Mr. Chairman, Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank the Chair of the Second Committee and the President of ECOSOC, as well as all participants, for this important meeting.
Many of you spoke about the bleak backdrop for today’s meeting. The COVID-19 pandemic has already devastated lives, economies and societies. It is likely to undermine progress on all SDGs. And it is expected to push between 88 million and 115 million people into poverty this year – the first increase in decades.
Poverty eradication, as noted in the 2030 Agenda, is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. It must therefore receive particular attention as we address the pandemic and its impacts. International solidarity with the poorest countries and people is essential.
A critical part of our response is also harnessing science and technology for development. This has the potential to improve people’s health and well-being, restore business, improve safety, and ensure more inclusive and just societies. It can also help safeguard the environment and move towards a more sustainable and resilient world.
Today’s joint event serves as a stepping-stone in identifying solutions as we pursue recovery from COVID-19, and try to get back on track towards the SDGs.
We have heard about the gaps that exist between developed and developing countries regarding infrastructure development, access and capacities related to science, technology and innovation. We must take action to prevent those gaps from further deepening inequalities, across and within countries.
To this end, we have the tools, platforms and solutions that we must proactively use and improve.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda created the Technology Facilitation Mechanism – to foster more cooperation and fairness in the area of science, technology and innovation.
During the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July, the SDG moment and the high-level week last September, we heard time and again that we must mobilize all countries and actors to work together. One component of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism is the ECOSOC STI Forum. It is precisely the kind of multi-stakeholder platform we need to generate new ideas and partnerships – to mobilize science and technology in the response to COVID-19 and to achieve the SDGs.
UN DESA will support the ECOSOC President and Member States in preparing an impactful 2021 STI Forum, including through coordination of the UN inter-agency task team on STI for the SDGs. We have also launched the Mechanism’s on-line platform. This is a platform aimed at improving developing countries’ access to science, technology and innovation. I encourage Member States to support and use the platform.
Technology is also critical for improving and supporting sustainable infrastructure. Indeed, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including transport, energy, water and sanitation for all, is essential for achieving the 2030 Agenda.
Covid-19 has shed light on certain infrastructure gaps that must be filled urgently – such as those related to digital connectivity and healthcare – as critical for resilience.
The crisis, and the stimulus packages, offer an opportunity to accelerate investments in infrastructure. Investment in low carbon infrastructure has been found to cost no more than the cost of polluting alternatives. It is part of the solution to climate change, and requires mobilizing financing from all sources. Public finance is key in some sectors to meet equity, social inclusion or other public goods considerations. High public debts impede such investments.
Development banks can also play important role in infrastructure financing.
Mobilizing private finance is likewise essential. But we must strengthen the capacity in developing countries for infrastructure project planning and negotiation. We must use our existing UN platforms, such as the SDG investment fair and the ECOSOC FFD Forum – to promote investment in sustainable infrastructure and attract resources to developing countries.
UN DESA stands ready to support the objective of mobilizing resources for infrastructure development. In addition to our analytical and normative work, we have produced a Handbook on Sustainable Infrastructure, and co-led the IATF-report. UN DESA also supports the Secretary-General’s initiative – the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance.
We will also help ensure that the major events of the coming months advance the reflection on sustainable infrastructure and STI.
This should be an important focus at the General Assembly high-level dialogue on energy in 2021, and at the second global conference on sustainable transport to be convened in 2021.
Let us, together, chart our course through the current COVID-19 crisis, with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda as our guideposts to recover better.