Economic and Social Council

Economic and Social Council: 22nd plenary meeting…

Economic and Social Council: 22nd plenary meeting, 2022 session
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 Discussion to integrate key messages from ECOSOC subsidiary bodies and the UN system on the Council's main theme, develop action-oriented recommendations for follow-up and feed into the high-level political forum on sustainable development (as mandated by GA resolution 75/290 A)

The Economic and Social Council concluded its 2022 management segment today with a round-table discussion on the theme of “Leveraging ECOSOC for an inclusive and resilient recovery guided by the 2030 Agenda”.

The discussion aimed to integrate key messages from the Council’s subsidiary bodies and the United Nations system on the main theme, develop action-oriented recommendations for follow-up and feed into the high-level political forum on sustainable development (as mandated by General Assembly resolution A/RES/75/290 A).

Chaired and moderated by Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council in charge of the management segment, the round table featured panellists:  Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Chantal-Line Carpentier, Chief, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) New York Office; Mathu Joyini, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations and Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women at its sixty-sixth session; Jamil Ahmad, Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) New York Office; Jose Antonio Ocampo, Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University and Chair of the Committee for Development Policy at its twenty-fourth session; Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Chancellor of Nelson Mandela University and Chair of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration at its twenty-first session; and Darío José Mejía Montalvo, Political Scientist, National University of Colombia and Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at its twenty-first session.

Ms. STOEVA noted that, at the inaugural Economic and Social Council coordination segment, held on 3 and 4 February, the organ identified key areas where it, its subsidiary bodies and the United Nations system could deepen policy reflection, identify innovative solutions or work more closely together.  These included mainstreaming gender perspectives, poverty reduction, food security, education, digital transformation, access to technology and bridging the digital divide, sustainable infrastructure, the green economy, climate resilience and approaches based on human security.  She noted the Secretary-General’s Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance warns that around 1.7 billion people in the world live in 107 economies estimated to be severely exposed to a shock of one of the dimensions of food, energy or finance.  Against that backdrop, she invited panellists to build on the coordination segment discussions and the guidance provided by Member States, and engage to consolidate key messages.

Ms. ALISJAHBANA, speaking via videoconference from Bangkok, said the seventy-eighth ESCAP session adopted a declaration, with member States committed to leaving no one behind, putting women and girls at the centre of development and protecting the planet.  They further addressed enhancing trade, improving digital cooperation and boosting partnerships.  Citing highlights from the regional forums, she noted the ninth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development focused on enhancing social protection, quality education and prioritizing nature-based solutions for climate mitigation.  The Arab Forum for Sustainable Development emphasized achieving a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and promoting information and communications technology (ICT) start-ups.  She noted the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development highlighted the need to unlock financing to build forward better from the pandemic.  For its part, the Regional Forum for the Europe region highlighted a need to focus on systematic change and accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.  Finally, she cited the Regional Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which called for renewed regional integration to advance the 2030 Agenda, leveraging innovative financing, and addressing impacts of climate change and natural hazards.

Ms. CARPENTIER said that the strengthened coordination must be a two-way process.  Greater opportunities should be given to the Economic and Social Council to give guidance and recommendations to the work of its subsidiary bodies to ensure their alignment with its work and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  It is also imperative for the Council to draw on the specialized technical advice of its expert bodies more effectively.  UNCTAD, as Secretariat of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and of the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting, convene these subsidiary bodies in Geneva.  In UNCTAD’s view, alternating New York and Geneva gives the Economic and Social Council more exposure to the Geneva-based subsidiary bodies and their work.  The Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting, for instance, is the United Nations focal point on accounting and corporate governance matters, and the Council should hear more about that body’s work.  The same goes for the Commission for Science and Technology for Development.

Ms. JOYINI stressed that women and girls remain unduly affected by the pandemic, facing disproportionately high job and livelihood losses and education disruptions.  The pandemic has created a global care crisis, which has left millions of children and care-dependent adults without support, and despite women’s central role in responding to the pandemic, they are still largely bypassed for leadership positions.  Women’s health services have faced major disruptions, and there also exists a shadow pandemic of increased violence against women and girls, in particular domestic and intimate partner violence.  However, the global disruption has also provided an opportunity:  “We must seize the momentum for gender-responsive change in socioeconomic systems,” she said, highlighting calls for an intersectional feminist approach.  The world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030, she said, as out of 18 indicators for Sustainable Development Goal 5, only one is close to target.  She called for bold action for accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Mr. AHMAD said recovery from the pandemic represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transition the global development paradigm towards low-carbon, resource efficient, nature positive and socially inclusive economies.  The United Nations Environment Assembly’s strong engagement can make an important contribution to the Council’s role in enhancing an inclusive and resilient recovery — and the organ can further enhance an inclusive and resilient recovery by sharing best practices on national alignment of energy security policies with climate security goals, removing market distortions, such as fossil‑fuel subsidies, and increasing access to low- and zero-carbon technologies.  He noted the Council can also help identify options to finance the green shift and identify pathways for countries to create the conditions to deploy financing solutions to reduce debt burdens and ensure just and equitable transitions to circular economies to address climate, pollution, nature and inequality crises.

Mr. OCAMPO said the Committee this year concluded that industrial policies should also strongly back the integration of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises into broader productive networks.  Post-pandemic industrial policies will need to consider new realities, including those associated with the green and blue economies.  The Committee members noted that fulfilling the potential of industrial policy requires effective regional and global frameworks, effective institutions and cooperation, including South-South cooperation.  The Committee recommended that the Council encourage Member States to adopt and implement evidence-based industrial policies, building forward from the pandemic-induced crisis and addressing the pre‑existing crises of climate change and growing inequalities.  The Committee further recommended in 2022 that the Council call on the relevant United Nations entities to support developing countries, in particular those least developed.

Ms. FRASER-MOLEKETI noted that building forward better from COVID-19 and achieving the 2030 Agenda call for stronger, more effective and credible public institutions, focusing on reopening and rebuilding economies in a sustainable manner, including providing assistance to countries in managing debt levels and inflation.  Stressing that the environmental goals of the 2030 Agenda have stagnated or deteriorated across all regions, she noted that such poor performance is due in large part to institutional factors.  Ecosystem management, territorial development and a clear distribution of responsibilities across all levels of Government are part of the solution, she said, noting that environmental accounting was key for creating such market-based incentives and promoting transparency and accountability.  She also noted that technology and hybrid models of public service delivery are necessary to leave no one behind, given the basic challenges of energy availability, electricity and Internet access.  She further called for expanded efforts to develop and adopt international norms and standards on managing fiscal stimulus packages and fiscal policy in times of crisis.

Mr. MEJÍA MONTALVO cited regional discussions on the theme “Indigenous peoples and pandemic recovery”, pointing out that vaccination campaigns in indigenous languages remain a challenge due to distances and even security issues.  He noted the impact of a lack of infrastructure and digital education tools, while economic pandemic measures adopted by Governments have exacerbated human rights violations affecting indigenous people, with increased large-scale energy and mining projects threatening their territories.  The Permanent Forum underscored the importance of desegrated data, moving towards a collaborative approach on the Sustainable Development Goals.  Calling for earmarked funds for indigenous initiatives, he emphasized that the preservation of ecosystems should not lead to greater injustices.  He further urged subsidiary bodies and the United Nations system to advance initiatives including involving indigenous women specifically in their work.

When the floor opened for dialogue, the representative of Italy said his delegation serves as a co-facilitator to draft the declaration at the 2022 high-level political forum on sustainable development, acknowledging the richness of inputs from the United Nations system while stressing the important role of the Council in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Czech Republic’s representative recognized the need to ensure reliable, comparable and quality data, including disaggregated data, to be able to make evidence-based policy decisions in addressing the impacts of the pandemic and achieving the Goals.

The representative of Colombia said the Economic and Social Council must continue to include the gender perspective, with every subsidiary body considering the impact of decisions on women and girls.  Also needed are nature-based solutions, and a discussion on the debt issue, focusing on every State’s context.  He agreed on the contribution of middle-income countries, per the Secretary‑General’s comments.

The representative of Thailand said the Council must draw on technical advice from subsidiary bodies, with its system putting the most vulnerable people at centre of all of its work.  Partnerships are crucial, she stated, including with regional and non-regional groupings.

In response to comments by delegates, Ms. CARPENTIER said that to overcome the “cost of living crisis”, there is a need to address the financial crisis.  Therefore, financial support to developing countries is vital.  UNCTAD provides some recommendations on how funding can reach the most vulnerable countries.  Warning that financing for technical support is drying out, she stressed the vital importance of supporting technical capacity-building in those countries.

Mr. OCAMPO encouraged Council members to read the Committee for Development Policy’s analysis of voluntary national reviews.  The Committee is monitoring countries that are graduating and have graduated from the least developed category, and reviewed the progress of one recently graduated State, namely, Vanuatu, and seven graduating countries, namely, Angola, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nepal, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands.  The Committee expressed its concern at the limited national capacity of those countries to address diverse challenges, including the pandemic, natural hazards and debt sustainability.

Mr. AHMAD said that the achievement of environmental goals of the 2030 Agenda are lagging behind, compared with other goals.  The poorest and most vulnerable countries must have access to financing for the necessary transition to low-carbon economies.  They must also have the ability to use financing appropriately.

Ms. FRASER-MOLEKETI, citing the principles for effective governance for sustainable development, said issues including those of integrity and participation were salient at the subnational level.  Affirming the centrality and importance of strong institutions and public services at all levels, she emphasized the importance of Sustainable Development Goal 16 as cross-cutting for all the Goals.  Over the past year, the Committee of Experts on Public Administration responded directly to themes identified by the Council, building its work around that to affirm its relevance to Member States.

Ms. JOYINI said it is clear all are pursuing similar goals, and the coordination segment and round tables are key in bringing out synergies on policies, and necessary actions to be taken.  She reinforced the importance of focusing on women, girls and other vulnerable people in achieving the Goals.

Ms. ALISJAHBANA said the Goals were not on track, even before the pandemic, especially in developing countries.  She noted the common concern over vulnerable populations, interlinkages between the Goals, and the need for financing — alongside the increasing risks of the debt crisis.  She further highlighted the opportunities offered by digitalization.

Mr. MEJÍA MONTALVO proposed a comprehensive approach focused on rights and duties.  Indigenous people’s rights still lag behind as 2030 approaches — but concerning the rights of nature, those populations are ahead, as they preserve 80 per cent of biodiversity.  Increasing coordination would benefit all United Nations entities and subsidiary bodies, he said, stressing the need to renew the social contract with indigenous peoples to address inequality, exclusion and provide access to justice for all.

Ms. STOEVA, noting that less than eight years remain before 2030, posed questions regarding gender mainstreaming and ways to accelerate progress on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. AHMAD said that women are at the forefront of taking the brunt of environmental challenges.  UNEP has special focal points for gender issues, and it convenes a meeting of women ministers for environment to share experiences.

Mr. OCAMPO underscored the issue of financing as vital to the achievement of the Goals.  Official development assistance (ODA) has more or less remained the same.  The least developed countries need additional funding.  In the wake of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, there were major initiatives by multilateral development banks.  But, today, no similar process has been seen to tackle the current crisis.

Ms. FRASER-MOLEKETI said what is really required to implement the Goals is political will and change of mind.  Also, it is important to adequately allocate resources and budgets and ensure that the 2030 Agenda is integrated in national and local plans.  Peer pressure can accelerate implementation of the Goals, but that can work only if the 2030 Agenda is not seen as an add-on.  On gender mainstreaming, it also requires political will and a change of mindset.

Mr. MEJÍA MONTALVO emphasized that women are the primary driver in every sphere of society.  On the 2030 Agenda, increasing the participation of indigenous peoples is critical.  Communities that are at the forefront of implementing the Goals must receive financial support.

Ms. ALISJAHBANA said that, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, priority must be the provision of basic rights and services, especially related to human capital, including education and health.  Digital technologies also offer a potential to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Women and girls must be at the forefront.  It is vital to get the macroeconomic policy right, including budgets and spending on the Goals.

Ms. CARPENTIER said it is important to capture the opportunities of orphan Sustainable Development Goals in the green, blue, orange and purple economies, and empower small and medium‑sized enterprises.  With the serious crisis facing the Goals, developing countries must increase their fiscal space and liquidity access for social protection systems.  She called for recapitalized development banks, more flexible lending ratios, reactivation of rapid disbursement mechanisms and new special drawing rights.

Also speaking was the representative of Indonesia.  The European Union’s representative also spoke, in its capacity as observer.

Before the round table opened, the representative of the United States, addressing Tuesday’s elections to outstanding vacancies, noted Ethiopia won an uncontested election to the Joint Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)/United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) from the African States.  Any State in that position must be the strongest advocate for each of the mandates of those organizations worldwide — in particular championing the rights of women and girls to protection from sexual and gender-based violence, and justice for victims.  Countries in conflict often experience conditions in which women fall victim to gross human rights violations, she noted, and Ethiopia has been no exception.  Citing its recent initiatives towards a humanitarian truce, she urged the Government to continue investigations of sexual and gender-based violence related to the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

The Council will next meet on Monday, 20 June, for a one-day meeting on the transition from relief to development.