Bridging global infrastructure gap tops agenda at annual UN Partnership Forum

A technician releases water from the UNICEF supported source station that provides water to several villages in the region in Cyamabuye village in Myapihu district in northern Rwanda. Photo: UNICEF/ Noorani

5 April 2017 – Addressing the Partnership Forum convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), senior UN officials today discussed how to promote infrastructure growth in the least developed countries, particularly in Africa, to reach the world's development goals by 2030.

The theme of today's Forum is Partnerships for promoting opportunities, increased prosperity and sustainable development for all. Since 2008, ECOSOC's Partnership Forum has brought together stakeholders, particularly from business and foundations, to discuss with governments ways in which to engage in support of the internationally agreed development goals.

In his welcoming remarks, ECOSOC President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, noted that infrastructure plays a vital role in economic and social development of cities, regions and nations. He also highlighted the importance of public-private initiatives in developing resilient infrastructure.

In the context of achieving sustainable development, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said there is a valid case to be made for infrastructure development and industrialization, as well as bolstering broad, multi-stakeholder partnerships in that regard.

“It is only through working together that we will be able to fully face and deal with the complexities of today's development challenges which more often than not transcend borders in both their impacts and their solutions,” Mr. Shava said.

The geographic focus of today's discussions is on infrastructure development in the countries facing the largest infrastructure gaps, such as those in Africa, the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDs).

Infrastructure increases mobility, connects markets and helps create jobs

“Not only does infrastructure improve access to agriculture, clean energy, education, water and sanitation, it also increases mobility, connects markets and helps create jobs,” Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said.

In a video message, the Deputy-Secretary-General called for the promotion of “effective” partnerships that emphasize “innovation, impact, transparency, coherence, accountability and sustainability.”

She said that the international community has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for peace, prosperity and dignity on a healthy planet – the aims of the 2030 Agenda – and “cannot afford to fail.”

Also speaking today, the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, urged the international community to “let go of old grievances and scepticism and called for “new and inclusive ways of thinking, partnering, financing, and delivering on the ground.”

In the coming months, high-level events on SDG action will be held, including a financing lab on 18 April, an event on innovation and connectivity on 17 May, and on education on 28 June. The Ocean Conference will be held from 5-9 June.

'Climate change is incompatible with poverty eradication' – Mary Robinson

In her keynote address, Mary Robinson, who spoke on climate justice as the President of the Mary Robinson Foundation, called for removing silos between governments, civil society and the private sector.

“Uncontrolled climate change is incompatible with the eradication of poverty,” Mrs. Robinson said, underscoring the need for collective action. “And achievement of climate goals including access to sustainable energy for all is a driver of development.”

She called climate justice “the antithesis of the short termism that is today causing nations to choose protectionism over international cooperation.”

“Our future security and prosperity depends not on the strength of our borders or the size of our armies, but on the depth of our education systems and the extent of global access to water, food and electricity,” said Mrs. Robinson.

She noted, however, that not all action which is good for the planet is automatically good for people, and stressed the importance of human rights in all climate action actions.

Mrs. Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a current member of The Elders, began her address by reiterating concern and moral outrage about the famines in parts of Africa and the Middle East. She also expressed concern about the purported chemical weapon attack in Syria calling it “a war crime and a crime against humanity.”


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