ECOSOC president defends optimism ‘against all odds’ at opening of key UN development forum

Harnessing partnerships to create a world of “peace and prosperity” that protects people and the planet, is the main objective of a key annual development forum which began on Tuesday, the president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Collen Kelapile, said.

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

Optimistic, “against all odds”

The senior UN official outlined five reasons for his “against all odds” optimism, starting with the 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 wake-up call by exposing many aspects of our societies that were wrong”.

It was thus an opportunity to “rectify our ways of life…[and] securing the resilience of our socio-economic and health systems”.

Recovery “master plan”

Second, he pointed to the existing “blueprint to anchor our recoverynamely the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Despite rising inflation, major supply chain disruptions, political uncertainties and unsustainable debt in developing countries – all of which have slowed the global economy – Mr Kelapile cited the latest forecasts from the global economic situation and the outlook for global growth of 3.1%.

“Many countries are institutionalizing the social protection measures they put in place during the pandemic…and [many] organizations are turning to the positive economy for nature”.

on the right path

Although countries have missed the goal of vaccinating 70% of their population against the virus by mid-year, “COVAX, the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool and Vaccine Technology Transfer Center mRNAs can help us go further,” he said. as his third reason for hope.

In addition to the potential they bring for global immunization, health system protection and risk reduction of emerging variants, the senior UN official noted a number of existing economic, financial and social solutions and Others are 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 determination, courage, confidence and solidarity to implement the solutions,” the ECOSOC chief said.

Reasons to hope

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

“And fifth, because of all of that, I think we’re on the verge of having a successful 2022 HLPF…[that] offers concrete solutions… that strengthen global solidarity, deepen our understanding of our common challenges, allow us to learn from each other, expand our common ground and strengthen our resolve to act together and support each other”.

The President of ECOSOC concluded by inviting the Forum to “deepen the discussions with an open heart and mind”.

© UNESCO/Yves Parfait KoffiCreative and cultural industries around the world can unlock transformative potential to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Progress reports

Under-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed recalled that presentations of the Voluntary National Review (VNR) – the process by which countries assess and present progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda – are now in their seventh year.

“The 44 countries presenting this year will bring the total number of participants to 187 – which means we have reached an almost universal ratio,” she said, congratulating all the states that participated.

“Unwavering Commitment”

The deputy UN chief noted “a striking reverse illustration» caused by the pandemic, conflict 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 they also “offer hope” – drawing attention to cash transfer programmes, corporate debt moratoriums, national resilience plans and government stimulus packages, which have brought “critical relief”.

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

Not “halfway”

Although halfway through the 2030 Agenda timeline, we don’t live in “the ‘halfway’ world we imagined in 2015,” she continued.

She explained that transitions in renewable energy, food systems and digital connectivity as well as “investments in human capital, financing opportunities”, are needed to turn multiple crises into opportunities.

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

Rise in poverty

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

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

“The the urgent need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation cannot be stressed enoughsaid the head of DESA.

“We must stay committed to the path to people-centred, planet-driven prosperity that we set out in the 2030 Agenda. This can only happen if we all act together.”

The voices of the United Nations in the lead

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

“The right to sexual and reproductive health – to make decisions about one’s own body and future – is at the heart of gender equity“, she clarified.

As for QU Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), he stressed the need to increase the resilience of agri-food systems to shocks in order to prevent the acceleration of global food insecurity.

“We are in serious danger of facing a food access crisis now, and likely a food availability crisis for next season,” jeopardizing efforts to achieve global goals, he warned.

Click here to watch the meeting in its entirety.

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Melvin B. Baillie