Hard‑won development gains were being threatened by numerous challenges, including inequality, migration, climate change, the rise of violent extremism, populism and the shrinking of civic space, speakers warned today, as the Economic and Social Council’s annual high-level meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum got under way.
Despite the new and emerging challenges that were being witnessed around the world, development cooperation could help turn many of those negative trends around, while promoting the “sustainable development for all” vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said Marie Chatardová (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council.
When exploring the role of development cooperation in reaching the 2030 Agenda, efforts must be made to look at more than financial flows and include an examination of the role of capacity support, sharing of technical know-how, policy change and multi-stakeholder partnerships, she continued.
Although some remarkable advances had been witnessed, there was still a long way to go to building sustainable and resilient societies, said Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, adding that inclusive development was critical for ensuring a life of dignity for all and defending against rising populism and violent extremism.
“All our actions must be guided by our commitment to leave no one behind,” she stressed, underscoring that too little official development assistance (ODA) was going to least developed countries with special situations. Some 767 million people still lived on less than $1.90 per day, while about 793 million suffered from undernourishment between 2014 and 2016.
Forging partnerships and encouraging and facilitating alignment of institutions, policies and actions with the 2030 Agenda would be critical, she continued, emphasizing that engaging the private sector would be indispensable for bringing the needed innovation, capacity-building, technology development and transfer and to dramatically scale up investment.
In a keynote address, Jeremy Heimans, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Purpose, noted that development cooperation was traditionally organized in an “old power” fashion, in which top-down dynamics were most prevalent. In that structure, beneficiaries were not directly involved in the decision-making that would most affect their lives due to an unequal power dynamic and lack of agency.
Yet, a “new power” structure was emerging, he said, in which power was distributed more equally among stakeholders. In that context, he underlined that more efforts must be undertaken to build institutions that fuelled citizens’ hunger to “take part”, pointing to online platforms as being highly effective at engaging people. He noted that there was a lot that could be learned from such social movements, many of which were maximizing collective action dynamics. In that connection, development cooperation should be shifted in a way that actively engaged people and gave them opportunities to shape their own future, he said.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on “Trends and progress in international development cooperation”, Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed that development cooperation must remain focused on achieving the 2030 Agenda. Countries with limited capacities required tailored support to move from managing disasters to managing and reducing risk and building resilience.
ODA remained a distinct and vital source of development finance, he said, although allocation patterns were changing and a smaller portion of such assistance went to special spending. “This raises concerns, especially for countries that still rely on ODA for funding their social programmes,” he said, calling attention to the importance of specific steps to ensure development assistance commitments were met, particularly for countries in special situations.
Capacity-building played an important role in putting developing countries in the driver’s seat, he said, emphasizing the need for South-South and triangular cooperation. He highlighted the importance of expanding the space for the private sector to be involved in sustainable development, while also underscoring the need for strengthened engagement with other stakeholders.
Also throughout the day, participants took part in three panel discussions, the first of which focused on “Building sustainability and resilience through development cooperation”. The second panel was titled, “Mainstreaming inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships and approaches in development cooperation: policy and legal frameworks”, while the third was on “Getting better results for sustainable development: the role of National Development Cooperation Policies”. In the afternoon, three parallel dialogues also took place.
The Development Cooperation Forum will continue on Tuesday, 22 May at 10 a.m.
MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that, while there were many bright spots, hard‑won development gains were threatened by real challenges: inequality, migration, climate change, the rise of violent extremism, populism and the shrinking of civic space. Development cooperation could help turn those trends around, while promoting the “sustainable development for all” vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. When exploring the role of development cooperation in reaching the 2030 Agenda, efforts must be made to look at more than financial flows and include an examination of the role of capacity support, sharing of technical know-how, policy change and multi-stakeholder partnerships. Candid discussions had been the cornerstone of the Development Cooperation Forum’s success in the past, she said, noting that the 2018 meeting marked the culmination of an intense preparatory process.
AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that, while some remarkable advances had been witnessed, there was still a long road to be travelled to build sustainable and resilient societies, leaving no one behind. Some 767 million people still lived on less than $1.90 per day, while about 793 million suffered from undernourishment between 2014 and 2016. About 303,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth, while 5.9 million children under the age of 5 died worldwide in 2015; most of those deaths from preventable causes. “All our actions must be guided by our commitment to leave no one behind,” she stressed, underscoring that still too little official development assistance (ODA) was going to least developed countries with special situations.
Leaving no one behind was critical to ensure a life of dignity for all, and to defend against rising populism and violent extremism and to sustain peace, she said. While Governments must take the lead, they could not deliver the ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda alone. Forging partnership and encouraging and facilitating alignment of institutions, policies and actions with the 2030 Agenda would be critical. Engaging the private sector would be indispensable to bring the needed innovation, capacity-building, technology development and transfer and dramatically scale up investment. To realize the transformative ambition of the 2030 Agenda, more focused and strategic action was needed, she said, adding: “This is why we have embarked on the United Nations development system reform — to promote institutional coherence, increase the system’s capacities and enhance the United Nations partnership approach at the country level.”
LIU ZHENMIN, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the Secretary-General’s report on “Trends and progress in international development cooperation”, stressed that development cooperation must remain focused on achieving the 2030 Agenda. Particularly, the links between development cooperation and climate change needed strengthening. Countries with limited capacities required tailored support to move from managing disasters to managing and reducing risk and building resilience. ODA, while limited within the means of implementation overall, remained a distinct and vital source of development finance. Allocation patterns were changing. A smaller part that assistance went to special spending. “This raises concerns, especially for countries that still rely on ODA for funding their social programmes,” he said, underscoring that today’s forum must discuss specific steps to ensure development assistance commitments were met, particularly for countries in special situations.
National sustainable development strategies and development cooperation polices were helping countries identify and articulate their needs, he continued. Capacity-building played an important role in putting developing countries in the driver’s seat, he said, emphasizing the need for South-South and triangular cooperation. Putting into place solid institutional and regulatory frameworks and policies was a crucial step. Engaging Governments and holding quality public consultations with domestic stakeholders and beneficiaries could help ensure national ownership and leadership. He underscored the need to expand the space to bring the private sector into alignment with sustainable development. It was also crucial to build more broad-based and structured South-South and triangular cooperation and to strengthen engagement of other stakeholders, such as civil society, parliamentarians, mayors and local authorities.
JEREMY HEIMANS, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Purpose, said that people had a need to participate in and shape their world. Those actors that channelled participatory energies were the ones that would get ahead. Development cooperation was traditionally organized in an “old power” fashion, in which top‑down dynamics were most prevalent. In that structure, beneficiaries were not directly involved in the decision-making that would most affect their lives due to an unequal power dynamic and lack of agency. Yet, a “new power” structure was emerging, in which power was distributed more equally. More efforts must be undertaken to build institutions that fuelled citizens’ hunger to “take part”, he underlined, pointing to online platforms as being highly effective at engaging people. Many institutions did not do enough to harness the desire of citizens to be involved in the decisions that would affect their lives, he said, adding: people often did not trust institutions because institutions often did not trust people.
There must be a shift towards development cooperation that actively engaged people and gave them opportunities to shape their own future, he said, stressing that institutions must be created that were more responsive and participatory. In a “new power” world, the big challenge was that those who were opposed to the international system were mobilizing better than those that supported multilateral institutions. That was evidenced by the events leading up to Brexit — the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, on which a referendum was held throughout that country on 23 June 2016 — in which those who supported leaving the European Union undermined the views shared by the “Remain” experts and used social media to stoke fear. There was a lot that could be learned from such social movements, he said, highlighting examples of new social movements with non‑traditional origins and leadership that were maximizing collective action dynamics.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that today’s Forum must address the strategic role of development cooperation in building resilient societies. It was of utmost importance to discuss the topic thoroughly and in a comprehensive manner to ensure that “no one is left behind”. He said that only six countries had met the target of providing 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to development assistance. The adequate mobilization of resources was critical for the implementation of measures to achieve sustainable development.
The international community must provide more stable, predictable and condition-free resources, particularly to the vulnerable and marginalized, he continued. Stressing the need to strengthen country ownership and leadership, he underscored the many opportunities offered by South-South cooperation, in the same vein, warning that it must never be used as a substitute for North-South cooperation. He emphasized the need for rapid and affordable access to technology, adding that the United Nations had a central role to play in addressing related challenges. The Forum must provide a platform to better coordinate the work of specialized agencies with the Member States’ commitments to achieve sustainable development.
The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that financing and capacity gaps were the greatest challenges to least developed States. The current growth trajectory would not deliver the goal of eradicating poverty, particularly in least developed countries, “who will fall short”. Calling on development partners to deliver on their financing commitments, he said that to achieve greater domestic resource mobilization, least developed countries had to enhance synergy. It was also vital to address the issue of graduating least developed countries from that status to ensure they received continued assistance and support.
The representative of Brazil said it was important not to lose sight of the critical and essential investments in the social sector. South-South cooperation helped shift from a narrow to a broader development focus. The private sector must have a sustainable development impact with its engagement taking into consideration countries’ priorities. He also emphasized the need for developing countries to define their own parameters, including regarding South-South and triangular cooperation.
Responding to a question on what more could be done to achieve the 0.7 per cent development assistance target, Mr. HEIMANS said that it was important to put more energy into advocacy and leadership. “We need to invest in the bigger campaign,” he added, emphasizing the need to allow the right leaders to emerge and revitalize the debate.
Mr. LUI said that “we just have 12 years and 12 years is not that long”, urging Member States to make best use of the time before the 2030 Agenda deadline. Member States must think about what would help the most people. The most urgent focus from the economic and social perspective was on how to help the poor, most vulnerable and marginalized.
The representative of India, associating himself with the Group of 77, said it was important to ensure the transfer of technology. ODA must reach 0.7 per cent of gross national income. If all countries had met their assistance targets, a significantly more funding would have been available. South-South cooperation was a great compliment but should never be seen as a substitute to North-South cooperation.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova said his Government placed great focus on attracting critical assistance, citing a national platform that explored cooperation with international partners. Development cooperation remained central in many national sectors including water and sanitation, infrastructure and renewable energy. Private resources offered an important role to support sustainable development efforts. Striking a balance between public and private financing would be most critical to achieve sustainable development.
The representative of Iran, associating himself with the Group of 77, noting that development was a long-term issue, asked Mr. Liu about the type of strategy the United Nations must most focus on.
Mr. LIU said that the Secretary-General had been committed to restricting parts of the United Nations system, including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, to better meet the needs of the 2030 Agenda. He underscored the role of Member States and the importance of national ownership regarding achieving sustainable development.
Also speaking today were representatives of the non-governmental organizations Action Aid and Reality of Aid. Judith Randel, Co-Founder and Strategic Adviser, Development Initiatives, moderated the interactive discussion.
Chaired by Ms. Chatardová, the first panel discussion was titled “Building sustainability and resilience through development cooperation” and was moderated by Ms. Randel. The panellists included Jaime Miranda, Deputy Minister for Development Cooperation of El Salvador; Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine; Joanne Adamson, Deputy Head of the delegation of the European Union to the United Nations; and Jesse Griffiths, Director, EURODAD.
Mr. MIRANDA said that the expenses and unprecedented fiscal burden imposed by climate change in many countries was well known. He warned about the risk of “climate justice” in which cooperation was diluted. Countries affected by climate change needed to put policies in place, while mitigation was a job that must be done by countries that were negatively impacting the environment. He questioned the amount of progress that had actually been made with regard to international development cooperation. Concerning the mobilization of new resources for development, he stressed the need for upholding and implementing the agreements that were already in place. It was important to emphasize the quality of cooperation, he said, underlining the importance of remittances for countries such as El Salvador.
Mr. KYSLYTSYA said it was especially challenging to address development cooperation and sustainability activities in times of conflict. Often times people looked at countries in conflict and were tempted to think “let’s wait” for peace before discussing business. Yet, countries in conflict ironically present many opportunities and solutions, he said. The contribution of women in times of conflict was outstanding and increasing in importance. When more women were involved in the security sector, there were more discussions about their rights. He called on the international community to look at countries in conflict with a particular emphasis on the opportunities provided by those extreme situations and not to wait until times of peace. Responding to a question on domestic violence posed by the moderator, he said that such violence often increased in times of conflict.
In the ensuing discussion, a member of civil society questioned how to ensure that legislation complied with the international human rights framework in that it guaranteed civil society could access ODA funding.
The representative of Turkey said that more ODA should be mobilized to countries that had the fewest resources and capacities. He went on to highlight that the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, which was hosted by his country, would be inaugurated on 4 June. The Bank would pay a key role in fostering productive capacity, structural transformation, poverty eradication and sustainable development.
The representative of the Dominican Republic stressed that some of the megatrends that must be urgently addressed included climate change, overpopulation and the dwindling of natural resources.
A representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union underscored that conflict had a dramatic effect on levels of development and was among the main factors that would work against the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Another critical issue was youth unemployment.
Mr. MIRANDA stressed that development could not be measured on income alone. He called attention to the extreme inequality present in Latin America, which also had the largest percentage of poor people in the world.
Mr. KYSLYTSYA said that, without the meaningful participation of civil society, development cooperation would not be possible; yet, he warned that it was also important to carefully evaluate those partnerships.
Ms. ADAMSON said the debate on United Nations development system reform often did not extend far enough into the field. The European Union was working hard to meet the current targets and was not supportive of “moving the goal posts” with regard to the development Goals. The bloc was working to empower countries to be at the heart of their own development planning and respected national ownership of development priorities. She emphasized the importance of being sufficiently honest about expectations of what ODA could do. There could be benefits to helping countries pivot their national budgets towards certain sectors. Helping countries to become more resilient to a wide range of shocks, not only those related to disasters, was also of great value. Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals was an investment in the future, and would require far more than ODA.
Mr. GRIFFITHS said that ODA was important and distinctive as a public resource with a development focus. Many times, it was said that the 2030 Agenda was a matter of moving from billions to trillions through the mobilization of private finance. Yet, in his view, the future development agenda was a massive call to increase public investment. Effective taxation and increasing domestic resources would be at the heart of those efforts, but ODA also had a critical role to play, which was why meeting the 0.7 per cent ODA commitment was of such importance. ODA should be used under the development effectiveness principle, he stressed, adding that it was well known what needed to be done to make ODA effective. Blended finance presented a tremendous opportunity, but also carried with it great risks.
The representative of Cuba stressed the need to maintain the current ODA agreements. Development cooperation was at the heart of the structural division between North and South. Sufficient progress and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda would not be possible without a transparent and inclusive approach to tackling development challenges, he said, underscoring the need to move beyond simple income assessments
The representative of India said that, given its voluntary and collaborative nature, South-South cooperation should not be considered a major vehicle of development cooperation or depended upon for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
A member of Parliament of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the Inter‑Parliamentary Union, stressed that elections that were free, fair, transparent and inclusive were critical for development and the reduction of poverty. Nevertheless, democracy was about the entire system, and not only about the holding of elections.
Mr. GRIFFITHS said there should be a push to increase transparency, particularly when it came to private finance.
Ms. ADAMSON said that national public leadership was essential, and in that connection, national authorities must assess progress and gaps, with greater support from the international community.
Mr. MIRANDA recalled that it took El Salvador several years of hard work to create a council for sustainability, which was responsible for the country’s national plan on climate change.
Mr. KYSLYTSYA expressed concern about the tension that existed between the major international development players.
Also participating in the discussion were the representatives of Germany, Indonesia and Ghana.
Several representatives of civil society also delivered statements.
In the afternoon the Council held a discussion on “Mainstreaming inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships and approaches in development cooperation: policy and legal frameworks”. Moderated by Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, United Nations, it included the following panellists: Susan Fine, Acting Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning, USAID, United States; Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Chief Director, Innovation for Inclusive Development, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa; Jeff Hoffman, Board Member, Global Entrepreneurship Network and The Unreasonable Group; Luca Maestripieri, Deputy Director-General for Development Cooperation of MAECI, Italy; Johan Gély, Head of Division and Head of the Global Programme Water, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland; Ali Naseer Mohamed, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations; and Alexandra Boethius, Co-Founder, Impact Hub Geneva and Accelerate 2030.
Ms. FINE said the United States underscored instances where multi‑stakeholder partnerships had proven highly effective. There was an urgent need to be clear where such partnerships made sense and where it was appropriate to use other types of approaches. The United States Government often played a funding role in partnerships, she added, also emphasizing that complex development challenges required “a lot more than money”. Access to technology and different ideas were valuable. Involving youth, women and marginalized populations in a meaningful way was essential but remained a challenge. Emphasizing that different partners often had different objectives, she noted that the private sector often focused on deals alone. Hence, it was importance to clarify and manage expectations.
Ms. MKHIZE, presenting a science and technology innovation angle, said partnerships must be informed and driven by national needs. Partnerships must also be used to strengthen existing capacities. She emphasized the need to find innovative approaches and test innovative solutions. “We need to take advantage of available technologies,” she continued, adding that new technologies should be appropriate and useful. Partnerships must be used to catalyse change. Member States were required to take advantage of science and technology innovation to achieve the 2030 Agenda. “We need to have holistic approaches and policy coherence,” she stressed. The private sector must be engaged, as well, she said, underscoring that the interconnectedness of development required partners to think “outside of the box” and engage traditional and non-traditional actors.
Mr. HOFFMAN, presenting an entrepreneurial perspective, said that 2030 was coming up fast and there was much work to be done. “I will admit I am concerned about the pace,” he added, stressing the need to “stop trying to get everything right”. The United Nations had created the 2030 Agenda to make the world a better place. “We don’t always have the voice of the problem solvers in the room,” he added. It was essential for policymakers to get out there in the villages and rural communities to study the problems and challenges. There was a lot of focus on funding, and while that was important, “throwing money at the problem will not solve it”. The most valuable currency was human capital and mentoring. “Funding without mentorship is wasted money and I see it every day,” he said. More emphasis must be placed on real outcomes.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Canada highlighted the importance of pursuing a truly inclusive development plan, emphasizing the need to involve local women’s organizations in developing countries.
The representative of the Republic of Korea echoed the need for inclusivity, underscoring the importance of sharing knowledge and best practices. A growing number of civil society and private sector participants in development had helped address challenges faced by society’s most vulnerable, including women and girls, youth and persons with disabilities.
The representative Brazil said that civil society, academia and the private sector had the potential to transform multi-stakeholder cooperation. In that regard, issues of cultural diversity and the transparent management of funds must be considered.
The representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union said that, while policymakers worked at a slower pace, no one actor alone had the solution.
Mr. HOFFMAN, echoing that sentiment, said that different partners had different objectives and that no one actor could alone address societal challenges.
Mr. MAESTRIPIERI said it was critical to establish an intergovernmental body to give strategic direction to all administrations and oversee policy coherence between domestic and international goals. He highlighted the role of the private sector, civil society and academia in development cooperation. He noted a legal entity in Italy which convened every three years and aimed to raise public awareness on challenges of development. The goal of the conference, recently held in Rome, was to foster awareness for development partnerships, particularly with the younger generation. He also noted that Italy’s national council had established a working group on migration, examining the diaspora experience of different groups. Migrant communities partnered with civil society and local governments aimed to impact policy.
Mr. GÉLY said that 3 to 5 million people died every year because of waterborne diseases. Dealing with that issue required adjusting the overall systematic approach. “We have to create a movement,” he said, underscoring the need to attract young people’s participation in the water sector. Not enough young people found issues relating to water interesting and important. It was essential to create a new political and development space. “We have to work with as many stakeholders as possible,” he said, stressing the need for the involvement of the private sector, as well as policymakers. Key brokers would help advance the clean water agenda. Many countries, when faced with transboundary challenges, cited sovereignty concerns, he added, stressing the need to overcome that obstacle.
Mr. MOHAMED said it was important to clarify the goal of a multi‑stakeholder partnership. Small island developing States were often multi‑island territories, with each island requiring municipal, hospital and banking services. Maldives had experimented with private-public sector partnerships and the results had been mixed. “The private sector is always driven by profit, and the public sector is usually driven by votes,” he explained. The challenge and goal was to strike the right balance. Adequate institutions were essential in framing and monitoring progress. That remained a major challenge on small islands.
Ms. BOETHIUS said many of the challenges could be solved by innovative entrepreneurs. It was essential to get out of the “comfort zone” and work with different partners. She said that Impact Hub Geneva launched a programme named Accelerate 2030 with the aim to identify partners and provide them with support. It had collaborated thus far with 40 partners, including United Nations organizations. Impact Hub Geneva was currently exploring new partnerships. She said that the best results had come when actors built on progress and worked with local organizations and institutions. Access to finance was particularly essential as was accessibility, transparency and inclusivity.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Morocco asked whether the level of cooperation was expanding or shrinking. In the 1960s, lending institutions had replaced rich countries providing assistance to developing and least developed countries. As a result, many developing countries were now in great debt.
Several members of civil society also delivered statements.
The Council next held a panel titled “Getting better results for sustainable development: the role of National Development Cooperation Polices”. It was moderated by Mr. Harris and included the following speakers: Lahcen Daoudi, Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in charge of General Affairs and Governance, Morocco; and Chhieng Yanara, Minister attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary General of Cambodia Rehabilitation and Development Board, Cambodia.
Mr. DAOUDI said that Morocco was focused on drafting a law on cooperation between the private and public sectors. In 10 years, Morocco aimed to meet 40 per cent of its energy needs from solar and other renewable energy sources. He outlined initiatives focused on climate change and protecting ecology and biodiversity. Morocco was reviewing the legal framework between public-private cooperation, as current legislation related to public cooperation alone. He touched on several innovations in the agricultural sector and advances in the desalinization of sea water in coastal cities. Morocco’s biggest challenge remained waste management, as it required significant funding. By 2020, Morocco aimed to become the sole exporter of sulphate for agriculture. He also underscored the need for policies that accelerated economic growth and ensured social security.
Mr. YANARA, citing his two-decade experience in development, said that Cambodia had made remarkable progress in social and economic development. It remained committed to the 2030 Agenda and the promise to “leave no one behind”. Ownership and a clear development vision were fundamental to mobilize significant resources. ODA complemented domestic resources in the area of infrastructure and human development, as well as institutional reform. Cambodia’s development cooperation policy identified several key priorities focusing on institutional strengthening and promoting equitable growth. He stressed the importance of ensuring transparency, emphasizing the importance of results-based culture. He also stressed the need to strengthen Cambodia’s institutions and address inequality and exclusion.