In case you missed it Vol 23, No. 11 - November 2019

Brave old world: UN DESA releases new report on ageing

Today, 703 million people in the world are aged 65 or older. By 2050 – or just 31 years from now, that number is projected to increase to a staggering 1.5 billion, according to the World Population Ageing 2019 Highlights recently released by UN DESA’s Population Division.

The report predicts that by the mid-point of this century, one in every six people in the world will be over the age 65, up from one in every 11 today. The number of people aged 80 or over is expected to grow even faster, tripling by 2050. Average global life expectancy at age 65 will have increased by 19 years by 2050.

All societies in the world are in the midst of this longevity revolution – some are at its earlier stages and some are more advanced. But all will pass through this extraordinary transition, in which the chance of surviving to age 65 rises from less than 50 per cent – as was the case in Sweden in the 1890s – to more than 90 per cent at present in countries with the highest life expectancy. The proportion of adult life spent beyond the age of 65 increased from less than a fifth in the 1960s to a quarter or more in most developed countries today.

UN DESA’s Population Division published the World Population Ageing 2019 Highlights on 10 October, as part of the celebration of the International Day of Older Persons at the UN Headquarters in New York. The World Population Ageing Highlights 2019 presents the key findings of a larger and more comprehensive report on the same topic that will become available later this year.

The Highlights conclude with a set of evidence-based policy recommendations to promote the well-being of the growing number of older persons around the world in our collective efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Access World Population Ageing 2019: Highlights by UN DESA’s Population Division here.

The number of international migrants reaches 272 million, continuing an upward trend in all world regions

The number of international migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million in 2019, an increase of 51 million since 2010. Currently, international migrants comprise 3.5 per cent of the global population, compared to 2.8 per cent in the year 2000, according to new estimates released by UN DESA on 17 September 2019.

The International Migrant Stock 2019, a dataset released by the department’s Population Division, provides the latest estimates of the number of international migrants by age, sex and origin for all countries and areas of the world.

Mr. Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General, said that “These data are critical for understanding the important role of migrants and migration in the development of both countries of origin and destination. Facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people will contribute much to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

In 2019, regionally, Europe hosts the largest number of international migrants (82 million), followed by Northern America (59 million) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (49 million).

At the country level, about half of all international migrants reside in just 10 countries, with the United States of America hosting the largest number of international migrants (51 million), equal to about 19 per cent of the world’s total. Germany and Saudi Arabia host the second and third largest numbers of migrants (13 million each), followed by the Russian Federation (12 million), the United Kingdom (10 million), the United Arab Emirates (9 million), France, Canada and Australia (around 8 million each) and Italy (6 million).

Concerning their place of birth, one-third of all international migrants originate from only ten countries, with India as the lead country of origin, accounting for about 18 million persons living abroad. Migrants from Mexico constituted the second largest “diaspora” (12 million), followed by China (11 million), the Russian Federation (10 million) and the Syrian Arab Republic (8 million).

The share of international migrants in total population varies considerably across geographic regions with the highest proportions recorded in Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) (21.2%) and Northern America (16.0%) and the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean (1.8%), Central and Southern Asia (1.0%) and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (0.8%).

Most international migrants move between countries located within the same region.  A majority of international migrants in sub-Saharan Africa (89%), Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (83%), Latin America and the Caribbean (73%), and Central and Southern Asia (63 %) originated from the region in which they reside. By contrast, most of the international migrants that lived in Northern America (98%), Oceania (88%) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (59%) were born outside their region of residence.

Forced displacements across international borders continues to rise. Between 2010 and 2017, the global number of refugees and asylum seekers increased by about 13 million, accounting for close to a quarter of the increase in the number of all international migrants.  Northern Africa and Western Asia hosted around 46 per cent of the global number of refugees and asylum seekers, followed by sub-Saharan Africa (21%).

Turning to the gender composition, women comprise slightly less than half of all international migrants in 2019. The share of women and girls in the global number of international migrants fell slightly, from 49 per cent in 2000 to 48 per cent in 2019. The share of migrant women was highest in Northern America (52%) and Europe (51%), and lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (47%) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (36%).

In terms of age, one out of every seven international migrants is below the age of 20 years. In 2019, the dataset showed that 38 million international migrants, equivalent to 14 per cent of global migrant population, were under 20 years of age. Sub-Saharan Africa hosted the highest proportion of young persons among all international migrants (27%), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean, and Northern Africa and Western Asia (about 22% each).

Three out of every four international migrants are of working age (20-64 years). In 2019, 202 million international migrants, equivalent to 74 per cent of the global migrant population, were between the ages of 20 and 64. More than three quarters of international migrants were of working age in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, Europe and Northern America.

For more information: The 2019 revision of the International Migrant Stock

‘We are facing a learning crisis’, UN Secretary-General warned on International Youth Day

Education is a powerful development multiplier that plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all the 17 global goals. Yet today, the world is facing a learning crisis. “Education today should combine knowledge, life skills and critical thinking”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in his message for International Youth Day celebrated on 12 August 2019. “It should include information on sustainability and climate change. And it should advance gender equality, human rights and a culture of peace”.

It was against this backdrop that the 20th edition of International Youth Day was celebrated under the theme “Transforming Education”, putting a spotlight on the need for the international community to step up efforts to ensure that everyone has access to quality education.

Indeed, education needs to generate effective learning outcomes, with the content being fit for purpose, not only for the 4th industrial revolution and the future of work and life, but also for making informed decisions throughout one’s entire life.

The official commemoration of the Day, organized by UN DESA in collaboration with UNESCO, focused on inclusive education as part of the overall theme. The event featured an online panel discussion, bringing together UN representatives and young experts. The event explored innovations and challenges encountered in providing quality education to young refugees, indigenous youth, youth with disabilities and young women. It also highlighted pioneering partnerships dedicated to fostering inclusive education.

Thousands of UN entities, Member States and youth organizations from all corners of the world joined UN DESA and UNESCO in celebrating International Youth Day this year, showing support and engagement via social media and in-person at events.

International Youth Day was created in 1999 by the General Assembly as a way to promote better awareness of the World Programme of Action for Youth. International Youth Day also highlights efforts undertaken by young people themselves.

For more information: International Youth Day

In a critical year for sustainable development, the world came together to review SDG progress

With reports indicating that current efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are being undermined by climate change and sharply rising inequalities, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) concluded on 18 July with calls for an increased critical role for local communities and civil society in getting the world back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The eight-day Forum, which brought together more than 2,000 participants, including 125 heads and deputy heads of state and government, ministers, vice-ministers and other ministerial level officials. During the Forum, 47 countries presented their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) on their progress so far.

Opening the ministerial segment of the Forum, which reviewed progress on specific goals relating to education, economic growth and decent jobs, climate change, good governance and justice, and partnerships for the SDGs, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that development must focus on empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

“The evidence is clear,” he said.  “Development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive– and rising inequality hinders long-term growth.” He added that there was a need for the “Inclusion Imperative” to ensure that all countries and communities benefit from the successful implementation of the SDGs.

This would include more public and private investments for the SDGs; shifting to a greener economy; ensuring that global migration is safe and orderly and strengthening global commitment to end conflict and displacements.

“Many countries have been mainstreaming the SDGs into their planning documents or sustainable development policies.  Many local governments have taken the initiative to implement the SDGs systematically, in some cases going further than national governments,” noted Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

More than 142 countries have now presented the work they are doing to achieve the SDGs at the Forum.

“The 2030 Agenda has inspired an impressive response from governments, the private sector, local authorities, civil society, the scientific community and many more” stressed the outgoing President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Inga Rhonda King. “We need to recognize and give space for the actions of the multiple actors who are embracing the SDGs,” she added.

The Forum also showed that communities are driving change. New York City, under its OneNYC 2050, is mobilizing efforts to combat climate change, fight injustice and ensure a safer, healthier city for all of its constituents. Bristol of the United Kingdom established the Bristol SDG Alliance which is working to raise awareness about the SDGs in the city. Under the Helsinki City Strategy 2017-2021, the city seeks to create a more agile and service-oriented environment for its people.

The outgoing ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King stressed that “We understand the strategic importance of achieving the SDGs and halting climate change. But to deliver, we need to move out of our comfort zones in pursuing new ways of collective action”.

The High-Level Political Forum is the forerunner to the SDGs Summit that will take place on 24 and 25 September where heads of government and state are expected to announce accelerated actions to achieve the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind.

UN President of the General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés said the SDGs Summit in September is more than a two-day High-Level event. “It is the outcome of many years of our efforts that began even before 2015, at local, national and multilateral levels”. “Indeed, it is the greatest milestone since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, and the best opportunity to reaffirm and fulfill our commitments to our people,” she added.

In that context, Mr. Guterres also called on “leaders to come to the September summits not with beautiful speeches, but with concrete actions, plans and commitments to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change”.

The SDGs Summit is part of the High-Level Week at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly that will see countries and individuals take decisive action to improve conditions for people and planet.  It will culminate in a political declaration.  That week will also feature the Climate Action Summit and High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage on 23 September, the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development on 26 September and the High-Level Midterm Review of the Samoa Pathway on 27 September.

For more information:

High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Latest global population trends revealed

The world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to the World Population Prospects 2019, which was published by UN DESA’s Population Division on 17 June 2019. The report, providing a comprehensive overview of global demographic patterns and prospects, concluded that the world’s population could reach its peak around the end of the current century, at a level of nearly 11 billion.

The World Population Prospects 2019 (WPP 2019) includes demographic estimates (1950 to current) and projections (current to 2100) for 235 countries or areas. WPP 2019 is accompanied by the 50-page report World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights, a data booklet and ten key findings.

Some of the key findings of the newly released report include:

  • The world’s population is projected to grow from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 8.5 billion (+10%) in 2030, to 9.7 billion (+26%) in 2050 and further to 10.9 (42%) billion in 2100.
  • While the population continues to grow at the global level, the rate of growth has been slowing since the 1970s and could be zero around the end of the 21st.
  • The fastest growing populations are found in the Least Developed Countries, where population growth brings additional challenges in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Although differences in life expectancy across regions have diminished over the past decades, life expectancy at birth in sub-Saharan Africa still lags 11.5 years behind the global average.
  • The world’s population will experience unprecedented ageing in the coming decades with 16 per cent of the world’s population aged 65 or over by 2050, up from 9 per cent today.
  • The ratio of persons at working ages to those aged 65 years or over is falling with 48 countries expected to have potential support ratios below two by 2050, impacting the labour force and funding of pension systems and social protection.

World Population Prospects, one of the most downloaded products of UN DESA, is used in more than one-third of the indicators of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The release of WPP 2019 is the twenty-sixth edition of this dataset, produced by the Population Division every two years since 1951.

Following the release in New York, the Population Division organized launch activities with research centers located in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the United States among other locations.

For more information: World Population Prospects 2019

Global economic growth projections revised downward to 2.7% in 2019 and 2.9% in 2020

The global economy is experiencing a broad-based growth slowdown amid unresolved trade tensions, high international policy uncertainty, and softening business confidence, according to UN DESA’s World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) as of mid-2019 report, released in New York on 21 May 2019.

The forecast for weaker global growth casts a shadow over efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has set universal goals for eliminating poverty, promoting prosperity and social well-being while protecting the environment. Weaker economic growth puts at risk essential investments in areas such as education, health, climate change adaptation and sustainable infrastructure.

According to the report, the growth outlook in all major developed economies and most developing regions has weakened due to a confluence of both domestic and external factors. Following an expansion of 3.0 per cent in 2018, world gross product growth is now projected to moderate to 2.7 per cent in 2019 and 2.9 per cent in 2020, reflecting a downward revision from the forecasts released in January.

“If we look back six months ago, we saw that growth had already started to slow, but some of the risks that were highlighted at that time have now materialized,” said Dawn Holland, Chief of the Global Economic Monitoring Branch in UN DESA.

The report identifies several downside risks that could trigger a sharper or more prolonged growth slowdown in the world economy, potentially inflicting significant damage on development progress. These risks include a further escalation in trade tensions, a sudden deterioration in financial conditions, and the accelerating effects of climate change.

“More comprehensive and well-targeted policy responses are needed to tackle the current growth slowdown,” said Elliot Harris, UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development. “It is increasingly clear that policies to promote sustainable development will need to look beyond GDP growth and identify new and more robust measures of economic performance that appropriately reflect the costs of inequality, insecurity and climate change.”

Dimmed economic outlook for different regions

Across most regions, the economic outlook has dimmed, as also highlighted in the June Monthly Briefing. In the United States, GDP growth for this year is projected at 2.3 per cent—down from 2.9 per cent in 2018—as the effects of fiscal stimulus measures wane. As external trade weakened more sharply than expected, the European Union and Japan are projected to grow at a slower pace of 1.5 per cent and 0.8 per cent in 2019, respectively.

While growth in the East and South Asia regions is expected to moderate, the economic outlook remains robust, amid resilient domestic demand. In East Asia, regional GDP growth is projected to moderate slightly from 5.8 per cent in 2018 to 5.5 per cent in both 2019 and 2020. Following growth of 5.7 per cent in 2018, South Asia is forecast to expand by 5.0 per cent in 2019 and 5.8 per cent in 2020.

In contrast, the growth outlook in many of the other regions remains challenging. In Africa, GDP growth is projected at 3.2 per cent in 2019 and 3.7 per cent in 2020, after an expansion of only 2.7 per cent in 2018. These growth rates are insufficient to absorb a fast-growing labour force. The creation of decent jobs represents a crucial challenge to make further progress in poverty reduction. Several sub-Saharan African economies have poverty rates that are among the highest in the world.

Meanwhile, Western Asia’s growth forecast for 2019 has been revised down from 2.4 per cent to 1.7 per cent, reflecting lower oil sector output in Saudi Arabia and a sharp decline in industrial production in Turkey. For the economies of the Commonwealth of Independent States, external conditions, including non-oil commodity prices, may be less supportive in 2019. Growth is expected to moderate slightly, especially as fiscal policies are largely growth-neutral, and several countries have tightened monetary conditions.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the economic recovery has lost momentum, with regional GDP projected to expand by only 1.1 per cent in 2019, following estimated growth of 0.9 per cent in 2018. Economic activity in late 2018 and early 2019 was weaker than expected, particularly in some of the region’s largest countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

Persistently high trade tensions a threat to global growth

Amid unresolved trade disputes and higher tariffs, the projected growth of world trade has been revised downwards to 2.7 per cent in 2019, slowing markedly from 3.6 per cent in 2018. The report warns that a spiral of additional tariffs and retaliations could have significant spillovers on the developing countries, particularly those with a high export exposure to the impacted economies. A more protracted period of weak international trade activity could also harm investment prospects and adversely affect productivity growth in the medium term.

Carbon pricing a key element in combating climate change

The increase in frequency and intensity of natural disasters highlight the rising threats from climate change, particularly for the most vulnerable economies. The report calls for a stronger and more coordinated multilateral approach to global climate policy, which includes the use of carbon pricing mechanisms. A price on carbon compels economic decisionmakers to internalize some of the environmental costs of their consumption and production. The report documents an increasing use of internal CO2 prices by the private sector. This not only results in higher energy efficiency and cost savings, but also leaves firms better prepared for expected policy changes.

For more regional economic highlights, please check out the June Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects, available here  [available on 3 June].

For more information: World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2019

“We need more money to implement the Sustainable Development Goals”

Putting sustainable development finance front and center, more than 30 government ministers and senior officials, as well as hundreds of representatives from the private sector, civil society and the international system came together for the 2019 ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum on 15-18 April 2019.

“2019 is a defining year for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. So far, we are not keeping pace. We face serious challenges and evolving risks,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as he gave opening remarks at the forum. Painting a dire and demanding landscape, Mr. Guterres summed it up: “Simply put: we need more money to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.”

To make this happen, he made the case for the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, saying that it is “our blueprint for the global partnership to finance sustainable development. Everyone, and particularly developed countries, must meet their commitments in full.”

The high level of attendance and activity at this year’s Forum showed how development finance is moving towards the centre of discussions—and action—for SDG achievement.  In addition to the Secretary-General, the meeting was opened by the ECOSOC President, the President of the General Assembly and senior executives from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group and World Trade Organization.

Keynote addresses were delivered by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, and Raghuram Rajan, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. At the opening, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin also presented the recently launched Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2019.

Throughout four days of interactive discussions and dozens of side events, participants focused on current economic and non-economic trends and their impact on financing for development and the implementation of the Addis Agenda. At the end of the week, Member States adopted the intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations of the 2019 Forum.

The event saw broad agreement that the current challenges arising from the global economic environment and climate-related disasters highlight the need for global action to achieve the global goals. Although the current context presents difficulties, it also provides opportunities for revamping multilateral arrangements in support of sustainable development and financing. At the same time, national strategies and policies to mobilize financial resources remain central. Some countries are at the forefront of designing and implementing their integrated national financing frameworks, and national demand for further analysis, knowledge-sharing and capacity-building in this area was strong.

Running alongside the Forum on 15-17 April, the SDG Investment Fair  brought together more than 400 representatives from governments and the investment community, as well as from development finance institutions, academia and civil society to discuss urgent actions on closing the SDG investment gap.

In conjunction with the Fair, the Secretary-General also announced that he will convene the “Global Investors for Sustainable Development,” a CEO-driven alliance that will focus on creating long-term investments for sustainable development by addressing policy and institutional obstacles.

Participants emphasized the need for urgent action to increase the contribution from the private sector to realize sustainable development while avoiding “greenwashing”. Private sector representatives made clear that there is a growing appetite for investment opportunities that have impact in addition to returns.

“We have no time to waste to achieve the goals by their 2030 deadline and fulfil the promise we made four years ago, to build a world of dignity for all,” said Mr. Liu as he addressed the fair. “Public and private incentives need to be aligned with sustainable development so that sustainability becomes a central element of all financing and investment decisions.”

For more information:

Financing for Development Forum 2019

Financing for Sustainable Development Report

“Inherent power in data and statistics has never been more important”

Better data has the potential to improve our lives in many ways. From delivering better education, improving gender equality, to promoting inclusive societies where everyone is counted. Better data can even save our lives. Striving to deliver better data to improve the lives of people everywhere, the UN Statistical Commission recently concluded its 50th session.

“The inherent power in data and statistics has never been more important than it is today,” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin when he opened the 50th session of the Commission on 5 March 2019.

“In an era when the whole international community is mobilized to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we need data to inform policies, to understand the world we live in, and to monitor and assess progress,” Mr. Liu said.

Mr. Liu went on to stress the vast data needs of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to make sure no one is left behind. “This translates into a wide-spread need for more and better financing for data and statistics, not only for generating new capacities and using innovation to solve the data challenges of the 2030 Agenda, but also, for the basic underlying statistical systems and the strengthening of the existing statistical capacity,” he said.

Delegates from 135 countries, 50 agencies and 14 civil society organizations joined the session, which took place from 5 to 8 March 2019 at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Commission examined 32 official documents, covering a broad spectrum of technical statistical fields, including SDG indicators, capacity building programmes, modernization of statistical systems, big data, open data, quality assurance, national accounts, environmental-economic accounting, disaster-related statistics and international migration statistics.

The Commission also prepared for the upcoming 2020 review of the SDG indicator framework, by endorsing guiding principles, criteria and a timeline for the review.

Taking place before and in parallel to the official session, 87 side events were organized to complement and enrich discussions in key areas such as innovation and capacity building on data for sustainable development.

Discussions honed in on the future of economic statistics, the way forward on open data and data interoperability, the integration of statistics and geospatial information, and the role of national statistical offices in implementing the Digital Agenda.

Many of these events also showcased recent advances in the use of innovative data sources and methods in areas such as gender equality, migration, health, disability, sustainable agriculture, climate change and disaster-related statistics.

Multiple side-events focused on new strategies in financing for data and statistics, coordination among UN System agencies, and new approaches for leveraging the power of data and statistics in evidence-based Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of the 2030 Agenda, including a country-led system of federated SDG Data Hubs.

For more information:

50th Session of the UN Statistical Commission

Leveraging social protection policies to address inequality

Around the world today, about 1.3 billion people face multidimensional poverty and some 3 billion live without decent employment. Moving towards an equal and inclusive society, requires calibrating fiscal, wage and social protection policies to address the underlying causes and interlinkages of inequality and social exclusion. Effective social protection policies can overturn the vicious, unequal and exclusionary cycle that leave vulnerable groups behind.

These very topics were in focus when the Commission for Social Development (CSocD57) convened for its fifty-seventh session at UN Headquarters from 11 to 21 February.

“There is increased recognition that social protection floors contribute to preventing or alleviating poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion, while promoting inclusive growth,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, as she addressed the opening of the Commission, which this year took place under the priority theme “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies.”

Opening the session, the Chair of the Commission’s Bureau Cheikh Niang remarked “with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, combating inequality and social protection have moved to the center of the policy agenda in all countries.”

Delegates highlighted the importance of securing public expenditure, expanding access to quality services and providing decent work, while civil society organizations further stressed the need to mainstream age-, gender-, disability- and other diversity-sensitive measures in fiscal, wage and social protection policies.

The Commission hosted four high-level panel discussions, over 100 speakers during the general discussion, and almost 50 side events. This year, the emerging issues focused on “The empowerment of people affected by natural and manmade disasters to reduce inequality: addressing the differential impact on persons with disabilities, older persons and youth.”

The CSocD57 adopted three draft resolutions to forward to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) by consensus and proposed the priority theme of the next session to be “Affordable housing and social protection system for all to address homelessness.”

Going forward, Valentin Rybakov, Vice President of the ECOSOC, called for a paradigm shift on sustainable development, urging to turn to the most vulnerable and marginalized groups who are “disconnected from accountable institutions and are not consulted by those in power.”

For more information: 57th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD57)

UN DESA reveals latest global economic trends

The global economy will continue to grow at a steady pace of around 3 percent in 2019 and 2020 amid signs that global growth has peaked. However, a worrisome combination of development challenges could further undermine growth, according to the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2019, which was launched on 21 January.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned “While global economic indicators remain largely favourable, they do not tell the whole story.” He said the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2019 “raises concerns over the sustainability of global economic growth in the face of rising financial, social and environmental challenges.”

Global growth is expected to remain steady at 3.0 per cent in 2019 and 2020, after an expansion of 3.1 per cent in 2018. Growth in the United States is projected to decelerate to 2.5 per cent in 2019 and 2 per cent in 2020, as the impulse from fiscal stimulus in 2018 wanes. Steady growth of 2.0 per cent is projected for the European Union, although risks are tilted to the downside, including a potential fallout from Brexit. Growth in China is expected to moderate from 6.6 per cent in 2018 to 6.3 per cent in 2019, with policy support partly offsetting the negative impact of trade tensions. Several large commodity-exporting countries, such as Brazil, Nigeria and the Russian Federation, are projected to see a moderate pickup in growth in 2019–2020, albeit from a low base.

However, economic growth is uneven and is often failing to reach where it is most needed. Per capita incomes will stagnate or grow only marginally in 2019 in several parts of Africa, Western Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Even where per capita growth is strong, economic activity is often driven by core industrial and urban regions, leaving peripheral and rural areas behind. Eradicating poverty by 2030 will require both double-digit growth in Africa and steep reductions in income inequality.

Further clouding the prospects are a confluence of risks with the potential to severely disrupt economic activity and inflict significant damage on longer-term development prospects. These risks include waning support for multilateral approaches; the escalation of trade policy disputes; financial instabilities linked to elevated levels of debt; and rising climate risks, as the world experiences an increasing number of extreme weather events.

The contemporaneous appearance of several important risks endangers efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—the universally adopted plan containing 17 specific goals to promote prosperity and social well-being while protecting the environment. “Alongside various short-term risks, there is an increasing urgency to deal with much more fundamental problems. What we have hitherto viewed as long-term challenges, such as climate change, have become immediate short-term risks,” emphasized Elliott Harris, UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.

Strengthening global cooperation is central to advancing sustainable development

The report underscores that strengthening global cooperation is central to advancing sustainable development. The multilateral approach to global policy making is facing significant challenges, including a trend toward greater unilateral actions. Pressures have materialized in the areas of international trade, international development finance and tackling climate change. These threats come at a time when international cooperation and governance are more important than ever—many of the challenges laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are global by nature and require collective and cooperative action. Waning support for multilateralism also raises questions around the capacity for collaborative policy action in the event of a widespread global shock.

Global trade tensions pose a threat to the economic outlook

Amid the rise in global trade tensions, global trade growth moderated over the course of 2018, from growth of 5.3 per cent in 2017, to 3.8 per cent. While tensions have materially impacted some specific sectors, stimulus measures and direct subsidies have so far offset much of the direct economic impacts on China and the United States. But a prolonged escalation of trade tensions could severely disrupt the global economy. Directly impacted sectors have already witnessed rising input prices and delayed investment decisions. These impacts can be expected to spread through global value chains, particularly in East Asia. Slower growth in China and the United States could also reduce the demand for commodities, affecting commodity exporters from Africa and Latin America.

An abrupt tightening of global financial conditions could spark financial turmoil

As global financial conditions tighten, an unexpectedly rapid rise in interest rates or a significant strengthening of the US dollar could exacerbate emerging market fragilities, leading to heightened risk of debt distress. This risk can be further aggravated by global trade tensions, monetary policy adjustment in developed economies, commodity price shocks, or domestic political or economic disruptions. Many low-income countries have already experienced a substantial rise in interest burdens. Countries with a substantial amount of dollar-denominated debt, high current account or fiscal deficits, large external financing needs and limited policy buffers are particularly vulnerable to financial stress.

Climate risks still not fully integrated into economic decision-making

A fundamental shift in the way the world powers economic growth is imperative. Economic decision-making must fully integrate the negative climate risks associated with emissions. This can be achieved through tools such as carbon pricing measures, energy efficiency regulations such as minimum performance standards and building codes, and reduction of socially inefficient fossil fuel subsidy regimes. Governments can also promote policies to stimulate new energy-saving technologies, such as research and development subsidies. In countries that remain highly reliant on fossil fuel production, economic diversification is vital.

For more information:

World Economic Situation and Prospects 2019

Watch: Press briefing on 21 January 2019

Watch: Facebook live event on 21 January 2019

History made as UN Conference adopts landmark migration compact

On 10 December 2018, over 160 countries adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration during a two-day intergovernmental conference, held in Marrakesh, Morocco. Grounded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Global Compact took more than two years to prepare, including negotiations, thematic and regional consultations as well as hearings with civil society, the private sector, diaspora groups and academics.

The Global Compact’s 23 objectives reflect a unique, 360-degree approach to migration, focusing on conditions in origin countries, preparations for departure, the migration process, border management, conditions in destination countries, contributions of migrants to development and migrant return and reintegration. The Global Compact prioritizes the collection and use of data as a basis for evidence-based policies and considers international cooperation as a cross-cutting issue.

The conference also included two dialogues, on action on the Global Compact commitments and on partnerships and innovative initiatives. On the eve of the conference, Secretary-General António Guterres announced the creation of the United Nations network on migration, which, under the leadership of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), will leverage all relevant entities of the UN system to support Member States in implementing the Compact.

Following endorsement of the Global Compact by the General Assembly on 19 December, implementation will take centre stage. The Global Compact establishes a capacity building mechanism with three elements: a “connection hub” to process requests for implementation, a start-up fund providing seed funding for specific projects, and a knowledge platform to serve as repository for data, evidence and good practices.

The Global Compact invites countries to prepare national implementation plans, which will be reviewed every four years at the regional level, starting in 2020.  At the global level, Member States will assess progress every four years at the International Migration Review Forum, starting 2022.

For more information: Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration



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