Following is the special statement of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, as prepared for delivery, to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and High-Level Authorities at the thirty-seventh session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Havana, Cuba, today:
It is an honour to take part in this thirty-seventh Session of ECLAC. Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the Latin America and Caribbean region for your strong commitment to the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].
In many ways, this region has birthed the conceptual vision behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over the decades, you have promoted a comprehensive approach to development. You have advocated for poverty metrics that go beyond economic growth and also reflect social and environmental dimensions. And you have championed a universal approach to international development.
Your collective engagement has been critical to taking us far in this journey, now almost three years into the 2030 Agenda. Implementation will, however, be challenging if we are to deliver our promise of a better future for all, everywhere. The 2030 Agenda reflects a paradigm change that demands bold changes in the way we all conceive development — domestically and multilaterally.
In the United Nations, we are taking decisive steps to reposition the system to be a better partner — more accountable, cohesive, transparent — as you deliver the SDGs. Just last week, Member States reached consensus on an ambitious package of proposals put forward by the Secretary-General for the United Nations development system.
This consensus was reached, in great part, thanks to the strong leadership and resolve of developing countries. This region, in particular, has been a leading voice. It is fair to say that we have never been closer to delivering to Member States the development system they have aspired to for years. A system that repositions development at the heart of the United Nations. A system that is fit to help you achieve the SDGs.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, I know you see this ambitious agenda as an opportunity to address structural gaps such as inequality, marginalization, climate change, and youth opportunities. At the same time, you have compellingly raised the specific challenges of realizing sustainable development in middle-income countries. This is crucial.
Taken together, middle income countries account for almost half of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 70 per cent of the global population. They are very diverse in terms of size, development potential and economic and social performance. They are also characterized by disparate social conditions such as poverty rates and inequality indices.
Your efforts are helping to put a fundamental question on the global agenda: how can we uphold our commitment to leave no one behind when absolute income poverty rates are declining but multi-dimensional poverty and inequality are going up? This is central — and you have been leading efforts to put this on the table.
This challenge is connected to so many others — the need for effective and transparent governance of natural resources and infrastructure; the quality of health and educational services; the importance of knowledge-based employment opportunities; and, of course, the imperative of women’s participation to reduce poverty and accelerate development. Like elsewhere around the world, poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean disproportionately affects women.
Strengthening institutions is key to structural change — it is fundamental to enhancing trust in Governments and a more sustainable use of natural resources. We also need to keep finding ways to encourage dialogue and participation among many actors who have a stake in success: including academia, the private sector and civil society. This is pivotal to developing and strengthening a democratic framework in line with national development priorities.
One crucial challenge is mobilizing domestic resources. Here in Latin America and the Caribbean, private flows — including foreign direct investment (FDI) and remittances — constitute the bulk of external finance. Private and public resources must be combined to maximize the impact of development financing. To best mobilize external funding, we need global partnerships, including cooperation in international taxation to eliminate illicit flows and tax evasion.
The challenge is not only how to generate more tax revenues in the developing world but also how to move towards tax structures that can contribute in a stronger way to greater fairness and equality. As the recent Inter-Agency Task Force Report on financing for development makes clear, global and regional tax cooperation must play an important role in reducing tax avoidance and in dealing with illicit flows.
This is in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which called for additional measures to strengthen cooperation on tax matters, including through the work of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters of the United Nations. Tax evasion, avoidance and related issues are global problems and as such require global solutions.
As we look ahead, it is increasingly clear that the international financial architecture needs to better reflect the shift in global economic and political power towards developing countries and middle-income countries. New forms of cooperation, such as South-South and triangular cooperation, complement traditional ones and provide an innovative angle to economic and social collaboration. However, a financing for development strategy that includes development cooperation efforts should not be based on income per capita levels. This is inadequate to allocate financial resources or tackle the challenges faced by middle-income countries.
To put it simply, effective mobilization of domestic and international resources to finance the 2030 Agenda cannot be guided by a “one-size-fits-all” approach. We have a great task ahead to address these challenges together, with the ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development as our shared road map. The Latin America and Caribbean region is blazing the trail and the global community is counting on your continued innovation and creativity to address our common challenges.