– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

26 September 2018

Middle-Income-Countries Ministerial Meeting

Your Excellency, Ms. Epsy Campbell Barr, Vice-president and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica,


Mr. Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist (DESA),

Distinguished Guests:

I am pleased to join you this morning. Thank you, Madam Vice-President, for the invitation to speak to this very important group.

I would like to commend the Like-Minded Group of Countries for its continued efforts to facilitate access to development and climate finance for Middle Income Countries. With the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals slipping each year, creating a conducive environment for Middle Income Countries to access financing is strongly needed.

Colleagues, our time is short, hence I would thus like to make three brief points today:

First, I would note that the circumstances of MICS warrant a rethink on poverty, development, economic growth, and well-being, specifically when it comes to the use of per-capita income as a benchmark of success.

As it is, many middle-income countries have dramatically raised per-capita income yet maintain broad inequalities and high-levels of poverty amongst specific groups, including many of the most marginalized, such as indigenous peoples.

The reality then, is that development success and measures of poverty are much more nuanced than per-capita income.

This is of course nothing new, and the multidimensionality of risk was addressed in Agenda 2030 and in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The latter noted that we should “recognize poverty in all of its forms and dimensions, and the social, economic and environmental dimensions of domestic output and structural gaps at all levels.”

Excellencies, per capita income is clearly a brush too broad for what is inherently a context-specific challenge. It is important that our measurement of success reflects the many diverse, multisectoral targets of the SDGs.

In addition, not enough attention has been paid to reversibility of progress, which has been associated with many MICs. Helping support resilience in those countries is vital for sustainability.

Second, I would emphasize that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to development, and that this is particularly the case within and across MICS.

Let us remember that 73% of those in poverty reside in MICS. Our efforts, therefore, must be tailored to suit their needs.

Such a tailored approach must acknowledge economic disparities, but also issues such as access to resources; the impact or potential impact of climate change; and social issues that empower or prevent women’s involvement in the workforce, to name a few.

This brings me to my third and final points, which is that the UN has a particularly strong role to play in supporting MICS in this regard.

The UN Development System, for instance, can provide significant support to countries which aim to harmonize development goals with local developing planning. The long-term experience of UN Country Teams means that institutional capacities and constraints, coupled with local knowledge, are well known and can be drawn upon to help strengthen efforts. The General Assembly, working with ECOSOC, should guide the reform process to ensure better UN System coordination and more efficient collaboration and engagement at country level.

On my part, I would like to reiterate my commitment towards a successful High-Level Meeting on MICS and the SDGs later in the fall. While originally scheduled to take place next week, the meeting was postponed following consultation with the Office of my predecessor, this Like-Minded Group of Countries, and the Regional Groups Chairs of this month, in order to ensure maximum high-level participation.

Before closing, allow me to emphasize that MICS have incredible, if occasionally untapped, potential. There is room for better regional and intra-regional collaboration. The upcoming south-south conference – BAPA+40, to be held in Buenos Aires in 2019 – is a good opportunity to make progress in that regard.

Colleagues and friends, I look forward to continuing this conversation with you in the coming months as we move towards defining concrete outcomes at the General Assembly high level meeting. In the meantime, I wish you well in your discussion.

Thank you.