new opportunities.  Mr. SCHNAPP said there was a diversity of opinions on how tools and technologies would interact and that they would be shaped by disparate belief systems and social values.

The representative of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development asked about the digital divide, while the representative of Global Pulse asked how to mitigate the risks of smart technologies in a manner that ensured that data was properly managed and utilized.  The latter underscored the urgency of addressing risks, as AI had “as much potential for good or harm as nuclear energy”.  In terms of human rights, he urged for a stronger governance approach to innovation.  Mr. HANSON said the international community must continue to utilize all available tools without waiting for regulation.  The value of automation, he continued, was that it managed resources efficiently, thus the democratization of technology would benefit mass production and lower costs.  Mr. IBARAKI said more consideration should be given to technological assessment and skills building.  The unintended consequences of innovation must also be addressed by all stakeholders.  Ms. KIMANI reiterated that human needs must be at the centre of conversations.  Ultimately, the international community must achieve a good balance between innovation and policy.  Mr. SCHNAPP said the international community must create a universal code of values while ensuring proper leadership to decide upon ethics and values.  Mr. DESPOMMIER said ethical considerations should not prohibit innovation, thus more open dialogue would continue to be necessary.

Concluding Remarks

Ms. STRONG questioned what the global community could do to ensure more people were empowered to take advantage of new technologies.  It was also difficult to know if the world was on the right track with certain technologies and how they could be used to increase productivity.

Mr. ZHENMIN said the world was at a critical juncture, faced with unprecedented challenges and unique opportunities for a challenging future.  Technology was the main driver of economic growth and could be revolutionary in transforming societies.  AI could bring a new industrial revolution, which would be fundamentally different than previous ones.  The influence of technology on the future was not preordained but could be influenced by proactive policies to embrace and direct it, ensuring that gains were broadly shared.

Ms. CHATARDOVÁ said the potential for grass‑roots initiatives in the field of agriculture and food security were truly inspiring as the international community sought avenues to accelerate progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Likewise, AI‑enabled solutions in the mobility and transportation sectors would go a long way in making cities more sustainable.  Yet, there were also risks associated with those new technologies, and a need to bring regulation to issues that were so far largely ungoverned.  There was more to learn about the impact of AI on societies at large and its potential to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. JÜRGENSON said the quest for innovative solutions to the complex challenges of the time should be particularly inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit and imagination of young people around the globe, using data as their generation’s natural resource.  The benefits of technological progress and innovation to all people remained far from clear.  However, the 2030 Agenda offered a vision that could help in navigating rapid technological change.

Presentation of Reports

LAKSHMI PURI, Assistant Secretary‑General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on women in development (document A/72/282).  She said the 2030 Agenda sought to promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls as a Sustainable Development Goal in its own right.  The imperative of the gender‑responsive implementation of the Agenda was the task in front of the international community.  Gender equality strategies needed to be fully integrated into national sustainable development frameworks to promote greater policy coherence.  Adding that a central commitment of the Agenda was eradicating poverty, she noted that close to 800 million people still lived in extreme poverty around the world.  Most were in informal employment and many were women.  Vulnerability was the hallmark of informal employment, lacking health or safety regulations, benefits like health insurance, pensions and other social protection.  Such work failed to meet the criteria of decent work.  Recent estimates indicated that 600 million new jobs would need to be created by 2030 to keep pace with the growth of the global working age population.  Focus was needed on young women’s entry into the labour market, including in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty 2008 to 2017 (document A/72/283).  She said a survey was circulated by the United Nations to track progress and remaining challenges in addressing extreme poverty.  Recommendations from the report emphasized the need for the United Nations system to maintain momentum in the context of the 2030 Agenda.  Despite the international community continuing to make progress in poverty eradication throughout the second decade, the Millennium Development Goal targets remained only partially met.  Since 1990, around 1 billion people were lifted out of extreme poverty, however the report noted uneven progress.  Although extreme poverty dropped, poverty levels remained high in many least developed countries.  Growth had not been sufficient to meet the needs of the growing labour force, particularly in countries with large youth populations, and gaps remained in addressing undernourishment and lack of education.  Lessons learned included the importance of social policy, adequate macroeconomic policies, investment in agriculture and infrastructure, rural development and policies to build resilience and empower people living in poverty.  She emphasized the importance of partnerships and reassurance mobilization and called for greater attention to poverty eradication programmes in the national context.  The international community must continue structural transformation by driving inclusive industrialization, combating inequality, promoting decent work, investing in education and health care and improving women’s participation in the labour market.

NAVID HANIF, Director of the Office for Support and Coordination in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on human resource development for the twenty‑first century (document A/72/292).  He said human resource development was fundamental to fulfilling the 2030 Agenda.  Currently, employment trends painted a challenging picture due to decreasing jobs in some sectors, which was compounded by vulnerable employment in many developing countries.  Rapid advancements in science and technology innovation were transforming economies and societies.  Organization of work and production were changing because of globalization.  Stressing that education, training and skill development were at the core of human resources, he said there was an urgent need to improve them.  National institutions must adapt, especially in education, training and social protection system development strategies, which must be informed by stakeholder engagement and policies.  The United Nations provided policy advice in implementing the Agenda, and would continue to do so, although technological changes were shaping its ability.  Investment was needed in the Organization’s own workforce, putting people at its centre.

General Discussion

The representative of Nigeria asked Ms. BAS for policy prescriptions for development and poverty reduction in rural areas, especially in Africa.  Ms. BAS said the international community must go through a structural transformation of how to conceive rural areas and work with them in an integrated manner.  That would mean how work would be perceived and created in rural areas, including farm and non‑farm economies.  She said innovative solutions must be compatible with the environment and respect the dignity of the people.  She stated that she would be happy to provide additional information on best practices.  Ms. PURI, responding to the same question, said the Commission on the Status of Women would be focusing on women’s empowerment in the context of rural development.  That would be an important aspect of how one could address poverty, inequality and the rural‑urban divide.  States should create in rural areas the necessary infrastructure, such as electricity, education, transport, financing and telecommunications.  Sustainable agriculture and the farm economy should address eradicating poverty, creating jobs and meeting the needs of young people.  She said such efforts would limit the uncontrolled growth of urban areas, as young people would have an incentive to stay in rural areas.

DIEGO MOREJÓN-PAZMIÑO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said there was no way to overemphasize the relevance of poverty reduction to developing States.  It was worrisome that more that 767 million people continued to live on less than $1.90 per day, he said.  The international community made progress in eradicating poverty, as 10.7 per cent of the world’s population was extremely poor in 2013 and 9.1 per cent of the world’s population was poor in 2016.  Despite good economic performance by African countries over the last two decades, that growth was not translated into poverty reduction or the creation of adequate jobs.  In fact, 22 per cent of Africans lived on between $.70 and $1.25 per day, while 25 per cent lived on less than $.70 dollars per day.  He also expressed concern about the lack of productive employment and decent work, as 203.8 million people would be unemployed by 2018.  In that regard, he called for the creation of more economic opportunities, increased mobilization of resources and adequate means for developing countries to implement policies and programmes.  He expressed concern that the progress for women and girls remained unbalanced, and recognized that women were key contributors to the economy and combating poverty.  Stressing that human resources development was at the heart of economic, social and environmental development, he emphasized that health and education were at the core of human resources development.

Statement by Cambodia on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to come.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that hurricane devastation in Barbuda and Dominica had underscored the interconnected vulnerabilities of the State and individual.  Farmers had lost their crops.  People had lost their livelihoods.  Economies, with productive sectors — agriculture and tourism — were virtually at a halt, she said.  While the Caribbean had improved its diagnosis of the complexity of the poverty problem, it had been far less progressive with its solutions.  Emphasizing that each State had a responsibility to align its plans with the 2030 Agenda, she said that the United Nations must not attempt to prescribe solutions at the domestic level.  Simply put, the needs of Caribbean countries far exceeded their means.  The added high debt and exposure to climate change only increased the region’s vulnerabilities.  The Caribbean had to work with its partners to develop financial instruments appropriate for loss and damage.  “Development is not linear,” she said, adding that the new multidimensional perspective on poverty should signal a “step change” in the response.

SHAMEES AHSAN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, recounted the progress that had been made on poverty eradication in the last decade, citing it had fallen from 43.6 per cent in 2008 to 36.3 per cent in 2013.  However, levels of extreme poverty remained high in least developed countries and therefore remained a major concern.  Pointing out the vital role of economic growth in poverty eradication, he lamented that least developed countries were growing at the slowest pace of economic expansion since 2000.  Inequality in income, wealth and opportunities remained high in those States while conflicts, climate change, diseases and economic “shocks” continued to impact them.  To strengthen efforts, least developed countries must overcome structural impediments to enhance productive capacity and encourage the participation of women and children in poverty solutions.  Greater attention should be given to the agricultural sector, he continued, without neglecting the potential of the industrial sector.  Global support through financing was also vital and, in that regard, he looked forward to the implementation of ODA, trade and foreign direct investment (FDI).  Access to technology was also essential for development.  Finally, he stressed the importance of international support in addressing the severe impacts of climate change and natural hazards.

Ms. ZAHIR (Maldives), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that increasingly frequent and more intense weather events had reversed any sustainable development gains made in eradicating poverty.  Such events, in addition to the 2007 to 2009 global financial and economic crisis, put small island States further in debt.  There was limited space to diversify economies as such States that largely relied on tourism, agriculture and fisheries.  All those industries faced great harm from climate change and thus faced great volatility.  Her region’s limited resources went towards rebuilding rather than sustainable development, and any gains were further reversed by other aspects of climate change including warming ocean temperatures, sea level rise and acidification.  Her region also faced numerous unfair financial arrangements that placed countries at greater disadvantage in the global market, including illicit financial flows, unfair trade practices and taxation challenges.  Although statistics showed that many small island developing States experienced high economic growth rates, such growth did not result in sustainable job creation.  Due to those challenges, her region was left with high indebtedness.  “The odds are stacked heavily against us as we desperately try to not only meet our various international obligations but also to provide safe, productive and fruitful living conditions for our citizens,” she stated.  Gains around empowering women and girls were also set back, however she reiterated her region’s commitment to the advancement of gender equality.  She implored Member States to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change.  She also called for international financial institutions to evaluate their criteria for access to financing, and urged the Secretary‑General to ensure that small island developing States were taken into account in all reform efforts.  Finally, she called upon all partners to meet their ODA.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf CELAC and associating himself with CARICOM, said eradication of poverty and sustainable development with social, economic and financial inclusion were challenges requiring global, regional and national efforts.  The irreversible eradication of poverty was a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development and ensuring equal opportunities of progress for societies.  Sustainable development must include groups in situations of vulnerability so that no one was left behind.  Equity, social and financial inclusion and access to fair credit were central to ensure overall access to justice, citizen participation, well‑being and a dignified life.  He stressed the need to improve the mechanisms of regulation, supervision and control of the international and regional financial systems to promote an international financial environment conducive to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, considering that the mobilization of national resources was insufficient in achieving economic growth which would contribute to sustainable development and promote mechanisms of justice and social inclusion to eradicate poverty.  He also highlighted the positive impact of facilitating and increasing intraregional trade in food for food and nutrition security.  Finally, he recognized the relevancy of South‑South and triangular cooperation, complementary to North‑South cooperation, as well as ODA to increase national capacities, improve food and nutrition security and encourage the exchange of good practices.

ORLI GIL (Israel) said that eradicating poverty required promoting capacity‑building and not solely resorting to aid.  Developing countries faced many of the same challenges that Israel struggled with in its early years.  In that context, Israel continued to provide technology and training to nations facing desertification, water scarcity and water desalination.  Today, Israel reused 95 per cent of the water it consumed for agricultural purposes.  She said Israel was working with Governments, civil society, academia and the private sector to create innovative solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  Israel also offered courses to instructors from developing nations.  It viewed the involvement of women and young people in the workforce as a prerequisite to poverty eradication.

LU YUHUI (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the international community must accelerate efforts to eradicate poverty by 2030, including through domestic development.  He urged for enhanced development cooperation through the establishment of new international relationships.  He said all countries should support the United Nations, World Bank and other related institutions in their efforts for poverty eradication, and in that regard, he stressed the importance of North‑South and South‑South cooperation.  He encouraged all Governments to enhance support to developing countries and bolster in depth regional cooperation, including through pragmatic cooperation in agriculture, green energy and infrastructure among others.  He also urged the international community to promote an equitable financial order to ensure that developing countries would be enabled to improve their infrastructure, connectivity and integration into supply and value chains.  China remained committed to poverty eradication, he said, noting that more than 600 million people in the country had been lifted out of poverty.  Over the past 60 years, his Government provided 166 countries and international organizations with ODA and dispatched more than 600,000 personnel to assist with humanitarian aid.  His country also furthered initiatives for debt cancelation and would continue to deepen its cooperation and support to developing countries.

MARIA ANGELA PONCE (Philippines), associating herself with the ASEAN and the Group of 77, said that economic growth alone did not lead to poverty eradication.  Despite being a middle‑income country, 8.23 million Filipinos were still subsistence poor.  She noted the importance of ensuring that women and girls achieved their full potential and were given equal opportunities especially in contributing to the workforce.  It was critical to empower women to participate in the labour market.  The Philippines national plan outlined strategies in improving access to childcare services, formulating policies that promoted work‑life balance, providing retraining services for women and enhancing maternal and paternal benefits.  She called on the United Nations to continue to mainstream gender and poverty elimination in their plans.

ANGELA NG (Singapore), associating herself with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States and ASEAN, said that social safety nets were essential to achieving sustainable development.  “Every Singaporean must be able to stand on their own two feet and live a life of dignity,” she stressed.  Jobs, family support and an empowered civil society were all crucial for communities to grow and prosper.  She emphasized the importance of life‑long learning and training to ensure that citizens were equipped with the necessary skills in changing workspaces.  Poverty was multidimensional, she continued, emphasizing that Singapore’s social safety net encompassed health care, housing, education, a mandatory comprehensive social security savings plan and income supplements for low‑wage workers.  Singapore’s social service officers were also empowered to exercise flexibility when providing aid to low‑income individuals and families, which helped tailor assistance to their needs.

JAVAD MOMENI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that his country placed people at the heart of all development and had taken numerous steps to eradicate poverty.  Women were key contributors to the economy and the Government was working to create an enabling environment for them to become equal partners and beneficiaries of development.  Underscoring the link between poverty and peace, he added that the United Nations system should continue to coordinate its support to developing countries in their efforts to fight poverty.  The proclamation of a third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty would enhance those efforts.

HA THI THANH HUYEN (Viet Nam) said that poverty eradication was at the heart of development efforts.  In the last 30 years, more than 40 million Vietnamese people had escaped poverty.  That success was attributed to economic growth that created more and better jobs.  Yet challenges remained, as poverty persisted among ethnic minorities, and rural and mountainous populations.  Viet Nam was also among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts, including sea level rise, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones.  Natural hazards had caused average annual economic losses estimated at 1‑1.5 per cent of GDP in the last two decades.  To maintain the gains in poverty reduction, Viet Nam had to find comprehensive solutions that minimized trade‑offs.

Ms. ALMEHAID (Saudi Arabia) said her country attached great importance to the Sustainable Development Goals, and had placed a great deal of focus on empowering women.  One of the most important aspects of those efforts included bringing more women into the workforce.  The percentage of working women in the country had increased from 22 to 30 per cent, which had resulted in 1 million new jobs for women.  Saudi women were an integral part of society — they had been elected to local councils, participated in official delegations at international and regional conferences and were fully integrated in the diplomatic corps.  Further, a woman was currently the head of the Saudi stock exchange, which was the largest in the Middle East.  There were now more than 30,000 business women in Saudi Arabia, she noted, adding that women represented some 52 per cent of college students.  As a result, Saudi Arabia had expanded scientific departments to accommodate the influx of women studying in that area.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that poverty remained the greatest global challenge and its eradication was a compulsory requirement for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  To eradicate poverty in developing countries, those countries needed a fair chance as well as policy space to develop their economies, in order to bring about transformative sustainable development.  Member States should also demonstrate their will by committing to a rules‑based, non‑discriminatory multilateral system that would address systematic imbalances.

TLHALEFO BATSILE MADISA (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Africa Group, said that the pace of job creation remained inadequate in relation to the growing labour force.  His Government had made poverty eradication its top priority through social protection programmes that targeted the destitute and orphans.  He called on various development partners to continue assisting developing countries in terms of technical aid and capacity‑building, particularly in the areas of science and technology.  He reiterated that Africa had lagged behind all other regions in using information and communications technology (ICT).  While major challenges remained, Botswana had made significant progress to empower women and would remain committed to ensuring that no women and girls were left behind.

Mr. HENCKERT (Namibia) said that his Government had put in place several policies to protect workers, including minimum wage for key industries, safety standards and adherence to suitable environmental practices.  All primary and secondary school children had the right to free basic education, he said, pointing out that his country was undergoing a demographic transition, which presented an opportunity to leverage the large number of young workers to help build the economy.  The classification of Namibia as an upper‑middle‑income country was problematic, he said, because that did not take into account the huge income disparity between the rich and the poor.

RY TUY (Cambodia), associating himself with ASEAN, the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, he stressed the need to improve the quality of life for all citizens by investing in education and health, and diversifying the economy.  Outlining ways to increase Cambodia’s GDP by 2025, he noted that diversifying exports would help to deviate overreliance on the garment, tourism and agriculture industries.  Cambodia’s achievements in poverty reduction had been driven by robust and equitable macroeconomic growth.  That included strong checks on inflation, significant increases in agricultural production and productivity, and strengthening and improving infrastructure.  International support was still welcomed, he said, noting that official development assistance (ODA) played a significant role in contributing to the success of the 2030 Agenda.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said that issues such as health, education and economic growth were all of importance for his Government.  As such, he said that various strategies and policies had been put in place to support those areas including human resources development and poverty eradication.  Programmes that improved education and training, addressed non‑communicable diseases by promoting healthy lifestyles and formal services that helped the most vulnerable, including the elderly and disabled, were now all in place in Tonga.  Further, strengthening women’s economic empowerment and ensuring equal access to full and productive employment and decent work were other areas of concern and had been bolstered thanks to support from the European Union and various civil society initiatives.

Mr. ALKHAFAJI (Iraq), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country’s poverty rate had dropped to about 13 per cent in 2013 due to falling oil prices and the occupation by ISIL, which had led to unprecedented displacement of the population.  Iraq’s development plans extended to 2030 with a view to eradicating poverty by increasing wages and reducing disparities in pay between men and women.  Iraq granted loans to help the poor create new businesses and small‑scale projects, he said, emphasizing that more assistance was needed from the international community to alleviate poverty due to the country’s unique circumstances.

MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) associating himself with the Group of 77, the Group of Least Developed Countries, and ASEAN, saying that reducing extreme poverty and overcoming other daunting development challenges would not be possible without further strengthening international development cooperation.  In that connection, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic called on development partners to scale‑up financing for United Nations operational activities, he said, adding that the Government attached great importance to eradicating poverty and to rural development, he said, calling attention to his country’s particular development challenges due to the prevalence of unexploded ordnance.

Mr. TAMALGO (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that in 2016, his country had adopted a national socioeconomic plan for the period 2016‑2020 with a view to transforming the domestic economy through a favourable industrial environment and reform of the education system.  The Government had also promoted competitive industries, thereby strengthening productivity and the marketing of agricultural products.  Structural changes included improved urbanization, a lower birth rate and falling child mortality.  Ultimately, the effect of the national strategy would be the creation of 50,000 decent jobs per year, he said.  The strategy would also reduce demographic growth to 2.7 per cent by 2020, accelerate human capital and reduce negative consumption patterns.  Burkina Faso would continue its efforts to mobilize its natural resources to finance that strategy, he said.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, recalled that for more than a decade, his country had been on a path to realizing its Vision 2030 of becoming a prosperous middle‑income country.  However, persistently high national poverty levels remained at around 54.4 per cent, despite strong economic growth.  The situation in rural areas was even worse, with poverty estimated to be around 76.6 per cent, she noted.  The number of vulnerable households had also taken an upward swing, with people lacking access to such essential basic services as health care, education, water and sanitation.  In that context, the Government of Zambia had committed to reducing the national poverty rate by 20 per cent by 2021.

LEULESEGED TADESE ABEBE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the progress made in eradicating poverty was uneven across and within regions, adding that 35 per cent of the people in least developed countries could still be living in poverty by 2030.  The Government of Ethiopia continued to coordinate development efforts with political commitment, and as a result of its efforts, the national economy had registered double‑digit growth through three consecutive national development plans.  Poverty had declined from 45 to 22 per cent, and per capita income had grown from $377 in 2009 to $794 in 2016.  Ethiopia had also undertaken legal and policy measures that had attracted special attention to the economic empowerment and political participation of women and girls, he said.  Reducing poverty by generating decent and productive jobs while consolidating the pace of structural transformation would remain among the top development priorities, but national efforts would not succeed without a revitalized global partnership and an enabling development environment.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said poverty was the result of the unjust and exclusionary economic model that had prevailed in recent decades.  Capitalism had never placed human beings at its heart and had doomed millions of people to lives of poverty.  Foreign occupation, political and economic destabilization, colonialism, war and the international financial system were the real obstacles that must be overcome if poverty was to be eradicated, he emphasized.  The world’s richest minority continued to benefit from that unfair world order, while its poorest people remained marginalized and excluded, he said, underlining the need to change the world economic order in order to ensure that everybody benefited, rather than a select number of elites.  Measures of poverty should take levels of inequality into account from the perspective of economic, social and citizen rights, he said.

GONZALEZ PENA (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of 77, CELAC and AOSIS, said the current international economic order was deeply unjust and unsustainable.  It had the increasingly profound effect of marginalizing many nations in the global South.  Hunger, extreme poverty, illiteracy, lack of sanitation and premature death remained constant in many countries, and more than 80 per cent of the world’s population survived on less than one dollar a day, he said, adding that one billion people lived in extreme poverty.  Those statistics stood in stark contrast to data on the developed world, he noted.  Cuba believed firmly in South‑South cooperation and international solidarity, sharing its modest resources with other nations through international cooperation, he said, emphasizing that humanity’s survival would depend on social justice, equality and respect for the rights of all peoples.

LOT DZONZI (Malawi), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, expressed concern that poverty remained a hurdle to sustainable development, despite the progress made in reducing poverty numbers from 17.8 per cent of the world population in 2008 to 10.7 per cent in 2013.  In Africa, levels of extreme poverty remained very high despite the drop in the proportion of people living on less than $1.90 per day from 44.8 per cent in 2008 to 39.2 per cent in 2013.  Malawi’s poverty rates had exceeded 70 per cent in 2013, he recalled, adding that it had made great strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS as well as maternal and child mortality.  However, challenges remained in unemployment, particularly for young people, he said.  Addressing them would require consistent and reliable resources that would facilitate technological diversification, economic expansion and increased industrialization, he emphasized.  The Government promoted women’s participation at all levels, and embraced the need to improve their terms and conditions by facilitating reconciliation with unpaid care work and eliminating gender discrimination in the labour market.  He also urged inclusive action to address issues relating to water, energy, resilient housing, sustainable consumption and production patterns as well as sustainable ecosystems and partnerships.

News

New significant sites inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage list

12 July 2017 &#150 The World Heritage Committee wrapped its 41st session today having inscribed 21 new sites on the United Nations cultural wing’s World Heritage List – locations ranging from the site of iconic ancient ruins in south-western Turkey to a district of stunning mountains and mirror lakes in England.

Meeting in Krakow, Poland, from 2 to 12 July, the Committee completed the addition of 18 cultural and three natural significant sites to the List. The planet is now home to 1,073 such sites, most of them in the European region.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regards inscribed sites as having great significance to the collective interest of humanity. The Committee, which monitors implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, decides about inscriptions on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger, monitors the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.

The Committee approved new sites in all the worlds regions.

Europe

Various new European sites have been inscribed, including: the archaeological site of Aphrodisias (Turkey); the English Lake District (United Kingdom); Caves and ice age art in the Swabian Jura (Germany); Kujataa Greenland, a sub-arctic farming landscape (Denmark); Taputapuatea, the centre of the “Polynesian Triangle” (France); Tarnowskie Góry, led-silver-zinc mine and its Underground Water Management System (Poland); Venetian Works of Defense (Croatia, Italy, Montenegro); Landscapes of Dauria (Mongolia); and Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the town-island of Sviyazhsk (Russia).

Aphrodisias, Turkey. The temple of Aphrodite dates from the 3rd century BC and the city was built one century later. The wealth of Aphrodisias came from the marble quarries and the art produced by its sculptors. Photo: UNESCO/ Aphrodisias Museum

The English Lake District, United Kingdom. Located in northwest England, the English Lake District is a mountainous area, whose valleys have been modelled by glaciers in the Ice Age and subsequently shaped by an agro-pastoral land-use system characterized by fields enclosed by walls. The combined work of nature and human activity has produced a harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes. Photo: UNESCO/ Nick Bodle

Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura, Germany. Modern humans first arrived in Europe 43,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. One of the areas where they took up residence was the Swabian Jura in southern Germany. Excavated from the 1860s, six caves have revealed items dating from 43,000 to 33,000 years ago. Photo: UNESCO/ Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (LAD) im Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart

Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap, Denmark. Kujataa is a sub-arctic farming landscape located in the southern region of Greenland. It bears witness to the cultural histories of the Norse hunters-gatherers who started arriving from Iceland in the 10th century and of the Norse farmers, Inuit hunters and Inuit farming communities that developed from the end of the 18thcentury. Photo: UNESCO/ Niels Christian Clemmensen/ Christian K. Madsen

Taputapuatea, France. Taputapuatea on Ra’iatea Island is at the centre of the “Polynesian Triangle,” a vast portion of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with islands, and the last part of the globe to be settled by humans. The property includes two forested valleys, a portion of lagoon and coral reef and a strip of open ocean. At the heart of the property is the Taputapuatea maraecomplex, a political, ceremonial and funerary centre. Photo: UNESCO/ SCP

Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System, Poland. Located in Upper Silesia, in southern Poland, one of the main mining areas of central Europe, the site includes the entire underground mine with adits, shafts, galleries and water management system. Photo: UNESCO/ Tarnowskie Góry Land Lovers’ Association

Venetian Works of Defence between 15th and 17th centuries: Stato da Terra – western Stato da Mar, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro. This property consists of 15 components of defence works in Italy, Croatia and Montenegro, spanning more than 1,000 kilometres between the Lombard region of Italy and the eastern Adriatic Coast. Side view of the Porta San Giacomo and the walls, Bergamo, Italy. Photo: UNESCO/ SiTI – Higher Institute on Territorial Systems for Innovation

Landscapes of Dauria, Mongolia, Russian. Shared between Mongolia and the Russian Federation, this site is an outstanding example of the Daurian Steppe eco-region, which extends from eastern Mongolia into Russian Siberia and north-eastern China. Cyclical climate changes, with distinct dry and wet periods lead to a wide diversity of species and ecosystems of global significance. Photo: UNESCO/ Evgeniy Kokukhin

Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the town-island of Sviyazhsk, Russia. Located in the town-island of Sviyazhsk and part of the monastery of the same name, the Assumption Monastery illustrates in its location and architectural composition the political and missionary programme developed by Tsar Ivan IV to extend the Moscow state. Photo: UNESCO/ Regional Foundation of Revival of Historical and Cultural Monuments of Republic of Tatarstan

Africa

In Africa an additional three sites have been listed: Asmara, a modernist city of Africa (Eritrea) Mbanza Kongo, political and spiritual capital of the Kingdom of Kongo (Angola) and Khomani Cultural Landscape (South Africa).

Asmara: a Modernist City of Africa, Eritrea. After 1935, Asmara underwent a large scale programme of construction applying the Italian rationalist idiom of the time to governmental edifices, residential and commercial buildings, churches, mosques, synagogues, cinemas, hotels, etc. Photo: UNESCO/ Asmara Heritage Project

Mbanza Kongo, Vestiges of the Capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo, Angola. The town of Mbanza Kongo, located on a plateau at an altitude of 570 metres, was the political and spiritual capital of the Kingdom of Kongo, one of the largest constituted states in Southern Africa from the 14th to 19thcenturies. Photo: UNESCO/ INPC

Khomani Cultural Landscape, South Africa. Located at the border with Botswana and Namibia in the northern part of the country, the landscape is coinciding with the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (KGNP). The large expanse of sand contains evidence of human occupation from the Stone Age to the present and is associated with the culture of the formally nomade Khomani San people and the strategies that allowed them to adapt to harsh desert conditions. Photo: UNESCO/ Francois Odendaal Productions (FOP Films)

Americas

In the Americas Valongo Wharf (Brazil) has been listed as an archaeological site while also Los Alerces National Park (Argentina) has been inscribed.

Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site, Brazil. Located in central Rio de Janeiro, the site encompasses the entirety of Jornal do Comércio Square. It is in the former harbour area of Rio de Janeiro in which the old stone wharf was built for the landing of enslaved Africans reaching the South American continent from 1811 onwards. An estimated 900,000 Africans arrived in South America via Valongo. Photo: UNESCO/ Milton Guran.

Los Alerces National Park, Argentina. Located in the Andes of northern Patagonia, the park has a western boundary, which coincides with the Chilean border. Successive glaciations have moulded the landscape in the region creating spectacular features such as moraines, glacial cirques and clear-water lakes. Photo: UNESCO/ Ricardo Villalba

Asia

In the Asian region have been inscribed: Qinghai Hoh Xil, world’s highest and largest plateau and Kulangsu, a historic international settlement (China), historic city of Ahmedabad (India), sacred island of Okinoshima and associated sites in the Munakata Region (Japan), Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, archaeological site of ancient Ishanapura (Cambodia) and the historic city of Yazd (Iran).

Qinghai Hoh Xil, China. Located in the north-eastern extremity of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, Qinghai Hoh Xil is the largest and highest plateau in the world. This extensive area of alpine mountains and steppe systems is situated more than 4,500 m above sea level, where sub-zero average temperatures prevail all year-round. Photo: UNESCO/ Peking University

Kulangsu: a Historic International Settlement, China. Kulangsu is a tiny island located on the estuary of the Chiu-lung River, facing the city of Xiamen. With the opening of a commercial port at Xiamen in 1843, and the establishment of the island as an international settlement in 1903, this island off the southern coast of the Chinese empire suddenly became an important window for Sino-foreign exchanges. Photo: UNESCO/ Cultural Heritage Conservation Center of THAD

Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, Archaeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura, Cambodia. The archaeological site of Sambor Prei Kuk, “the temple in the richness of the forest” in the Khmer language, has been identified as Ishanapura, the capital of the Chenla Empire that flourished in the late 6th and early 7th centuries CE. The art and architecture developed here became models for other parts of the region and lay the ground for the unique Khmer style of the Angkor period. Photo: UNESCO/ So Sokun Theary

Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region, Japan. Located 60 kilometres off the western coast of Kyushu island, the island of Okinoshima is an exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island. The archaeological sites that have been preserved on the Island are virtually intact, and provide a chronological record of how the rituals performed there changed from the 4th to the 9th centuries CE. Photo: UNESCO/ World Heritage Promotion Committee

Historic City of Yazd, Iran. Located in the middle of the Iranian plateau, 270 kilometres southeast of Isfahan, close to the Spice and Silk Roads, the city bears living testimony to the use of limited resources for survival in the desert. Photo: UNESCO/ ICHHTO

Middle East

Additionally, in the Middle East Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Occupied Palestinian Territories) have been listed.

Hebron/ Al-Khalil Old Town, Occupied Palestine Territory. The use of a local limestone shaped the construction of the old town of Hebron/ Al-Khalil during the Mamluk period between 1250 and 1517. The centre of interest of the town was the site of Al mosque-Ibrahim/ the tomb of the Patriarchs. This place became a site of pilgrimage for the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Photo: UNESCO/ Firas AL_Hashlamoun

List of World Heritage in Danger

In the same session, the Committee inscribed the Historic Centre of Vienna on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to high-rise projects in the middle of the Austrian capital. The UNESCO Committee regrets that the Vienna Ice-Skating Club—Intercontinental Hotel project fails to comply fully with previous Committee decisions, notably concerning the height of new constructions and argues the project will impact adversely the outstanding universal value of the site.

The Committee stressed that Vienna developed from early Celtic and Roman settlements into a Medieval and Baroque city to become the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Vienna played an essential role as a leading European music centre, from the great age of Viennese Classicism through the early part of the 20th century while the historic centre of the Austrian capital is rich in architectural ensembles, including Baroque castles and gardens, as well as the late-19th century Ringstrasse.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria. Photo: UN Photo/ Rocio Franco

News

Close $7 Billion Funding Gap in AIDS Response, Speakers Stress, Urging Assistance for At-Risk Females, as General Assembly Charts Progress towards Ending Pandemic

Despite global gains in the fight against the HIV and AIDS epidemic, some 1,800 young people a day were being newly infected with the virus and prevention rates among adults around the world had stalled, the General Assembly’s President said today.

Peter Thomson, in his remarks at the start of a debate that reviewed international progress towards achieving a world free of the virus by 2030, commended notable advancements, as well.  He said that antiretroviral medicines had become significantly more available to those who needed them and that there had been a decline in the number of babies born with HIV.

However, he continued, ending the epidemic by 2030, a goal the international community pledged to last year with the signing of the Political Declaration on Ending AIDS, required a comprehensive approach.  It would require ensuring access to education, information and services to people living with HIV and to those groups most at risk.

It was also important to combat the stigma attached to those living with HIV and groups at risk including men who have sex with men and transgender persons, and people who inject drugs, he said.  Bringing together the power and cooperation of all stakeholders would help build synergies and progress in the fight against the epidemic.  To that end, he urged Member States to fund the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other programmes that aimed to meet those objectives.  It was particularly crucial to close the $7 billion funding gap for the global AIDS response.

“The AIDS pandemic is far from over,” Amina Mohammed, Deputy-Secretary-General of the United Nations, warned.  She stressed that young women and adolescent girls, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa, were particularly vulnerable.  The region had a high rate of infection, lagged in testing and remained behind in HIV treatment.  Addressing such concerning gaps required the integration of HIV into sexual reproductive programmes.  She highlighted the critical role of communities in coming up with solutions and encouraged Governments to listen closely to what they had to say.  “If we do that, we will truly be able to end AIDS,” Ms. Mohammed added.

She also urged Member States to heed the call to reach the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and highlighted the need to establish within the United Nations system, and particularly UNAIDS, a culture of accountability that focused on people rather than bureaucracy.  Ending AIDS fit squarely within the 2030 Agenda, whose goals and targets reinforced efforts to eradicate the virus.

Echoing a similar sentiment in the debate that followed, Gambia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that poverty and unemployment aggravated HIV and AIDS.  The AIDS epidemic was indeed disproportionately affecting sub-Saharan Africa, with Eastern and Southern Africa home to half of the world’s people living with HIV.

Throughout the morning debate, speakers called for a redoubling of global efforts to ensure access to affordable drugs, address the particular vulnerabilities of women and girls, and to boost the international cooperation to the epidemic through UNAIDS and other United Nations programmes.

Norway’s speaker said that, with the female prison population rising globally, HIV prevalence rate among female inmates was much higher than those outside of jail.  Many children were born in prisons, and yet there were no systems in place to prevent HIV transmission, or to even monitor transmission in such cases.

Some speakers noted good news, with the representative of India reporting that new infections in his country had declined by 66 per cent from 2000 to 2015.  He credited the achievement to collaboration among Government, communities and people living with HIV, and civil society.  Reaching “the last mile” would require laws that addressed discrimination and fight stigma in education and the workplace.

Several other speakers also emphasized the need to fight discrimination and stigma, with the delegate from Kenya, where 1.5 million people lived with HIV, said that the Government had launched a “Kick Out HIV Stigma” campaign that sought to engage youth through county football leagues.  Colombia’s delegate called stigma a determining factor, which often compounded vulnerabilities, and expressed concern that “someone living with the virus could be rejected by their family or from their job”.

Speakers from developing countries urged developed countries to keep up with their financing of the HIV and AIDS global response.  The representative of France, stressing the need for innovative and ambitious funding solutions, said a tax on airline tickets and financial transactions had enabled her country to cover nearly 60 per cent of the annual budget of the international drug purchase facility UNITAID.  She went on to say preparations should be made for middle-income countries that would no longer be a part of international financing mechanisms, given that more than half of those living with HIV were in those countries.

Some Member States, although backing global efforts to end AIDS, also said countries should be able to deal with the epidemic as seen fit for their needs.  The representative of the Russian Federation said he did not agree with some provisions of the Secretary-General’s report on reinvigorating the AIDS response, which the Assembly had before it.  Emphasizing the need for a balanced response that reflected cultural and religious specificities, he said it was perplexing to consider that the criminalization of drugs and drug use was a barrier to AIDS-related services.  Punishment for drug-related crimes was the prerogative of States.

Also today, the General Assembly elected Chairpersons to its six committees as follows:  Mouayed Saleh (Iraq) to its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security); Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) to its Second Committee (Economic and Financial); Einar Gunnarsson (Iceland) to its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural); Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) to its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization); Tommo Monthe (Cameroon) to its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary); and Burhan Gafoor (Singapore) to its Sixth Committee (Legal).

The Assembly also appointed Steve Townley (United Kingdom) as a member of the Committee on Contributions for a term beginning on 1 June and ending on 31 December — as recommended by the Fifth Committee.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Philippines (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Bulgaria, Switzerland, Botswana, Lichtenstein, Namibia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Luxembourg, United States, Mexico, El Salvador and Japan, as well as the European Union.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said that, while major advancements had been made, including scaled-up access to antiretroviral treatments, and a decline in the number of children born with HIV, the scale of shortcomings remained deeply concerning.  HIV prevention rates among adults around the world had largely stalled, with the number of new infections actually increasing in some regions.  Some 1,800 young people a day were being newly infected with the virus, with young women at particular risk.  Ending the epidemic of AIDS by 2030 required a comprehensive and inclusive approach, he added, stressing the need to provide education, information and services to people living with HIV and to those at risk.

It was particularly crucial to combat stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and populations at higher risk of infection including sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender persons and people who inject drugs, he continued.  Harnessing the power of all stakeholders would help meet the global challenges through strengthening already established strategic partnerships, as well as creating new ones. It was important to leverage the integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals by building on the synergies between the global AIDS response and efforts to achieve universal health coverage.  Adequate funding remained critical to meet the objectives, he added, emphasizing the need to close the $7 billion funding gap for the global AIDS response.

AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy-Secretary-General of the United Nations, said achieving the aim on AIDS was linked with the greater 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “The AIDS pandemic is far from over,” she warned Member States, expressing concern at the lack of decline in the number of new annual infections. People with HIV and those groups particularly at risk must have access to services at every stage of life, she said, noting that the world had the scientific knowledge to help those infected.  Young women and adolescent girls, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa, were particularly vulnerable.  “Now we need to do a better job to reach young and adolescent girls,” she stressed.

It was critical to integrate HIV and sexual reproduction programmes, she continued, emphasizing the need for those infected to access services and treatment.  Ending AIDS fit squarely within the 2030 Agenda, whose goals and targets reinforced efforts to eradicate the virus.  She urged Member States to heed the call to reach the targets and highlighted the need to establish within the United Nations system, and particularly at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), a culture of accountability that focused on people rather than bureaucracy.  Reiterating the link between achieving the 2030 Agenda and eradicating the AIDS epidemic, she highlighted the role of communities in coming up with solutions.  “I encourage you to listen closely to what communities have to say; if we do that we will truly be able to end AIDS,” she said.

Statements

MAMADOU TANGARA (Gambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said Africa’s commitment to fight HIV and AIDS — which threatened sustainable development — was unwavering, as demonstrated by the African Union Road Map on Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa.  Poverty and unemployment aggravated HIV and AIDS, he said, stressing also the need for progress in gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  The AIDS epidemic disproportionately affected sub-Saharan Africa, he said, with eastern and southern Africa being home to half the world’s people living with HIV.

Underscoring the importance of sexual health education related to HIV, he said AIDS-related stigma was undermining an effective AIDS response.  People with HIV faced challenges around the world, including the violation of their human rights.  In some cases, those with disabilities were at higher risk of infection, as were those displaced by humanitarian emergencies.  The African Group strongly appealed for people with HIV to be treated equally and fairly, he said, expressing thanks to those States that had lifted travel restrictions on people living with HIV and AIDS.  He went on to call on donor countries to invest more in HIV and AIDS to break the $7 billion gap, and emphasized the need for greater technological transfers and capacity-building.

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that, in 2015, an estimated 1.7 million people in the region had been affected by HIV.  Affected populations differed in each member State and could include sex workers and their clients, people who injected drugs, men who had sex with men and the transgender population.  In September 2016, ASEAN had adopted the Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS, reaffirming its support for the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS:  On the Fast-Track to Accelerating the Fight against HIV and to Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030.

The ASEAN Declaration would focus on several areas and ensure no one was left behind in HIV and AIDS response efforts, he said.  Activities included offering programmes for key affected populations, scaling up and strengthening prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services, and pledging to ensure the achievement of the 90-90-90 treatment target by 2020.  ASEAN would also sustain the response by further strengthening the capacities of national and local Governments and continue to invest in broad community participation.

ANTONIO PARENTI, European Union, reaffirming its commitment to the 2016 Political Declaration, said the time had come to scale up prevention and testing programmes, as well as to address social inequalities and determinants that affected prevention, access to screening and care.  “We need to combine health instruments with social instruments and work together across health and social policies,” he said, adding that, in doing so, it was important to help community organizations come up with more effective approaches to reduce stigma and discrimination.

He said the European Union and its member States were committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control over — and to decide freely and responsibly — on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence.  He also emphasized the need for universal and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education — including sexuality education — and health-care services.  The European Union’s investment in AIDS included €60 million for developing a vaccine.  He went on to say that it was crucial to ensure that the global AIDS response was adequately funding, including the UNAIDS-Global Fund partnership.  With UNAIDS having a critical role to play, its unique model should be refined and reinforced so that it could keep guiding the global agenda, support countries as they adopted fast-track approaches, and remain a pathfinder for United Nations reform.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, expressed concern that delivery gaps of HIV prevention, testing and treatment services were largest among people most in need, especially those facing hate crimes due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.  For young people, he advocated universal access to sexuality education and non-judgmental services, stressing that ending AIDS required progress across the entire human rights spectrum, with gender equality and an end to gender-based violence at the centre of the response.  For its part, Bulgaria had created a comprehensive HIV prevention programme involving the Government, medical institutions and civil society, and had established 35 preventive health centres.  The new national strategy on HIV and sexually transmitted infections for 2017-2020, adopted in March, complied with international standards and political commitments.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) said AIDS was both a public health and development problem.  She expressed concern that overall progress on the epidemic had been weak.  Colombia had a low prevalence rate throughout the country and above 5 per cent in most affected areas.  The Government continued to remain committed to the 2030 Agenda and had followed recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).  Still, challenges persisted, she continued, urging the United Nations to double its efforts to end the epidemic by paying particular attention to ensuring access to affordable medicines, comprehensive sex education and improved diagnosis.  She said stigma was a determining factor, which often compounded vulnerabilities, and expressed concern that “someone living with the virus could be rejected by their family or from their job”.  Sexual and reproductive rights were human rights, which must be promoted and protected without discrimination.  Resources for public health, however, remained scarce, she added, calling for global strategies to help scale-up the response.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said that access to effective and affordable medicines remained critical to combating the epidemic.  More than 80 per cent of the quality antiretroviral drugs used globally were supplied by the Indian pharmaceutical industry.  For its part, new infections in India had declined by 66 per cent from 2000 to 2015, and AIDS-related deaths had fallen by 54 per cent between 2007 and 2015.  He credited that success to collaboration between Government, communities and people living with and affected by HIV, civil society and other stakeholders.  India was now building on lessons learned to redefine the national approach to reach “the last mile”.  It was working to enact an HIV and AIDS law focused on protecting the human rights of people living with or affected by HIV by addressing discrimination in education and the workplace.  Moreover, some 21,000 HIV counselling and testing centres continued to help ensure that 90 per cent of people infected by HIV were on treatment.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Zambia, said that UNAIDS had been working systematically across the United Nations system with co-sponsoring organizations for more than 20 years.  It was important to put the recommendations set out in the report of the Global Review Panel on the Future of the UNAIDS Joint Programme Model in the context of wider United Nations reform.  The Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS clearly laid out the strategic direction for the next few years, he continued.

If the AIDS epidemic was to be eliminated as a public health threat by 2030, fast-tracking the response would be the key, he added, underscoring several particularly prevalent points.  First, a balanced approach between prevention and treatment was crucial.  Second, it would be critical to ensure that human rights and gender equality were at the centre of any action.  He also highlighted the need for an evidence-based approach in order to focus on location and population and to “take AIDS out of isolation”.  That meant also strategically and efficiently linking funding for HIV and AIDS with broader health systems issues.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, said the fight against HIV and AIDS remained a key priority for his country’s national development plans, with 95 per cent of people living with HIV having access to antiretroviral drugs.  However, HIV and AIDS remained a domestic and global threat, he said, emphasizing that it should remain a top priority.  To control the epidemic, Botswana would implement the Most-At-Risk Populations Programme during 2017-2018, he said, urging Member States to continue to review national and global responses with a view to ending the epidemic by 2030.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said legal, social and cultural barriers undermined efforts to combat HIV and AIDS at the national and international levels.  Only a comprehensive strategy would enable commitments to be delivered. While some countries had contributed to destigmatization, it was alarming that discrimination persisted in others, with homosexuality still a crime in almost 80 countries.  Women and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive rights and health services had proven successful in preventing HIV and AIDS, especially mother-to-child transmission, but that was by no means universal.  He said his country would continue to support HIV- and AIDS-related projects run by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and others, giving priority to prevention and vulnerable groups.

NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the African Group, said his country was among those most affected by HIV, with 14 per cent prevalence.  While a marked improvement over 18 per cent registered in 2010, young women and adolescent girls were most at risk of contracting the virus, due to a lack of sexual and health education and limited access to resources.  Namibia’s aggressive anti-HIV and AIDS campaign included an antiretroviral programme, rolled out in 2002, and a systematic focus on social and behaviour change, HIV counselling and testing, condom distribution, voluntary male circumcision and prevention of mother-to-child transmission.  The Government’s contribution to total HIV and AIDS spending had grown from 55 per cent in 2012-2013 to 64 per cent by 2013-2014.  It was conducting an 18-month assessment to examine the distribution of HIV and the impact of the prevention, care and treatment response.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said it was time to redouble political commitments and resources to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic. “We cannot allow the achievements made to date to weaken our commitment,” he said.  Argentina supported a human-rights- and gender-based approach, he said, adding that the promotion, protection and full enjoyment of all human rights for women and girls — including sexual and reproductive rights — was fundamental.  So, too, was universal access to health coverage and access to affordable quality medication. Reiterating support for UNAIDS, he said it should be provided with all necessary resources so that it could fulfil its mandate.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said that countries and regions must be able to respond to specific patterns of the epidemic.  For example, Governments of high‑prevalence epidemic countries must focus on the needs of populations that were at higher risk of infection.  In Brazil, there had been high incidences among people who use drugs and young men who have sex with men.  During the last 30 years, however, Brazil had made substantial progress.  Today, some 500,000 people benefited from antiretroviral therapy, he continued, stressing that the participation of civil society in designing and implementing HIV and AIDS programmes was a pivotal tool for progress.  Underscoring the need to reduce therapy prices, he emphasizing that public health must always prevail over commercial interests.  He also called on developed countries to keep their commitments to maintain and expand pledges and international cooperation in order to address collective challenges

MARIANNE LOE (Norway) said that HIV disproportionately affected young people.  Girls in sub-Saharan Africa were facing a “triple threat”:  a high risk of HIV infection, low rates of HIV testing and poor adherence to HIV treatment.  Education was one of the most powerful ways of improving people’s health and of making sure that the benefits were passed on to future generations.  Taking AIDS out of isolation remained imperative, she continued, underscoring the need to ensure that UNAIDS continued to deliver results within the realm of budgetary constraints and increased funding insecurity.  Noting that the female prison population was rising around the world, she said that the HIV prevalence rate among women in prison was much higher than those outside of prison.  Many children were unfortunately born in prisons, and there were no systems in place to prevent HIV transmission, or to even monitor transmission in such cases.

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya), associating herself with the African Group, said 1.5 million people in her country lived with HIV, with most new cases being among adolescents and young people.  To deal with the scourge, Kenya had adopted a data-driven and multi-sector HIV response, aimed at speeding up access to services for young people and the most vulnerable.  To combat HIV-related stigma, the Government had launched a “Kick Out HIV Stigma” campaign that sought to engage youth through county football leagues.  Mother-to-child transmission had declined from 16 per cent in 2012 to 8.3 per cent in 2015, but progress remained uneven across counties.  Emphasizing that high-burden countries like Kenya could not achieve HIV and AIDS targets without cooperation and support from partners such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, she called on Member States to commit themselves to closing the $7 billion investment gap required to end AIDS and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada) expressed concern that, in recent years, there had been no decrease in mortality and new infection rates.  He called for scaling up new approaches to reach key vulnerable populations with testing and treatment.  Adolescents, in the context of the epidemic, were poorly understood and challenging to reach, and as a consequence at heightened risk of getting infected.  He underscored that women and girls were agents of change, in their families and communities, and that their leadership must be fully integrated into the fight against the epidemic.  It was also important to bolster efforts fight tuberculosis, the leading cause of death among people infected with HIV and AIDS.  He welcomed the call to improve and strengthen UNAIDS methods and functionality in the broader efforts to accelerate reform within the greater United Nations system.  The fight against HIV and AIDS required collective efforts.

PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that recent progress in fighting HIV instilled hope that the AIDS epidemic would be eliminated by 2030.  However, the Russian Federation could not agree with some provisions of the Secretary-General’s report on reinvigorating the AIDS response to catalyse sustainable development and United Nations reform, he said, emphasizing the need for a balanced response that reflected cultural and religious specificities.  The Russian Federation believed that the fundamental goal of public health approaches was not drug-related harm reduction, but ending the use of drugs for non-medicinal purposes.  He added that it was perplexing to consider that the criminalization of drugs and drug use was a barrier to AIDS-related services.  Punishment for drug-related crimes was the prerogative of States.  Responsible conduct, particularly among young people, should be encouraged and UNAIDS and UNICEF should coordinate their work in that regard.  The Russian Federation was working in a targeted way to prevent the spread of HIV through awareness-raising campaigns that included young people at school and work, he said, adding that a regional conference on HIV and AIDS would be held in Moscow in April 2018.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said policies and programmes to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 must be ambitious, underpinned by political will, professional support and sufficient human and financial resources.  Sustainable financial support for prevention, screening and treatment was critical.  So, too, was the fight against stigma and discrimination, particularly in rural areas where transmission was less frequently detected.  She said Hungary had been quite successful in containing HIV and AIDS, with 90 per cent of those diagnosed as HIV-positive having access to antiretroviral therapy and almost 90 per cent of patients getting treatment being HIV-virus-free or having very low viral loads.  Every HIV patient moreover had access to the latest antiretroviral drugs for a very low fee.

MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said his country was committed to the Political Declaration in accordance with national laws and priorities and with international human rights principles.  Kyrgyzstan’s national sustainable development strategy recognized the importance of addressing HIV and AIDS and a national programme would be adopted soon.  The Government was also in the process of identifying the largest number of people living with HIV and rapid testing was being carried out, with mobile clinics serving remote areas.  Discussions were also being held on existing challenges and solutions.  The economic hardships of developing States restricted their ability to finance HIV and AIDS programmes, he said, emphasizing that, without sufficient funding, many gains would be lost.  Achieving the agreed‑upon goals depended on States, civil society and international partners committing to progress.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), associating himself with ASEAN, said it was alarming that so many people who were HIV positive had no idea about their status.  That could lead to more infections and the transmission of the virus from pregnant mothers to their babies.  Highlighting steps taken by the Government, he said that it had been providing antiretroviral drugs at treatment centres throughout the country.  Moreover, the use of condoms was being promoted and mobile-testing was reaching communities particularly at risk.  Underscoring the need for legal and policy frameworks to support action, he cited several laws particularly related to the provision of reproductive health services.  The Government was also focusing on preventing mother-to-child transmission by conducting HIV tests and providing counselling services.  It was also encouraging responsible sexual behaviour that encompassed abstinence, fidelity and the consistent use of condoms.

HARALD BRAUN (Luxembourg), warning against yielding to self-satisfaction, expressed support for the Secretary-General’s call for a revolution in HIV testing.  It was thus important to strengthen testing services and increase access to them, he said, adding that girls’ education and food security also contributed to reducing HIV infection rates.  Noting his country’s financial contribution to HIV and AIDS efforts, he stressed the need to ensure the effective provision of resources.

STEFANIE AMADEO (United States) said UNAIDS data-driven evidence was critical in ensuring the greatest possible impact of global investments.  “Having the right data is vital to tracking progress,” she continued.  Highlighting the work of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a national programme aimed at combating the epidemic, she underscored her Government’s commitment to HIV prevention, detection and treatment.  The work, however, was far from done, she added, emphasizing the need to focus on preventing new cases of HIV infections and noting that young women and adolescent girls were at higher risk of infection.  Continued global solidarity and strategic investments put the world on a trajectory to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic.  “As a global community, we have made tremendous progress, but this is no time to slow down and rest on our laurels,” she stressed.  It would take all partners to work with commitment and focus to end the AIDS epidemic.

JUDITH MARCIA ARRIETA MUNGUIA (Mexico) said Member States and the United Nations system must scale up efforts to combat HIV and AIDS.  Mexico had the fourth-lowest rate of people living with HIV in the Americas.  There were still major challenges in key groups, however, including men who have sex with men and sex workers.  The involvement of young people, women and those living with HIV was critical.  Federal resources continued to be made available for civil society projects and projects in the area of prevention, detection and treatment.  Prevention policies were cost-effective when compared with other aspects of control.  Detection was fundamental, as well, she continued, underscoring the need to correctly identify key groups.  It was essential to support UNAIDS so that the Joint Programme could operate effectively as a United Nations agency and set standards at the global level.

RUBEN ZAMORA (El Salvador) said his country remained committed to achieving the health-related goals of the 2030 Agenda through integral reform of its health sector.  The purpose was to ensure quality treatment without any discrimination.  Primary prevention and early diagnosis was essential to contain the epidemic.  Concentrating efforts on populations at greatest risk, El Salvador had made great progress in the national response by investing in health, despite an unfavourable financial climate.  He cited a campaign that had reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis to less than 2 per cent in line with the WHO goal to eliminate transmission of both diseases.  Moreover, retroviral therapy was provided free of charge and health workers were adequately trained in line with international guidelines.  El Salvador was working to strengthen the recording and monitoring of data on HIV and AIDS which enabled better understanding of the epidemic.

MANABU SUMI (Japan) said that the most effective means to ensure universal access to services was through the achievement of universal health coverage.  Achieving such coverage would require social restructuring and a firm commitment to the principle of “leaving no one behind”.  Health systems would need to mobilize large financial and human resources, he added, underscoring the need to place higher priority on health sector development, increasing domestic resource mobilization and enhancing the international framework to support developing countries.  Furthermore, it would be crucial to address the needs of those particularly vulnerable, including women and girls.  Japan had long played a major role in global health, supporting efforts of developing countries both bilaterally and multilaterally, through programmes such as UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

FABIENNE BARTOLI (France), associating herself with the European Union, said significant progress in the last 15 years had been made possible by an unprecedented level of mobilization among States, organizations and civil society.  Emphasizing an inclusive approach that left no one behind, she said France was committed to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights in multilateral institutions.  At the national level, pre-exposure prophylaxes were available to people most at risk.  Expressing concern at the situation in West and Central Africa, she said France would continue to lend technical support to the work of UNAIDS in those regions.  Stressing the need for innovative and ambitious financing solutions, she said a tax on airline tickets and financial transactions enabled France to cover nearly 60 per cent of the annual budget of the international drug purchase facility UNITAID.  She went on to suggest that preparations be made for middle-income countries that would no longer be a part of international financing mechanisms, given that more than 50 per cent of those living with HIV were in those countries.

News

Indigenous Speakers in Permanent Forum Decry Governmental Abuse of Traditional Lands, Natural Resources, Urge Respect for Self-Governing Systems

Calls demanding respect for traditional lands, resources, knowledge and cultures rang through the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today, with participants from the North Pole to New Zealand pressing Governments to move beyond “paper promises” and uphold their rights.

As the sixteenth session continued, speakers underlined the critical importance of protecting natural resources, with one from the Indigenous Environmental Network stressing that the United States military action at Standing Rock contravened the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Indigenous peoples’ human rights had been violated, she stressed.

In similar vein, others said traditional knowledge should be tapped — not side-lined — in tackling climate change, one of several issues addressed during a discussion on “implementation of the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.  The mandated areas include economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

Many stressed that indigenous peoples’ rights over natural resources on traditional lands were being trampled, and that more must be done to ensure that States fulfilled their commitments.  A speaker from Altepetl Nahua de la Montana de Guerrero pointed to lagging implementation of the Declaration at a time when their lands were being exploited and countries, including Mexico, had not submitted required progress reports.  While Governments had pledged commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change, extractive industries were moving ahead with full force, said a speaker from Indigenous Climate Action.

Several speakers described violations on ancestral lands and waterways, with participants from the Sami Parliament of Finland and from the Arctic Caucus both expressing strong opposition to a recent agreement between Finland and Norway that harmed traditional fishing practices, and violated Sami culture, land rights and self-determination.

A speaker from Two Feathers International declared:  “They are not welcome in our waters,” referring to the Amazon Warrior seismic vessel conducting oil exploration off the New Zealand coast, and mining corporations, which were attempting again to win Government approval to extract seabed materials.  She urged New Zealand to make climate-smart decisions on those activities.

Amid rapid global environmental change, speakers said, traditional knowledge could improve decisions on sustainable development, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation.  But, to do so, said some, indigenous peoples must be allowed to independently shape their self-governing systems, rather than have State prescriptions imposed on them.  The representative of the Government of Greenland (Denmark) urged States to ensure the recognition and vitality of indigenous knowledge, to protect it from misappropriation and accept its links with both biodiversity conservation and natural resource management.

Environmental stewardship, medicine and farming were just some of the areas in which indigenous peoples were ready to share their knowledge, speakers said.  Announcing the launch of a report on indigenous peoples and climate change, the speaker from the International Labour Organization (ILO) cited their critical role at the forefront of climate action.  However, indigenous peoples must be empowered as agents of change and their access to decent work ensured.

For their part, Government representatives described national efforts, with some presenting progress reports on the Declaration’s implementation.  Panama had passed a law in 2008 giving indigenous communities deeds over five land areas, that country’s delegate said.  Botswana’s representative pointed to programmes that empowered indigenous peoples’ use of land and natural resources for economic and cultural purposes.

Many speakers agreed that special attention must be given to ensuring that indigenous peoples participated in — and benefitted from — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  With that in mind, the speaker from the International Indigenous HIV and AIDS Community urged the Permanent Forum to address AIDS as a humanitarian issue and acknowledge HIV as a threat.  He pressed indigenous leaders to make access to treatment a priority.

Looking to the next generations, the representative of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North advocated greater involvement of indigenous youth in decisions that affected their future.

Also speaking today were speakers from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Save Our Unique Landscape, Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network, American Indian Movement of Colorado, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Nation of Hawai’i, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, El Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu, Red de Jóvenes Indígenas de Amėrica Latina y el Caribe, Crimean Tartar People, Fundacion Egdolina Thomas Para la Defensa de los Derechos de los Habitantes de la Costa Caribe de Nicaragua, New South Wales Aboriginal Council and Consejo Regional Indigena del Medio Amazones.

Representatives of Namibia, Guyana, Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Chile, Philippines, Paraguay, Australia, Denmark, Guatemala, Brazil, New Zealand and Costa Rica also spoke.

Forum members from Australia, Peru, Denmark and the Russian Federation made interventions, as did representatives of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 27 April, to continue its sixteenth session.

Statements

PERNILLE BENGTSEN, Government of Greenland (Denmark), said that in the midst of rapid environmental change, indigenous knowledge could help to improve decision-making on sustainable development and on climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Drawing attention to Greenland’s initiatives in that regard, she urged States to ensure the recognition and vitality of indigenous knowledge, protect it from misappropriation, and accept its links with the conservation of biodiversity conservation and management of natural resources.

DEIDRE MCGRENRA, Chief, America Liaison Office, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said the Fund’s partnership with indigenous peoples had grown to comprise 123 projects, as well as $1.6 million in loans and $40 million in grants to indigenous peoples.  IFAD also supported the development of innovative solutions in the area of securing land tenure, among others.

NINA VEYSALOVA, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, said her organization had conducted a number of major events to encourage the involvement of indigenous youth.  She also emphasized the need to develop the competencies of indigenous peoples, saying that would help them determine their future.

SLUMBER TSOGWANE, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development of Botswana, said that, since adopting an affirmative action framework for communities in remote areas, his country had established programmes to empower their use of land and natural resources for economic gain and cultural purposes.  He reaffirmed Botswana’s commitment to the Declaration.

MARTIN OELZ, International Labour Organization (ILO), announced today’s launch of a report on indigenous peoples and climate change.  Providing a snapshot of the situation, he said issues that had been addressed included forced displacement, gender inequality and a lack of recognition of indigenous rights.  Those and other conditions posed formidable challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Indigenous peoples had a critical role to play at the forefront of climate action, given their contributions to a green economy.  However, they must be empowered as agents of change and their access to decent work must be ensured.

ROYAL JOHAN KXAO /UI/O/OO (Namibia) said national efforts had seen results, stressing that education support had facilitated enrolment, investment in infrastructure had produced positive achievements and settlement programmes had been implemented.  Namibia had also provided support to communities in areas ranging from health to assistance for burials.

TRISHA RIEDY, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), said programmes had been tailored to enhance indigenous peoples’ abilities to engage in negotiations that would further the promotion and protection of their rights.  Land and resources were other pressing issues, he said, noting that UNITAR had provided training to help resolve conflict in a mutually beneficial manner.  It also had sought increased participation for women.

JERALD JOSEPH, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, said about 20 per cent of the complaints received by the Commission related to indigenous peoples, a sign of their awareness of their rights.  Many of their complaints dealt with encroachment on traditional lands for the purposes of logging, plantations and mining.  He urged Malaysia to call for a moratorium on the development of indigenous lands pending the implementation of recommendations by a task force on that issue.

VALERIE GARRIDO-LOWE, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Guyana, said her country, in partnership with Canada, had launched a sun-dried tomato project in hinterland communities which illustrated how modern science could be wed to traditional indigenous agricultural knowledge.  She also described efforts to overcome logistical challenges that hinterland communities faced in accessing schools.

Mr. OMEDO, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said informed and prior consent was not only a procedural matter, but also connected to the right to self-determination.  That was a flagship principle for the Union.  He said all Government, non-governmental and environmental actors should adopt a binding standard on the rights of indigenous peoples related to the environment.

TUOMAS ASLAK JUUSO, Sami Parliament of Finland, expressed his objection to a recent treaty between Finland and Norway that infringed on traditional Sami fishing rights.  The Parliament had not been consulted on the treaty, which had far-reaching implications for the Sami.  It violated Sami culture, land rights and the principle of self-determination.

ANNA OTKE, Russian Federation, said the Government was reviewing land use legislation that incorporated proposals from the Parliament of the Chukotka region.

SANDRA DEL PINO, Cultural Diversity Adviser, Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), said significant progress had been made by her organization on indigenous youth health in Latin America.  A recent forum on the issue had drawn attention to several issues, she said, including the need for culturally oriented health care, a lack of data on indigenous youth health and the underrecognized value of indigenous medicine.

PANIA NEWTON, Save Our Unique Landscape, said the New Zealand authorities were currently threatening her people’s land, including ancestral burial caves and precolonial sites.  Descendants of colonial land owners had used special housing legislation to drive forward urban development.  Recent actions included the sale of ancestral land to a housing corporation, which had contravened articles of the Declaration, she said, calling on the Permanent Forum to act and request New Zealand’s authorities to respect her people’s land and rights.

PEDRO SITTON, National Director of Indigenous Territories, Panama, gave an overview of his country’s progress on legislation protecting languages, among other issues.  A political decision had been taken to sign ILO Convention 169 (Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries) and other initiatives had provided public services and access to drinking water, health and education.  As for legal security and land rights, he said that a law passed in 2008 gave indigenous communities title deeds over five areas of land.

PRATIMA GURUNG, Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network, said the Permanent Forum’s mandated areas were equally important to all groups, including women, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  Exercising their rights meant that more attention must be paid to the multiple levels of discrimination they faced.  Gaps in access to rights must be addressed and narrowed, she said, calling for action in that regard.

DEVONNEY MCDAVIS (Nicaragua) said progress had been made on the rights of communal land ownership.  Efforts would continue to increase the productive capacity of food production systems using indigenous knowledge.  More communities had access to water and sanitation, she said, emphasizing that authorities had undertaken initiatives, including recognizing cultural identities.  Turning to health, she said indigenous knowledge was being applied.  On education, a legal framework had strengthened their rights.

MAROCS MATIAS ALONSO, Altepetl Nahua de la Montana de Guerrero, said progress was lagging on implementing the Declaration.  Countries, including Mexico, had not submitted required reports while poverty levels remained high alongside efforts to exploit their lands.  Indigenous peoples had a right to enjoy economic development, one of the many articles that were not being realized on the ground and Mexico’s national budgets had actually decreased.

NABA KUMAR KISHORE TRIPURA, Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Bangladesh, said the authorities had taken an inclusive and comprehensive approach to the region, which was home to 1 million people.  District councils now handled tourism, education, health and other services.  The Government employed a zero-tolerance approach to any form of human rights violations and was currently focused on addressing development challenges in the region, he said.

PHYLLIS YOUNG, American Indian Movement of Colorado, said she had taken part in many historic events, including a 1974 gathering at Standing Rock in which 97 nations had produced the International Indian Treaty Council.  She said that she had also drafted that Council’s Declaration of Continuing Independence.

LES MALEZER, Permanent Forum member from Australia, emphasized the importance of assuring the future of all indigenous peoples.  Citing court cases in which rulings had been handed down in their favour, he said that some of those verdicts had not been implemented.  Such issues must be discussed, he said, underlining the importance of dialogue between States and indigenous peoples.

JUAN EDUARDO FAÚNDEZ (Chile) said his country had not hesitated from implementing the Declaration.  Tolerance and respect for diversity were essential for a democratic and peace-loving country.  Today, indigenous peoples held important positions in national political life, but more must be done in that regard, he said, adding that Herculean efforts had been made to create better policies.  It was possible to integrate indigenous concerns into health-care systems with excellent results.

GWENDOLYN PIMENTEL-GANA, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, said desecration of the environment was, for indigenous peoples, tantamount to violating the right to life.  In the Philippines, Government policies had yet to fully reflect and consider indigenous customs and practices to preserve the environment.  Some policies and regulations criminalized certain indigenous practices, she said, adding that indigenous peoples’ unique world view must be encouraged and reinforced.

TEODORO L. LOCSIN, Jr. (Philippines), emphasizing that his country had long guaranteed the rights of indigenous peoples, said the challenge was not to fight prejudice, but plain greed.  For the self-protection of its indigenous peoples, the Government was promoting indigenous basic education.  Culturally sensitive health programmes had also been adopted and political power had been given to indigenous peoples.  He called on Member States to renew their commitment to the Declaration, to stop making excuses and work harder towards its realization.

TARCILA RIVERA ZEA, Permanent Forum member from Peru, emphasized the theme of youth inclusion and invited participants to make related recommendations.

BRANDON MAKA’AWA’AWA, Nation of Hawai’i, said that, while waiting for Member States to fulfil their obligations, indigenous peoples must maintain their ancestral lands, preserve cultures, protect unique identities and seek solutions for themselves.  The Nation of Hawai’i used strategies that included working to win economic recognition.  Alongside 38 other indigenous nations, Hawai’I had declared its territory a food sovereignty zone in 2016 in order to restore and decolonize its traditional food sources.

JULIO CESAR ARRIOLA (Paraguay) said his country had taken a number of steps to ensure the full and effective enjoyment of indigenous peoples’ rights, especially in health and education.  The Government had extended an open invitation to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and established a monitoring mechanism to follow up on their recommendations, he added.

JAMIL AHMAD, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said a growing number of indigenous human rights defenders had lost their lives in the past decade. That was a matter of deep concern, he said, citing the case of Berta Cáceres, a “Champions of the Earth” laureate who had campaigned against illegal logging on behalf of the Lenca people in Honduras.  A planet free of pollution would be the theme of the United Nations Environment Assembly, to be held in Nairobi this year.

BELKACEM LOUNÈS, Congrès Mondial Amazigh, said that, while Morocco had adopted the Declaration, its interpretation of that instrument “went against the grain” of the text.  Noting that recognition of the Amazigh language as an official language of Morocco had been frozen for six years, she said the Amazigh people had no sovereignty over their land and had been excluded from development projects.  They were poor and marginalized, and their demonstrations were violently put down.  The Amazigh people would only obtain the status they deserved in a sovereign State.

RACHEL O’CONNOR (Australia) emphasized the importance of economic development and the empowerment of indigenous women.  Indigenous people had demonstrated great talent, imagination and entrepreneurialism, she said, citing a Government programme to provide more business to indigenous suppliers.  She underscored the leadership role of indigenous women and their contribution to the economy, citing Australia’s strategies that made it easier for them to access loans.

JENS DAHL, Permanent Forum member from Denmark, replied to comments by one Government that it would recognize community land ownership if deeds were available, pointing out that indigenous peoples often did not have such deeds.  He urged compliance with Article 27 of the Declaration pertaining to indigenous peoples’ right to participate in processes concerning their lands and resources.

The representative of the Arctic Caucus called on the Permanent Forum and relevant international organizations to produce a report on indigenous protected areas.  Raising a number of concerns, she said a new agreement on salmon fishing in the Deanu River between authorities in Finland and Norway would negatively affect the Sami traditional way of fishing.  Free, prior and informed consent was a crucial part of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Arctic States were among the richest in the world, yet indigenous peoples in the region were entrenched in poverty.  Rather than focus on the symptoms of social, economic and health gaps, the Permanent Forum, Member States, international organizations and indigenous peoples should instead seek broad solutions that addressed root causes, including recognition of the right to education and to economic development.

ELIAS GONZALEZ PATAL (Guatemala) said progress had been achieved through amendments to the Constitution, including on the recognition of languages and rights.  A bipartite governmental body was working to take action on a range of issues.  A trust fund would also work to integrate indigenous peoples into Guatemala through economic development efforts and inclusion in schools, institutions and the political process.

KANDI MOSSET, Indigenous Environmental Network, said actions taken at Standing Rock in the United States contravened the Declaration and violated human rights.  Military action against people protecting the land was a violation of their rights.  Recommendations made during the Permanent Forum had repeatedly urged the United States to implement the Declaration and stop raping Mother Earth.  Echoing the call of others, she said the theme of the next Permanent Forum should focus on water, which must be protected.  “We should not be violated for protecting water,” she said.

MAMANI NAVARRO, El Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu, underscored the contribution of social organizations in his country.  Progress was being made step by step, and indigenous peoples were no longer marginalized, he said, noting that the Constitution recognized its 36 indigenous nations and acknowledged native languages.

Ms. FRANCA, Red de Jóvenes Indígenas de Amėrica Latina y el Caribe, said young people were deeply concerned by the absence of an intercultural perspective on reproductive rights.  That contributed to early pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, she said, noting also the close link between emotional health and the vulnerability of young people.  She expressed concern about a lack of data on young indigenous people with disabilities, as well as policies that would protect them.

ZAIRA ZAMBELLI TAVEIRA (Brazil) said the national indigenous health system was operating in 34 districts, serving more than 5,000 tribes and working in partnership with communities.  While there had been improvements in child health, youth suicide was rising.  Targeted projects addressed suicide-related issues, she said, emphasizing Brazil’s overall commitment to promoting and protecting indigenous peoples’ health.

JULIE TURNER, Two Feathers International, said that, despite the climate crisis, the Amazon Warrior seismic ship, along with other oil companies, were currently exploring new areas in New Zealand.  “They are not welcome in our waters,” she said.  On the west coast of New Zealand, a mining corporation was attempting again to obtain approvals for the extraction of dozens of tons of seabed material, with a view to tapping into oil or tar sands.  That new industry had little information on the effects of such activities, yet the potential for environmental disaster was real.  The coastline and oceans were integral to New Zealand and the Government must take appropriate, climate-smart action.

JACLYN WILLIAMS (New Zealand) said her country placed great importance on environmental discussions with indigenous peoples.  Citing a current dialogue on ancestral rivers, she said enactments had been drafted on a range of issues, including education and the environment.

ESKENDER BARIIEV, Crimean Tatar People, said his people’s rights had been violated since Crimea was invaded by the Russian Federation, which had ignored principles of the Declaration.  “I cannot live at home, in my own country,” he said.  Citing a personal example of being searched and detained, he said many Crimean Tatars faced kidnapping and torture, with no criminal investigations being launched.  He called for those in custody to be released, urging the Permanent Forum and its members to lend their support in that regard.

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica) said the Declaration had been a guide to drafting rules, legislation and constitutional reform.  Costa Rica had worked to promote equality and opportunity for all in all cultural groups.  A holistic, human rights-based approach must guide efforts addressing the situation of indigenous peoples, including for education and housing.  Turning to employment, she said a national employment programme had earmarked funds for projects tailored to indigenous peoples.

BROOKLYN RIVERA, Fundacion Egdolina Thomas Para la Defensa de los Derechos de los Habitantes de la Costa Caribe de Nicaragua, said her people’s rights were not being upheld and a tokenistic appreciation of languages and cultures was instead taking place.  Violent acts had been perpetrated against indigenous peoples, included kidnappings and forced displacement.  Nicaragua was imposing rules upon indigenous peoples, who were not allowed to enjoy regional autonomy.

ANDERS PRIMDAHL VISTISEN (Denmark) said that despite progress, persistent violations of indigenous peoples’ rights existed.  Citing an example in Chittagong Hill Tracts, which had seen conflicts over land, he urged Bangladesh to take positive action to remedy the situation and ensure that the population was not left behind.

DMITRII KHARAKKA-ZAITSEV, Permanent Forum member from the Russian Federation, emphasized the need to define the reasons why, in some countries, indigenous peoples and movements were seen as “aliens” and “obstacles”.

ANNE DENNIS, New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, recommended that the Council urge States to ratify without reservations and fully implement all human rights obligations under the treaties to which they were party.  It should also urge States to ensure that legislative systems were established to redress systemic indigenous disadvantage through indigenous control mechanisms for the delivery of social justice, she said.

MARAMA PALA, International Indigenous HIV and AIDS Community, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network and INA HIV/AIDS Foundation, said many indigenous communities feared indigenous men, women and children living with HIV and discriminated against them.  It was unacceptable for such people to bear institutionalized stigma within their own communities.  Indigenous peoples must be accurately represented in all HIV/AIDS epidemiological data, with resources provided to enable them to design, develop and implement HIV-AIDS programmes.  The Permanent Forum should address AIDS as a humanitarian issue and acknowledge HIV as a threat to indigenous peoples, she said, pressing indigenous leaders to make access to treatment a priority.

HEATHER MILTON-LIGHTENING, Indigenous Climate Action, said the Permanent Forum must ensure a space for indigenous voices and provide support for rights-based climate strategies.  Even as Governments pledged commitments to the Paris Agreement on climate change, extractive industries were moving forward in full force.  Indigenous peoples must not be forced to adopt State-led prescriptions of self-government.  Rather, they must be the ones to exercise their autonomy in addressing climate change.

NAZARETH CABRERA GUERRERO, Consejo Regional Indigena del Medio Amazones, said ancestral knowledge must be maintained, stressing that women’s knowledge in particular was important in farming, food production, cultural heritage and health.  Describing the range of roles women played in communities, she said special efforts must be made to protect their rights and acknowledge their domestic work in order to end violence and abuse.