Opening Remarks at 2021 High-Level Meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum

Your Excellency, Ambassador Munir Akram, President of the Economic and Social Council,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to join the President of ECOSOC in welcoming you to the 2021 Development Cooperation Forum.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption and devastation: 

  • the deaths of more than three million people,
  • a predicted rise in global extreme poverty for the first time in 20 years, 
  • more than 1.6 billion learners forced out of school, and 
  • health and social protection systems pushed to the breaking point.

All this, while the world faces climate emergencies and deepening inequalities, with an uneven and unfair effect on women and girls.

The impact of these challenges has put international development cooperation to a critical test. Without a stronger response, the world risks the devastations of a “lost decade” of development in developing countries.

The Development Cooperation Forum is here to fuel development thinking and propel progress in a period of uncertainty. 

To support your action-oriented discussions over these next two days, I would like to share with you five insights from the DCF work. These draw on:

  • the Report of the Secretary-General on Trends and progress in International Development Cooperation and data update, 
  • the latest DCF Survey exercise, and 
  • online preparatory events.

I would like to thank, in particular, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia for their generous support to this work.

First, effective development cooperation in the COVID-19 period and beyond, means helping developing countries to reduce risk and build resilience.  

Development cooperation policies of developing countries and their international partners, have to account and plan for short-term and systemic risks. Otherwise, the consequences of future shocks will be even greater.

Your experiences and practices, emerging from the pandemic, will help us make development cooperation more risk-informed.  

Second, development finance in its various forms needs to be urgently scaled up, with official development assistance (ODA) serving a distinctive function in support of developing countries’ resilience.

The pandemic brought an unexpected decline in domestic resources, trade, foreign direct investment and remittances. ODA is an essential resource for responding to interlocking crises in developing countries. Grant financing is vital for the most vulnerable countries, at high risk of debt distress. The decline of grant financing relative to loans should be reversed.

There are examples and lessons that can be shared by those that have successfully protected or increased development cooperation budgets during the crisis – therefore ensuring that ODA commitments can be met.  

Third, development cooperation in all its forms has been critical in mounting the short-term health response. It will be essential in building long-term resilience of developing countries’ health capacities and systems.

South-South and triangular cooperation have facilitated the transfer of essential medical supplies and staff during the crisis. Diverse global health actors have partnered through the ACT-Accelerator to drive equitable development of and access to healthcare tools, for fighting the pandemic.  

The DCF gives us a unique platform to generate concrete ideas on how development cooperation can boost transformative efforts to:

  • build capacities and infrastructure, 
  • resolve bottlenecks, and 
  • strengthen health systems in developing countries.

Fourth, the pandemic recovery should reduce the obstacles to accessing development cooperation for climate action and disaster risk reduction.

Recent analysis by the Global Recovery Observatory estimated that only 18 per cent of pandemic recovery spending so far has been “green” or environmentally positive. Given the growing risks and enormity of the sums involved, recovery spending should be geared to support disaster risk reduction, resilient infrastructure and decent work.  

I am confident that your discussions here at the DCF will help crystallize ideas for ramping up high-quality, high-impact development cooperation that supports vulnerable countries and peoples to get back on track towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  

Fifth, the pandemic is driving innovation at the regional and local levels. This can help make resilience building part of the new DNA of development cooperation.

Innovative partnerships among regional partners have helped to tackle real-time data and statistical challenges. They have scaled up digital technologies in response to urgent health and educational needs. And regional development banks have helped to mobilize billions of dollars to assist countries in their response efforts.

The pandemic has also shown that many local communities, including civil society, cooperated in the crisis context. They helped to:

  • fill the void in service delivery for food and medicine distribution; 
  • developed health tools and personal protective equipment; and 
  • designed information and awareness campaigns on COVID-19.  

Risk and vulnerability have local and regional dimensions.  The DCF should explore opportunities for boosting the capacities and contributions of local and regional efforts toward more effective development cooperation, and long-term resilience.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Secretary-General calls the pandemic recovery a “once in a generation opportunity” to shift the efforts of all stakeholders towards the SDGs and climate action.   

We have the global agreements already in place – the 2030 and Addis Agendas, the Paris Agreement and Sendai Framework. What we need is more concerted implementation.
The DCF is your Forum for driving the changes needed. It is fueled by the deep knowledge, expertise and commitment of all of its participants.  

In one of the worst global setbacks of our lifetimes, your actions give strategic direction to the contribution of development cooperation, in this Decade of Action for the SDGs. 

I urge you to be bold and specific. And I wish you a most productive meeting.

Thank you.

File date: 
Thursday, May 6, 2021

Mr. Liu