Statements by DESA's Assistant Secretaries-General

Ms. Shamshad Akhtar Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Department of Economic and Social Affairs

The United Nations values its partnership with the G20 and this has come to the forefront quite visibly during the Ksenia’s visit and the one day GA session on Global Economic Governance.

As we are all aware, the MDGs have been instrumental in galvanizing global action. Going forward, Rio+20 and other outcome documents from United Nations Summits have mandated deepening all stakeholders’ and community’s engagement in evolving a far reaching sustainable development agenda. While processes are still underway – the first report to emerge shortly by the end of May will be that of the High Level Panel. At the same time, work is underway on the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly for the September High Level event. Next year, by September 2014, the Member States (Open Working Group) will submit their recommendations for sustainable development and associated goals as part of their intergovernmental deliberations.

Based on emerging evidence and on ongoing discussions, I would like to cover three areas:

Status Report on MDGs

Outcome of MDGs framework and its focused approach: There is broad recognition that the MDGs framework has raised global awareness, mobilized global action and fuelled implementation on the ground. Progress to date has been mixed. The poverty reduction target has been met and extreme poverty continues to decline. The target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to water sources has also been met. The condition of 200 million people living in slums has improved. Primary school enrolment of girls equaled that of boys. Conservation action is also slowing the rate at which species are moving towards extinction. Until 2010 aid was steadily growing. Debt relief has reduced the burden of debt service in many of the poorest countries. New technologies and partnerships have contributed to MDGs progress.

The progress has however been uneven across countries and indicators. To date, none of the conflict and fragile countries met MDGs targets, over a billion live in extreme poverty and progress in poverty reduction in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa is disappointing and 850 million people remain undernourished; poverty incidence and social condition remain distressful in least and less developed countries, while the middle income countries despite progress are home to the larger number of poor; gender equality goals remain unfulfilled, mothers continue to die needlessly in child birth, children suffer and die from preventable diseases etc.

Lots of lessons learnt have been documented on why the MDG progress was below expectations.

Key Lessons from MDGs framework which were:

  • Less suited to address systemic and cross cutting issues such as trade, infrastructure, environmental abuse, equity, jobs etc.
  • Lacked inclusiveness and adaptability – one size does not fit all and recognition of initial conditions in needed
  • Environment/sustainability and economic dimensions poorly integrated
  • No flexibility to adjust in accordance with emerging dynamic developments which have been often adding to vulnerabilities – case in point rising unemployment, growing environmental consequences and lack of inclusiveness and sustainability in growth paths
  • Sector inter-linkages missing and each of the goals and targets operated in silos with no emphasis on outcomes and quality etc
  • Governance frameworks remained weak: accountability and monitoring were weak both at global and national levels
  • Partnerships did not work well in finance, trade, medicine and related areas
  • Means of implementation were not sufficiently developed and supportive

Accelerating MDGs and Building Momentum

Attending to the unfinished MDG agenda is of critical priority from now until 2015 and this call for advocacy and support from the G20. The United Nations MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) has been developed and tested. MAF essentially identifies and prioritize bottlenecks (strategies, policies, finance, institutional constraints etc.) that impede MDG implementation and evolves objective and feasible solutions within country contexts. It can respond in environments where there is political determination to tackle off-track compliance with MDGs. MAF is underway in 46 countries and partnerships are welcome with funding and other agencies to support the acceleration.

Strong political commitment and country level ownership to drive the process of MDG acceleration, fast track implementation and official financing support, where needed, will be critical to ensure timely realization of the MDGs.

Exhaustive consultations and deliberations underway to frame forward looking development agenda

There are not only many lessons to learn and the need to fast track MDGs, but we also need to build upon the momentum gained and ensure a comprehensive framework emerges in line with the consensus reached in the Rio+20 process. Key guidance offered in this process is to frame sustainable development at the core of the post 2015 development agenda, based on effective integration of the economic, social and environmental pillars in addressing issues which aim to bring out a transformative change and allow for deeper and durable progress in addressing the overarching goal of poverty eradication. Rio+20 principles are to guide the member states deliberations to formulate the SDGs which will be supportive of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Sustainable development has to be a concurrent and shared responsibility of both developed and developing countries, while respecting countries different circumstances and priorities. Going beyond the scope of MDGs, sustainable development deliberations are exploring, the many dimensions of poverty going beyond income measurement; human development through attainment of better economic and social standards but also through addressing environmental dimensions by looking at water, food, energy etc.; management of global resources; thinking of international cooperation beyond the traditional donor recipient relationship; and supportive means of implementation including financing support, governance and global partnerships.

While deliberations are underway in this regard, United Nations statistics office along with other agencies is committed to strengthen the data and measurement capabilities and develop national capacity in these areas.

In conclusion, the support from different international foras to reinforce and align development priorities with the emerging development agenda will be crucial. In this context, G20’s role and support to foster strong and sustainable growth to be inclusive and broad based to accelerate MDGs realization is useful. Moving forward, it would be useful to consider further alignment of few key development priorities, in which United Nations and other international organizations are already playing a role. This would involve looking at the emerging sustainable development framework, that is likely to advocate strategies and actions that would recognize and encourage proper integration and calibration of economic and social inclusive development policies and environmental sustainability within a frame of good governance and peace and security to promote eradication of poverty and human well being. This process will help achieve consistency and coherence of development priorities under an agreed global development agenda which warrants strong support from G20. Some areas where G20 is already playing a critical role such as advancement in trade negotiations, mobilizing financing for long term infrastructure development and pursuing dialogue with Labor Ministers on job creation to quote a few resonate with the priorities of emerging development agenda.

Thank you.

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