Information, Communications Technology for Sustainable Development Also Addressed
With migrant numbers skyrocketing worldwide, speakers emphasized that group’s contribution to development as well as the need to recognize their qualifications, protect their rights and combat illegal trafficking, as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up globalization and interdependence today.
The number of international migrants increased by almost 50 per cent between 2000 and 2017, faster than the global population, noted John Wilmoth, a Director in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, as he introduced a report on international migration and development (document A/73/286). Emphasizing migrants’ inputs to development in both origin and destination countries, he said remittances to low- and middle‑income countries rose to $466 billion in 2017.
Speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Egypt’s delegate underscored the need to increase portability of earned migrant benefits, enhance recognition of their qualifications, lower recruitment costs and combat unscrupulous employers and smugglers. Welcoming the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and its imminent adoption, he also stressed the importance of strategies to highlight migrants’ benefits for development.
Condemning all acts of xenophobia, racism, discrimination, persecution and intolerance, El Salvador’s delegate, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), urged States to ensure full respect for migrant human rights. Countries must guarantee adequate and affordable financial services and further reduce remittance costs to less than 3 per cent of the amount transferred, eliminating corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent.
Also addressing globalization, speakers expressed concern with the international community’s lack of substantial progress in attaining sustainable development for all, three years after adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Many noted that developing countries still lack technology transfer, capacity‑building, financial resources, an enabling international economic environment and an equitable global trading system.
During an afternoon session on information and communications technology (ICT) for development, speakers underscored inequality in access to the Internet and innovative digital technologies or the so‑called Fourth Industrial Revolution, noting gender, generational and geographical divides.
Shamika Sirimanne, a Director in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), noted that half the world’s population had no Internet access in 2017, with 17 per cent in least developed countries and 81 per cent in the developed world. Pointing to $25.7 trillion in global e‑commerce sales in 2017, she observed that 70 per cent of people in developed countries buy online, while only 3 per cent in least developed States do.
Introducing the report on the progress made in the implementation of and follow‑up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/73/366-E/2018/10), she added that cybersecurity and information society governance are also looming issues, given increasing vulnerability to online attacks.
Speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, Malawi’s delegate noted that cellular subscriptions ballooned from 42 to 86 per cent in his group from 2011 to 2016, but Internet access remains at 17.5 per cent. Access to ICT is influenced by multiple factors, he said, including population density, lack of electricity and data networks, with only 39 per cent of the population on the grid and poor fibre backbones to rural and underserved areas.
Small island developing States are likewise hampered, noted the Maldives’ representative, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, by their geographical isolation, dispersed population and remoteness from markets. Those States have made tremendous advances in connectivity over the last decade, with most now connected to at least one submarine cable, but difficulties with affordability, access and climate change infrastructure damage remain.
A report was also presented by Nazrul Islam, Senior Economic Affairs Officer, Economic Analysis and Policy Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on towards a new international economic order (document A/73/290).
Also speaking today were the representatives of Singapore (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Saint Lucia (for the Caribbean Community), India, Saudi Arabia, Russian Federation, Cuba, Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, Guatemala, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Honduras, Namibia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago (for the Caribbean Community), Nigeria (for the African Group), Iraq, Mexico, Singapore (national capacity), Qatar, Nigeria (national capacity), Pakistan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Belarus, Kenya, Zambia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Bahrain, Myanmar, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also gave statements, as did an observer for the Holy See.
The Committee will meet again on Monday, 22 October to take up groups of countries in special situations and operational activities for development.
NAZRUL ISLAM, Senior Economic Affairs Officer, Economic Analysis and Policy Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on towards a new international economic order (document A/73/290). He noted that the report focuses on dramatic changes in international trade, significant and unusual changes in budget deficits and new technologies heralding the fourth industrial revolution. It reviews three issues — sustained economic growth, inclusive as well as equitable economic growth and environmental protection and sustained growth. The report notes that the world has been recovering from economic crisis, with growth rates higher in the developing world, although it has bypassed much of Central and Southern Africa.
There were already apprehensions arising from rapid monetary adjustment and higher interest rates, leading to rapid increases in budget deficits, he said. The sudden imposition of tariffs by major economies in the world have contributed to these changes. Also, official development assistance (ODA) in 2017 came to $146.6 billion, $800 million less than in 2016 — the first year it has declined since 2011‑12. Voluntary national reviews show significant progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for some countries, but others have suffered from uncertainties in global financial markets, a decrease in foreign currency and the significant flight of capital through unofficial and illegal routes.
JOHN WILMOTH, Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the report on international migration and development (document A/73/286), noted the General Assembly is set to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Between 2000‑2017, the number of international migrants grew by almost 50 per cent, faster than the global population, with the share of foreign‑born persons increasing from 2.8 to 3.4 per cent during that time frame, accounting for 12 per cent of the population in more developed regions but less than 2 per cent in less developed regions. In countries of destination, migrants make the population both larger and younger, partially countering the shift towards an older population.
Over the past two years, the United Nations system has tried to advance the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, with several entities supporting the Global Compact through meetings, hearings and regional initiatives, he said. The report calls for leveraging existing data sources including censuses, administrative records and household surveys and strengthening national capacities through training programmes. With international migration contributing to the development of countries of origin and destination, he noted officially recorded remittances to low- and middle‑income countries reached $466 billion in 2017. He called for countries to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well‑managed migration policies.
MOHAMED ABDELRAHMAN MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed concern that three years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, little progress was made on the goal of attaining sustainable development for all, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable. Developing countries still need transfer of technology, capacity‑building, more financial resources, an enabling international economic environment, including the world’s trade and monetary systems that are mutually supporting, as well as a strengthened global economic governance. Technology transfer and its diffusion on concessional and preferential terms from developed countries are needed to reduce poorer nations’ vulnerabilities to adverse impacts of climate change and to improve ocean health. Without a breakthrough in international technology cooperation, shifting to a sustainable path to development would be difficult. Further, a rules‑based, multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) is essential.
Anther contemporary challenge today is the large flow of migrants, he continued, explaining that the unprecedented level of human mobility must be understood in the context of the nexus between globalization and development. “When adopting the 2030 Agenda, we recognized clearly the positive contribution made by migrants for inclusive growth,” he said, underscoring the need to increase the portability of earned benefits, enhance the recognition of foreign qualifications, education and skills, lower the costs of recruitment for migrants and combat unscrupulous recruiters and smugglers. Calling on the international community to implement effective strategies to communicate the contribution of migrants, he welcomed the intergovernmental conference to adopt the Global Compact on Migration to be held in December in Morocco.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that issues like terrorism, cybersecurity and climate change need robust international cooperation. The international community must work together to advance partnerships for development and bolster multilateralism. Adding that his group has redoubled its efforts to achieve integration, connecting people and economies, he said increased trade cooperation is bearing fruit.
Even as ASEAN maintains its rules‑based and coordinated architecture, it cannot do it alone, he said. It continues to collaborate with external partners in meeting complex global challenges and is exploring coordination on a wide range of issues. Noting that the United Nations is the only global body with universal cooperation and unquestioned legitimacy, he said it is uniquely placed to coordinate regional efforts and ensure multilateral institutions worked together to implement the 2030 Agenda.
COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that globalization has resulted in disastrous consequences for many developing countries. The impact of the new era of global interconnectedness has been uneven and unpredictable, with benefits and costs shared unequally. Indeed, the tides of globalization have washed upon the Community’s shores with benefits, burdens and unintended systematic consequences, he said. Member States face slow and volatile economic growth; high and rising levels of unemployment; high incidence of poverty; and income and wealth inequality, while being vulnerable to natural hazards and risks resulting from climate change. Compounding the current scenario is a shortage of investible resources, limited fiscal capacity, decreased access to foreign direct investment (FDI) and high ratios of Government debt to gross domestic product (GDP). In that context, Caribbean small island developing States are not able to meet expanded investment requirements for economic transformation, climate change adaptation, and the expansion of economic and social infrastructure, he said.
The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without significant new commitments of resources, both within and outside borders, he continued. “We cannot proceed on the basis of hollow words and hope”. Addressing challenges to sustainable growth requires the harmonization of policy actions and international structural reforms that can stimulate investment, generate employment and grow economies in line with broader sustainable development objectives. He called for the provisions of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda pertaining to development issues to be effectively implemented to strengthen the cooperation needed for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. One key provision is the technology facilitation mechanism, he said, emphasizing the role of science and technology in assisting efforts to address global challenges.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), highlighted the importance of the Global Compact in addressing the challenges and opportunities that international migration raises for countries of origin, transit and destination, related to regularization, social inclusion and integration. Condemning all acts of xenophobia, racism, discrimination, persecution and intolerance, he urged all States to ensure full respect for human rights of all migrants.
Offering commitment to address violations and serious human rights abuses, smuggling and trafficking in persons, he expressed particular concern for the vulnerability of migrant women and children. He emphasized the importance of promoting the exchange of best practices in the Community’s region and recognizing the positive contribution of migrants. All countries must ensure adequate and affordable financial services, and to further reduce remittance costs to less than 3 per cent of the amount transferred and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent.
PERKS MASTER CLEMENCY LIGOYA (Malawi), speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, said the world economy has rebounded from the massive financial crises faced in the past decade. However, stronger economic activity is not shared equitably among countries and regions. Economic conditions of least developed countries, especially the commodity exporting ones, continue to remain particularly challenged. Their GDP is growing, but the pace of growth is far from adequate to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, as envisaged in the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the new international economic order, he said the global community made a strong pledge to devote attention to adopt special measures in favour of least developed, landlocked and small island developing countries. Acknowledging the generous support these countries are receiving from development partners, he expressed concern that this is not sufficient to address challenges least developed countries have been facing. Net ODA to his Group is estimated to have risen slightly, but the 2017 figure is lower than 2012 by $5 billion. Moreover, the share of least developed country exports and flow of FDI is meagre and continues to decline. He called on development partners to strengthen their support to his Group so they can accelerate their economic growth and promote sustainable development.
SHRI NASESH GUJRAL (India) said that mobility is leading to much closer interdependence, impacting all sectors of the economy. While economic and financial integration has significantly helped global economic growth, the impacts of globalization and emerging technologies have been uneven. Meanwhile, such interdependence is taking on other forms, as witnessed in conflicts that force people to flee their homes, and in the terror networks that continue to expand their reach through cross‑border recruitment, propaganda and financing. The spread of disastrous global health pandemics is another serious challenge. Global commons such as the oceans, space and cyberspace represent additional areas where international collaboration is needed to manage collective interests. For its part, India is helping strengthen the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to meet sustainable development challenges.
BANDAR MAHDI S. ALNAHDI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77, stated banking relations, trade and investment are major areas of international interrelation. Noting that Saudi Arabia has 12 million foreign workers, representing 12 per cent of the population, he pointed to the important contribution they offer. His country hails efforts to curtail trafficking in persons, an atrocious crime against human rights.
PAVEL FOUDECKA (Russian Federation) highlighted the importance of finding joint ways to foster economic development. Although the world economy has grown, there remains the long‑term risk of crisis, and the technological lag between nations will not help speed international growth. While noting that many countries have reduced poverty and enhanced life expectancy and gender equality, he said it is important for developed countries not to lose sight of the impact of increased debt obligations. The phenomenon of international migration has become an important factor in the social and economic development of developed and developing States. In this landmark year, with the adoption of the Global Compact, he expressed hope for positive transformation on the issue.
JUAN MIGUEL GONZÁLEZ PEÑA (Cuba) said the role of the United Nations in promoting development has never been so relevant and the need for multilateralism has never been greater. Rejecting the unilateral and protectionist actions of the United States, he said a transparent, non‑discriminatory and inclusive multilateral system that maximizes the benefits of globalization is indispensable. Meanwhile, he highlighted the growing development gap separating the North from the South and called for a new international economic order to correct current inequalities and guarantee fair economic and social development for present and future generations. Subject to an unjust economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States, the development of the Cuban economy remains hindered by unilateral sanctions, he said. Such policies pose a serious challenge to Cuba’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda and are a flagrant violation of its human rights. It also qualifies as an act of genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, he said.
AKMAL AJI (Brunei Darussalam), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said the widespread use of the Internet, major increases in global infrastructure investment and increasing prospects to work or study in different countries have reached unprecedented levels. This has resulted in a high degree of interdependence between States, thereby making cooperation between Governments not only desirable, but essential. It is undeniable that globalization has generated opportunities for many countries to prosper, but it has also presented a set of challenges that need to be fully addressed in ensuring far‑reaching, equitable and inclusive economic growth. This includes addressing the widening technological and income gap between developed and developing countries, vulnerabilities to the impact of financial crises and external shocks and lack of adequate representation amongst developing countries in global economic governance.
KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, expressed deep concern over recent reports of some countries pulling out of the Global Compact just months before its adoption. Migration is a fact of life, with the estimated number of migrants having increased by 50 per cent between 2000 and 2017, to around 258 million persons. Calling the Global Compact “proof of the power and spirit of multilateralism”, she noted it sets a moral standard for the world, upholding the rights and respecting the dignity of every migrant and reiterated her country’s full support. Citing the Secretary‑General’s report mentioned a record $466 billion in remittances to low- and middle‑income countries, she said they support long‑term development strategies, particularly on poverty eradication and access to basic services at the household level, and fostering local investment.
ACHARA CHAIYASAN (Thailand) said that while globalization brings about social and economic opportunities, it also poses significant challenges to equality and inclusiveness, which are fundamental to the advancement of sustainable development. Greater efforts are needed to address the inability of some countries to deal with the uncertainties of international trade and finance, the irregular movements of people, and limited access to advanced technologies. More specifically, capacity‑building and financial resilience is needed to help countries cope with the adverse impacts of globalization, she said. In addition, new technologies can unlock tremendous economic potential through increased productivity and competitiveness. Meanwhile, well‑managed migration is a catalyst for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development, she said, highlighting measures such as the regularization and ethical recruitment of migrants, combating human trafficking and ending the practice of detaining migrant children.
SUVANGA PARAJULI (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said information and communications technology (ICT) as well as rapid developments in science and technology have accelerated the pace of globalization and increased interdependence. However, in sharing the benefits of globalization, there has been a conspicuous asymmetry — the top gaining more and the bottom less. Elements of inclusion, equity and social justice appear to be missing in the entire process. Least developed and landlocked developing countries are vulnerable to various socioeconomic shocks triggered by globalization. Those least developed nations, which are also landlocked, face infrastructure bottlenecks and capacity constraints that largely limit their ability to gain from globalization. The frontiers of technology are ever‑expanding, but the digital dividend is unevenly distributed, while the digital divide is widening. The international community needs to support developing countries to level the playing field by carrying out needed reforms to global governance and international financial architectures.
SHARON BERNADETH JUÁREZ ARGUETA (Guatemala), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said eradication of poverty is the greatest planetary challenge and an essential precondition for sustainable development. Her country is working to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship to grow its economy. Noting that investments must be national and international, she hailed the partnership between Guatemala and Honduras. Saying it is essential to have an integrated and international approach to migration including countries of origin, transit and destination to fully respect human rights of migrants, she said special attention must be paid to women, adolescents and unaccompanied girls and boys. The global community must recognize the positive contribution of migrants to their host economies.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that 258 million migrants spread across the globe are agents for change and enablers of development. Migration today is mostly intraregional or South to South and taking place between developing countries. Almost all countries of the world are now simultaneously a country of origin, transit, destination and return. The Global Compact is the cornerstone for strengthening global governance for immigration, as it is the first globally agreed reference point to deal with international migration. Through the Compact, the international community made significant strides in upholding the rights of migrants irrespective of their status and in issues related to labour migration. Emphasis is given to collecting, analysing and distributing migration related disaggregated data. Actions for lowering the cost of remittance transfer and achieving portability of earned benefits are encouraging.
ZHOU CHENGYU (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted countries are more interdependent than ever before, and with the world facing profound changes, no nation can deal with them alone. The international community must uphold global governance and engage in cooperation for peace and development. Noting the need to promote the conversion to new forms of growth, he expressed opposition to trade protectionism, looking towards a more open world economy and to strengthen macroeconomic development. China supports African countries in development with multiple initiatives, and has contributed 30 per cent in recent years to global economic growth.
ALI JAJILARI (Iran), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said enhanced international cooperation, empowered through multilateralism is indispensable in making globalization work for all. The United Nations should be a force in favour of the legitimate aspirations of the developing world to attain greater voice and representation in institutions of global governance, strengthening the collective efforts of the international community towards harnessing the effects of globalization in favour of poverty eradication and sustainable development. For the benefits of globalization to be shared by all countries, the United Nations has a critical role not only in supporting them to better cope with its risks but in bringing all countries and other relevant stakeholders to find global solutions to common problems.
FADUA ORTEZ (Honduras), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said migration is a human right, with migrants having contributed to countries of origin, transit and destination for centuries. Migrants should not be unreasonably detained, with their rights disrespected, and all countries must act against any violation, with full respect for human dignity. In recent years, some 200 million migrants sent $482 billion back home, a major contribution to those economies. Acknowledging the importance of remittances for economy development, she said remittance costs must be reduced to less than 3 per cent of the amount transferred. She hailed the adoption of the Global Compact as a milestone for the United Nations and the world as a whole.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said his country experiences regular droughts, often followed by flooding, which severely undermines development. He called on development partners to scale up efforts to meet their climate financing commitments in accordance with the Paris Agreement. He also noted that his country is highly reliant upon multilateral trade and other relations. Adding that access to new technologies is essential for developing countries, especially in addressing challenges to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries can bridge the technological divide and allow communities to access technologies for their development.
ABDULMONEM ESHANTA (Libya), associating himself with the Group of 77, said globalization provides opportunities for development if well used, spreading technology, but the world cannot rely on trade alone. Economic globalization must be fair and equal to all, without impacting national identity. He noted that many nations lack information and other technologies, and international commitments in that domain have not been upheld. The relationship between development and migration must be managed in a regular manner, requiring true partnerships. His country is facing a major problem of unorganized migration, human smuggling and trafficking, and the situation has exacerbated. He stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of migration, including poverty and conflict, pushing people to risk their lives for opportunity.
AMENA ALHOSANI (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the Group of 77, said the international order needs to distribute the benefits of globalization in a way that allows all to achieve sustainable development. Noting that migration is among the world’s contemporary challenges, she stressed the need to maximize its benefits for countries of origin, transit and destination. The Sustainable Development Goals clearly outline the positive contribution of migrants to development to both origin and destination countries.
The representative of South Africa, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that while globalization has brought significant gains in economic development for many countries, they have not been evenly distributed, with unilateral policies disrupting the global economy. The world has not changed significantly following post‑colonialism, especially in Africa, where structural economic and trade challenges still hinder growth. Industrialization has long been recognized as a critical means for sustainable development, and South Africa is concerned about the withdrawal of some developed nations from the primary United Nations agency mandated to promote and accelerate it. Unilateral protectionist measures undermine global trade, especially in developing countries, and the global community must unite against this precarious course.
ALADE AKINREMI BOLAJI (Nigeria) noted that globalization has increased, and no country is immune to it. However, challenges remain in the distribution of benefits and costs. Most industrialized nations have taken advantage of the breakdown of trade barriers and dumped substandard manufactured goods on the nations of the global South. Imbalances in the global trade system have not been addressed, he said, offering support for South‑South cooperation and stating the United Nations has a role to play in respecting diversity. He also noted that migrants make great contributions in promoting trade and investment and fill gaps in the workforce caused by demographic shifts. Developmental gaps between the global North and South must not be allowed to widen, as only a fair and just global system can ensure economic development for future generations.
TOMASZ GRYSA, observer for the Holy See, noted that many factors drive migration, including the so‑called “push” factors of violence, insecurity, human rights violations, lack of opportunities and “pull”. He noted that part of the recent increase in the number of migrants has also resulted from the effects of climate change and poverty caused by environmental degradation. Any successful effort to address the migration crisis should start with these push factors. Very few people want to leave their families and communities of origin and migrants are often blamed as if they had created factors pushing them out of their homelands. While migration certainly imposes costs on host countries, it also carries benefits to the receiving countries, he continued. Migrants represent an increased supply of workers who bring their skills, energy and aspirations as well as the treasures of their cultures to the receiving countries.
CARLA MUCAVI, Director of the New York Liaison Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said that people migrate for various reasons, such as rural poverty and food insecurity, lack of employment and income generating opportunities, limited access to social protection, as well as conflict, natural hazards and political instability. These drivers of migration are closely linked to the agency’s global goals of fighting hunger, reducing rural poverty and promoting sustainable use of natural resources. Investing in agriculture and rural development and resilient livelihoods is crucial to providing sustainable livelihood alternatives to migration. FAO supports these efforts.
CHRISTOPHER RICHTER of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) noted that the Global Compact to be adopted in December has been in the making for several decades. From the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, to the High‑level Dialogues on Migration and Development in 2006 and 2013, to the adoption of the New York Declaration in 2016, the international community has made progress slowly but surely in advancing discussions on this matter. “The Compact will be the first multilateral framework of its nature solely dedicated to migration, making it a fundamental pillar of the international community’s efforts to promote effective migration governance,” he said. Development frameworks adopted in recent years, including the Samoa Pathway, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda, all recognize the links between migration and development. Migration has implications for multiple actors, including States and their neighbors, local communities, migrants and their families, diasporas, employers and unions, he said, underscoring the need for strong partnerships to achieve progress.
Information, Communications Technologies for Sustainable Development
SHAMIKA SIRIMANNE, Director of the Technology and Logistics Division of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the report on the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/73/366-E/2018/10) and stated there are two apparent trends: towards mobile and broadband services. However, half the world’s population did not have access to the Internet in 2017, with 17 per cent in least developed countries as compared to 81 per cent in the developed world. Likewise, she noted there remain gender, generational and geographical divides. While there are tremendous benefits, there are also risks associated with technologies. Automation and artificial intelligence will displace jobs, and while the net effect remains uncertain, radical reforms in education and training will be needed.
While noting there was $25.7 trillion in global e‑commerce sales in 2017, she observed that the world’s least developed countries are not ready to benefit from this sector. Although 70 per cent of populations in developed countries buy online, only 3 per cent in least developed States do so. She added that issues of cybersecurity and the governance of the information society are also coming to the fore given the increasing vulnerability to cyberattacks. There are 20 billion devices in the Internet of things, a number that will double in 5 years, but no internationally agreed standards for these devices. Inclusion remains highly unequal and will be exacerbated as technologies develop further. She pointed to a new wave of innovations, often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, bringing both opportunities and challenges. Those who lack resources are at serious risk of being left behind. Meanwhile, the regulation of online markets and responsibilities of global corporations will intensify, requiring a people‑centred information society.
In a question and answer session that followed, the representative of Mexico asked what challenges exist in making technologies available. Responding, Ms. Sirimanne said that a new world is taking shape and developing countries are making increasing demands on United Nations systems, which do not have the resources or finances to facilitate this.
MAHMOUD EL ASHMAWY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, noted that ICT is an essential vehicle for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the basic needs to build bridges between and within countries. This Fourth Industrial Revolution illustrates the difficulty of anticipating new technologies and taking the necessary measures to reduce inequalities. He recalled that the elderly, persons with disabilities and those living in rural areas are particularly excluded from the Internet.
The Group considers it essential to address the key issues that should enable all to benefit from ICT, he continued, emphasizing the need to reduce all digital inequalities between women and men by strengthening enabling policy environments, improving access to and cost of new technologies and multilingualism through adequate financing. It is crucial that developed countries provide coordinated support to developing countries through technology transfer on preferential terms, capacity‑building and technical assistance. He said that his Group has always defended the Technology Facilitation Mechanism. Given the world is increasingly interdependent, he noted it is essential to strengthen the representation of developing countries in global decision‑making bodies.
PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for CARICOM and associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said advancements in technology provide greater opportunities to circumvent inherent limitations. However, accelerated technological change, combined with the competitive pressures of globalization, has expanded the digital divide between the North and South. The United Nations should ensure that the benefits of ICT, including new technologies, are available to all.
Advances in early warning systems can help vulnerable States better mitigate the devastation of severe and unpredictable weather events and assist in saving the lives as well as livelihoods of Caribbean people, she continued. It is crucial that small island States be integrated into meaningful and equitable participation in the global information society. She also noted that ICT can be exploited for use by criminal and terrorist organizations. While her Community has mobilized efforts towards reducing its vulnerability through cybersecurity initiatives, there is a need for further collaboration with the international community.
PERKS MASTER CLEMENCY LIGOYA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77, noted the importance of ICT and access to them in the least developed nations, allowing them to be integrated into the information society. There is great potential to accelerate human progress and breach the digital divide. However, ICT must respond to the specific needs of the countries furthest behind, he said, and much more needs to be done to achieve universal connectivity.
From 2011 to 2016, cellular subscriptions ballooned from 42 to 86 per cent in least developed countries; however, Internet access remains at 17.5 per cent, he said. At that rate, it will take 50 years to get half of their citizens online. He noted that access to ICT is influenced by a range of issues including population density and lack of electricity, let alone data networks, with only 39 per cent of the population on the grid, and poor fibre backbones to rural and underserved areas. Access to mobile networks has opened opportunities for development and driven new business and models, but a sustainable Internet ecosystem is necessary if least developed countries are to harness possibilities, requiring assistance from the developed world. The World Bank supports the Pacific Connectivity Programme, and “We want similar support for all least developed countries”, he said.
FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said the role of ICT in the social, economic and financial life of small islands cannot be overstated. Such States are characterized by geographical isolation, dispersed population and remoteness from markets. Small islands have made tremendous advances in connectivity over the last decade, with most now connected to at least one submarine cable, enjoying quality Internet access and increasingly using technological innovations for many service deliveries. However, challenges remain, especially when it comes to affordability and access.
Many small islands have small populations scattered among many islands and often have low levels of economic activity, limited sources of income and poor integration into the global economy, she said. Separation by open seas and great distances from sources of upstream connectivity makes a less attractive business case for downstream submarine cable connectivity serving smaller islands. Further, the low‑lying nature of many of the islands, susceptibility to hazards like earthquakes and extreme weather events, as well as vulnerability to the effects of climate change, mean that they are more vulnerable to communications infrastructure disruption.
Mr. OLADAPO (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, said ICT have already addressed issues bedevilling humanity, and some of Africa’s most pressing issues including access to health care and clean water. The challenge is how to build an African information society for future generations and bring the continent into the world digital community. Many initiatives across the continent are accelerating progress, and the African Union has embraced it, as accessibility and Internet governance improve.
It is unfortunate, he said, that while the migration to the digital society offers possibilities and promise, it also brings the challenges of cybersecurity, privacy and online security. Partnerships are required for information exchange in that domain. The road ahead to ICT clearly requires successful partnerships, and the global digital divide requires resources to keep Africa from being left behind. Echoing the Secretary‑General’s report, he called on the international community to be comprehensive in its inclusivity.
SHRI VISHNU DAYAL RAM (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, said ICT creates a strong foundation for strengthening sustainable development interventions. The 2030 Agenda rightly recognizes this great potential to accelerate inclusive economic growth and development and bridge the digital divide. A stark gap in the use of these technologies still exists between developing and developed countries. More than 80 per cent of individuals in developed countries use the Internet compared with 35 per cent of individuals in the developing world. “This has to change,” he said. The remarkable success of the Indian information technology industry is well known and the Government has placed technology at the heart of India’s growth story by emphasizing policies such as Digital India, Make in India and Startup India. The National Digital Communications Policy, adopted last month, aims to ensure the availability of broadband for everyone and create 4 million additional jobs in the digital communications sector. It also aims to boost the contribution of this sector to 8 per cent of India’s GDP this year, up from 6 per cent in 2017.
KONSTANTIN Y. KULIKOV (Russian Federation) stressed the need to establish an environment that is favourable to investment in new technologies. Regulation of ICT must be balanced and serve as a stimulus for development of new digital technologies. He also emphasized the importance of overcoming inequalities of access to digital technology, stating the need to expand broadband communications. He favoured any instrument that would help promote the use of global infrastructures for information technologies.
ROSALIA LUCIA CUE DELGADO (Cuba), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, said that the persistent inequalities in ICT will only cause more problems as digital platforms further transform all sectors in the coming decades. She stressed that policies must be put in place to ensure emerging technologies such as the Internet of things, blockchains and artificial intelligence are properly managed. Overcoming inequalities will require political will on the part of developing countries as the resources already exist. Advanced technologies should be only used to improve the well‑being of people; they should never promote conflict, interventionism, unilateralism or terrorist acts. Cyberattacks for those purposes must be countered by joint cooperation among States. As the Internet should be considered a common resource of all humanity, it must have international democratic governance. His country’s 2030 strategy aims for an inclusive information society focused on the person and oriented towards sustainable development. These efforts have been carried out despite the United States blockade, which severely affects telecommunications, she emphasized.
Mr. ALRAQSHABNDI (Iraq), associating himself with the Group of 77, called ICT a great factor of our age, helping the development of society. Leveraging ICT helps people join in the political process, reduces poverty and serves as an instrument of accountability. However, least developed countries including Iraq need assistance to avoid being left behind, bridge the digital gap and join the digital economy. His Government established a ministry in that domain, but the drop in oil prices combined with the war on terrorism led them to combine it with the education ministry. He noted the country was the subject of an aggression by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), affecting Government policies and scientific development and requiring all available financial resources to fight that group. Iraq therefore needs help rebuilding its universities to cope with technological advancement.
BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) called ICT harbingers of both opportunity and challenge, meaning that obstacles to access must be broken through. It is important to reduce the digital divide, especially between women and men to reduce inequalities. Also, infrastructure at the national level must be improved alongside capacity development. While the field of technology represents many opportunities for countries to seize benefits for their people, he said digital ecosystems must be inclusive. Mexico must harness the possibilities, and has a national digital strategy to erect a platform for technology and innovation. Bolstering technological innovation will enable achieving the 2030 Agenda, noting that ensuring all have access is a sine qua non for that goal. He called upon all entities in the United Nations system to share dialogue and break down silos with a cross‑cutting and holistic approach.
RACHEL CHEN (Singapore), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said her country is building a digital Government, growing the digital economy and forging a cohesive and inclusive digital society. Singapore released a Digital Government Blueprint in 2018 which outlines the use of technology to help deliver Government services. Under a national ICT Industry Transformation Roadmap, the Singapore Government introduced the “SMEs Go Digital” programme to help small- and mid‑size enterprises (SMEs) build digital capabilities. About 1,000 businesses have benefited since the initiative’s launch in 2017. To ensure people have access, literacy skills and the confidence to use digital technologies in everyday life, Singapore launched a Digital Readiness Blueprint in 2018. The blueprint has recommendations from businesses, community leaders and the Government to encourage ground‑up initiatives and grassroots programmes. The challenges of technology can be turned into opportunities if the international community believes in its ability to use technology for good. Singapore stands ready to do its part in the collective effort to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
PAWEENA SUBHIMAROS (Thailand), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said that ICT is critical for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Policies on such technologies must, in that context, promote equality and inclusiveness. To use ICT to increase opportunity for people with limited means, including those in rural areas, her country is implementing a policy called Thailand 4.0 that aims to extend broadband Internet access to all of its 74,965 villages by the end of 2018. The benefits of such digital infrastructure are being maximized by the establishment of online transparency in governance, a digital health system, Internet learning opportunities and a village e‑commerce centre that is particularly valuable for women’s empowerment. In addition, effective urban resource management is being promoted through a digital data initiative. For cybersecurity, a national agency is being set up, but effectiveness in that area requires international cooperation, with the United Nations having a crucial role. She affirmed that her country, a regional host of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), stood ready to promote ICT for development.
AHMAD SAIF Y.A. AL-KUWARI (Qatar) said greater efforts are needed to create an encouraging environment for science, technology and innovation for the benefit of everyone, including women and youth. He discussed Qatar’s policies and investment in ICT, including efforts to promote their use among the elderly. Recalling that Qatar was the victim of cyberpiracy a year ago, he said cybercrime must be addressed as a threat to international peace and security. Qatar stands ready to host an international conference to consider ways to address that issue, he added.
Mr. KADIRI (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, noted ICT presuppose development and require breaching the digital divide. Maximizing their benefits also requires universal access, which brings opportunities to leverage increased productivity and improve the well‑being of citizens. His Government has pledged to reach a 30 per cent penetration level of broadband by 2020, and with ICT a critical enabler for development, is committed to promoting the technology in all spheres of public and private life, driving transparency in Government and increasing GDP. He noted that ICT now represents 9.8 per cent of the economy. Turning to stolen assets and illicit funds, he called on the entire United Nations system to assist in using ICT to help return those assets to their countries of origins and reduce the processes and costs of doing so. The need to strengthen global ICT cannot be overstated, he said.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that his nation has utilized ICT to build “Digital Bangladesh” with an information technology infrastructure that covers the whole country, and online services in education, health, agriculture and social protection. The ICT sector has been given priority in his country’s plan to boost the rural economy, he said, noting that the expanded availability of financial services will reduce inequality there. However, he expressed concern that gains in the sector will be undermined by cyberspace that remains open to threats and risks. Hence Bangladesh is building a cybersecurity ecosystem and has created a Cybersecurity Incident Response team that cooperates with other countries.
Mr. AL‑GHFELI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77, said ICT has increased the ability to meet human needs, driving education, the economy, mass media, information security, scientific research and development. In the twenty‑first century, all people must move forward with the rising tide of digitalization. His country launched an initiative aimed to improve Government services and enhance quality of life, and recently named a minister for artificial intelligence and a female minister for advanced sciences. The country will also join the race for space exploration and Mars in 2020. Turning to education, he announced the launch of a platform for Arabic study, accessible by 50 million students in an attempt to narrow the digital gap. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is moving very quickly, he said, and all must collaborate to benefit future generations.
MUHAMMAD KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed concern about current estimates that in developed nations there are 97 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people, versus 48 subscriptions per 100 people in developing countries. While frontier technologies hold immense potential, they may also lead to increased unemployment, suppressed wages and greater inequality. Calling for “the right policy mix” as well as institutional arrangements to ensure the benefits of innovation are more broadly shared, he said Governments — as well as the United Nations — should create a regulatory and legal framework to facilitate the diffusion and transfer of new technologies while helping to address their negative consequences. Describing Pakistan’s swiftly growing telecommunications sector, he said its national telecommunication authority — established in 1996 — aims to create a fair regulatory regime to promote investment, encourage competition, protect consumers and ensure high quality ICT for all people.
MERIEM EL HILALI (Morocco), associating herself with the Group of 77, appealed for stronger South‑South cooperation in ICT. She also conveyed Morocco’s support for the Secretary‑General’s initiative for regional consultations in 2019 on digitalization, especially on the African continent. She went on to describe the progress being made in her country, including the development of online banking, the expansion of free Internet access and partnerships with other countries. She also underscored the need to raise public awareness of digitalization so that the benefits are shared throughout the entire population.
GEBEYEHU GANGA GAYITO (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least‑Developed Countries, agreed with the Secretary‑General’s report that access to information and communications technologies is growing unevenly around the world, with African countries remaining less connected. Appropriate and coordinated policy measures at all levels are vital to maximizing the benefits of such technologies while addressing the pitfalls. The United Nations and other development partners should support Member States to effectively implement ICT policies, he said, adding that multilateral partnership is needed as well to address the digital divide and mobilize resources to finance infrastructure and fund research and development. Promoting quality education and equipping young people and the labour force with the right skills is also imperative, along with the transfer by developed countries of appropriate technologies to developing countries based on the latter’s national priorities.
VITALY MACKAY (Belarus) stated that digital technologies allow for new models in many spheres, from Government to health care, and a new paradigm for States and societies. However, there are difficulties in international cooperation and the basic challenge of a significant digital gap between developed and developing countries. Belarus is training experts for a full digital economy, covering conditions for favourable develop of ICT and the introduction of new technologies and innovations. His country is developing a platform for ICT, with a park for high‑level technology, and is ranked thirty‑second by ITU and first in the Commonwealth of Independent States in the domain. In the 2030 Agenda context, ICT will hasten its success, and his Government will increase efforts with the United Nations system to help other countries improve their ICT development.
ARTHUR AMAYA ANDAMBI (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, emphasized that more needs to be done on the ICT front in the spirit of leaving no one behind. Access to information is crucial for socioeconomic development, he said, adding that the powerful tools offered by ICT — if deployed effectively and equitably — can empower people and Governments. Among other things, information is vital for the efficient delivery of public services and effective responses to the needs of businesses and citizens. “Kenya is unequivocally committed to creating a knowledge-based nation,” he said, describing its elaborate National ICT Master Plan. In that regard, he outlined a vision of a Kenyan digital economy based on partnerships, equity and non‑discrimination, technology neutrality, environmental protection and conservation, good governance and incentivizing, and noted that the country’s strong fibre optic network and M‑PESA electronic payment system are already transforming the economy.
THERESAH CHIPULU LUSWILI CHANDA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the information and communications technology infrastructure, both public and private, is still inadequate and fragmented, resulting in insufficient connectivity. Moving forward, the Government is focusing on strengthening the technology framework and providing infrastructure for service delivery and electronic services as detailed in the national development plan. In that regard, the Government has begun installing communication towers, having already erected 318 out of 1,009 towers. Once finalized, the project will improve coverage from 84 per cent to 95 per cent of the country. Moreover, policy reforms include revising the licensing framework to remove entry barriers and allow competition, paving the way for new mobile network providers.
VITALII BILAN (Ukraine) said technical cooperation between Member States and the sharing of new technologies will help bridge many gaps in sustainable development. Ukraine has great potential in the evolving digital economy, he said, describing the efforts his Government is undertaking, such as preferential tax mechanisms. A systematic approach is being taken in the implementation of e‑government, he said, explaining that through technological innovation, the Government is streamlining its interactions with citizens and businesses to the benefit of sustainable development. He went on to call for more attention to be given to cybersecurity at the international and national levels.
HARYO BUDI NUGROHO (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said digital technologies play a crucial role in the economic and development sphere, but half of the world’s population is still not online. He pointed to those who cannot take advantage of ICT due to lack of access, affordability or technical skill, and welcomed United Nations efforts to further technological advancement. The international community must create an enabling environment for ICT, particularly for those left behind, and efforts must be made to have ICT penetrate rural areas to advance the economy, health and commerce. Likewise, there must be progress in promoting financing for start‑ups and scaling up other economic activities, as well as developing technological literacy, especially among youth, women and girls and the elderly. He also looked to mitigate risks associated with ICT. “Historically, progress always comes with a price,” he said, pointing to those who have lost jobs, and the rise of cybersecurity attacks.
Mr. AL HAMAR (Bahrain) said his country is first in the Middle East and North Africa in terms of taking up information and communications technologies. It is often chosen as a place to test new products. Digitalization should be a top priority for economic diversification, especially in the context of falling oil prices. He underscored efforts led by the King of Bahrain to create a smart society through, among other things, more foreign investment and a “Cloud First” policy that permits an extension of information and communications technology coverage. He added that Amazon’s choice of Bahrain as its first Middle East data centre will benefit all countries in the region, prompting an increase in the use of information and communications technology.
Ms. SENG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Least Developed Countries, noted that the 2013 enactment of the Myanmar Telecommunications Law has been a major milestone for the enhancement of mobile connectivity and digitalization. The Government is striving to use information and communications technology to reduce poverty and inequality, advance human capacity and develop knowledge societies. In addition, Myanmar is planning to facilitate innovations such as smart farming, the use of satellite images and research and development in collaboration with international technology organizations, among other initiatives. Moreover, it is in the process of drafting a Cybercrime and Electronic Evidence Act, committed to policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure accessibility and affordability in ICT technology services.
PHILIP FOX‑DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77, said technology is more present than ever and impacts how we behave, interact with others, study and work. As such, it is a cross‑cutting element for the 2030 Agenda. Noting that ICT reaches all countries and drives dramatic changes that may favour social inclusion, economic growth and environmentally-friendly solutions, he acknowledged access is limited, the pace of technology transfer falls short and the digital divide is increasing. To tackle this, he said international cooperation must be strengthened, with multi‑stakeholder partnerships to remedy these issues. Fostering national capacity development is of critical importance in reducing ICT gaps and current imbalances. Priority in sustainable development strategies must be given to women, children and elderly, who are often the ones left behind. Given technology and its effects know no borders, he welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries, expressing hope that it fulfils its mission to use science, technology and innovation as a driving force for them to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. AL JAUWAN (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said a lack of access to technology is contributing to unemployment in developing countries. He urged the United Nations and the international community to intensify efforts so that everyone can enjoy the right to information and communications technologies. Saudi Arabia is seeking to harness technology for the good of its citizens by providing Internet services to everyone. The Kingdom shares concerns over threats to cybersecurity, he added, suggesting the creation of a body dedicated to that problem. He went on to note that this year’s Hajj Hackathon, held by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, was recognized by Guinness World Records as the biggest event of its kind after it attracted nearly 3,000 participants.