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

at the High Level Conversation on Economic Resilience and Sustaining Peace:
Learning from lessons of countries 28 September 2018, New York

Madame President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is an honour for me to join you in this timely dialogue on economic resilience and sustaining peace, on behalf of the Secretary-General.

It is timely because, with some 80 per cent of the world’s poorest living in countries affected by chronic fragility by 2030, we will only achieve the core objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first – if we can address this reality starting now. Maintaining peace and stability in these countries must be a global priority.

Even where conflicts are resolved, countries remain fragile, and challenges of prioritization impact social and economic resilience. In post-conflict situations, a balance must be sought among securing quick gains; restoring basic functions of the State; and progressing toward sustainable development. While these elements are interrelated, the fully integrated approach required for stabilization and progress is often challenged by low national budgets, narrow fiscal space, lower fiscal base due to destroyed assets and low revenue mobilization capacity and extensive debt, all shaping heavily constrained socio-economic decision making.

Sustainable, inclusive development, deeply rooted in respect for all human rights – economic, social, cultural, civil and political – is an end in itself. But it is also the world’s best preventive tool against violent conflict and instability. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our common global blueprint to create more peaceful, stable and resilient societies.

Sustaining peace requires addressing the root causes of conflicts and crises. These often lie in poverty, inequality, discrimination and serious violations of human rights. It requires inclusion, particularly of those who are frequently marginalized and excluded – women and girls, the elderly, the young, people with disabilities and minorities of all kinds. Their empowerment through meaningful participation is a proven way to deepen the effectiveness and sustainability of peacebuilding.

Sustaining peace also require strong partnerships beyond the United Nations, in support of nationally-owned solutions. These partnerships must involve regional organizations, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and other multilateral donors, the business community, civil society and local actors.
The United Nations is working closely with several Governments in Africa, including Burkina Faso, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, to promote participatory processes that engage the government and youth civil society in partnership development and coalition building. These processes also promote the revision and reformulation of national youth policies to address current challenges and strengthen the role of youth as agents in building sustainable and peaceful societies.


Many developing and emerging economies also face a range of external shocks such as financial crises, exchange rate and commodity price volatilities. Vulnerability to natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change, is another threat to economic and social resilience, especially for low-income countries. These shocks can adversely affect employment, poverty, and social progress, with far-reaching consequences for peace and stability. As the global financial crisis demonstrated, strengthening the resilience of economies to external shocks is key to economic, social, and political stability and sustainable development.

The economic resilience of a country – its ability to withstand and recover from external shocks – depends on both social and macroeconomic policies and structural conditions. For example, active labour market policies and social protection are important to reduce the impact of external shocks on social conditions, and indirectly stimulate demand and the recovery from economic downturns. A stronger policy focus on stimulating productivity growth and progressive taxation can facilitate redistribution of income and wealth, reduce inequality and enhance economic resilience, peace and stability.

But we are here to learn from countries which have successfully addressed many of these challenges and I look forward to listening to the different ways in which they have advanced on the path towards resilience and sustainable peace.

Thank you.

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