UN High-level Advisory Board calls for new multilateralism for sustainable development

Eminent economists and social scientists came together for the second meeting of the United Nations High-level Advisory Board (HLAB) on Economic and Social Affairs on 16-18 October. Continuing the work from their first meeting this past July, board members discussed the current and long-term socio-economic trends and their implications for the 2030 Agenda. 

“A fair, inclusive and sustainable new globalization with the SDGs at the center must protect and promote the interests of millions of people worldwide,” emphasized Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary General for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), as he addressed the closing session of the meeting.

Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade (UNCTAD), noted the immediate challenges of escalating tariffs, digital evolution and volatile financial flows. He underscored the need for avoiding a “new industrial cold war” between large economies.

The board members also deliberated on challenges and opportunities presented by many frontier technologies. Informed by the recently launched flagship publication of UN DESA, the World Economic and Social Survey 2018: Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development, which highlights the great technology divide between developed and developing countries, the board members underscored the need for bridging this divide and creating a more even-playing field for developing countries.

They called for a more flexible intellectual property rights regime to facilitate technology transfers to developing countries, which will remain critical for reducing income inequality among countries, as envisioned in SDG 10.

“We have been trying to cultivate a good climate for market – we recognize that market is the key. At the same time, the government needs to create stable and friendly environment for business,” said Mr. Jiantang Ma, Minister and Senior Fellow of the Development Research Center of the State Council (DRC), as he shared his experiences in Chinese development in the context of an interconnected global economy.

Taking note of the fact that 10 years have passed since the great recession in 2008, the board members agreed that the world economy still faces significant downside risks, amid rising trade tensions and sharp depreciation of currencies of a number of large emerging economies. They called for building greater resilience to external economic shocks to developing countries, particularly the Least Developed Countries in Africa and Asia.

In this second meeting, taking place in Shenzhen, China, the board members were joined by distinguished guest-speakers from UNCTAD, as well as experts from DRC. The meeting was co-organised and co-sponsored by the China Center for International Knowledge and Development.

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