“This first month has been very exciting,” said Mr. Lenni Montiel, who was recently appointed as Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in UN DESA overseeing a wide portfolio of areas crucial for economic and social development. In his first DESA News interview, he discussed some of the most current issues, which are also vital for this year of global action, including preparing a data monitoring framework and financing for sustainable development.
With almost thirty years of experience, Mr. Montiel has held strategic positions within the Government of Venezuela and in several international organizations. Throughout his career, he has been systematically involved in policy making and analytical work on issues related to economic development.
“It was like a very natural situation, but it was a great surprise, so I really enjoyed that moment,” Mr. Montiel said smiling, as he shared his reaction when he received the offer to join the department. At the time, and before taking office in UN DESA on 16 January, he worked as Director for Economic, Social and Development Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, leading the analytical work in the area of economic and development affairs.
New assignment kicks off in high gear
In his new capacity; Mr. Montiel oversees the work of many divisions including the Financing for Development Office, the Statistics Division, the Development Policy and Analysis Division, the Social Policy and Development Division and the Division for Public Administration and Development Management. With this portfolio, Mr. Montiel’s new assignment has kicked off in high gear, as one of the major tasks ahead involves a milestone event later on in July – the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
“This is a very important event,” said Mr. Montiel, also stressing that this is so much more than just another event. “This is a very important process, in terms of the future of development,” he added. Taking place in Addis Ababa on 13-16 July, under the leadership of UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo, who has been designated the Conference Secretary-General, this conference is expected to prepare the framework for financing the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Mr. Montiel praised the preparations carried out so far and the solid set of recommendations that have been delivered by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. He also highlighted Mr. Wu’s recent mission to Ethiopia and the very active exchange that he has initiated with the host government to ensure a successful conference.
“We all expect a very strong commitment to a policy framework that will guide the development work on financing for development in the years to come”
Expecting ambitious new financing framework
“We all expect a very strong commitment to a policy framework that will guide the development work on financing for development in the years to come,” Mr. Montiel said. “Many are speaking about it as the Monterrey plus, meaning it is good that we have a consensus already in place,” he added, also explaining that some additional elements have to be put in place. “Unquestionably one of the key elements […] is a reassurance, a recommitment of many countries to the question of official development assistance.”
At the same time, Mr. Montiel acknowledged that there are other sources than ODA and that Member States will need to agree on other questions like the facilitation for private sector to engage in development activities on the ground. “This includes improving the conditions of governance and tax collection in many countries, […] fighting illicit flows of finance from many countries; so the line of options is large,” he explained.
While the world is still struggling on the road to economic recovery, Mr. Montiel shared his hopes for high-level engagement from countries and international organizations, going beyond the outcome document. “I have no doubts at this point that the conference will be successful,” he said, highlighting the commitment of a wide range of organizations including the IMF, the World Bank, WTO, UNDP and UNCTAD.
“All of them together with Mr. Wu are, I would say, carrying out the flags of success of Addis Ababa together with 193 Member States and unquestionably the private sector and NGOs,” he added encouragingly.
Work on data central
Mr. Montiel also shared his views on another key element this year, namely the work outlining the post-2015 monitoring framework which will help the international community evaluate the new sustainable development goals once adopted by UN Member States. Here, UN DESA and its Statistics Division play a leading role.
“Secure and reliable data to monitor development requires effective, strong, sound national statistical systems,” Mr. Montiel underscored, also describing the work on statistics as central and highlighting the ongoing efforts to make sure we have a dependable system in place to collect reliable data in order to monitor global development. These efforts will also be in focus on 3-6 March when the UN Statistical Commission convenes for its 46th session.
“DESA carries on the legacy […] on statistics and monitoring of development since 1947,” Mr. Montiel noted. “So if we are celebrating this year the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can very proudly say that DESA has made a fundamental contribution to the question of quantifying the world,” he praised.
Discovering wealth of efforts by UN DESA
“If we are celebrating this year the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can very proudly say that DESA has made a fundamental contribution to the question of quantifying the world”
With a great amount of enthusiasm, Mr. Montiel highlighted other major tasks at hand. “First of all, DESA has a regular responsibility to provide to Member States annual analysis of the economic situation around the globe,” he said, pointing to the solid work of a strong team of economists in the department. “It is a great honor to be working with a team like that.”
He also described the important work within the area of social development and the efforts to strive for social inclusion of older persons, youth, family, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples. “Particularly relevant will be the question of building up […] a system wide action plan to address the needs and requirements of indigenous peoples around the globe,” Mr. Montiel noted. “This was a mandate given to DESA by the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that took place last year in September 2014.”
Mr. Montiel also discussed the department’s work on public administration and development management, providing support to strengthening good governance, civil service and fighting corruption. “We are also dealing with very challenging topics such as internet governance and cyber security,” he explained. “This shows to you the wide range of issues that DESA is involved in by mandates and requests coming in from Member States.”
Throughout the interview, Mr. Montiel displayed much excitement about having joined the department. “I have to say that I thought I knew what DESA was about,” he said. “I have to acknowledge that I have learned a lot during this month and I have no doubt that I will have a lot of fun learning more in the many months to come.”
Data helps the international community measure the progress of development. How many children attend school, who has access to healthcare and how many people are employed? On 3-6 March, over 300 senior statisticians from about 140 UN Member States will gather for the 46th session of the Statistical Commission to ensure that we have reliable data for development. The ultimate goal – to enable people to live better lives.
Spanning close to 70 years, the Statistical Commission has a rich history as the leading entity of the global statistical system. During this crucial year, the statistical community has a big task before them with the post-2015 development agenda, among other important topics, which are also reflected in the busy agenda of the Commission.
In keeping with tradition from past years, a Friday seminar on 27 February informally kicked off this major event. The focus for this one-day seminar was “The development of an indicator framework for the post-2015 development agenda: Towards a nationally owned monitoring system for the SDGs”.
“The Statistical Community and the community of official statisticians stand ready and are strongly committed to taking on the task of measuring the SDGs over the coming years and thereby contributing to their realization”
Ms. Gabriella Vukovich
Acting Chair of the Commission
Data in support of the post-2015 development agenda is at the forefront of discussions this year, as the international community prepares to transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the new post-2015 agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core.
The 46th session will therefore also need to focus on broader measures of progress, examining the post-2015 indicator framework including what the expected data requirements will be, as well as what the current data gaps are in different countries across the globe.
Getting ready to monitor the post-2015 development agenda
Statistics will be vital for the new era of development and the statistical community stands ready to take on the challenge.
“The Statistical Commission, as the mandated intergovernmental body for the review of development indicators, will, indeed, be able to assist in ensuring that the future information base for the SDGs is based on rigorous science, is sustainable and will be acceptable to Member States,” Ms. Gabriella Vukovich, Acting Chair of the Commission, said ahead of the session.
“The Statistical Community and the community of official statisticians stand ready and are strongly committed to taking on the task of measuring the SDGs over the coming years and thereby contributing to their realization,” Ms. Vukovich added.
Big Data and the data revolution
A number of other important topics will be discussed and decided upon during the session, such as the data revolution and Big Data. With the widespread use of mobile devices and other forms of telecommunication driven by innovations in technology, a high volume of digital information is continuously generated.
“The data revolution is giving the world powerful tools that can help usher in a more sustainable future”
This type of information is often referred to as Big Data and its potential resides in the timely and frequent availability of large amounts of data, which are usually generated at minimal cost. However, many statistical offices around the world still need to harness this potential and explore concretely how to implement Big Data in their production work in a reliable and efficient way.
The Commission will also discuss the data revolution and the recommendations presented in the newly released report, “A World that Counts – Mobilising the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development’, issued by the Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. This report includes a number of suggestions on measures to close data gaps and strengthen national statistical capacities.
“The data revolution is giving the world powerful tools that can help usher in a more sustainable future,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when the report was launched in November 2014. “The recommendations of the Group will be important inputs to the post-2015 debate and our efforts to shape an ambitious yet achievable vision.”
Sustainable statistics for a sustainable future
Statistics to measure crime rates; the number of refugees in the world; international trade and globalization; environmental-economic accounting as well as data to assess governance, peace and security are just a few of many other vital items on the busy Commission schedule.
“Only National Statistical Systems can ensure a sustained flow of high quality and nationally acceptable data for policy decision making”
Director, UN DESA’s Statistics Division
In addition, and as in previous years, some 70 side events will also take place making the Statistical Commission one of the largest and busiest events held at UN Headquarters. Some of these side events take aim at food security, disability statistics, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), data for gender equality and strengthening environment statistics for monitoring the SDGs.
When the Commission opens its session, there will only be 303 days left until the Millennium Development Goals expire. In order for the statistical community to be ready to monitor the new set of goals, Stefan Schweinfest, the Director of UN DESA’s Statistics Division, has underlined the need for capacity building efforts at the national level.
“Only National Statistical Systems can ensure a sustained flow of high quality and nationally acceptable data for policy decision making. National statistical systems, therefore, need to be empowered to produce these information sets over the next 15 years. We need sustainable statistics in support of sustainable development,” Mr. Schweinfest stressed.
Once the Commission completes its session on 6 March, the global community will have taken yet another important step to prepare for the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda. A step that also aims to ensure that “better data for better lives,” becomes a living reality for every person on the planet.
Most people joining the global workforce today will only have a few years of school with limited skills to make a living. Most will toil from dawn to dusk in harsh conditions, usually in agriculture or demanding physical labour, earning less than $1.25 per day. Some of the lucky ones with university degrees will take a job that undervalues them. This is a reality that ECOSOC and the ILO wish to change.
Nearly 839 million workers in developing countries, 27 percent of global employment, are unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the poverty threshold. There are 75 million unemployed young people today and those who are employed earn less than the living wage. Unemployment and underemployment are a major issue in many countries, regardless of their level of development. On top of all this, many of the world’s workplaces leave big carbon footprints.
In order to generate 45 million new jobs each year for new entrants to the labour market, and provide jobs for those who have lost theirs due to the impact of the financial and economic crises, the world must create 600 million jobs over the next decade. Will these be decent jobs with fair remuneration, good working conditions and respect for their rights at work?
Will these jobs take into account the impact on the environment of their activities? Or will they create greater income inequalities leaving many behind? Or will they continue to pollute the environment that will increase water- and airborne illnesses, destroying arable land and increasing the acidification of the oceans which support life on earth?
Creating decent work opportunities
With much at stake, the theme for the 2015 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Integration segment will focus on, “Achieving sustainable development through employment creation and decent work for all.”
“The race is on, and now is the time for leaders to step up and steer the world towards a safer future”
The three day session, starting on 30 March, will provide an opportunity for Member States, civil society, trade unions, the private sector, academia and other key actors to discuss and elaborate upon how employment creation and decent work for all could help promote the balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
Participants will include Heads of State and Government, Ministers, ILO’s tripartite constituency, local governments, the United Nations system, foundations, NGOs, academia and the private sector.
In order to optimize the opportunities for an integrated and constructive discussion, the conference will stage roundtable sessions, where representatives from diverse sectors are asked to focus on ways to promote policy convergence based on country experiences, good practices and lessons learned.
As ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik has underscored, ECOSOC is the central hub for engaging global actors and for mobilizing action on the most pressing challenges of our time.
Jobs for climate smart future
We are now at a tipping point in how we use the earth’s resources and build a more sustainable future, an important focus throughout the event. Participants will discuss the types of jobs that are needed to provide solutions to climate change and which policies are required for effective implementation. They will examine which investments could generate the greatest job potential while maintaining environmental sustainability.
Informal economy will be discussed on the session’s first day. This term refers to the very large proportion of people in developing countries who work without a formal contract. Poor employment conditions are often characterized by compulsory overtime or extra shifts without pay, ”at-will” employment contracts, unsafe working conditions and the absence of social benefits such as pensions, paid sick leave, maternity leave and health insurance.
Unemployment and informal employment remains a particular concern in Africa, particularly among young people. The continent will therefore, be in the spotlight on the second day of the meeting, where participants aim to find an answer to the question: How can sustained economic growth be translated into decent work in African countries?
Taking the high road to growth
Seeing that economic growth is essential in many parts of the world, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been advocating that Member States support decent work which includes respect for international labour standards, a voice at work, well-functioning labour management relations and sharing fairly in the profits that they have helped generate.
Participants will, on the second day of the integration segment, discuss how the normative framework set out by the ILO Conventions, especially the eight fundamental Conventions, to help reduce human exploitation and encourage innovation and higher level of productivity.
Creating 600 million jobs in a decade is a real challenge, making them green and decent is probably an even greater challenge.
When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the Climate Summit in September 2014, he expressed confidence in the task at hand. “Solutions exist and we are already seeing significant changes in government policies and investments in sustainable ways of living and doing business,” Mr. Ban said. “The race is on, and now is the time for leaders to step up and steer the world towards a safer future.”
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder expressed faith in the creation of a well-functioning labor market, and has urged a ”process of social dialogue which embodies the basic democratic principle that people affected by decisions should have a voice in constantly renewing the social contract that is so vital to sustainable development.”
The ECOSOC Integration segment will result in a set of policy recommendations for integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development through the creation of new jobs and promotion of decent work.The recommendations will then be available for consideration at the upcoming ECOSOC High-Level Segment and High-Level Political Forum that is scheduled to take place in July.