Mr. Eliott Harris Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist

Opening Statement
at the Launch of the World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2018

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be able to present to you the mid-year update of the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2018. The report lays out the economic background against which policy makers face the challenge of delivering progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Today’s report updates forecasts and analysis in the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2018, which was released in December. So, what has changed since the last assessment?

Short-term prospects for the world economy have continued to improve. Global GDP growth forecasts have been revised upwards for both this year and 2019, based on a stronger performance in developed economies. Important drivers for this are stronger wage growth and consumption; broadly favourable investment conditions; and the short-term impact of fiscal stimulus measures in the United States. At the same time, the previous forecast for solid overall GDP growth in developing economies remains intact.

While the upward revision in growth is clearly positive news for the prospects of making tangible progress towards achieving the SDGs, there is a strong need not to become complacent in response to upward trending headline figures. The report underscores that the risks have increased as well and highlights the need to urgently address a number of policy challenges, including threats to the multilateral trading system, high inequality and the renewed rise in carbon emissions.

Before my colleague Dawn Holland provides you with more details of the report, I would like to use this opportunity to underline one very important point regarding the policy challenges that it raises: we are faced with a strong and urgent need to defend the multilateral approach to international policy making. This is at the very heart of the existence of this organization, and the problems that have now moved to the fore cannot be addressed effectively in a fragmented and disjointed way.

Take, for example, international trade. Great progress has been made over the past decades in opening up and standardizing global trade relations. Moving back towards a more splintered trade landscape only helps to introduce new costs and inefficiencies into the global economy. Of course, trade standards have to take into account a multitude of benchmarks, be it in the economic, social or environmental dimension. But experience has shown that doing so in a multilateral way holds the greatest promise of achieving sustained and broad-based social and economic development.

This imperative of taking a multilateral approach to policy making is even more relevant when it comes to the environment and, especially, climate change. CO2 emissions and their effects on the planet do not stop at national boundaries. Hence, what is a truly global problem calls for an equally global approach to finding a way forward that protects the environment and the planet. With the pickup in global growth and the renewed increase in CO2 emissions, the challenge of decoupling economic growth and carbon emissions has become even more urgent. As the report mentions, great strides have already been made in ramping up investment in renewable energy capacity. In this sense, the problem is not a lack of any progress towards energy transition. Instead, the huge problem that we are faced with is that even with the current significant expansion of renewable energy, it would still take far too long to achieve a global energy mix that would put the planet on a more sound and sustainable environmental footing.

The report provides a more detailed analysis of these challenges, but from the UN’s perspective, they are linked by one common feature: multilateralism is not just an option, but a necessity if we want to have any chance of achieving sustainable long-term development.

Thank you.

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