14 September 2018
Seventy-second Session, Joint Meeting (AM)

Fourth Industrial Revolution Taken Up in Report of Task Force on Financing for Development, Delegates Say at Economic and Social Council, Second Committee

National financing frameworks for sustainable development and the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on financing in developing countries are among the issues to be addressed in the thematic chapter of the 2019 and 2020 reports of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development, speakers said today in a joint meeting of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

Omar Hilale (Morocco), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that in 2017, most types of development financing flows increased, underpinned by an upturn in the world economy, yet he also warned of significant risks and structural impediments that remain a challenge to implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

Developing countries are experiencing significant volatility and uncertainty in financing and trade conditions, he said, adding that while global growth has been good, it is not well distributed and per-capita growth remains negative or insignificant in many countries where poverty rates are high.  And risks have been rising, with 18 low-income developing countries in danger of or already in a state of debt distress.

At the same time, multilateralism appears to be increasing under threat amid popular sentiment in many countries that the global economic system is not delivering for ordinary people.  “In this environment that we must work harder to achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and enact the required policy changes that can get us there,” he said, noting that the Inter-Agency Task Force report has been valuable in this regard.  Its past reports have served as an excellent basis for intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations of the annual forum on financing for development.

Kimberly K. Louis (Saint Lucia), Vice-Chair of the Second Committee, said that this body, in its role as the Assembly’s economic and financial arm, aims to provide political guidance pertaining to the issues that will be addressed in the Financing for Sustainable Development report.  There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ path to development, she said, stressing that it is important to be clear on the links between the themes discussed today and overall objective of successfully implementing the 2030 Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office of Economic and Social Affairs Support and Coordination, introduced a note on issues to be addressed in the 2019 and 2020 thematic chapters in the Financing for Sustainable Development report produced by the Inter-Agency Task Force.

Summarizing elements of the 2019 thematic chapter, “National financial frameworks for the Sustainable Development Goals”, he said countries repeatedly emphasize challenges they face in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, including by incorporating the objectives into financial action.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda can help guide countries in that regard, he said, adding that while actions will ultimately be context-specific, the chapter will contain general recommendations based on good practices.  Drawing on early lessons learned and analytical capacity-building work, the chapter will identify building blocks for financing frameworks, among other things.

The theme for the 2020 thematic chapter, “Financing sustainable development in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, will adopt a wider lens to assess relevant trends, he said.  Providing related examples, he said issues to be considered will include technological changes and new and emerging technologies on development financing.

During the ensuing discussion, chaired by Ms. Louis, delegates exchanged views and shared suggestions.  At the outset, speakers representing major stakeholders shared their perspective, with a representative of the World Bank Group saying the proposed thematic chapters will provide valuable information on financing, an area that requires close attention.  He suggested that the 2019 report should explore methods of integrating financing strategies and in the 2020 chapter, disruptive technologies and other related issues must be examined and analysed.

A representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said the 2020 theme is appropriate and needed special attention regarding developing countries.  On the 2019 chapter, she expressed hope that a better distinction will be made between country-level funding and financing.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, regretted to note that one Member State had blocked and thus delayed the holding of the current meeting.  Given the limited results of actions called for by the Assembly, he asked how the process will work going forward and when he could expect the Secretary-General’s report on the matter.  In the 2019 thematic chapter, national financing frameworks should be based on country needs.  On the 2020 theme, he sought more clarity on several issues, particularly on a clear definition of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

The representative of the United States said that the holding of today’s meeting was unnecessary and a wasteful duplication of work.  The previous speaker said one delegation was responsible for delaying this meeting from June, he said, explaining that on the contrary, the European Union and others fully supported his delegation’s approach.  He expressed full support for the 2019 theme but cautioned that the 2020 theme must be carefully thought out and any outcome must be evidence-based.  The United States, as the largest donor, is committed to financing for development.  His Government intends to use its official development assistance (ODA) to catalyse domestic resources in recipient countries.

A delegate representing the European Union said that he was surprised by a proposal to hold this meeting in June, because it could have been held during the regular session in October.  The 2019 theme is timely, he said, stressing that it will be useful to discuss a strategy for financing for climate action and gender as a cross-cutting issue.

Several delegates, including those from Australia and Mexico, agreed with the thematic focus of the reports, saying they will be valuable contributions to formal discussions within the Organization.

A representative of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) expressed readiness to help Member States, mentioning a new related report on issues including challenges faced by vulnerable economies and countries in transition.

A representative of the World Trade Organization (WTO), via teleconference, expressing support for the thematic chapters, said trade is an important element and should work together with sound fiscal policies to fully realize its potential as a resource generator.  Mainstreaming trade into national development strategies and leveraging aid-for-trade are among ways to assist countries.  Work also must be done to close the confidence gap.

Mr. Hanif, closing the discussion, said there has been a lot of hype about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and efforts will further explore the issue through expert group meetings and other methods.  Examples of concerns include taxation of technology, block-chain technology and tackling cryptocurrency.  He also said efforts are being made to expedite the publishing of the report.

For information media. Not an official record.