Ensuring Better Lives for Future Generations among Key Sustainable Development Challenges, Delegates in High-Level Political Forum Told

1 July 2014

Ensuring Better Lives for Future Generations among Key Sustainable Development Challenges, Delegates in High-Level Political Forum Told

1 July 2014
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

High-Level Political Forum

AM & PM Meetings

Ensuring Better Lives for Future Generations among Key Sustainable Development

Challenges, Delegates in High-level Political Forum Told


Discussion in the Economic and Social Council high-level political forum today centred around the impact of the past three generations on the next two and the need to “be fair” as actions today would influence quality of life tomorrow.

In four panels that covered a spectrum of challenges and solutions to sustaining development in a way that would leave no one behind, speakers considered ways to improve the “conversation” between science and policy, shaping the lives of present and future generations, promoting genuine and durable partnerships, and building resilience in countries in special situations.

Council President Martin Sajdik (Austria) recalled the decision by Member States two years ago to create the high-level forum in order to, among others, strengthen the “science-policy interface”.  The day’s session, with a “prototype” report before it, considered the scope and methodology of future such reports.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo, introducing the report, said it aimed to make available the findings of a wide range of scientific assessments.  It did not ask participating scientists to make normative policy recommendations, but rather sought to create an evidence base for decision makers.  To date, there was no comprehensive or authoritative report that reviewed global progress and charted future pathways, and which took into account the perspective of the global scientific communities.

The report, he continued, identified challenges, namely the need to eliminate poverty and feed, nurture, house, educate and employ the global population, as well as preserve the Earth’s basic life-support systems, and it sketched an alternative sustainable path forward to achieve a “sustainability transition” by 2050.  It also identified estimates of the global investments needed to achieve the transition; stressed the importance of global cooperation to develop, transfer and disseminate environmentally sound technologies; and identified the challenge of measuring progress in the absence of agreed goals.

Emphasis in the first panel was on the different “languages” spoken between scientists and policymakers and ways to advance that dialogue with a more profound understanding of what each group contributed.  “Translators” were key, some said, including Manuel Montes, Senior Adviser on Finance and Development, the South Centre in Switzerland, who urged the science-policy interface to recognize the different ways in which science was practiced in different countries. 

Western societies, for example, depended heavily on a peer review system, but in developing countries, he said, resources both of science and graduates were unable to support a western-style system.  To improve the “conversation”, a future report must recognize the inputs and outcomes of developing countries.  As for scope and methodology, that must be policy-oriented towards assisting Governments in furthering sustainable development goals and not “science for science sake”.

Science and Technology Adviser to the United States Secretary of State E. William Colglazier said the formulation of sustainable development goals should be informed by measuring and making progress.  Scientific technological innovation would contribute substantially, he said, advocating for the creation of innovative capacities in each country.  A “crowd-sourcing” approach for gathering ideas was also useful in terms of keeping pace with emerging issues, he said, adding that the world was awash in information critical to sustainable development goals.

In Panel II, titled “Ideas and trends that can shape the lives of present and future generations”, panellist Gordon McBean of the International Council for Science said it was grandchildren who mattered, stressing the imperative of a sense of fairness between generations.  The actions of present and past generations affected the environment and economy of future ones, he said, citing as an example that if a species was lost through actions or lack of them, that loss was not likely to be recovered.

Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director and Deputy Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria, asked participants to consider that the industrial revolution had taken about 200 years.  He hoped that the sustainable development “revolution” would be much quicker.  Demographers believed a sustainable transition could result in a life expectancy of 100 years.  It would be a world in which all had a secondary education, everyone would have access to modern energy services, sanitation would be universally achieved and there would be sufficient food for all. 

In the afternoon, two additional panels took place.  The first being on “Island voices, global choices:  promoting genuine and durable partnerships”, and the second on “Countries in special situations:  Building resilience”.

The high-level political forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 2 July.

Opening Remarks

MARTIN SAJDIK (Austria), Economic and Social Council President, recalled that Member States had decided two years ago to create a high-level political forum on sustainable development, with one of its functions being to strengthen the science-policy interface.  In that context, Member States had proposed a global sustainable development report to bring together information and assessments.

The session today, he explained, sought to consider options for the scope and methodology of a future global sustainable development report.  The Economic and Social Council, with contributions from 21 United Nations entities, had prepared a prototype report, the objective of which was to illustrate a range of potential content, alternative approaches and means of participation.

Introduction of Report

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introducing that report, said his department had developed the prototype based on extensive consultations.  It was intended as a first consolidated contribution to the discussion and meant to suggest the potential scope and content for future such documents.  As for the why, what and how of the prototype report, he said it aimed to make available the findings of a wide range of scientific assessments for the political forum.  It did not ask participating scientists to make normative policy recommendations, but rather sought to create an evidence base for decision makers.  To date, there was no comprehensive or authoritative report that reviewed global progress and charted future pathways, and which took into account the perspective of the global scientific communities.

To fulfil the gap, he went on, Member States at Rio+20 had agreed on regular such reports, envisaging one instrument aimed at strengthening the science-policy interface.  His department had worked on a prototype version, and last year, it had organized a series of expert group and consultation meetings to support preparation and develop informal networks of scientific contributors.  While highlighting a few key findings, he agreed that progress in more than half the existing goals was “off-track”, indicating insufficient progress in several areas, including in reducing deforestation, providing sustainable development for all, protecting oceans and, among others, creating sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

The report, he continued, identified remaining challenges, namely the need to eliminate poverty and feed, nurture, house, educate and employ the global population, as well as preserve the Earth’s basic life-support systems.  It sketched an alternative sustainable path forward in light of the global challenge to achieve a “sustainability transition” by 2050.  That would be possible if current consumption and production patterns were adjusted.  The report also identified estimates of the range of global investments needed to achieve the transition.  It stressed the importance of global cooperation to develop, transfer and disseminate environmentally sound technologies, and it identified the challenge of measuring progress in the absence of an agreed set of goals.

He said there were numerous initiatives for doing so, with some focused on sets of indicators while others focused on aggregate measurements combining different indicators into a single number.  Gaps remained in both approaches, he said, suggesting what he called a “novel approach”.  That entailed the use of “big data” derived from satellite images, cell phones and other new mediums to complement gaps in official statistics, potentially enabling a broader scope in measuring sustainable development.  As for future such reports, the Under-Secretary-General had highlighted some lessons learned, including the need to address the existing scarcity and inconsistency of data.  Most nations were seeking to measure progress, but the approaches varied.  Thus, it was difficult to evaluate the impact of initiatives, for which he suggested using frameworks similar to those devised for the Millennium Development Goals.  Hopefully, it would be possible to establish a transparent process with Member States to facilitate contributions from their scientists and relevant practitioners for future reports.

In conclusion, he said there were thousands of scientific assessments related to sustainable development, adding that in order to organize thinking on the options for scope and methodology, he foresaw three options:  following the conventional approach of United Nations flagship publications; involving stakeholders and linking the findings to voluntary national reviews in a text; or nominating scientific experts to a “writing team” to draft the document to be adopted by Member States.

Panel I

Moderating the first panel, titled “How to improve the conversation between science and policy: scope and methodology of a global sustainable development report”, was Claudio Huepe Minoletti, Professor at Universidad Diego Portales.  She was joined by panellists Manuel Montes, Senior Adviser on Finance and Development, the South Centre, Switzerland; Jill Jäger, Independent Researcher, Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Austria; and E. William Colglazier, Science and Technology Adviser to the United States Secretary of State.  Lead discussants were Keola Souknilanh, Institute for Developing Economics, Japan External Trade Organization, and Peng Sizhen, Deputy Director-General, Administrative Centre for China’s Agenda 21, Ministry of Science and Technology, China.

Mr. MINOLETTI, opening the discussion, concentrated on lessons learned and key findings for proposed reports, and focused on the relationship between science and policy.  Natural and social sciences spoke “different languages”, which made it difficult for them to “speak” with each other.  Hopefully, he added, future reports could advance that dialogue with a more profound understanding of what each contributed.  “Translators” would be key.

Mr. MONTES said the science-policy interface should recognize and accept the different ways in which science was practiced in different countries.  Western societies, for example, depended heavily on a peer review system, but in developing countries resources in science and in available graduates were insufficient to support a western-style system.  Further, there was nothing inherent in scientific peer reviews that could sustain unproductive patterns.

To improve the “conversation”, he said a future report must recognize the inputs and outcomes of developing countries.  As for scope and methodology, it must be policy-oriented towards assisting Governments in furthering sustainable development goals; it must not be science for science’s sake.  The report should also identify where knowledge was imperfect and where resources were needed.  He highlighted inequality and its role in sustainable development, noting that the current report indicated that inequality depended largely on a country’s citizenship, as well as the location of the country.  One could escape poverty by migrating, and thus, it was important to understand the disparity in per capita income between countries.  Policies to address poverty as part of sustainable development goals must be well understood, he stressed.

The political forum could highlight the need to put political will behind the global scientific community in order to understand underlying observed trends.  The forum could motivate that community in its search for analytic tools and new thinking.  He agreed that progress was off-track in many important areas.  In that connection, the forum must take action to motivate inputs from developing countries.

Ms. JÄGER said the uneven progress was an indicator of the complex problems of “unsustainability”.  The report pointed to the need for an integrated assessment that looked at alternative pathways, as well as the need for synergies.  A systemic view was needed in discussion of scope and methodology, and a well-designed multi-level iterative process of integrated sustainability assessment.  The report advised that to eliminate poverty and hunger the focus should be on the next two generations, and it would be essential to feed and educate the projected 9 billion people by 2050.  To preserve Earth’s life-support systems in two generations, a transformative change was needed, and it was not possible to go from here to there in a small linear step-by-step implementation of measures.  A system change was needed, and future reports should be designed in a way that allowed transformative change.

She said such change was not only about the science-policy interface, but also about the scientific policy imposed on societies.  People must be involved if they were to become part of that transformative change.  Present options involved a top-down process with experts.  Another was a consensus model, which also was limited and relied on a peer review process.  That raised questions of legitimacy.  She favoured a multi-stakeholder model to national processes.  That approach was not limited to the national level, and could produce a transformative and long-term vision to evaluate pathways.

Mr. COLGLAZIER said that the report could have signalled the significant role of science technology, while expanding, without compromising, the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  Human knowledge and technological possibilities should be enhanced to create knowledge-based societies.  The United States Government had significant influence vis-à-vis improving the conversation between science and policy.  Non-governmental scientific institutions often financed independent and objective scientific advice free from politics.  Scientists were encouraged to participate in the policy process by serving in government and policy positions, including through grants and fellowships.  Assessment of objective data was a key aspect, he said, noting the importance of tools to achieve national goals and impacts. 

The formulation of future sustainable development goals, he went on, should be informed by interpretation and on measuring and making progress.  Scientific technological innovation would contribute to those goals, he said, advocating the creation of innovative capacities in each country.  A “crowd-sourcing” approach for gathering ideas was also useful in terms of keeping pace with emerging issues, he said, adding that the world was awash in information critical to sustainable development goals.  As for future reports, those needed to be of real value and designed to be read by and relevant to decision makers.  Regarding their scope, he favoured reliance on the best scientific and objective information.  National reports should also be made available.  To be taken seriously by policy and scientific communities, those reports must include data for a non-biased product as well as a peer review model.  They should also contain a concise and relevant summary, with data capable of fuelling innovation and economic growth.  As the ambitious plan was put in play, he urged judicious use of limited resources.

Mr. SOUKNILANH highlighted data gaps that could hinder the process of monitoring progress in the implementation of sustainable development.  Some important administrative data could be lost during the process of aggregation.  For instance, rapid deterioration of the environment in a region would be overlooked when data was aggregated.  A remote sensing data system could be used to recover lost information.

Mr. SIZHEN felt that the report should focus on linkages of three dimensions of sustainable development.  It was important to include scientists from developing countries and to establish national focal points, including those from the scientific community.  There was a need for national sustainable development reports to address national and regional priorities.  That document should coincide with the cycle of the high-level political forum to inform review of development goal implementation.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, a representative of the scientific and technology community major group stressed the contribution of science in sustainable development, as well as the need for close partnerships to ensure that key questions were answered.  The “Future Earth” initiative was an approach to break up information silos to come up with evidence-based and unbiased solutions.

A representative of South Africa said key questions needed to be addressed, including the lack of capacity in developing countries to gather scientific data and the need for partnerships to build that capacity.

A representative of the United States said that the report provided three options, but hybrid models should be considered as well.  The report’s distinctive purpose was to “connect the dots” by drawing out linkages of various issues.  The issue of monitoring and tracking required further discussion.

A representative of Mexico viewed the second option as viable, while a representative of Belgium felt that a combination of option one and two would work best.

Also participating in the discussion were delegates of Nigeria, Switzerland, Germany, Egypt, and Sudan, as well as a representative of the European Union.

Panel II

Moderating the panel titled “Ideas and trends that can shape the lives of present and future generations” was Manuel Montes, Senior Adviser on Finance and Development, the South Centre, Switzerland.  He was joined by panellists Gordon McBean, President-elect, International Council for Science, and Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director and Deputy Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria, and Professor, Vienna University of Technology.  Lead discussants were Peter Davies, Sustainable Futures Commissioner, Wales, United Kingdom; Marcel Szabó, Ombudsman for Future Generations, Hungary; and Catherine Pearce, World Future Council.  Ibrahim O.A. Dabbashi (Libya), Vice-President, Economic and Social Council, chaired the panel.

Mr. MCBEAN focused on ideas and trends that shaped the lives of past, present and future generations, or “three back and forward two”.  It was vital to look ahead and ask how things now would affect future generations.  The idea behind the “Future We Want” agreed at Rio+20 was to promote intergenerational solidarity for sustainable development, taking into account future needs.  A sense of fairness between generations was very important, and that should be discussed in the context of environmental change.  Clearly, the actions of present and past generations affected the environment and economy of future ones.  If a species was lost through actions or a lack of them, for example, that loss would likely not be recovered.  Climate change was a determinant of quality of life and its challenges must be addressed now.  A generation was already defined by the current system, and it was “essential and only fair” to take into account past and present impacts when discussing sustainable development.

As for emerging challenges, he said scientists did not always fully understand the global economic system, for which the uncertainties of the environmental system were significant.  He pointed in particular to ocean acidification — now a major issue — saying that only by managing the quantity and quality of the risks could its future impacts be determined.  Data collection was another challenge, which required adequate resources, as well as open and free access for all peoples.  He said there were many challenges, but also opportunities, adding that he did not want to paint everything as “gloom and doom”.  Nevertheless, future blueprints must take into account emerging challenges.

Mr. NAKICENOVIC said the future was exceedingly uncertain, but certain scenarios about future development were worthy of examination, and the report discussed today had outlined some of them.  As for transformational change, the current generation would benefit somewhat, but the greatest benefits would be for the next generation.  He asked participants to consider that the industrial revolution had taken about 200 years, voicing hope that the sustainable development revolution would be “much quicker”.  Demographers believed that if it went in the right direction life expectancy might grow to 100 years.  If a sustainable transition was achieved, two thirds of the world population would be living in cities and hopefully all have a secondary education; one half would have a tertiary education, which would be exceedingly important for human capacity.  He hoped nobody would be left behind, noting that, today, 700 million people were uneducated.

By 2030, he continued, there should be access to modern energy services by all, again noting a current statistic of 3 billion with no access.  Sanitation would be universally achieved, and there would be sufficient food for all.  Equally important were decreasing inequalities across all scales.  He identified two “planetary dimensions”, namely climate change and biodiversity, saying that much literature on the latter indicated a continued loss unless biodiversity was stabilized through a transformation to a sustainable future.  Regarding climate change, there needed to be a sustainable revolution that would stabilize global temperature rise at 2°C, although it might be 4° in the Arctic and mountainous regions.  He saw this as a “can do” story, requiring strong science-based and stakeholder partnerships.

Mr. DAVIES highlighted efforts of Wales to lead “the sustainable development revolution”.  Wales introduced a bill to improve governance beyond the current generation.  It set out national long-term development goals aligned with United Nations processes and measures of monitoring progress, and established a framework for decision-making.  The bill obliged the Commissioner to produce an assessment report every five years.  Those efforts should inspire the world.

Mr. SZABÓ stressed the role of national institutions in safeguarding future generations under the auspices of the United Nations.  Both developing and industrialized nations suffered structural problems.  In developing countries, attention was paid to issues concerning the present generation of young people, but not the generation yet to be born.  In the developed world, retired voters had a large influence on policymaking.  Many countries established national institutions for intergenerational solidarity and representatives from those had met in April this year in Hungary.  Those institutions should serve as models.

Ms. PEARCE said that decisions made today were critical as they created the choices for future generations.  Ending poverty remained central to intergeneration justice.  There was a need to act to defend the future.  Institutions could act as an advocate for such voices.  The Secretary-General’s report included a proposal to establish a high commissioner for future generations.  Decisions affecting future generations must be transparent and accountable.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, a speaker representing the major group of non-governmental organizations called for inclusion of “material resource accountability” in the post-2015 development agenda.

A representative of Malta said that the idea of appointing a high commissioner for future generations held promise.

A speaker representing the major group of children and youth said that the office of high commissioner for future generations should be independent and free from bureaucracy, and contribute to smart decision-making.  Sustainable development was not a “zero-sum” game, so the commissioner should be able to identify win-win pathways.

Mr. NAKICENOVIC said that there were 7 billion phones on the earth, but 1.5 billion people could not charge them because they did not have access to electricity.  The initiative aimed for universal access to electricity, doubling of the efficiency rate and doubling of the proportion of renewable energy from 15 per cent to 30 per cent, all by 2030.

Mr. MCBEAN said that the scientific community was seeking to strengthen efforts to involve younger generations of scientists as a means to address the generation gap.

Representatives of Kenya and Ecuador also participated in the discussion.

Panel III

Amanda Ellis, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations in Geneva and Special Envoy for the Prime Minister to Francophone Africa, moderated the dialogue on “Island voices, global choices:  promoting genuine and durable partnerships”.  Panellists were Cristina Duarte, Minister of Finance and Planning, Republic of Cabo Verde; Anjeela Jokhan, Dean, Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, University of the South Pacific, and Chair, University Consortium of Small Island States; and Taholo Kami, Regional Director, Oceania and the Pacific, International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  Lead discussants were Peseta Noumea Simi, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Finance, Samoa, and Noelene Nabulivou, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), women major group.

Ms. ELLIS said that 2014 was a year dedicated to small island developing States.  Work was under way to draft an outcome document to be adopted at the upcoming conference on small island developing States in Samoa.  Key questions related to resilience-building, genuine and durable partnerships and effective implementation of the outcome text needed to be addressed in this segment.

Ms. DUARTE, noting national lessons learned, said that “development is possible without traditional resources”.  Cabo Verde had graduated least developed country status and become a middle-income country.  Policy-driven development had put it on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  Over the past 31 years, 22 per cent of the Government’s budget had been spent on education.  Creating active space for civil society was also essential as was internal and international accountability.  Aid flows were duly recorded in Cabo Verde.  Small island developing States must be useful to the international community to create win-win partnerships.  “Ocean is our commodity,” she said.  But donor countries, while giving budgetary support, negotiated international fishing agreements unfavourable to small island developing States.

Ms. JOKHAN stressed the importance of education in building resilience in small island developing States to meet their unique challenges in the post-2015 development agenda.  In Fiji, community resilience had improved and partnerships were developing.  Despite progress, challenges had increased, with the environment deteriorating and more disasters striking.  Global economic downturn had affected them and non-communicable diseases had significantly increased in the Pacific.

Given the small population, needs had never been met internally, she said, stressing the importance for a regional solution.  Partnership arrangements must be reviewed to improve the effectiveness of implementation of the outcome document.  Small island developing States must distil the outcomes in actions in their own countries.

Mr. KAMI stressed the need for a shift of emphasis from vulnerability to value.  The former was part of language used to describe small island developing States, but he questioned what value those countries could offer to the planet.  Management of natural resources was as important as education and health.  New thinking was emerging in small island developing States, but it required new partnerships to be implemented, including those on the management of ocean.  There was a need for securing a long-term funding mechanism for nature.

LETUIMANU’ASINA EMMA KRUSEV A’AI, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Samoa, speaking via video link, said that partnerships between small island developing States and the international community required full participation of civil society, the private sector and academia.  Factors that included human rights and embraced local and traditional knowledge were critical in developing a new framework in the post-2015 agenda.  Among several points made, she said that for small island developing States to build resilience, reliable and up-to-date data and information must be established.  Also important was private sector development and the effective use of natural resources while protecting the environment.  Turning to the upcoming conference outcome document, she said that it was essential there be effective monitoring and evaluation of those outcomes, identifying which agencies and organizations would be responsibility for what aspects.  There needed to be a transparent funding programme and a comprehensive index that measured vulnerability.  A realistic implementation plan with delivery targets and responsibilities of all stakeholders locally, nationally, regionally and globally also needed to be established.

Ms. SIMI said that the upcoming conference in Samoa should focus on current proposals on the realistic needs of small island developing States, offering space to test ideas and explore design and implementation of partnerships.  Genuine, durable partners understood issues, provided assistance, and were committed to working with small island developing States over the long-haul.  Also needed were clear targets, timelines and baselines.  She emphasized that the conference was not just for small island developing States but the international community as well.

Ms. NABULIVOU said women’s rights and equality was “a serious business and everybody’s business”.  The care of the ocean could not just be seen in monetary values, but must include the commons values of the people.  The full range of the human rights framework, in particular in reproductive health, was critical for women and girls in small island developing States.  There were also calls for cross-linkages across bodies to reflect the realities on subregional, regional and local platforms.  Furthermore, there could be no justice in sustainable development without tackling the global issues on trade, finance, and capacities.  Discussions on fisheries, food security and sustainability, among other issues, needed to address the underlying global power structures, and she called for a high-level meeting to be held on the matter.  “This is the time for clear leadership for all of those left behind,” she stated.

In ensuing interactive dialogue, a representative of Fiji said the upcoming conference in Samoa was not a place to discuss the final outcome document.  The text must be agreed to beforehand.  It must reflect voices of small island developing States since it was a once-in-a-decade opportunity for them to be heard.  The conference must provide an opportunity for forging genuine and durable partnerships.

A speaker representing the major group of non-governmental organizations stressed the need to define intrinsic characteristics of genuine and durable partnerships.  They must be mutually accountable, inclusive and comprehensive and must be sensitive to gender and culture.

Ms. DUARTE said sustainable development was not possible without addressing climate change.  Small island developing States needed to have strong institutions and their Governments must have a reserve fund to that end.  Gender was key to inclusive growth.  Partnerships based on the old aid model needed to be reconsidered.  They must recognize the value of small island developing States.  A right balance between increasing competitiveness and preserving credibility was important.  For small island developing States, the environment was a survival question.

Ms. JOKHAN said that small island developing States must identify their strengths and build upon them.  Capacity development and rethinking partnerships were vital.  Partnerships must be mutually accountable.

Mr. KAMI said extraordinary action was needed to addressing the issues facing small island developing States.

Representatives of Chile, Nauru, Russian Federation, and Cuba also participated in the discussion, as did a representative of the European Union.

Panel IV

Vladimir Drobnjak (Croatia), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, introduced the fourth panel, titled “Countries in special situations:  Building resilience”, which included African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries.

Moderating the panel discussion was Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.  The panellists were Dasho Sonam Tshering, Secretary, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Bhutan; Fatimetou Mint Abdel Malick, Mayor of Tevragh-Zeina, Mauritania, and Chair of the Africa Elected Women Network; Jean-Francis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Benin; and Paolo Soprano, Director, Sustainable Development Division, Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, Italy.

The lead discussants were Samuel Tumiwa, Deputy Representative, North American Representative Office, Asian Development Bank; Helen Stawski, Senior Policy Adviser on Post-2015 of Islamic Relief, member of the Steering Group, Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, and representing the non-governmental organization major group; and Lino Briguglio, Professor, Director of the Islands and Small States Institute and the Gozo Centre, University of Malta.

Mr. TSHERING, underscoring that building resilience must remain at the forefront of the post-2015 development agenda, noted that Bhutan was a landlocked and least developed country, and that shielding the economy from contagion effects was becoming a priority.  Many of the macroeconomic indicators were deceiving and did not reveal the real situation.  Through the development approach based on “Gross National Happiness”, economic progress, including achieving the Millennium Development Goals, had been made.  However, on national and local levels, it was “a different story”.  Due to a successive build up of current account deficits with its largest trading partners, economic growth decreased to 4 per cent in 2012.  He said that national efforts must be founded on strong global partnerships, highlighting that it was essential to have inclusive and sustainable economic growth that created productive employment.  Economic diversification was also crucial, along with integration into the global value chain.  “For countries in special situations, I cannot overemphasize the importance of ODA [official development assistance] through bilateral and multilateral sources”, he stated.

Ms. MALICK said that two areas in the Millennium Development Goals that were behind were poverty and equality between men and women and that Africa remained the cradle to the two phenomenons, which were linked.  Women represented 51 per cent of the population, contributed 80 per cent of the economy, and were guardians of territories.  However, they needed to be trained to respect the natural resources they were dependent on and they needed support.  Yet, many remained illiterate, poor and underrepresented in decision-making bodies on all platforms.  Most were not land owners, few headed companies, and many suffered from violence.  Although they were far from being autonomous, they were not vulnerable.  They were drivers for development for change, not for power, and were key actors in the restoration of peace.  Local governments could ensure equal inclusion by giving quality service and on an equal basis.  Further, they could enable women to have a greater representation and increase their participation in decision-making.  Groups not present during the drafting of the Millennium Development Goals should be included in the post-2015 agenda.  Communities had the potential to address the challenges facing the world and women’s capacities should be targeted.  “Development must begin at the local level,” she said.

Mr. ZINSOU said that the countries being discussed needed sustained attention from the international community, especially as the post-2015 agenda was being developed.  Least developed countries accounted for 47 per cent of the world’s poor and building resilience required international partnerships.  He proposed that a system or international plan of action be incorporated into the post-2015 agenda, including critical mass infrastructure that would focus on agriculture, transport systems, scientific and technological access, communication, and energy for economic transformation, to name a few.  He also called for a scientific and technological “bank” to bring least developed countries to a higher platform.  Least developed countries in their efforts to accelerate growth must pay special attention to climate change and mitigate its effects.  Otherwise, any progress could be reversed.  In that regard, least developed countries benefited the least from mechanisms related to climate change.  They needed targeted assistance.

Mr. SOPRANO said that ODA was still the largest source of external financing.  Despite the African continent’s 7 per cent growth rate, a myriad of problems, from environmental factors to social and economic bottlenecks, was undermining progress.  Landlocked developing countries’ improved transport infrastructures and promotion of sustainable transport systems would increase productive capacity, enabling them to participate in globalization.  Small island developing States were “sea-locked” with unique ecosystems, making the permanent, adaptation measures important on their political and the global agenda.  Middle-income countries’ challenges included inadequate access to basic needs and services and unequal income distribution and malnutrition.  The design of the post-2015 agenda must consider those countries’ specific circumstances.

Mr. TUMIWA acknowledged that for the past 30 years the region had seen an unprecedented number of people lifted out of poverty.  However, the region needed to overcome the “middle-income trap”, especially in regards to fragile States.  For small island countries in the Pacific, different development strategies were needed, including reducing costs of being connected, and the costs of dependency on imported fuels.  The managing of risks and shocks, including natural disasters and economic and financial spillovers, could include mechanisms for risk-pooling and risk-sharing at the community, country, and cross-country levels.  The recent forum “Building Resilience and Fragility in Asia and the Pacific” agreed on several steps, including inviting fragile Pacific island countries to join the Group of Seven Plus (g7+) and to press for peacebuilding and State-building in the post-2015 agenda.

Ms. STAWSKI pointed out that economic losses from disasters were doubling every decade.  Approximately $1 spent on risk reduction could deliver $15 of savings in reduced disaster damage.  A resilience approach needed to be cross-sectoral, and include, among others, social protection mechanisms and strategies to improve agriculture’s resilience to climate change.  Fostering resilience necessitates a “bottom-up” approach, she said, emphasizing that “people are naturally resilient” and that resilience was not something that could be given.  She also stressed that vulnerability was not random.  Poor people were less able to mitigate exposure to risk because of being politically, socially or economically excluded.  That vulnerability also increased in countries with greater income inequality.  Economic growth alone was not enough to mitigate that risk.  Reducing vulnerability could only be achieved by creating pro-poor institutions at all levels.

Mr. BRIGUGLIO focused on small island developing States, pointing out that because of their insularity and remoteness, as well as being prone to natural disasters, they faced additional economic disadvantages.  Economic resilience would include strategies that promoted macroeconomic stability, market flexibility, good political governance, social cohesion and social development, and good environmental management.  Economic resilience building was multifaceted and there needed to be a holistic approach where social, political and environmental governance policies accompanied and supported economic policies.  He also emphasized that because small island developing States tended to be highly exposed to external shocks, they needed to embed resilience-building policies into their national policies.  Accordingly, multilateral and bilateral donors needed to enhance their support, factoring in a vulnerability criterion in their schemes.

Ms. WAHLSTRÖM stressed that disaster risk reduction and preparation was one of the best investments that could be made in building resilience.

Morocco’s representative said that national policies were limited if international efforts were not also effective, such as those regarding climate change.

Kenya’s representative, referring to the “middle-income trap”, said many of those countries had remained that way with few exceptions.  Noting the factors contributing to that low transition, he requested “prescriptions” that, if adhered to, could break the trap.

Ms. WAHLSTRÖM said that middle income countries had strong policies, but not strong enough institutions.  That reduced effectiveness. 

Mr. TUMIWA also responded, acknowledging that there was less assistance to middle-income countries.  Yet, when offered “value addition”, the countries wouldn’t mind paying for it.  Development agencies needed to “step-up their game” and the countries needed to ask for more.

Mr. SOPRANO also said that they were in trap because they were considered a “less empty glass of water”.  The most important necessity was to readdress the investment of their resources.  Their low capacity in upgrading different sectors was a big challenge, such as the labour market, manufacturing, and equal distribution of income.  There was a need to approach and have cooperation in upgrading and increasing governance and institutions and accountability.

The quality of governance, Ms. WAHLSTRÖM said, was critical.  She noted that many small island developing States were middle-income countries.  Was it costly to build resilience and strengthen institutions or, in fact, did it happened as collateral from other efforts, she questioned.  She also emphasized the great value of South-South and triangular cooperation.

Mr. ZINSOU said that, given the emergence of countries with technological potential, manufacturing could play a role.  Least developed countries until now exported their raw materials.  However, if they increased manufacturing it could add value in those countries.

Mr. TSHERING said that solutions had to be found regionally.  From his nation’s perspective, transportation costs were high and could only be mitigated with help from his neighbouring countries, which required negotiations.  Further, there were many parameters of doing projects because of the “return” perspective, which, when dealing with development partnerships tended to quantify goals and results.

Ms. MALICK said that in terms of local governments, South-South cooperation needed to be reformulated and reviewed.  It could be strengthened not only by regional cooperation but also by similar mentalities and cultures. 

The Philippines’ representative, referring to her country’s recent experience with Typhoon Haiyan, said that risk reduction should be in any development projects.  International assistance needed to focus on pre-disaster preparedness and assistance instead of post-disaster relief.  That would engender partnership in a long-term capacity with those countries.  She also called for early warning systems and a database that had information related to risks and climate change.

Mr. ZINSOU said that natural disaster preparation was vital to least developed countries as they were often vulnerable to those situations.  More measures must be taken to prevent such disasters.  The international community should work on quick responses to disasters in least developed countries.

Mr. BRIGUGLIO said that vulnerability, like resilience, had many different facets.  Turning to climate change, many small island States were being harmed by climate change to which they didn’t contribute.  He emphasized that it was important that their vulnerability be considered when devising schemes.

Ms. STAWSKI said that South-South cooperation could be implemented into existing development plans.

Mr. TSHERING, in closing, noted that most countries knew what their problems were.  The challenge was finding solutions.  The priority should be on a self-reliant economy which could then enable that country to find its own solution.

Ms. MALIK emphasized disaster reduction and being aware of the dangers.  Good governance and follow-up were also critical

Mr. ZINSOU underscored the operational provision of the Istanbul Plan because it had been reflected upon and worked on and had created prospects for least developed countries.  He called for resources to be mobilized for development with a base for resiliency.  The international community’s responsibility also needed to be clearly defined.

Mr. SOPRANO highlighted the issue of integrating policies and technical issues.  The cost of inaction was not just for developing countries, but for developed countries as well.  In Italy, 65 to 70 per cent of municipalities were under stress from floods and landsides.  “We already have solutions.  The problem is to bridge the political will,” he said.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.