ECOSOC President champions optimism ‘against all odds’ at key UN development conference

The United Nations

Harnessing partnerships to create a world of “peace and prosperity” that protects people and planet, is the main goal of a key annual development forum that started on Tuesday, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Collen Kelapile, has said.

He opened the in-person High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) “on a note characterized by high hope and optimism” arguing that “we can and shall overcome our challenges”.

Optimistic, ‘against all odds’

The senior UN official outlined five reasons for his optimism “against all odds”, beginning with successes in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, in many countries.

While acknowledging its detrimental effects on societies, people and the global development agenda, he said the pandemic has also “served as a wakeup call in exposing many aspects of our societies which were not right”.

In this way, it has provided an opportunity to “rectify our ways of living…[and] fix the resilience of our socioeconomic and health systems”.

Recovery ‘blueprint’

Secondly, he pointed to the existing “blueprint to anchor our recovery,” namely the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Despite rising inflation, major supply-chain disruptions, policy uncertainties and unsustainable debt in developing countries – all of which have slowed the global economy – Mr. Kelapile cited the latest forecast in the World Economic Situation and Prospects for global growth of 3.1 per cent.

“A good number of countries are institutionalizing the social protection measures they put in place during the pandemic…and [many] organizations are turning towards nature-positive economy”.

On the right path

Although countries have missed the target to vaccinate 70 per cent of their population against the virus by mid-year, “COVAX, the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool and the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub can help us to move further ahead,” he said as his third reason for hope.

In addition to the potential they bring for global immunization, health system protections, and risk reduction of emerging variants, the senior UN official noted a number of existing economic, financial and social solutions with more being rolled out, including an increase in International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights.

“We know the challenges and the solutions. What we need is the determination, courage, trust and solidarity to implement the solutions,” said the ECOSOC chief.

Reasons for hope

He drew attention to the Forum participants gathering with the common purpose “to renew our commitment to the 2030 Agenda… [and] agree on ways to deliver on the pledge we made in the 2019 SDG Summit, to accelerate action to implement the SDGs in the Decade of Action and Delivery“.

“And fifth, because of all this, I believe we are poised to have a successful 2022 HLPF…[that] comes up with actionable solutions…which strengthens global solidarity, deepens our understanding of our common challenges, allows us to learn from each other, expand our common ground and bolster our resolve to act together and support each other”.

The ECOSOC President concluded by inviting the Forum to “delve deeper into the discussions with open hearts and minds”.

Progress reports

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed reminded that Voluntary National Review (VNR) presentations – the process through which countries assess and present progress made toward implementing the 2030 Agenda – are now in their seventh year.

“The 44 countries presenting this year will bring the total number that have presented to 187 – meaning that we have achieved almost universal reporting,” she stated, commending all States which have taken part.

‘Unwavering commitment’

The deputy UN chief noted “a stark illustration of the setbacks” wrought by the pandemic, conflicts, and the triple environmental crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, which have impacted education, health care, gender equality, and the economy.

However, she said that they also “offer hope” – drawing attention to cash transfer programmes, debt moratoriums for businesses, national resilience plans and government stimulus packages, which have brought “critical relief”.

“They signal countries’ unwavering commitment to sustainable development in the face of ongoing and new crises,” Ms. Mohammed said.

Not ‘halfway there’

Despite being halfway through the 2030 Agenda timeframe, we are not living in “the ‘halfway there’ world that we imagined in 2015,” she continued.

She explained that transitions in renewable energy, food systems and digital connectivity along with “investments in human capital, financing the opportunities,” are need to turn multiple crises into opportunities.

“The ‘SDG Moment’ during the General Assembly in September this year will be an opportunity to focus on these deep transitions, and on the work needed to get us back on track. It will also be an important milestone on the way to the 2023 SDG Summit,” she stated.

Surging poverty

Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) presented the Secretary-General’s SDG progress report along with another focusing on long-term future trends and scenarios, which takes stock of recent technological and policy trends as they impact the SDGs.

He pointed out that compared to the pre-pandemic level, an additional 75 million to 95 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022.

“The urgent need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation cannot be stressed enough,” said the DESA chief.

“We must remain committed to the people-centered and planet focused path to prosperity that we set out in the 2030 Agenda. This can only happen if we all act together”.

UN voices in the lead

In her remarks, Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) called attention to how sexual and reproductive health and rights accelerate the SDGs.

“The right to sexual and reproductive health – to make decisions over one’s own body and future – is central to gender equity,” she spelled out.

Meanwhile QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlighted the need to increase the resilience of agrifood systems against shocks to prevent the acceleration of global food insecurity.

“We are at serious risk of facing a food access crisis now, and probably a food availability crisis for the next season,” putting at risk efforts to achieve the global goals, he warned.

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