As the General Assembly opened its two-day high-level meeting aimed at finding ways to turn the new sustainable development vision into reality for millions worldwide, ministers and other senior officials crafted and shared approaches to “connect the dots” of financing the ambitious global agenda.
Opening the High-level Thematic Debate on Means of Implementation for a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda, General Assembly President Sam Kutesa (Uganda) said the proposed 17 sustainable development goals, containing 169 ambitious targets, had the potential to transform societies and preserve the planet. To turn those goals into real change, he emphasized that it was essential to mobilize increased domestic resources, ensure that official development assistance (ODA) promises were fulfilled and harness private sector involvement and trade.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change our world for the better,” he said. “We have to continue accelerating efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the remaining period and carry forward unfinished business. Together, we must spare no effort to formulate and agree on a framework for development and international cooperation that improves the everyday lives of people worldwide and protects the environment.”
At this historic moment, many building blocks were in place, said Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, urging for intensified international cooperation and finding new ways to change the way finance for development worked. Many suggestions made today, he said, would substantially influence the upcoming intergovernmental discussions, including the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
Elaborating on some of those themes, keynote speakers emphasized a need for an inclusive agenda that would produce results. Echoing a view heard through the day, Zlatko Lagumdžija, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said “the long and winding road is behind us but clearly there is a long way to go”. The new agenda offered a vision and set of tools for a shared future with shared values. With new technologies and partnerships, greater efficiency could lead the world towards that shared future. Providing an overview of national approaches, Maria Kiwanuka, Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda, said while her country was on track to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, funding constraints had hampered progress around the world and those obstacles should be addressed.
Underlining the importance of not missing the opportunity for making progress on the new agenda, Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, said fighting poverty without tackling environmental problems would never be successful in the long term. “The risk of not succeeding is simply much too great,” she said.
“It can’t be business as usual,” said Geir O. Pedersen (Norway), Co-Facilitator for the Financing for Development Conference, who introduced a plenary discussion on actions needed to mobilize financial resources, technology development and transfer and capacity-building. “We need to connect the dots when it comes to financing.” Progress was possible, he said, if all partners worked together on increasing and strengthening ODA and taxation and mobilizing the trillions of private sector dollars. Also introducing the discussion was Co-Facilitator for the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda Macharia Kamau (Kenya), who said challenges now included how to handle the division of labour. He hoped that the debate would contribute to defining the agenda ahead of the International Conference on Financing for Development.
Participating in the plenary discussion were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Tonga (speaking for the Group of Pacific Small Island Developing States), Botswana (speaking for the Southern African Development Community), Benin (speaking for the Group of Least-Developed Countries), China, Colombia, India, Belize (speaking for the Caribbean Community), Ethiopia, European Union, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Switzerland, Rwanda, Singapore, Nigeria, Italy, Pakistan, Germany, Morocco, Japan, United Kingdom, Republic of Moldova, United Republic of Tanzania, Canada, Spain, Malaysia, Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, Netherlands and the United States. The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also took the floor.
Experts and Member States also participated in an afternoon panel discussion, titled “Infrastructure Development in the post-2015 development agenda and Partnerships for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, chaired by Mr. Lagumdžija.
The high-level debate will conclude on 10 February at 10 a.m. with a panel discussion, titled “The Role of Parliaments, Cities and Local Authorities in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda”.
In the discussion, titled “A renewed global partnership for implementation of the post-2015 development agenda”, presentations were made by Erik Solheim, Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD-DAC); Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); and Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation.
Mr. SOLHEIM said political will was of utmost importance to move the agenda forward. Aid, investment and tax increases of 1 per cent in developing countries would also contribute substantially to the broad changes needed to ensure progress of the new goals. While more aid was available in the world than ever before, better targeting was needed to ensure maximum results. Investment was a “no brainer” in leverage efforts to launch green infrastructure in developing countries. “If we fail to step up,” he said, “no one will forgive us.”
Mr. KITUYI described current aid and investment trends around the world. He was concerned that poorer countries were turning to non-traditional sources of financing, including bond markets, which were riskier than using traditional sources. Consensus-building and negotiations on effective financing were also critical. Among the challenges ahead were translating international solidarity into action and finding a balance between private sector and government roles without compromising social benefits.
Ms. CALVIN said today was a chance to agree on how to translate the agenda from words into real change. Using the Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child initiative as an example, she said $45 billion in new funding had been mobilized and 70 Governments had committed to targets that had enacted real change. Leading up to the new goals, approaches needed to be examined to ensure maximum positive results. Lessons learned and progress from the Millennium Goals could act as a guide.
When the floor opened, speakers emphasized a range of concerns, among them the importance of bolstering innovative technologies and scaling up resources, including ODA commitments. The representative of South Africa, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said a more friendly multilateral trade system was critical to stimulate economic growth worldwide. Zimbabwe’s representative, speaking for the African Group, said it was crucial to bolster the growth of innovative technologies and halt illicit financial flows off the continent, with those resources remaining in countries of origin to be used as “engines” for development.
Raising another concern about rapid urbanization, Ecuador’s representative, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said while cities had traditionally spurred economic growth, attention was needed to address modern challenges, such as greenhouse gas emissions, poverty, segregation and the increase of people living in slums. On climate change, Maldives’ representative, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said public and private partnerships with common goals were important in moving towards sustainable, lasting development.
This afternoon, the Assembly held a panel discussion on infrastructure development and partnerships. Taking part were Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director, United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network; Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); Georg Kell, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact; Laurence Carter, Senior Director, Public Private Partnerships, World Bank Group; and Bertuch-Samuels, Special Representative, International Monetary Fund.
Also participating were Tom Barrett, Director, European Investment Bank; Kapil Kapoor, Director of Strategy and Operational Policies, African Development Bank; Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Assistant Secretary-General, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Sarah Cliffe, Director, Center on International Cooperation, New York University.
Several speakers pointed to a “historic opportunity” to tap into the resources of private sector partnerships as the world moved into the next era of sustainable development. The participation of the private sector must be ethical, sustainable and transparent, many said, stressing that private sector funds could never replace public financing but could effectively complement it.
Speakers cited clear evidence of progress made under the Millennium Development Goals, including through such partnerships as Roll Back Malaria, the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. They described several specific development goals on which the international community could focus going forward, including better resourcing for the education sector and the creation of jobs for youth, which would require more robust industrialization and better infrastructure in some parts of the world.