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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

DEV'P CONSISTENT MONETARY POLICY TO COMPLEMENT GOVERNMENT’S FISCAL POLICY—PRESIDENT URGES BoG

The 60th anniversary of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) was, on Friday, climaxed with a Symposium and Exhibition.  

The theme for the 60th anniversary of service provision as the central bank of Ghana was “Celebrating 60 Years of Central Banking in Ghana: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects.”

Delivering the key note address at the opening of the event, President Addo-Dankwa Akuffo-Addo urged the bank to regard its 60th   birthday as the beginning of decisive policy-making to confront the challenges of the economy and the time to resolve to make BoG better than it was now.

President Akufo-Addo mentioned increased investment, weeding out unlicensed non-bank financial institutions, ensuring the integrity of the payments system as well as the bank’s external reputation and credibility as significant challenges that BoG should overcome.

He said notwithstanding the fact that BoG was an autonomous institution, monetary policy should not be at variance with government economic policy. 

This, he said, called for partnership and co-operation between the BoG requiring policy co-ordination between the BoG and the Ministry of Finance.

BoG, president Akufo-Addo said, should, therefore, develop consistent monetary policy to complement government’s fiscal policy for rapid economic stability and development.

President Akufo-Addo reiterated the commitment of government to the path of fiscal consolidation.

Government, he said, would, therefore, ensure, by statute, that the overall government fiscal deficit remained within a reasonable band of between three and five per cent, beginning from 2018.

He also announced a number of measures government would take as part of its transformational agenda.

These, he said, included bringing down the cost of borrowing, improving the supply of electricity, rolling out a digital addressing system and the introduction of a National Identification System to support the country’s Payments and Settlements System.

President Akufo-Addo said Government was also working assiduously to offset the huge energy sector-related debt that threatened the stability of the country’s banking system.

In a statement, Mr Henry Godfrey Rupiny Kerali, World Bank Country Director in Ghana, described BoG as a dependable partner in poverty reduction and in the promotion of shared prosperity.

Mr Kareli also commended BoG for the introduction of Mobile Money and other digital financial services.

A solidarity message from Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said the Central Bank of Nigeria was proud to have excellent working relations with BoG on a number of sub-regional policy issues.

Welcoming the audience, Dr Ernest Addison, Governor, BoG, pledged BoG’s determination continue to strengthen the licensing requirements, regulatory and supervisory frameworks of banks and non-bank financial institutions, in its quest to maintain sanity in the financial industry.

Dr Addison said together with other relevant stakeholders, BoG would work to build a stronger industry in a business-friendly environment by ensuring that banks had adequate capital to match their risk appetite.

He said, the Bank was fully aware of its overall institutional responsibility of developing an integrated financial system that could provide diversified range of products and services to support a dynamic growing economy.

“As we mark this 60th     anniversary, therefore, the Bank commits to pursue this objective with professionalism and integrity, as we lay another foundation for the next phase of central banking in Ghana.”

Present at the event were Governors from BCEAO, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Guinea, Mozambique, and Deputy Governors from South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zambia.

Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)

News

Africa's tax system: A survey

Tax revenues account for over a third of GDP in OECD countries. But they account for far less in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where they correspond to less than a fifth of GDP.

More tax revenue would not only help the governments of these countries function and pay for goods and services, but would open the way for other market and state reforms that would promote economic, social and environmental development.

Raising tax burdens might seem like an odd proposition to policymakers in crisisstricken OECD countries as they bid to raise revenues while keeping tax burdens as light as they can for the sake of growth. But when taxes account for 10 to 15% of GDP, a well-designed increase in tax is exactly what many developing countries need: just as an excessively heavy tax burden might crush activity, an excessively low one can starve an economy of the oxygen it needs to advance.


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But how can more tax revenue be raised in poorer economies? One way is to generate more growth, but as many of the countries concerned lack the resources to administer tax, this approach may not be enough, that is, not unless efforts are made to improve the effectiveness of tax administration systems at the same time. That means strengthening the capacity and resources needed for better taxpayers’ services and enforcement, reviewing tax structures, and investing in skills and management systems needed to produce corruption-free tax systems.

This is easier said than done, of course, but improving the effectiveness and transparency of tax administration systems is nonetheless widely accepted as a key step to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. And because it means mobilising more domestic taxation, it can also help in smoothing efforts to open up world trade by further reducing the reliance on border taxes. In other words, channelling funds, including development aid, towards better tax administration is money well spent.

Indeed, as OECD data shows, tax/GDP ratios in sub-Saharan countries where tax administration reforms are being implemented now exceed 16.8% of GDP, which was the average for fragile and lower income countries. But to make a bigger difference, more information is needed about how tax administrations actually work and where the problems lie.

To fill this gap, the International Tax Dialogue, a global initiative based at the OECD and involving the EU, the IMF and the World Bank, among others, has undertaken a survey of 15 sub-Saharan African revenue bodies–Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The aim is to build a clear picture as to the various approaches and practices used across the continent, to identify problems and to provide policymakers with a better view of the kinds of measures that might be taken to address them. Similar work has already been carried out for the 50 middle and higher income countries of the OECD’s Forum on Tax Administration.

The good news is that all of the countries surveyed by the International Tax Dialogue are currently engaged in some pretty significant tax administration reforms, often with donor support. Nevertheless, our pilot survey has revealed some instructive trends and patterns.

Take cost, which is one of the main challenges facing tax administrators in developing countries. The cost of collection varies from 1% to 4% of the total collected in the region. Salary and related expenditures account for the largest portion–some 60- 80% of the budget. In most of the surveyed countries, investment in information technology accounts for less than 2% of total administrative expenditure. It should therefore come as no surprise to learn that most of the revenue bodies surveyed reported being dissatisfied with their existing IT systems. Efforts are being made to address this: all revenue bodies surveyed, with the exception of Burundi, indicated that they have a separate and substantive in-house IT function, and some are developing or plan to implement integrated tax administration systems for self-help services such as online registration, filing and payment.

Further investment in administrative systems would undoubtedly help improve treatment of taxpayers too. As the survey shows, all revenue bodies, except South Africa, assign identifi cation numbers ostensibly across all tax types, including customs. All personal and corporate income tax systems are based on self-assessment principles.

VAT is a feature across all countries surveyed, with a few countries using two thresholds, one for the sale of goods and another for services. In fact, indirect taxes contribute the highest proportion of revenue in seven of the countries surveyed, with direct taxes in six countries and international trade taxes in two countries. Non-tax revenues such as income from state-owned enterprises, fees and other payments for government services account for a very small proportion–about 1 to 2%–of total revenue collection. Compare this to developing countries in Latin America, where these can reach 10% or more of government revenues. Regarding enforcement, all countries believe they have adequate powers to enforce the payment of tax, with various interest and penalty regimes for similar offences applying across tax types, specifi cally for income taxes on the one hand and for VAT on the other. However, it is unclear how effective these measures are in practice: this is an area for further exploration.

Institutional arrangements are another issue which can have an impact on the effectiveness of tax administration. The revenue bodies in most of the countries surveyed follow a relatively unifi ed, semiautonomous model, meaning that they have considerable freedom to interpret tax laws, allocate resources, design internal structures and implement appropriate human resource management strategies. At the same time, they are responsible for tax, customs and non-tax revenue operations. Three of the countries surveyed are now integrating the collection of social security contributions with tax operations, a trend that is emerging in OECD countries too.

As for organisational arrangements, most are hybrid in nature. In line with current practice in tax administration, a number of revenue bodies have set up a headquarters function to provide operational policy guidance to fi eld delivery. Moreover, all revenue bodies (except Botswana) have set up a “large taxpayers’ offi ce” to administer all tax affairs of major enterprises and some individuals. Apart from Botswana and Mauritius, the revenue bodies have also created special taxation regimes for small and micro-enterprises, and six countries have set up dedicated units to manage them.

Meanwhile, all revenue bodies surveyed produce 3-5 year business/corporate plans using established planning frameworks, with clear mission statements, visions and objectives, as well as the actions to reach them, as do OECD countries.

Most of the revenue bodies are funded through parliamentary appropriations, meaning that they develop budget proposals and bid for funding just like any other government department or agency. Some countries provide their revenue body with a performance bonus, such as a percentage of the collections, which is a practice rarely found elsewhere.

As this pilot survey suggests, real efforts are evidently underway to build effective tax administrations in several African countries, which is good news for long-term economic development. However, the devil is in the detail, and a more comprehensive study is to be carried out in collaboration with the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) and other international institutions to paint a clearer picture of the character and particular needs of the various administrations across the region. This information will also feed into the G20-led push on tax and development. That means covering more countries, and collecting and further refi ning the data, while drawing comparisons with countries outside the region. It is a major undertaking, but if countries in sub-Saharan Africa can use the information to help them improve their tax policies and their development paths at the same time, then the task will be worth it.

References

Magashula, Oupa (2010), “African tax administration: A new era”, in OECD Observer No 276-277, December 2009-January 2010.

Owens, Jeffrey, and Richard Carey (2010), “Tax for development”, in OECD Observer No 276-277 December 2009-January 2010.

OECD (2011), Revenue Administration in Sub-Saharan Africa, International Tax Dialogue (ITD), Comparative Study Series.

See the International Tax Dialogue’s website at www.itdweb.org

©OECD Observer No 284, Q1 2011

News

Right to Development Still Out of Reach for Millions Trapped in Abject Poverty Worldwide, High-Level Political Forum Hears, as Ministerial Segment Continues

Despite encouraging progress, the international community had yet to account for the millions of people who still wallowed in abject poverty and for whom the right to development remained but a dream, speakers said today as the ministerial segment of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development continued.

The right to development was a right for all, and in that regard, every effort must be made to ensure that no one was left behind in the pursuit of sustainable development, stressed Slumber Tsogwane, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development of Botswana, who highlighted his country’s sustainable development efforts, including the mainstreaming of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into the country’s National Development Plan 11 and Vision 2063.

Despite laudable action, huge financing gaps continued to obstruct efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, lamented Mustafa Kamal, Minister of Planning of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries and aligning himself with the statement made by Ecuador on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  Significant mobilization of resources, including through enhanced international cooperation, was needed, he said, stressing that least developed countries were facing the major brunt of climate change, despite having contributed the least towards global warming. 

Official development assistance (ODA), foreign direct investment and exports had declined considerably in 2016, which was a point of deep concern, he noted, adding that concrete efforts must be made for the operationalization of the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries and investment promotion regimes for them.

States must recognize that poverty and equality were interlinked, said Marcos Barraza, Minister of Social Development of Chile, who noted that societies without equality had seen their economic growth stymied, stripping incentives for investments.  Tackling inequality must be part of all development efforts, including in middle-income countries, and in sectors such as education.

During the debate, some delegates highlighted unique challenges faced by their countries that created obstacles to development, including Abdullahi Majeed, Minister of State for Environment and Energy of Maldives, who called attention to his country’s geographic remoteness, climate change consequences and insularity.  Those dynamics had hindered development progress and would only be overcome through significant support from development partners and the international community, including through approaches such as South-South cooperation and partnerships aligned with the Samoa Pathway outcome document.

Regional crises continued to take a toll on Jordan and had placed a burden on that country’s hard-earned development goals, said Imad Fakhoury, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan.  The influx of Syrian refugees seeking safety and security in his country had resulted in greater needs, increased security and military pressures, higher budgetary costs, limited economic growth and increased unemployment and poverty, to name a few.  In spite of those unprecedented challenges, Jordan was continuing to work towards achieving the Goals through comprehensive and evolutionary reforms to sustain the country’s resilience, while increasing the prosperity of its citizens.

Other representatives highlighted progress in their respective country’s sustainable development efforts, including Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia, who pointed out that his Government had localized the implementation of the Goals within the national context, including through the establishment of a governance structure, headed by the Prime Minister, for progress monitoring and reporting. 

He recalled that in 1970, the poverty level in Malaysia was at 49 per cent, but by 2000 it had fallen to 8.5 per cent, which was long before the Millennium Development Goal target year of 2015.  Malaysia’s approach to eradicating poverty was premised on access to education, skills development, creating employment and income–generating activities, investment schemes and ensuring basic infrastructure.  Moving forward, Malaysia remained committed to increasing the incomes and quality of life for the bottom 40 per cent of households, he added.

Throughout the day, the Council also heard Voluntary National Reviews from representatives of Belgium, Benin, Peru, Guatemala, Italy, Zimbabwe, Czech Republic, Jordan, Thailand, Argentina, Belarus, Portugal, Uruguay, Nigeria, Panama and Sweden.

Also participating in the general debate were ministers and other senior officials for Honduras, Italy, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Zambia, Malta, Swaziland, Afghanistan, Serbia, Qatar, Iran, Egypt, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Mali, Belarus, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Malawi, Poland, Viet Nam, Philippines, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Norway, Cuba, Germany, Mozambique, Spain, Finland and Nigeria.

The Council will meet again at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 July, to continue its general debate.

Statements

MUSTAFA KAMAL, Minister of Planning of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, aligned himself with the statement made by Ecuador on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and noted that the least developed countries were lagging behind in poverty eradication with more than 45 per cent of their populations still living in extreme poverty.  Governments were making utmost efforts to eradicate poverty, including by bringing in necessary legislative, administrative and structural reforms to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Emphasis had been placed on financial inclusion, women’s empowerment, high-quality education, capacity-building on data, respect for human rights and the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector.

Nevertheless, huge financing gaps continued to obstruct their efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, and in that context, he called for significant mobilization of resources, including through enhanced international cooperation.  Least developed countries were facing the major brunt of climate change, although they had contributed the least towards global warming.  Official development assistance (ODA), foreign direct investment and exports had declined considerably in 2016, which was a point of deep concern.  Least developed countries called for the full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which strongly articulated the means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda.  Technology and investment were key drivers of structural transformation for least developed countries, and in that context, concrete efforts must be made for the operationalization of the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries and investment promotion regimes for them.

IMAD FAKHOURY, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan, stressed that the challenges facing the international community were immense.  Regional crises continued to take a toll on Jordan and its hard-earned development gains.  Regional crises and the influx of Syrian refugees seeking safety and security in Jordan had resulted in heightened needs, increased security and military pressures, higher budgetary costs, limited economic growth and increased unemployment and poverty, to name a few.  In spite of those unprecedented challenges, Jordan was continuing to work towards achieving the Goals through comprehensive and evolutionary reforms to sustain Jordan’s resilience, while increasing the prosperity of its citizens.  Jordan was facing great external challenges, with its geographic location within such a volatile region opening it up to a host of vulnerabilities.  The development agenda was focused on shared prosperity, and in that regard, burden sharing could not continue to be disproportionate.

MARCOS BARRAZA, Minister for Social Development of Chile, highlighted three areas that must be the centre of efforts.  States must take note of the indivisible nature of the Sustainable Development Goals and Governments must recognize that poverty and equality were interlinked.  Societies without equality had seen their economic growth stymied, stripping incentives for investments.  Tackling inequality must be part of all development efforts, including in middle-income countries, and in sectors such as education.  Finally, the holistic nature of the Goals called for ensuring that sectors worked together and complemented each other.  Planning must be re-evaluated and all stakeholders must take ownership of the 2030 Agenda, with civil society, the public and private sectors and academia working together as partners.

JORGE RAMON HERNANDEZ ALCERRO, Minister Coordinator General of Honduras, said major challenges to achieving the Goals included mitigating climate change consequences.  As the 2030 Agenda had redefined the way development was understood, coordination mechanisms must be appropriately tailored to focus more on people than on processes.  The current architecture did not promote adequate support to Member States.  To address that, reform was necessary and cooperation must be bolstered.  The United Nations had recognized that poverty was a multidimensional challenge that must be addressed accordingly.  Both developing and developed nations must strive to work together to achieve the Goals.

GIAN LUCA GALLETTI, Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Protection of Italy, said national initiatives included the provision of economic benefits to families to counter poverty.  Gender equality was at the basis of national policies in a cross-cutting manner and the universality of health-care coverage was a priority, as health was part of creating a healthy environment.  With new international instruments, there was now a clear model for development.  Outlining various environmental programmes, he said Italy was hosting a conference on marine-related issues.  Aware of the obligation of solidarity in a bid to help partners achieve the Goals, Italy had elaborated a new approach to promote sustainability abroad in terms of development and support for related efforts.

ABDULLAHI MAJEED, Minister of State for Environment and Energy of Maldives, said the process of preparing a national review had been extremely useful, providing an impetus to take on a challenging task while bringing together governmental bodies and helping to identify and address gaps.  Maldives faced geographic remoteness, climate change consequences and insularity, so spurring further progress required significant support from development partners and the international community, including through approaches such as South-South cooperation and partnerships aligned with the Samoa Pathway outcome document.  Support was needed in several areas, including data collection and measurement.  The national review had generated momentum within Maldives to move onto the right track towards implementing the Goals, he said, strongly encouraging and recommending that other States participate in that helpful process.

GAMINI JAYAWICKRAMA PERERA, Minister for Sustainable Development and Wildlife of Sri Lanka, said eradicating poverty was a prerequisite for a truly transformative sustainable development era.  National economic prosperity strategies had centred on the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda, with a knowledge-based social market economy built on justice principles with a focus on education, health and other key sectors.  To sustainably unlock the value of ocean resources, a blue-green strategy had been established.  More broadly, Parliament had adopted a national sustainable development act to formulate policies and monitor the Goals’ implementation.  By the end of 2017, a national Sustainable Development Goals road map would be formulated.

NEMATULLO HIKMATULLOZODA, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Tajikistan, aligned himself with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, noting that more than 767 million people lived in poverty worldwide, and many of those who had climbed out of it in the last 15 years lived precariously close to the boundary.  The problems of growing inequality, including within education systems and health services, aggravated that situation.  Tajikistan had enjoyed significant successes in building a social state, which had been achieved through strong political will and the adoption of five medium-term strategies that had reduced poverty from 83 to 31 per cent.  The country had put in place a new development strategy and was in the process of integrating the 2030 Agenda into that national strategy.  Nevertheless, the country’s landlocked status and the prevalence of climate change-induced natural disasters were obstacles negatively impacting achievement of the Goals, which would require the mobilization of resources from all sectors.

LUCKY MULUSA, Minister for National Development Planning of Zambia, underlined a need for building stronger bilateral and multilateral partnerships between developing and developed countries.  Doing so must translate into benefits for countries like Zambia in areas of pervasive development inadequacies.  As a way of institutionalizing the 2030 Agenda into national plans, Zambia recently launched a strategy for 2017 to 2021 centred on the theme of accelerating development efforts and on mainstreaming the goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Related measures included providing social assistance to vulnerable groups, reforming input delivery and distribution systems through an e-voucher system and technology development, and implementing programmes on farming and health.  Eradicating poverty required infrastructure development and sustainable industrialization, he said, emphasizing the need for coordinated and diversified resource mobilization and partnerships.

YINAGER DESSIE BELAY, Minister of the National Planning Commission of Ethiopia, said that despite global poverty having been cut in half since 2000, an enhanced and revitalized global partnership was required to end poverty and achieve prosperity.  As the eradication of poverty and inclusive and sustainable development had been the overarching policy objectives of Ethiopia, the country was taking its Voluntary National Review as an opportunity to deepen national ownership of the Goals and implementation of the national growth and transformation plan, which integrated all the Goals.  Highlighting that Ethiopia had made considerable progress in economic growth, infrastructure and social development as well as environmental management in the last 15 years, he noted that the country had established a federal and decentralized system of administration to address economic, social and political inequalities.  Nevertheless, poverty, climate change-induced drought, governance challenges and a weak export sector remained among the country’s principle development challenges.

SLUMBER TSOGWANE, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development of Botswana, emphasized that the right to development was a right for all, and in that regard, every effort must be made to ensure that no one was left behind in the pursuit of sustainable development.  Despite the encouraging progress that had taken place, the international community had yet to account for the millions of people who still wallowed in abject poverty and for whom the right to development remained but a dream.  Botswana had mainstreamed the 2030 Agenda into its National Development Plan 11 and Vision 2063.  Empowerment programmes had been designed in an inclusive manner, aimed at vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, while structures and mechanisms had been put in place to facilitate effective review, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the respective programmes.  Further, Botswana had recognized the need for institutional mechanisms to facilitate synergies, information-sharing and coordination and collaboration among implementing entities to prevent the emergence of a counterproductive silo approach.

ABDUL RAHMAN DAHLAN, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia, aligned himself with statement of the Group of 77 and China, and said his country’s development agenda had always been people-focused and ran parallel to the aspirations of the Goals in that it balanced the needs of both the people and the economy.  Malaysia had localized the implementation of the Goals within the national context, including through the establishment of a governance structure, headed by the Prime Minister, for progress monitoring and reporting.  In 1970, the poverty level in Malaysia was at 49 per cent, but by 2000 it had fallen to 8.5 per cent, which was long before the Millennium Development Goal target year of 2015.  Malaysia’s approach to eradicating poverty was premised on access to education, skills development, creating employment and income–generating activities, investment schemes and ensuring basic infrastructure.  Moving forward, Malaysia remained committed to increasing the incomes and quality of life for the bottom 40 per cent of households.  Recognizing the important role of women, Malaysia had sought to consistently promote the rights of women and girls, including through the enactment of legislation in 1989 that ensured that women enjoyed the same fundamental rights as men.

CARMELO ABELA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion of Malta, expressed pride in the progress made in development cooperation, recalling Malta’s work in conjunction with other European Union member States towards the adoption of the new European Consensus on Development.  Thanks to that new consensus, the European Union member States now had a “one development policy for all” which was a ground-breaking cornerstone in the collective effort to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.  For the first time, young people were at the core of the bloc’s development policy, in recognition of their strong potential to drive innovation and entrepreneurship.  The focus placed on women and girls could not be over-emphasized, he said, stressing their potential to serve as real agents of change and their invaluable contributions to development worldwide.  At the national level, Malta had worked tirelessly to ensure a holistic implementation of the Agenda, whereby awareness-raising was essential.

HLANGUSEMPI DLAMINI, Minister for Economic Planning and Development of Swaziland, said his country had dovetailed domestic policies to ensure a smooth implementation process towards achieving the Goals.  Progress included initiatives prioritizing the less privileged groups, including vulnerable children and the elderly.  Such programmes, however, must be maintained and adequately funded.  Ensuring healthy lives, promoting well-being and ensuring gender equality were among the Government’s priorities.  Turning to the environment, he said Swaziland had suffered from climate change consequences, including drought, and to address that, the Government had launched projects to build dams and was working on other solutions.

ABDUL SATTAR MURAD, Minister for Economy of Afghanistan, said progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals had included expanded school enrolment, higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality.  The Sustainable Development Goals required new ways of working together, building partnerships and identifying innovative financing beyond the traditional aid system.  Despite national efforts, peace still evaded Afghanistan.  Even so, nationalizing the Goals had already begun through a series of consultations, conferences and workshops with various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders and with all targets, indicators and baselines set to Afghanistan’s realities.  “We are determined to develop a human rights-based implementation plan in order to ensure that everyone is placed at the centre of our Government’s efforts,” he said.

SLAVICA DJUKIĆ DEJANOVIĆ, Minister without portfolio in charge of population policy of Serbia, said an intersectoral working group, including stakeholders from civil society, academia and the private sector, was currently making strides in implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Calling the voluntary national review process a significant tool to monitor gains, she said Serbia was currently negotiating with the European Union on development programmes and was cooperating closely with the United Nations country team on related initiatives.  After years of multiple challenges, Serbia was set on its way towards fiscal stability and dynamic growth, which must be sustainable, especially regarding environmental protection, poverty eradication, advancing gender equality and ending violence against women and girls.

SALEH BIN MOHAMMAD AL-NABIT, Minister of Development Planning and Statistics of Qatar, said that poverty eradication was a huge challenge and necessary pre-condition for the achievement of sustainable development.  Implementing inclusive socioeconomic development required the mobilization of means of implementation and effective international cooperation.  In those efforts, the needs of the poorest and most marginalized must be taken into consideration.  To realize sustainable development, financing needs must be met in a spirt of international solidarity and partnership.  The 2030 Agenda was being integrated into Qatar’s second development strategy for 2017-2022, he said, calling for a greater focus on human rights.  In that context, he noted that Qatar continued to receive nationals from different countries and that those individuals enjoyed the same fundamental rights that enabled them to participate in the development of policies.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said that a strong legal and legislative framework had been created in his country that provided a solid platform for planning, implementing and following up on national development strategies and policies, particularly with regard to poverty eradication.  Iran’s Voluntary National Report provided an opportunity for Iran to share its best practices, experiences and achievements in the areas of building a resilient economy, as well as poverty eradication, social justice, food security and the expansion of social services.  Emphasizing that Iran’s experience signified the importance of an conducive external environment, he said providing a means of implementation was a vital factor, and in that regard, developed countries should fulfil their commitments on the provision of financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building without politicizing that process.

GHADA FATHI ISMAIL, Minister for Social Solidarity of Egypt, said implementation strategies, including Egypt Vision 2030, were based on economic development, social justice, environment and knowledge and innovation.  Working at national, regional and global levels towards sustainable development, Egypt continued to forge ways to bolster partnerships to ensure no one was left behind.  However, challenges existed, she said.  Highlighting ways to overcome them, she encouraged fostering a reinvigorated drive to ensure sufficient means existed for implementing the Goals.  Recognizing the ineffectiveness of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, she said policy space must allow for tailored strategies.  All stakeholders must contribute to joint implementation efforts, she said, emphasizing that stability, security and peace was essential.

JOSÉ MOLINAS (Paraguay) said a national plan was currently aligned with the 2030 Agenda, representing also the aspirations of citizens.  Citing several examples of national action plans, he said Paraguay had formed an intergovernmental committee and country strategy team with a broad range of stakeholders.  A results-based approach included a citizens’ “dashboard”, through which local councils brought together civil society, Government and the private sector to address cross-cutting issues, including gender equality and environmental sustainability. 

OLGA MARTA SANCHEZ OVIEDO, Minister for Planning and Economic Policy of Costa Rica, said that not leaving anyone behind was a State responsibility.  As such, the 2030 Agenda must be built on synergies and partnerships.  For its part, Costa Rica had taken a strategic step forward in adopting a pact between the private sector, civil society, academia and local communities with a view to advancing progress on the Goals.  In that vein, varied perspectives could be brought together to find solutions, turning the Goals into a foundation for future sustainable development.  Rethinking social policies must also result in action to fight poverty with new tools and approaches, she said.

JEAN MAX RAKOTOMAMONJY, President of the National Assembly of Madagascar, said national efforts were being threatened by trends that had seen declines in ODA.  Madagascar relied on foreign partnerships for development, particularly in poverty eradication and related areas.  After a donor conference in December 2016, an opening of financial support had kept funds flowing.  For its part, Madagascar was working on national resource mobilization and had displayed ownership of the Goals.

ISSAKA SIDIBE, President of the Parliament of Mali, said that his country had been going through a crisis since 2012.  Mindful that there could be no sustainable development without peace and vice versa, the Malian Government had undertaken concrete steps to implement the 2030 Agenda.  It was working to provide basic social services to the country’s most vulnerable, including refugees and internally displaced persons who had returned to their communities.  Urging all stakeholders to honour their commitments to implement the peace and reconciliation plan for Mali, he said the Government had adopted a framework for economic recovery, as it aimed to promote inclusive and sustainable development in a united and peaceful Mali.  Social safety net programmes, supported by the World Bank, had reached over 60,000 households in Mali.  Poverty eradication and promoting prosperity required gender equality, he added, pointing to a new law aimed at increasing the number of women in Government, ending violence against women and empowering rural women.

MARIANNA SHCHETKINA, Deputy Chair of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus, said her Government with the assistance of the United Nations and its agencies was working to educate the public on the Sustainable Development Goals.  International support was fundamental to achieving the 2030 Agenda, whose implementation was only possible through coordinated and streamlined support.  Belarus, as a middle-income country, required assistance to achieve sustainable development, she added, underscoring the need for a special plan of action for middle-income nations.  She noted the importance of regional structures and the mutual benefits of countries and organizations in Eurasia working together.  Governments must work for the people rather than work to please political elites.

ARVIND PANAGARIYA, Vice Chairperson of the National Institution for Transforming India, noted that among major economies, India was the fastest growing.  That growth had enabled India to combat poverty through gainful employment as well as large-scale anti-poverty programmes.  As a result, the country had cut the number of poor in half since 1993.  To end hunger, India’s food security programmes reached more than 800 million citizens, while progressive legislation, such as the country’s maternity benefit programme, had helped reduce gender inequality.  Even as it combated poverty, India remained committed to protecting the environment and had offered an ambitious set of national determined commitments as part of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  India counted on developed countries making good on their commitments and believed that with sustained efforts at the national and global levels, it would indeed be possible to eradicate poverty.

YANARA CHHIENG, Minister Attaché to the Prime Minister of Cambodia, noted some development challenges, including transforming rural economy, competitiveness, migration and urbanization.  The Government was focused on strengthening institutions and addressing inequality.  As a least-developed country, Cambodia remained particularly concerned about exclusion and vulnerability even as incomes seemed to rise.  Making sure no one was left behind required better information on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society as well as an improved understanding of the dynamics of exclusion that informed policy interventions.  Investments in improved monitoring and information systems were critical to ensuring inclusive implementation and achieving a zero rate of poverty by 2030.  He also emphasized the need to boost financing for development and underscored the importance of South-South cooperation and private sector partnerships.

MIN BAHADUR SHRESTHA, Vice-Chairman of National Planning Commission of Nepal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, Group of Landlocked Developing Countries and Group of Least Developed Countries, said his country’s current development priority focused on building on progress achieved with the Millennium Development Goals.  While Nepal had undertaken policy initiatives to mainstream the 2030 Agenda into its national agenda, it was still struggling with challenges posed by its landlocked status and the effects of climate change.  Underscoring that the 2030 Agenda had called for generous international partnerships, he said commitments must match concrete support.  Development partners must complement the efforts of countries in special situations through system-wide coherence, meaningful private-public partnerships, and ODA.

CECILIA CHAZAMA, Minister of Civic Education and Community Development of Malawi, underlined the importance of addressing economic and environmental approaches to breaking the cycle of poverty and hunger.  Malawi was harnessing the efforts of all stakeholders to work towards achieving the Goals and efforts included public-sector reforms aimed at improving service delivery along the lines of the three pillars of development.  The 2030 Agenda offered hope for a brighter future.  Noting progress, she said Malawi had produced baseline data on dozens of targets through a medium-term strategy.  Rural-based efforts, including housing subsidies and infrastructure development, were also among the approaches being taken with partners, including the private sector.

JERZY KWIECINSKI, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economic Development of Poland, said achieving sustainable development must be supported by Governments, which must strive to find innovative ways to reach the Goals and targets.  Poland had adopted a medium-term strategy for responsible development that was human-centred and ensured all social groups enjoyed the benefits of progress.  High levels of employment and a large scale of entrepreneurship were among the gains that had been targeted with efforts such as strengthening human and social capital and sustainably managed resources.

NGUYEN THE PHUONG, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Planning and Investment of Viet Nam, said his country had already adopted a national plan to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.  However, implementing the Goals faced challenges including a lack of financial resources, particularly due to declining ODA, and a dearth of data.  Bolstering those areas would in turn foster further progress to achieve the Goals.  At the global level, maintaining peace and security on the basis of respect for international law, intensifying assistance among nations and strengthening partnerships were crucial to successfully leave no one behind.

ROSEMARIE EDILLON, Under-Secretary for Policy Planning at the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines, said taking stock of lessons learned during the Millennium Development Goals era had shown that needs centred on creating an implementation strategy, financing mechanism and monitoring and evaluation system alongside a succession plan to sustain efforts.  The 2030 Agenda, however, was vastly different, with interlinked Goals and targets.  The Philippines had recognized that a long-term vision was needed and all people must support the idea of leaving no one behind.  Through focus groups and a nationwide survey, the Philippines had summarized national aspirations and drafted a development plan that focused on prosperity, health and innovation.  The next step was to bring that plan to local governments, securing their support and cooperation.

THONGPHANE SAVANPHET, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said national efforts had worked closely with the United Nations country team in localizing the Goals, with the 2016-2020 socioeconomic development plan serving as a main entry point for integrating targets into planning.  One focus centred on ensuring healthy and productive lives and creating enabling conditions for development.  A national steering committee and relevant ministries and institutions were working together on implementation efforts.  Initiatives had also focused on tackling economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities.  Forging inclusive partnerships was a means to achieving the Goals and his country was committed to leaving no one behind in its efforts.

ASLAK BRUN, Chief Climate Negotiator of Norway, said the commitment to leave no one behind had resonated deeply with humanity.  Over the last decade, the world had seen a substantial decline in the number of people living in abject poverty. Efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals had demonstrated that poverty could be defeated.  However, the 2030 Agenda could potentially “nosedive” if it did not take into account the realities on the ground, he said, adding that good governance was essential to achieving sustainable development.  Translating the 2030 Agenda to concrete results on the ground required transparent and coherent action involving the voices of the future:  children and youth.  A gender equity perspective was crucial as well.  The 2030 Agenda was a call to address the root causes of poverty, extremism, climate change and inequality.  “We are here to confirm we are heeding that call,” he added.

ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO, Cuba, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, said her country was working to achieve a new global order based on justice and equality.  The current global system was mostly based on the exploitation of Africa and Latin America, she added, stressing that development must shift from a culture of privilege to a culture of equality.  Implementation of the 2030 Agenda required access to financial resources.  Otherwise, it would just be a “pipedream”.  For over 60 years, an economic and trade embargo had been imposed upon Cuba, posing severe challenges to its development.  Yet Cuba’s modest resources had been shared with other Member States.  Hundreds of thousands of Cuban doctors and teachers had worked “shoulder-to-shoulder” with their counterparts in many other countries.  People must be at the crux of development, she stressed.

THOMAS SILBERHORN, Parliamentary State Secretary of Germany, said that no country in the world could manage the shift to sustainable development on its own.  Germany was increasing its focus on the 2030 Agenda by committing to further aligning its agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals.  In January, Germany adopted its sustainability strategy aimed at, among other things, boosting its use of renewable energy.  All sustainable development goals were linked and could not be viewed in isolation.  Germany was advocating for better governance, the empowerment of women and investments in education and health.  In addition to ODA which “was never meant to cover all costs”, participation of the private sector and its investments were essential.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique) said the Goals could only be achieved if they were integrated into national planning and budgets and if they involved all stakeholders.  Further, financial resources must be strengthened to ensure success.  Mozambique’s early involvement in the 2030 Agenda included weaving all 17 Goals into national strategies, using complementarity approaches to build resilience, promote innovation and ensure the sustainable management of resources.  The Government was now working on a monitoring mechanism to examine efforts targeting the Goals and had created a national fund for sustainable development for targeted projects.

FERNANDO GARCIA CASAS, Vice-Minister for International Cooperation and for Ibero-America of Spain, said the 2030 Agenda was a road map for the future and while progress had been made, gaps remained, in his country and beyond its borders.  Given the ambitious nature of the Goals, which should stand at the core of public policies, it was clear that no actor alone could achieve progress.  Spain was now cooperating with local authorities and would bring on board other stakeholders, including those representing civil society and the private sector.  Efforts were needed to bolster policy coherence.  For its part, Spain had created a sustainable development fund and was closely following the voluntary national review process to learn from and incorporate lessons and best practices with a view to creating inclusive, prosperous societies.

RISTO ARTJOKI, State Secretary at the Ministry of Finance of Finland, said extreme poverty had not been eradicated and much remained to be done to tackle current challenges with a view to reaching that goal.  To change that, the Paris Agreement must be implemented and all women and girls must fully benefit from gender equality and access to education, and reproductive health and rights.  Planetary boundaries must also be respected.  For its part, Finland had drafted a national implementation plan and had bolstered multi-stakeholder participation in it.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria) said national efforts to implement the Goals had included reaching out to local authorities and establishing advisory groups involving the private sector and civil society.  The 2030 Agenda had been integrated into a national medium-term strategy that aimed at a range of initiatives, including job creation, data collection and grants schemes.  Such a multi-sectoral approach was addressing poverty, hunger, unemployment and inequality.  Other initiatives were tackling illicit financial flows, which were depriving many developing countries, including Nigeria, with much-needed resources to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

News

Strong Social Protections, Food Systems Key to Ending Poverty, Hunger, Speakers Stress, as High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Continues

Beginning its review of progress made in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the High-Level Political Forum today took an in‑depth look at country-level efforts to achieve the first two Goals on the eradication of poverty and hunger.

Tasked with evaluating progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Forum held two panel discussions today, followed by a thematic review, as it continued with its second annual session involving Government, private sector and civil society participants.

Decent work was critical to poverty reduction and universal social protections were a driver for reducing both poverty and inequality, stressed Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General for Policy of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in the first panel discussion that took up Goal 1 on poverty eradication.  Underscoring the need for fair growth, she noted that, in some parts of the world, the informal economy represented about 80 per cent of all work, which pointed to the need for social protections.  Unpaid care work as a huge barrier for women trying to move out of poverty, she said, calling for policies that addressed the care economy, which would be critical to enabling women to join the labour market and move into jobs with decent working conditions.

Effective monitoring of the Goals required comparable data over time and across space, stressed Janet Gornick, a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Stone Center on Socioeconomic Inequality at the City University of New York.  Microdata with multiple dimensions and outcomes were needed, especially in middle- and low-income countries, she said, while emphasizing the importance of efforts aimed at making comparable microdata widely available for research and analysis.

In the day’s second panel discussion addressing Goal 2 on ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture, Esther Penunia, Secretary-General of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development, lamented that, despite producing as much as 70 per cent of its own food, Asia was home to the world’s poorest and hungriest people.  “We are hungry because we are poor,” she said, adding that eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition required a holistic approach to development that was socially just, environmentally sound and economically viable.  Policies and programmes were needed that promoted secured land rights, created easier access to financing and strengthened farmers’ position in value chains, she emphasized.

Privatization, reduced social spending, trade liberalization and growth‑driven development were being promoted as the magic wand to eradicate poverty everywhere, underlined Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina in Zimbabwe.  Yet, those policies had created poverty in the first place.  She went on to highlight that solutions must come from the very people the Sustainable Development Goals were designed to help.

For the first time in many years, there was evidence that gains made in ending hunger were at risk due to conflict, climate change, and a lack of appropriate policies and investment, said the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking also on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  Just two years after the Goals were agreed, some 20 million people were at risk of famine, while millions more faced food insecurity.  Sustainable agriculture, resilience and productive food systems were needed, as well as a transformation of the rural economy that put smallholder farmers at the centre.

In the afternoon, the Forum conducted a thematic review on eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world, taking into account multi‑stakeholder perspectives.  Delivering a keynote address during that segment, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, recalled that the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Goals were the result of a truly global, inclusive and transparent negotiation process, which had included civil society, the private sector, grass-roots actors and many others.

The type of broad participation that characterized the creation of the future development agenda would also be required in its implementation, he said, stressing that “having everyone on board is crucial”.  Also underlining the need to create a sense of ownership among those actors, he said people must realize that the Sustainable Development Goals were about their daily lives and that they had a role in implementing them.

The High-Level Political Forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 12 July, to continue its work.

Panel I

The first panel of the day was titled “review of implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 1 (end poverty in all its forms)”, and was moderated by Caroline Sanchez-Parama, World Bank, with Stefan Schweinfest, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, providing a statistical overview.  Panellists included Martin Ravallion, Edmond D. Villani Professor of Economics, Georgetown University; Yang Zhi, Mayor of Jingzhou, China; Yaw Ansu, Chief Economist, African Center for Economic Transformation, Ghana; and Janet Gornick, Professor, Political Science and Director, Stone Center on Socioeconomic Inequality, City University of New York.  The lead discussants were Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General for Policy, International Labour Organization (ILO) and Wellington Chibebe, Deputy General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.

Mr. SCHWEINFEST said that, despite progress, 750 million people still lived in extreme poverty.  He noted, however, that nearly 1 billion people had escaped poverty since 1999.  About half of the world’s poor lived in sub-Saharan Africa and among the working poor, young people were most likely to live in extreme poverty across all regions of the world.  Social protection coverage varied and did not reach many vulnerable populations, he said, noting that less than half of the world’s population was covered by at least one social protection scheme.  Only 30 per cent of children, 41 per cent of women giving birth and 68 per cent of people above retirement age were covered by some form of social protection.

Ms. SANCHEZ-PARAMA noted that, although there had been progress over the last 10 to 15 years in eradicating poverty, almost 800 million people continued to live in depravation, which was unacceptable in a world that had the means to end extreme poverty.  The extreme poor were concentrated in particular households and regions of the world, many of which were located in rural areas and worked in agriculture.  More than half of the extreme poor were children and most had little to no education.  Further, the majority of extremely poor people lived in places that were prone to natural disasters or in fragile or conflict-affected States.  She expressed concern that the risks of climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in poverty by 2030.

Mr. RAVALLION said that there had been good overall progress against absolute poverty, but there were continuing challenges in reducing relative poverty and making sure that “no one is left behind”.  Poorer countries had relied less on direct interventions against poverty, as economic growth had done the bulk of the work, which was a dynamic that may need to change.  Poverty measurements focused exclusively on absolute poverty, which was not consistent with social thought and the aims of social policies.  There needed to be lower and upper bounds on global poverty measures that took into account the country in which people lived.  In other words, richer countries should have higher poverty lines and vice versa when measuring poverty in developing countries.  There had been progress in the number of people who were absolutely poor, although less progress in the number of people who were relatively poor.

Mr. YANG highlighted that, by the end of 2016, the impoverished population in Jingzhou under the absolute poverty level had dropped from about 409,000 to 156,000 people.  He stressed that, to end poverty, it was necessary to boost confidence and establish a mechanism of joint cooperation among all sectors of society.  An important characteristic of poverty alleviation in China was the wide mobilization of all sectors.  Further, ending poverty required greater efforts to improve infrastructure.  In that context, infrastructure investment had been increased in China with an aim of enhancing the availability of safe drinking water and improving the power grid.  Increasing income was a fundamental building block of reducing poverty.  Development was the key to solving all social problems and the most effective solution to ending poverty, which was ultimately, the Government’s responsibility.

Mr. ANSU pointed out that agriculture contributed about 30 per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP), although that varied across countries.  It was clear that improving agricultural productivity would have a strong impact on poverty reduction, while also helping to improve food security.  Further, agriculture provided a major contribution to exports and foreign exchange that financed imports of other economic sectors.  Close to 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated, arable land was in Africa, while the continent’s year-round sunshine and youthful population provided opportunities.  However, access to land and the lack of security of tenure was a challenge, as was low productivity and the lack of profitability in farming, which meant that that youth often were not attracted to work in agriculture.  It would be important to improve the production of key staples and product diversification, while also leveraging agriculture to drive industrialization.

Ms. GORNICK noted that poverty rates varied considerably among affluent countries and among countries of similar levels of economic development.  For example, the United States had a much higher level of poverty than the United Kingdom, despite similar levels of economic development.  Effective monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals required comparable data over time and across space.  It also called for disaggregation, which required microdata.  Income was one measure of well-being.  Microdata with multiple dimensions and outcomes were needed, especially in middle- and low-income countries.  Supranational and national investments in high-quality microdata were crucial.  Equally important were efforts aimed at making comparable microdata widely available for research and analysis.  Complementing high-quality microdata with national and subnational macrodata on corresponding policies and institutions was needed for effective policy analysis.

Ms. GREENFIELD said that focusing on relative poverty meant that poverty was recognized as a global phenomenon.  By examining the situation of some middle‑income countries, it was evident that poverty was directly related to inequality, which was, in turn, related to stagnant wages.  Decent work was critical to poverty reduction and universal social protections were a driver for reducing both poverty and inequality.  It was not only about growth, but, really, it was about fair growth.  Global supply chains could be engines of growth, but did not necessarily equate to good jobs.  In some parts of the world, the informal economy represented about 80 per cent of all work.  In those places, social protections were of key importance.  Another area that needed to be better understood concerned the movement of people, as they moved from rural areas to more developed cities.  Policies that addressed the care economy would be critical to enabling women to join the labour market and to move into jobs with decent working conditions.  Unpaid care work was a huge barrier to moving women out of poverty.

Mr. CHIBEBE recalled that it was commonly understood that job creation was critical to ending poverty, although the reality was that poverty must be addressed through the creation of quality jobs compounded with social protections, better working conditions and democratic decision-making processes.  Trade unions believed that ending poverty required access to decent livelihoods, whereby workers were adequately compensated.  Minimum wages should be living wages and established through rule-setting processes with the direct involvement of social partners, including workers and employer organizations.  Workers should have the right to organize, join trade unions and negotiate wages and compensation.  Quality public services formed the cornerstone of efforts to end poverty.  Austerity measures must be thoroughly discussed, because if they were left to Governments alone, they would cripple efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Indonesia noted that his country had undertaken serious efforts to address the needs of the most vulnerable by expanding financial inclusion and the availability of universal health coverage, among other efforts.  The representative of Maldives emphasized that the combination of the effects of climate change, natural disasters and isolated locations kept many small island developing States such as hers unable to move forward with poverty eradication.  In that context, she stressed that such States remained a special case when it came to sustainable development.  The representative of Kenya noted that her country was implementing a national social safety net programme to improve the well-being of people in the country, particularly those who could not meet their basic needs.

Mr. ANSU noted that one challenge that remained was how to intensify agricultural production, such as through the use of fertilizers, without damaging the environment.  Mr. RAVALLION recalled that developing countries were reducing poverty at a much faster rate than developed countries had a century ago.  Mr. YANG noted the targeted solutions that had been put in place in his city to alleviate poverty, which were tailored to the varying conditions, both on the individual and household levels.  Ms. GORNICK said her work had shown that there were many statistical offices lacking data capacity, both in terms of fielding surveys and in preparing the data for use by Government policymakers.

The representatives of Azerbaijan, Switzerland and China also delivered statements.

Also participating was a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

A speaker from the children and youth major group also spoke.

Panel II

Moderated by Gerda Verburg, Coordinator, Scaling-Up Nutrition Movement, the second panel, titled “review of implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture)”, included panellists Esther Penunia, Secretary General, Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development, and Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator, La Via Campesina, Zimbabwe.

Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla, Head of the Latin American and Caribbean Programme, International Food Policy Research Institute; Meena Bilgi, Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management; and Patrick Caron, Chair, High Level Panel of Experts, United Nations Committee on World Food Security, were lead discussants.

Ms. PENUNIA said Asia produced as much as 70 per cent of its own food, yet it was home to the world’s poorest and hungriest people.  “We are hungry because we are poor,” she said.  Eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition required a holistic approach to development that was socially just, environmentally sound and economically viable.  Policies and programmes were needed that promoted secured land rights, easier access to financing, strengthened farmers’ position in value chains, and investment in roads, electricity, health care and education, among other things.  Affirmative action would promote gender equality in agriculture, she said, emphasizing also a need for better macrotrade policies.  She went on to say that transforming agriculture would require that family farmers be viewed not as victims and beneficiaries, but as agents and partners for sustainable development.

Ms. MPOFU said privatization, reduced social spending, trade liberalization and growth-driven development were being promoted as the magic wand to eradicate poverty everywhere.  However, for her organization, those policies had created poverty in the first place.  Such alternatives as food sovereignty, agroecology and popular and integral agrarian reforms were being ignored.  Solutions must come from the very people the Sustainable Development Goals were supported to help, she said, describing poverty as the direct outcome of extreme wealth accumulation by a few people.  Now was the time for real structural transformation, to end business as usual, and to reverse inequality and unfair power relations.

Mr. DIAZ-BONILLA, emphasizing the need to separate countries in conflict situations from those that were not, said that helping the poor and hungry meant going directly to the poor and hungry.  Social safety nets would help, he said, noting that they cost less than 0.1 per cent of global GDP.  Other issues included the political economy of the food system, food labelling, women’s empowerment and consumers who were not doing all they could to lead healthy lives.

Ms. BILGI, noting a decline in public investment in agriculture, said transformative change in food and agriculture was necessary.  That meant moving beyond increasing production without negative social and environmental impacts.   Small-scale producers, who made up the vast majority of food producers worldwide, must be empowered, she said, adding that emphasis must be placed on promoting the equitable sharing of opportunities for women farmers.  In India, she said hunger was approached mainly as a rural phenomenon and a question of food scarcity.  The emerging challenge of rapid urbanization — and a growing disconnect between food and nutrition — needed to be identified.

Mr. CARON suggested that the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development be addressed by looking at food systems as a lever.  A revolution was needed, not just incremental change, of the same magnitude of the green revolution.  Agriculture would be a game changer if transformation was considered within the wider perspective of food systems.  He went on to call for a “rainbow revolution” that entailed local innovations for improving resource efficiency, strengthening resilience and security social responsibility, alongside international frameworks such as the Paris Agreement on climate change and national policies to ensure the right to food.

In the ensuing discussion, delegations discussed their countries’ and organization’s efforts towards implementing Goal 2.

The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking also on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that, for the first time in many years, there was evidence that gains made in ending hunger were at risk due to conflict, climate change, and a lack of appropriate policies and investment.  Some 20 million people lived at risk of famine, while millions more faced food security, just two years after the Goals were agreed.  Sustainable agriculture, resilience and productive food systems were needed, as well as a transformation of the rural economy that put smallholder farmers at the centre.

The representative of Finland said gender equality was absolutely crucial, given that women comprised 43 per cent of the agricultural work force in developing countries.  She cited a study that concluded that empowering women farmers could prompt a 20 to 30 per cent increase in farm yields while improving the security of their families and reducing by 100 million the overall number of people living in hunger.

The representative of the World Bank Group drew attention to the work of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme, which had delivered $1.5 billion since it was created by the Group of 20, known as the G20, in 2009.  At the country level, bringing technical and financial stakeholders together produced much better results.  She added that it was very important for reforms to be recipient-led, rather than coming out of an office in Washington, D.C.  She went on to quote a farmer she had met in Manila who said:  “No farmer, no food, no future.”

The representative of Indonesia said his country had made promising progress in providing better nutrition for its people, but much more needed to be done.  Emphasizing the strong link between food security, poverty and health, as well as education, he said an integrated policy approach could ensure that food accessibility and availability were addressed effectively.  Intensifying agricultural research and development might be an answer, he said.

The representative of Sudan, speaking as a member of the Committee on World Food Security, said ending hunger and achieving food security would require, among other things, raising smallholders’ incomes and securing their access to markets.  Sustainable food systems with strong accountable institutions and responsible investments were also required, she said, emphasizing as well the need to prioritize women’s empowerment.

The representative of the United States said recent events had reinforced how vulnerable the world remained to food insecurity.  A global response was needed, she said, describing the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as an overlooked humanitarian crisis.  Emphasizing the importance of preventative action, she said bridging the gap between humanitarian action and development was vital.  She went on to note that discussions were under way on better indicators for measuring progress on Goal 2.

The representative of Chile underscored the value of cooperation with other countries to promote successful ways to tackle malnutrition.  She added that childhood obesity — which was related to poverty and inequality — had not been overcome, and explained her country’s implementation of food labelling regulations.  Reducing malnutrition would require incorporating economic aspects.

The representative of the European Union said sustainability was prominently reflected in the Common Agricultural Policy, in line with the 2030 Agenda.  European Union rules stipulated that farmers could only get European Union support if they accepted a basic layer of environmental regulations.  The Common Agricultural Policy was currently being modernized and simplified, with input from a just-completed public consultation.  Turning to external action, he said the European Union and its member States would continue to extend support to those facing acute food crises.

Also speaking were representatives of South Africa, Argentina, Finland, Benin, France and China.

Representatives of the food and agriculture cluster of the non-governmental organization major group and the stakeholder group for persons with disabilities also took the floor.

Panel III

This afternoon, the Forum held a two-part panel discussion on the theme “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world:  multi‑stakeholder perspectives”.  The first segment focused on the views of major groups and other stakeholders on challenges and pathways to the achievement of those goals.  Luisa Emilia Reyes Zuñiga, Co-Chair of the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders High-Level Political Forum Coordination Mechanism, delivered opening remarks, followed by a keynote address by Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Moderated by Maruxa Cardama of Cities Alliance, it featured eight panellists:  Wellington Chibebe, Deputy General Secretary, International Trade Union (ITU) Confederation, workers and trade unions major group; Sehnaz Kiymaz, President, Women for Women’s Human Rights — New Ways, women’s major group; Louise Kantrow, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, International Chamber of Commerce, business and industry major group; Luis Miguel Etchevehere, President, Sociedad Rural Argentina, farmers major group; Verity McGivern, HelpAge International, stakeholder group on ageing; Jose Maria Viera, International Disability Alliance, persons with disabilities; Roberto Bissio, Social Watch, financing for development civil society group; and Katarina Popovic, Secretary-General, International Council for Adult Education, education and academia stakeholder group.

Ms. REYES opened the discussion, noting that her experience with a small women’s organization in Mexico had demonstrated the power of collective participation.  In its short life so far, the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders High-Level Political Forum Coordination Mechanism had already agreed on a set of core principles, including abiding by the United Nations Charter, ensuring progress and human rights for all, and promoting the well-being of all people on a healthy planet.  Spotlighting the role of women’s human rights defenders in particular, she said the session would provide a platform for representatives of all major groups to be heard.

Mr. WU said the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Goals were the results of a truly global, inclusive and transparent negotiation process, which had included civil society, the private sector, grass-roots actors and many others.  As a result, the agenda was the most innovative and transformative in the history of the United Nations.  That kind of broad participation would also be required in its implementation, he said, stressing that “having everyone on board is crucial”.  Also underlining the need to create a sense of ownership among those actors, he said people must realize that the Sustainable Development Goals were about their daily lives and that they had a role in implementing them.  Emphasizing the importance of the participation of the major groups at the Forum, he told participants that their presence today could help build the necessary coherence to achieve development and other international targets, especially by building awareness among their constituencies and creating connections with those working on concrete projects on the ground.

Ms. CARDAMA, noting that major groups and other stakeholders represented a cross section of civil society, said the Forum would have been “blatantly incomplete” without their participation.  Indeed, the statements delivered today would provide a “reality check” in the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and spotlight the spirit of partnership that would be critical to its achievement.  Panellists would focus in particular on identifying cross-cutting challenges and lessons learned in building coherence among various sectors in achieving development goals.

Mr. CHIBEBE highlighted the active involvement of the world’s trade unions in achieving sustainable development, including through the production of a targeted report.  Noting that today’s development challenges could be overcome through inclusiveness, transparency and dialogue, he said that Sustainable Development Goal 3 on occupational health and safety could only be reached if the rights of workers were respected.  Drawing attention to the findings of the ILO Global Wage Report 2017, which revealed that increased minimum wages had the potential to reduce inequalities with no significant impact on overall job creation, he went on to note that women’s unpaid work constituted an estimated $10 trillion around the world annually.  He also stressed the need to advocate for the rights of informal workers, migrant workers, ethnic minorities and the disabled, and to enable collective bargaining.

Ms. KIYMAZ, pointing out that all eight individuals who held the most economic wealth in the world were men, underscored the need to overcome that “obscene” concentration of wealth and to end the deeply entrenched systemic barriers against women.  Describing the work of various civil society actors in that regard — including women’s organizations in Turkey working to provide support to women and girls disproportionately affected by conflict — she said the 2030 Agenda should provide new opportunities for connections and partnerships aimed at ensuring that no one was left behind.  She called for support to help amplify the voices of women’s and feminist organizations in the 2030 Agenda’s monitoring, stressing that women’s human rights defenders had to be able to work in an environment free from threats and harassment in order to bring the agenda to people on the ground.

The representative of Kenya, serving as a Member State respondent, spotlighted the importance of international cooperation in global trade, official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI) in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  However, there were many challenges in those financial flows, including the prevalence of illegal tax evasion and mispricing of products, which led to a situation “where Africa ends up supporting the West” through subsidies.  Also highlighting the importance of good governance, he added that without the appropriate inclusion and participation of women, youth, the poor, the working class, indigenous people and others, the international community would lack the drive necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s various targets.

Ms. KANTROW said the business and industry major group had established the “Global Business Alliance for 2030”, which brought together a number of partners committed to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  Among other things, business was a major driver of growth and a provider of decent jobs, she said, noting that many companies had already taken the Goals on board and begun to incorporate them into their practices.  Many already regularly reported on environmental sustainability, she added, noting that the business community looked forward to participating as an active, engaged partner in the Forum’s various monitoring and review processes.

Mr. ETCHEVEHERE said agriculture was the primary sector in many economies, and was responsible for guaranteeing food security — and therefore life — for people around the world.  It also provided job and development opportunities to women, men and young people, and contributed to building national GDP.  Describing the agricultural community’s long history of collective organization, including with other sectors, he expressed its commitment to the achievement of the Goals.  Innovation could support mechanization in the fields and improve market practices, he said, adding that it was only when farmers received appropriate remuneration for their work that economies functioned properly.  Sustainable agriculture required increased crop rotation, he said, adding that mixed agricultural systems based on a combination of crop and livestock farming would be critical to achieving sustainable development.

Ms. MCGIVERN said many of the changes taking place in the world today resulted from the fact that people were living longer lives.  Stressing that older persons had an equal right to development, she called for a better understanding of the significant barriers they faced.  Such barriers ranged from inadequate access to health and care services, increased gender discrimination in older age and a lack of relevant data, she said, calling for social protection floors based on schemes designed to do more than meet their basic needs.  Indeed, national development policies and other relevant structures must protect and promote the rights of older persons and do more to ensure their active participation in decision-making processes.

The representative of Indonesia, also speaking as a Member State respondent, said that, despite the decline in extreme poverty, 786 million people worldwide remained undernourished.  Governments could not lift people out of poverty alone, he said, calling for strong initiative on the part of every major stakeholder group.  Among other things, he also called for progress in several specific areas, including better interconnectedness; more strategic interventions; increased incentives in the form of subsidies, tax relief or other resources; innovation, science and technology; and international cooperation with major groups and other stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and many other actors.

Mr. VIERA, introducing a report produced by the persons with disabilities major group whose goal was to evaluate the challenges related to eradicating poverty, as well as to spotlight the role of the group in the 2030 Agenda monitoring process, outlined the range of challenges faced by persons with disabilities around the world.  They continued to experience violations of their most basic human rights, such as lack of participation, denial of their property rights and even institutionalization.  “We cannot deny that the many economic austerity programmes imposed by States have not only expelled large groups of the population, but also put persons with disabilities at even greater risk,” he stressed, adding that the voluntary national reviews had, in many cases, failed to be inclusive of the needs of persons with disabilities.

Mr. BISSIO, noting that the civil society financing for development groups comprised hundreds of organizations around the world and cut across all other major groups, described its work to make the financing for development process credible, open, accountable and relevant.  “Vision without implementation is a hallucination,” he said, urging States to go beyond their focus on ODA, which was hampered by illicit financial flows and many other challenges.  International collaboration was needed to enable Governments — rich and poor — to raise their own taxes.  Tax collaboration at the United Nations remained an “open agenda” as it had not been possible.  Underlining the important principle of “do no harm”, he said the resources required to achieve sustainable development currently existed, but were allocated to such things as military expenditures and fossil fuels subsidies.

Ms. POPOVIC, pointing to a “crisis of values” around the world that could be changed through education, drew attention to a number of examples of the contribution of education and life-long learning to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  Those included poverty alleviation through vocational training; the reduction of harmful practices, such as early marriage, gender-based violence and discriminatory laws; and improvements in the use of clean water and renewable energies.  However, many obstacles existed, including the freezing of education budgets in countries such as Brazil, rules prohibiting pregnant girls from going to school and a shrinking space for civil society.  Leaving no one behind meant that everyone — regardless of sex, age, nation or religion — had access to quality, affordable education.

The representative of the Netherlands, also participating as a Member State respondent, recalled that his country had hosted international public service forum in June, from which several recommendations had emerged.  Participants at that meeting had called on Governments to be more innovative, avoid working in silos and show more integrity and transparency.  They had also highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder participation and respect for diversity in the coordination of Sustainable Development Goal implementation.

The representative of the Climate Action Network, noting that climate change was “front and centre” in the 2030 Agenda, urged Member States to include that issue in their national reporting, he invited them to work with the Network in the implementation of the Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change and voiced his hope that climate change would be reflected in the Forum’s outcome document.

The representative of the indigenous peoples major group called on Governments to prioritize respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers in their implementation efforts, especially by protecting and promoting their land tenure rights.

Naiara Costa of Together 2030 moderated the second part of the panel, titled “leaving no one behind:  ensuring an enabling environment for effective major groups and other stakeholders implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals”.  That segment featured presentations by Saul Zenteno Bueno, President, Fundación Manatí para el Fomento de la Ciudadanía, children and youth major group; Rosalea Hamilton, Founder and President, Institute for Law and Economics, and Vice-President of Community Service and Development and Professor, University of Technology, Jamaica, non-governmental organizations major group; James O’Brien, volunteer groups; Jan Van Zanen, Mayor of Utrecht and President, Association of Dutch Municipalities, local authorities major group; John Patrick Ngoyi of World Vision, on behalf of Together 2030; and Keikabile Mogodio,  indigenous peoples major group.

Mr. BUENO said children and youth had a critical role in implementing the 2030 Agenda and Member States were the duty bearers.  Highlighting a sample of related youth activities, he said target areas included policymaking, advocacy, capacity-building and knowledge-sharing.  For instance, he said, youth had worked with Governments in many countries in drafting national reviews and with awareness-raising campaigns.  Sharing best practices had enabled communities to adopt the Goals and foster context-responsive implementation efforts.  From climate change in Indonesia to food security in the United Republic of Tanzania, efforts were addressing issues related to the 2030 Agenda.  To ensure further progress, youth must have a platform and relevant mechanisms to be able to play their role, he said.

Ms. HAMILTON said universities, State agencies and non-governmental organizations in Jamaica were working together towards common goals.  One such example was a three-year USAID project that had begun prior to the 2030 Agenda’s adoption.  Executed by the University of Jamaica, the initiative addressed gender‑based violence and human trafficking and had now targeted those left further behind.  Underlining the central importance of Goal 16, she said a participatory budget approach was being used to craft community-based efforts to foster meaningful and sustainable solutions.  Taking note of several recommendations, she emphasized the importance of increased public education to change systemic barriers to eradicating poverty.

Mr. O’BRIEN said volunteers were promoting and fostering progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda by helping to extend the reach of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind.  Citing a range of examples, he said projects included awareness-raising and reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS.  Local and international volunteers were working with faith leaders to reduce gender-based violence.  The power of volunteers demonstrated a successful partnership with Governments.  Most importantly, volunteers wanted to share their experiences on working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Supporting strategies and volunteers’ work was needed, he said, calling on Governments to consider how volunteers were contributing to the 2030 Agenda and how their work was reflected in voluntary national reviews.

The representative of Slovenia said youth were significant contributors to achieving the targets set out in the 2030 Agenda.  Slovenia had created a strategy to address needs including education and jobs.  Voluntarism was a critical component that helped Government programmes and represented a visible sign of partnership among parts of society, he said, emphasizing that strong partnerships depended on creating an enabling environment.

Mr. VAN ZANEN said that more than 400,000 local and regional governments were presenting voluntary national reviews to the Forum, representing their ability to reach a total of 5.2 billion people.  As Mayor of Utrecht, he said the Goals had been part of an agenda for the entire city, which was exchanging experiences with others through the Municipality4GlobalGoals campaign.  “Full ownership of the Agenda at a local level is decisive,” he said, adding that the local and regional Governments were working on implementing the Goals at the local level.  National Governments needed to recognize that role and involve them in setting priorities for achievement.  Local governments around the world needed to be strengthened and required the legal and fiscal space to address poverty, inequality and other challenges in an integrated manner.

Mr. NGOYI said promises must transform into action, budget allocation and implementation.  Participation of all stakeholders was imperative, as it allowed the expertise and contributions of all groups to speed up and enhance the quality of delivery on the Goals.  Enabling civil spaces created opportunities for the poorest and most disadvantaged to engage in decisions that affected their lives while addressing challenges and devising strategies for solving them.  Unfortunately, since the 2030 Agenda’s adoption, the political landscape in many countries had been creating environments that hindered participation, silenced voices and oppressed diversity, he said, asking Member States and the Economic and Social Council’s President to establish clear and meaningful mechanism that went beyond online platforms to collect, publicize and analyse reports on contributions by civil society and stakeholders at all levels.

Mr. MOGODIO said that, while indigenous peoples made up 5 per cent of the world’s population, they represented 15 per cent of the poor, largely due to historical and continuous disrespect of identities linked to lands, territories and resources.  Mainstream development approaches and business-as-usual practices were fuelling unequal economic growth, devastating ecosystems and entrenching social injustice.  Those underlying causes of poverty were being compounded by exclusion from decision-making processes, as was the case in the voluntary national review process in many countries, including his, Botswana.  The lack of a legal identity and recognition of collective rights were major barriers to effectively participating and full contributing to sustainable development.  “Unless this is addressed, we will continue to be marginalized and excluded,” he said, urging Member States to prioritize legal recognition of land tenure of indigenous peoples, ensure policy cohesion and balanced implementation of human rights-based sustainable development, and ensure the full, effective participation of marginalized groups.

The representative of Sweden provided examples of current efforts to engage with non-governmental actors, emphasizing that “the 2030 Agenda will not be fulfilled if we do not work together”.  Indeed, the Government did not have the knowledge to accomplish goals alone, she said.  In submitting its national review, Sweden had included contributions from a range of partners, including the private sector, civil society and academia.  A committee representing various multisector actors had been assigned to inform and hold dialogue with the “breadth of society” and had proposed drafting a Swedish action plan on how to realize the 2030 Agenda.

In the ensuing interactive discussion, participants stressed that inclusion was key, as emphasized by speakers from civil society groups representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people’s caucus and faith-based organizations.  A speaker representing women’s land tenure rights called for changes to legislation that would recognize challenges and advance progress for females.  A representative of the persons with disabilities major group emphasized the varied contributions that could be made by all members of society.

Some speakers discussed implementation plans, including the representative of Mexico, who said a governmental working group had been drafting strategies that addressed all of the 2030 Agenda’s targets.

Private sector involvement offered vast possibilities, said a speaker representing the businesses major group.  The private sector could help in areas such as distributing food to reach the hungry, he said.

Representatives of Botswana and the Netherlands agreed with taking local approaches to implementing the 2030 Agenda, emphasizing that sharing experiences among towns and cities could foster more progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.