Mr. Liu Zhenmin Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Opening remarks
Third Committee of the General Assembly

Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start by congratulating you, Mr. Chairman, and other members of your Bureau on your election. I would like to assure you of DESA’s full support to your work.

The Third Committee is very dear to me as I sat on many occasions at the seat of China to join the deliberation over the past decades. Today, I am pleased to address this Committee in my capacity as the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. I look forward to engaging with the Third Committee. As I believe, it is only through working better together, that we can ensure the people we serve realize their full potential. It is only through working better together, that we can achieve our shared vision of humanity, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We can only achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals by ensuring that people and our planet are at the center of our development efforts, leaving no one behind.

We have seen evidence of significant progress, as demonstrated in the Voluntary National Reviews at the HLPF in July. However, the rate of progress in many areas is far slower than needed to meet the targets by 2030. We must work faster.

Today, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some reflections that, I hope, will be helpful to the work of this Committee.

First, our efforts require an enabling environment for sustainable development.

Nearly a decade after the global financial crisis, economic growth has been disappointingly slow. An average growth rate of 4.7% in 2017 and 5.3% in 2018 is forecasted for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), well below the SDG target of at least 7% GDP growth.
Further, the recent extreme weather events and natural disasters are a reminder of the urgency of addressing the ongoing effects of climate change.

All nations – developed and developing, large and small – face complex challenges of economic growth, natural disasters, and impacts of conflict.

Prevention is key.

The most urgent task now is to support countries most in need, specifically countries in special situations. These countries face significant challenges that must be overcome to achieve inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for all.

Second, extreme poverty and rising inequality continue to afflict many countries. We have made enormous progress over the past decades. Since 1990, more than one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. More people are also receiving formal education, earning higher incomes and living longer. These are historic achievements.

While this progress is laudable, the last mile to eradicate poverty will be much harder. The latest data shows that an estimated 766 million people are still mired in extreme poverty. And under the current growth trajectory and without an improvement in income inequality, nearly 35% of the population in LDCs, highly-indebted poor countries and countries in fragile and conflict affected situations may remain in extreme poverty by 2030.

Third, we know from experience that progress towards sustainable development requires inclusive growth with full and productive employment. However, we continue to witness a global economy that is not creating enough quality jobs, due to the continued disconnection between economic growth and job creation.

The International Labour Organization forecasts a rise in global unemployment by 3.4 million people in 2017, with developing countries hardest hit.

To keep pace with the growth of the global working age population, the global economy needs to create 40 million jobs a year, or 600 million jobs by 2030.

Fourth, social inclusion is indispensable for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In all countries, some groups still face obstacles to full participation in civil, political, social and cultural life of their societies.

We should continue our efforts to build a culture of inclusiveness for all social groups.

To do so, countries must focus on the situation of persons with disabilities, older persons, youth, indigenous peoples and other excluded groups, and must address their concerns and priorities in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

For example, the global population is ageing at an unprecedented rate. We need to address the vulnerabilities of old age, and recognize and seize the potential of older persons towards ensuring a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Also, youth issues continue to be at the top of the agenda for Member States and the United Nation system. It is clear that the challenges faced by youth such as youth unemployment continue to demand our full attention.

Fifth, social protection is a key policy tool to promote far-reaching improvements in human well-being. Its importance was reinforced with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, only 45% of the world’s population was effectively covered by at least one social protection scheme in 2016.

DESA’s forthcoming “Report on the World Social Situation 2017” shows the potential of social protection systems to promote inclusive development that leaves no one behind – to prevent poverty, reduce inequality and promote social inclusion.

Universal access to social protection, together with access to social services, is necessary to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and promote inclusion.

Last but not least, capacity development in key areas such as data collection and disaggregation, and translating global development commitments into national strategies and plans will be key to achieving the SDGs.

DESA offers knowledge and expertise relevant to all the dimensions of sustainable development. We also have a strong record of assisting countries by catalyzing international support and expertise to strengthen national capacities to implement the 2030 Agenda.

DESA is committed to further strengthening its support in this area. I invite you all to attend an upcoming side event planned in early November, to hear more about our new approach to capacity development, which is more strategic, integrated and longer-term, to address more effectively and efficiently the needs of Member States.

Distinguished delegates,

I am greatly encouraged by the many new proposals and initiatives announced by Heads of State and Government during the general debate at the 72nd GA. There is a clear recognition of the importance of working together to address the myriad challenges we face in our quest to achieve sustainable development for all and eradicate poverty. The multilateral response to these challenges needs to be coherent and integrated, and efforts to achieve sustainable development, prevent conflicts and sustain peace need to be linked. Sustainable development that is fully inclusive is a driving force for the prevention of conflicts and a powerful tool for sustaining peace.

The United Nations system has a key role to play in realizing this vision and addressing the full range of interrelated challenges. Cooperation in key areas is necessary to enhance the effectiveness of multilateral efforts. Ensuring that all countries and people enjoy the benefits of globalization is an important condition for the achievement of the ambitious 2030 Agenda.

For DESA, it is our honour and privilege to support you. I am currently taking steps to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and internal coordination of DESA, so that the Department can provide the best possible support to the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda at the global level.

DESA will stay closest to the needs of Member States.

We stand ready to serve you and the cause of sustainable development for all.

I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.

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