|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
General Assembly & Economic and Social Council
Joint Thematic Debate/Forum on Partnerships
AM & PM Meetings
Mutual Trust Central to Effective Cooperation, Economic and Social Council
President Says at Conclusion of Joint Thematic Debate
General Assembly Vice-President Says Partnerships No Substitute for Aid
Mutual trust was the central pillar of effective cooperation between the public and private spheres, the President of the Economic and Social Council said today in closing remarks at the end of a two-day thematic debate on the role of partnerships in implementing the post-2015 development agenda.
“Despite all our efforts, there is still a long way to go to develop trust between the business sector and diplomacy, specifically our form of multilateral diplomacy,” Martin Sajdik (Austria) said at the conclusion of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council Joint Thematic Debate/Forum on Partnerships, held under the theme “The role of partnerships in the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. Unified efforts could set the pace for future cooperation and policymaking, he said. “That’s why efforts — like this Partnership Forum — are so necessary and cannot be held often enough.”
Collin Beck (Solomon Islands), Vice President of the General Assembly, spoke on behalf of President John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), saying that public-private partnerships should complement, not substitute, traditional official development assistance (ODA), which remained critical for least developed countries. Public oversight should support the public good without stifling private investment, and at the same time, the private sector should look beyond financial risk and consider environmental and social risk, he said. The key messages emerging from the debate would be shared with Member States, the Open Working Group and the Intergovernmental Committee on Sustainable Development Financing in the coming days, he said, adding that a more substantial report on the discussions and presentations would subsequently be issued.
Featuring five panel discussions, the Forum focused on harnessing partnerships to implement the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda, in addition to building productive capacity. This morning, speakers shed light on ways to scale up partnerships in food and nutritional security and marine resources. In the afternoon, they highlighted opportunities in sustainable infrastructure.
Panellists stressed that Governments must continue to provide policy frameworks and oversight, while ensuring the monitoring, accountability and transparency of the post-2015 development agenda. The United Nations must govern partnerships globally. Partnerships must take human rights records into account, as well as capacity to deliver, corruption, financial transparency and compliance, speakers said, citing examples to illustrate.
Panel Discussion IV
The Forum began with a panel discussion on “Scaling up partnership opportunities in food and nutritional security and marine resources”. Moderated by Amir Dossal, Chairman of the Global Partnerships Forum, it featured presentations by: Devant Maharaj, Minister for Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago; Marc Van Ameringen, Executive Director, Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition; Arni Mathiesen, Assistant Director General, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); James Hamilton, Vice President, Human and Nutrition and Health-North America, DSM; and Marie Haga, Executive Director, Global Crop Diversity Trust.
Mr. DOSSAL, introducing the panel, said that partnerships in the food and nutritional security as well as the marine resources sectors were linked to health, education and climate change among other fields, and asked the panellists to give recommendations for concrete action to the General Assembly.
Mr. MAHARAJ said that his own Government and that of neighbouring Guyana had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 to create a food security facility, which helped both countries achieve and sustain food security, reduce the costs of growing and importing food and create long-term employment. The facility also provided incentives for private-sector actors in Trinidad and Tobago to invest in crop cultivation in Guyana. A joint effort of the Ministry of Food Production and the private sector — the commercial large farm programme — provided access to paved roadways, potable water and electricity to farms, he said. Investors in the project were given 30-year renewable leases on State agricultural land, and charged with developing, financing and operating the farms. He said that his Ministry had formed a public-private partnership with dairy farmers and the Nestle Corporation to increase local milk production by more than 30 per cent. The national partnership policy had translated into an unprecedented five consecutive quarters of real positive growth in agriculture, and had reduced inflation in food prices from 29 per cent in 2010 to 3.1 per cent in January 2014.
Ms. HAGA said agriculture was facing its biggest challenge ever, with the world needing to feed more people on less land, water and energy under ever-more unpredictable weather conditions. Emphasizing the essential importance of crop biodiversity to developing a resilient agricultural system, she cited the good work carried out by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, which had released a new variety of rice that was substantially more tolerant of submergence and salinity than previous ones. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, ratified by 132 countries, had created a system for accessing and exchanging germplasm and a benefit-sharing mechanism, she said, stressing the treaty’s importance since no country was self-sufficient in genetic resources. Breeders needed germplasm from multiple sources and countries to breed new varieties, and the treaty ensured that any institution in any country — not only “deep-pocketed” multinational companies — could access fundamental agricultural building blocks. That allowed smallholder farmers to develop plants that could be adapted locally, she said.
Mr. MATHIESEN cited some daunting statistics — almost 1 billion people were hungry, 1 billion were undernourished and 1 billion were obese — before emphasizing: “We really need all hands on deck to solve these problems.” Of the three types of partnerships — formal, integrated and more complex — formal schemes were the easiest to implement. To meet the Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge, FAO had engaged in formal partnerships through its Global Blue Economy/Blue Growth initiatives, intended to boost food security, improve nutrition, reduce poverty among coastal and riparian communities and support the sustainable management of aquatic resources at all levels. FAO’s Global AquaCulture Advancement Partnership Programme was working with the World Wildlife Fund and 70 per cent of the global salmon industry to improve the sustainability of salmon farming, he said, describing it as one of the most important, successful segments of the agriculture industry. Salmon industry technology could be adapted to other species and used to feed people in the future, he added.
Mr. VAN AMERINGEN said that some 2 billion people around the world today were undernourished, and the stunting of children who had lacked proper nutrition during infancy had become a major focus of the post-2015 development agenda. The number of obese people in the world — 1.3 billion people and rising — was greater than the number of hungry ones. The United Nations and Governments would not solve that problem because most people did not buy their food from Governments. The private sector, as the main supplier of food, had the answers. Partnerships that delivered commodities and aid during humanitarian emergencies were effective and sustainable, he said, citing non-governmental organizations in Kenya that delivered packets of micronutrient powders. Also viable were partnerships involving donor countries, civil society and the private sector in rolling out agricultural technology. Under such a scheme, the Government of the Netherlands had reached 100,000 people in Asia and Africa, he said.
Mr. HAMILTON said nutrition products comprised half of his company’s business. Its motto was that no business could succeed or call itself successful in a society that had failed. Sustainability was good for the world and it was good business. While people in the West were consumed with staying young, for those in the rest of the world, where millions went hungry, nutrition was a matter of life and death. Emphasizing the importance of partnership incentives in long-term performance and commitment, he cited Vitamin Angels, a non-governmental organization in Santa Barbara, California, which today distributed more than 30 million doses of vitamin A worldwide, and had partnered with Coca-Cola and other firms in that endeavour. Partners in Food Solutions, launched by General Mills, empowered small upstart food companies in rural Africa with a view to making them self-sustaining ecosystems that could purchase local grain and employ local people. Africa was developing, and such small food companies would eventually become big companies. “It is not about old models any more,” he stressed. “It’s a collective responsibility of Governments, non-governmental organizations and corporations.”
During the ensuing discussion, participants stressed the importance of giving women a greater role in decision-making processes addressing food security and nutrition imbalances and promoting agricultural development. Governments should sell land to female farmers and offer them subsidies to improve food production.
Others underlined the need to scale up pro-poor agricultural partnerships and research, create incentives for local green businesses, transfer technology to smallholder farmers, and devise resilient agricultural development models, among other initiatives.
Mr. HAMILTON, asked how Governments could best handle ethical issues surrounding public-private partnerships, said transparency was the only answer.
Mr. MATHIESEN, when asked what could be done to support a stand-alone sustainable development goal for the oceans, said that while it was up to Member States to support such a goal, all United Nations agencies active in that field were prepared to support it. Calling for ratification of the 2009 Port State Measures Agreement to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, he said that would put the $20 billion lost annually to that unregulated trade into the pockets of small-scale fisherman. Regarding the need for gender equality in the industry, he noted that women comprised more than half of those involved in post-harvest fishery.
Ms. HAGA, questioned about making new crop varieties more affordable, said more research was needed at both the international and national levels, adding that local varieties must be developed and enhanced, in line with local climate patterns. She expressed confidence that food and nutritional security would figure prominently in the sustainable development goals, and called for indicators around which related partnerships could be established. However, she emphasized that public-private partnerships could never be an excuse for rich countries not to provide enough official development assistance (ODA).
Mr. VAN AMERIGEN endorsed the idea of virtual platforms, incentive structures and backbone organizations for sharing best practices, noting that the Government of Canada had created a Government platform that enabled the sharing of nutrition technology for the public good.
Mr. MAHARAJ said it was time to stop talking about processes and to start implementing them, with United Nations agencies at the forefront. Only when that paradigm shift occurred would progress occur.
Panel Discussion V
Gyan Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, moderated the fifth panel discussion, on “Scaling up partnership opportunities in sustainable infrastructure”. It featured the following panellists: Chola Chabala, Director for National Planning, Ministry of Finance, Zambia; Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer, Sustainable Energy for All; Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General, Sustainable Low Carbon Transportation (SloCat) Partnership; Umberto de Pretto, Secretary General, International Road Transport Union (IRU); and Shishir Priyadarshi, Director of Development Division, World Trade Organization.
Mr. ACHARYA emphasized the importance of strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones. Ambitious transformations would not happen without sustainable infrastructure development, which was the “lifeblood of any activity we do”. Sustainable infrastructure was not an end in itself, but an enabler and a multiplier that affected many sectors, including education and health, he said.
Mr. CHABALA said his country was among Africa’s top 10 fast-growing economies, with a rate of 6.3 per cent, but it had a huge infrastructure deficit urgently requiring massive investment because most Zambians lived in rural areas. That background illustrated why infrastructure development was a core Government policy. Zambia received ODA, but not at the rate it desired, he said, adding that the situation had promoted the Government to augment its financing through public-private partnerships. Zambia had committed more than $500 million of its national budget to infrastructure development but, given the country’s size, that was a “single drop in the ocean”. Another priority was road construction to bridge the divide between urban and rural areas and achieve equitable distribution of goods and services, he said, adding that the Government had created a special tax dedicated to road maintenance.
Mr. YUMKELLA said that the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative connected all dots in sustainable development, explaining that there would be no education, health or food security without energy. It was a sensitive topic for some national economists because it was complex and required long-term investment. He highlighted several key points, including the importance of partnerships for financing, pointing out that ODA was funding $9 billion out of the $50 billion actually needed. Technology partnerships were also vital to reducing the cost of renewable energies and developing critical energy-storage technology. Collaboration between municipalities and national Governments was also vital, he said, noting that local governments could make quick decisions. It was important to use public money in order to leverage private money, he said, adding that goals would be met if cash followed ideas.
Mr. HUIZENGA, stressing the importance of sustainable transport, said infrastructure could incur huge costs if not done properly. Road accidents killed a large number of people in the prime of their lives, taking away 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The cost of logistics was about 10 per cent of gross national product (GNP) in the European Union, and up to 15 per cent in developing countries, he said, noting that it was not enough to build roads. They must be accompanied by services. Many roads had been built in Nairobi, but many people still travelled on foot. There was a need to bring together policymakers, investors and those running services to scale up and mainstream sustainable transport.
Mr. DE PRETTO said there was a need to build roads in some parts of the world, while in many other parts, roads were present but remained empty. The key, therefore, was to maximize the existing infrastructure. Transport time was lost crossing borders, he said, pointing out that when trucks stopped economies also stopped. Wait time could last weeks, he said, noting that such obstacles raised the cost of transport. Removing the barriers would increase trade within Africa by 50 per cent. There was an idea to reopen the Silk Road, a project that would cost $18 billion, but such a plan would shorten travel time between China and Europe by 3.9 days, he said, adding that harmonizing custom procedures could cut travel time by 4.1 days.
Mr. PRIYADARSHI recalled that during the mid-1990s, many members of the World Trade Organization had been unhappy because trade liberalization had not benefited them. In 2005, Ministers meeting in Hong Kong had realized that gains were not trickling down to those countries with poor trade infrastructure, which should not be viewed as separate from other forms of infrastructure because similar infrastructure could be used for many purposes, including education and health. Trade infrastructure was a generator of much-needed national income to sustain infrastructure as a whole, he said, adding that both hard and soft infrastructures were essential.
In response to questions from representatives of Member States and civil society, panellists said that investment in regional infrastructure had gone a longer way than investing in national infrastructure, adding that in times of budget-tightening, it was crucial to monitor and account for every dollar spent. Inefficient border crossings created the conditions for corruption, and infrastructure design must take the needs of women into account, since they made more frequent but shorter trips than men and young people, who were more prone to traffic accidents.
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