Mr. Thomas Gass Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

ECOSOC’s High-level Segment 2016 Thematic discussion: “Infrastructure for sustainable development for all”

Mr. President,
Your Excellency Ms. Chinchilla,
Distinguished Ministers, Speakers and Moderator,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to participate in this important discussion this morning.

In my brief remarks, I wish to first emphasize the role of infrastructure in advancing sustainable development and highlight some specific challenges. I will then touch on the engagement of the United Nations system in this area.

[As has been mentioned by the distinguished speakers,] Infrastructure plays a catalytic and cross-cutting role across various Sustainable Development Goals.

With sufficient investment, and when properly planned and implemented, infrastructure can have positive impacts on economic growth, reducing poverty and inequality, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Infrastructure has enormous multi-dimensional benefits, and needs to be prioritised as a key tool for achieving sustainable development.

A major part of this prioritization is inclusiveness. Necessary access needs to be ensured so that no one is left behind and there truly is “infrastructure for sustainable development for all”.

I wish to give attention to three specific challenges that affect infrastructure [which some of the distinguished speakers have already touched upon or mentioned].

The first is the global infrastructure gap.

The infrastructure financing gap in developing countries has been estimated to be between 1 and 1.5 trillion American dollars annually. In response, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda established the new Global Infrastructure Forum, with the aim of closing this gap in an inclusive, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner. However, there is still room for action.

A second challenge is the current global trend towards urbanisation. As the number of people living in cities in emerging markets is expected to double – adding another 2 billion by 2030 – investments in relevant sustainable infrastructure will be crucial for sustainable urbanisation.

And a third challenge is the importance of building resilient rural infrastructure. With 75 percent of the world’s poorest people living in rural areas, this is essential in order to live up to our commitment to “leave no one behind”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations development system is actively engaged in efforts to ensure sustainable infrastructure development. Four particular functions stand out:
• integrated policy advice,
• capacity building,
• support for partnerships and support for information, and
• data on infrastructure for global follow-up and review.

Certainly, engagement with, and inclusion of, relevant stakeholders, is important for resilient infrastructure. The United Nations promotes a strong focus on multi-stakeholder engagement, with a particular emphasis on development banks and the private sector.

An evidence-based approach is also needed to support infrastructure policy and evaluation. The United Nations can facilitate the review and follow-up of the commitments and action items on infrastructure in the Addis Agenda. Using a limited number of indicators for which data are readily available should allow for an early review of progress.

The United Nations supports the establishment of international legal frameworks and the development of bilateral agreements, such as with transit countries in the case of landlocked developing countries.

The United Nations also has a norm setting role in support of the institutionalization of resilient, sustainable, inclusive and equitable infrastructure across the three dimensions of sustainable development.

In this context, and to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the Economic and Social Council system can identify trends, affirm policy options and forge policy coherence, providing an effective follow-up and review of progress towards resilient infrastructure.

As the international community works to achieve infrastructure for sustainable development for all, it is faced with both challenges and opportunities.

I look forward to hearing further insight and ideas for advancing infrastructure for sustainable development for all through the discussion.

Thank you.

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