Global partnerships are essential to helping the world’s most vulnerable countries eradicate poverty and address climate change, among other global challenges, delegates said today, as the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held a thematic review focused on the specific needs of such States.
The Forum — held from 9 to 15 July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council — reviews progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and pinpoint challenges, ahead of the General Assembly’s Sustainable Development Goals Summit at Headquarters on 24 and 25 September.
Addressing the first panel on the perspectives of small island developing States was Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, who said progress has been mixed. The Pacific region overall is not on track to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals amid growing vulnerabilities and deepening inequalities, she said, noting: “While we have made a good start, it is clearly not enough.”
She went on to state that Pacific leaders intend to direct more support towards women, youth and persons with disabilities; address gender gaps in employment and decision-making; enhance sustainable tourism while conserving the region’s rich biodiversity; and tackle non-communicable diseases, climate change and disasters more effectively. She acknowledged $1.57 billion in assistance from the Green Climate Fund, emphasizing that the Pacific region’s challenge is to ensure better use of existing funding.
Belize’s representative, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said the social dimension of sustainable development is often a challenge. As these countries invest in eradicating poverty, a paucity of resources means little is left for social programmes. Small island nations must also deal with limited capacity to gather statistics and measure progress. While there has been a noticeable shift in the global development finance narrative, it is far more challenging to obtain private sector funding for needed social programmes — an area that requires collective partnership.
Panellist Rakesh Bhuckory, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mauritius, said that building human capacity is essential. Working with strong partners, Mauritius has built a strong welfare system with a wide range of special protection schemes to narrow social exclusion, he added, noting that the country has also revamped the education system, identified 11,000 families in need of special attention, launched a minimum wage scheme and introduced a negative income tax. As small island developing States share many of the same problems, they can learn from each other, he said.
During the second panel, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said robust economic growth in these countries has not translated to poverty eradication. At the current pace, they are unlikely to eliminate poverty by 2030, she said, underscoring the need for both domestic resource mobilization and official development assistance (ODA).
Malawi’s representative, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, warned that global partnerships are under serious strain. Many African countries are suffering under heavy debt while receiving less ODA, he added, emphasizing that multilateralism must be strengthened to support the most vulnerable countries.
Paraguay’s representative, speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said it is crucial that the six priorities of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries are fully implemented, as they are integral to the 2030 Agenda. Support from development partners is critical for improving infrastructure, increasing connectivity and facing climate change, he said, highlighting the importance of greater access to investments, particularly for energy.
In the afternoon, the Forum held a discussion on implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth.
The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 11 July, to continue its work.
Thematic Review I
The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held a thematic review on “Perspectives of Small Island Developing States including main findings from midterm review of the SAMOA Pathway”. Moderated by Emele Duituturaga, former Executive Director, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, it featured a keynote address by Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment of Samoa.
Making presentations were Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, European Union Digital Single Market and Data Protection of Ireland; Douglass Slater, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human and Social Development of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat; Yvonne Hyde, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum of Belize; and Rakesh Bhuckory, Minister Counsellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius.
Stacy Richards-Kennedy, Director, Office of Development, University of the West Indies, Saint Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; and Willy Missack, Pacific Climate Change Collaboration, Influencing and Learning Project Manager at the Vanuatu Climate Action Network and Vanuatu Humanitarian Team Coordinator at Oxfam in Vanuatu were lead discussants.
Ms. MATAAFA, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said that, since 2015, member States of that regional organization have integrated the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, SAMOA Pathway, Paris Agreement on climate change and other global instruments into their policymaking frameworks. Priority attention is going towards the empowerment and inclusion of vulnerable groups, including women and persons with disabilities, as well as improved access to free education and increased spending on social protection. Greater returns from tourism, fisheries and remittances have contributed to economic growth, alongside significant progress in management and conservation.
However, progress between Pacific countries and subgroups has been mixed, she said, and the region overall is not on track to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals amid growing vulnerabilities and deepening inequalities. Sea levels are more than 50 per cent above the global average, coral reefs are dying and cyclones, flood and drought have increased in intensity and cost. Pockets of populations in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati have already been displaced due to encroaching seas, as well as in Fiji due to cyclone devastation. Waste‑generation, meanwhile, is outpacing the capacity of Pacific nations to deal with it. Economic growth has been inequitable, with one in four Pacific islanders living below national poverty lines and unemployment high, particularly among women and young people. About 1 in 10 people live with some form of disability and too many Pacific island women are victims of violence. The high incidence of non-communicable diseases is another matter of grave concern.
“While we have made a good start, it is clearly not enough,” she said, underscoring the commitment of Pacific leaders to target more support for women, youth and persons with disabilities; address gender gaps in employment and decision-making; enhance sustainable tourism while also conserving the region’s rich biodiversity; and tackle non-communicable diseases, climate change and disasters more effectively. Acknowledging $1.57 billion in assistance from the Green Climate Fund, she said the challenge for the Pacific region is to ensure better use of existing funding; strengthen capacities, institutions and partnerships; and increase investment in statistical systems. She went on to share several lessons for small island developing States and their development partners, including on the need for capacity, systems and financing to implement plans and policies and to account for results.
Ms. DUITUTURAGA, noting that it is unusual for a representative of civil society to moderate an interactive discussion at the United Nations, said the dialogue would focus on ways in which small island developing States can best respond to social development challenges, the types of policies and programmes to address social inclusion and inequality, and the role that development partners can play.
Mr. BREEN, recalling an Irish expression that translates as “the road is shorter when we travel it together”, said objectives can only be achieved by working together with an integrated approach to all targets. Emphasizing that building cooperation is a long-term effort, he said Ireland is committed to increasing its support for small island developing States as they deal with the effects of climate change and protect the oceans, as their path to inclusive growth requires access to greater policy support and advice. At the recent annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Fiji, Ireland announced the creation of a single-donor trust fund for climate change mitigation and disaster resilience, with partner States participating in consultations. As a small island developing State itself, Ireland knows that cooperation with similar countries makes sense, he said, pointing to the potential of tourism and the economic power of diasporas.
Ms. HYDE, describing her country as a coastal small island developing State, said its national development strategy places a heavy emphasis on sustainable growth and such “critical success factors” as optimal income and investment, social protection, environment, governance and citizens’ security — all of which link to one or more of the Goals. Belize is investing heavily in education, she said, building pre-schools in rural areas, making primary education more student-oriented and emphasizing technology and e-learning at the secondary and tertiary levels.
Mr. BHUCKORY, stressing the need to “get priorities right”, said building human capacity is essential for Mauritius. Working with strong partners to make a difference is critical. Mauritius has built a strong welfare system with a wide range of special protection schemes to narrow social exclusion, but with 10 per cent of the population still living in relative poverty, the Government is introducing a host of novel measures. It has also revamped the education system, identified 11,000 families in need of special attention, launched a minimum wage scheme and introduced a negative income tax. Noting that small island developing States share many of the same problems, he emphasized their need to learn from each other and to exchange experiences.
Mr. SLATER said CARICOM member States are investing heavily in human development with a regional human resources strategy that meets the needs of the twenty-first century. The aim is to invest more in technological and vocational knowledge to promote entrepreneurship and economic investment. He also drew attention to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, which is being extended to Latin America, and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism. He stressed the importance of empowering small island developing States to participate more effectively in the Green Climate and Global Environment Fund, while also recommending more national and regional projects of indigenous derivation.
Ms. RICHARDS-KENNEDY underscored the unique role that universities can play in advancing the 2030 Agenda and noted that the University of the West Indies has been selected to lead a global consortium addressing Goal 13 on climate action. Noting that the Caribbean region has the lowest tertiary enrolment in the Western Hemisphere, she said that situation, combined with high youth unemployment, represents a long-term threat to development. She went on to describe the University’s efforts to expand access to online learning and its establishment of a campus in Antigua and Barbuda.
Mr. MISSACK said local ownership and commitment is at the heart of everything the Forum is discussing today. If international agendas are to deliver on their promises, they must become reality at the village and neighbourhood levels. That often begins with youth, he said, adding that empowering young people to create change is key to building a sense of ownership. He underscored the value of holistic educational processes that strengthen such qualities as respect, humility and truthfulness while also building intellectual capacities.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Belize, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said that, for island countries, implementing the social dimension of sustainable development is a growing challenge. As they invest in eradicating poverty and inequality, a paucity of resources means little is left for social programmes. Small island developing States must also deal with limited capacity to gather statistics and measure progress. While there has been a noticeable shift in the global development finance narrative, it is far more challenging to obtain private sector funding for the social dimension of sustainability — an area that requires partnership within the international community.
The representative of Norway said partnerships are more important than ever for addressing such crucial issues as climate change. Small island developing States generate the lowest carbon emissions yet suffer disproportionately from their effects. Describing Norway as a reliable development partner, she appealed for a unified voice at the Climate Action Summit and at the twenty-fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The representative of Tonga said public sector reform is a big challenge for his country’s new democratically elected Government. He agreed with need for integrated partnerships for achieving the Goals, adding, however, that a lack of networks is a major challenge. It is essential, he added, for the United Nations system to take another look at regionalism and multilateralism in terms of reporting and monitoring.
The representative of the Dominican Republic, stressing the need to take advantage of technology advances, said the fourth technological revolution should not lead to social exclusion. Challenges must be tackled across the board with fresh practices that incorporate numerous stakeholders.
The representative of Haiti, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said Caribbean small island developing States are grappling with unique challenges even as they find themselves in the unenviable position of being ranked as middle-income countries. Mainstreaming the multidimensional nature of development must look beyond per capita gross domestic product (GDP), he said, calling for the establishment of a global architecture for cooperation.
The representative of Fiji underscored the need to reform grant financing for small island developing States, which for their part must improve their capability to implement programmes on a larger scale. He also called for a sea-change in how the United Nations system delivers for small island developing States.
The representative of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States emphasized the importance of partnerships, pointing to the Office’s efforts in that regard.
The representative of Palau said that, with some 38 small island developing States in three regions around the world, there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to the challenges they face. Also emphasizing the value of partnerships, she said deploying even minimal resources can have a transformative impact on small island nations.
Ms. HYDE replied that development financing, including loans and grants, often comes with conditions that are so bureaucratic and burdensome that small island developing States have difficulty meeting their obligations. She also underscored the multiple dimensions of vulnerability, which tend to be addressed in a piecemeal fashion.
Mr. SLATER said he hoped developed countries participating today will note the importance of technology transfers to small island developing States. He also stressed the cross-cutting nature of gender-related issues, especially violence against women. “We must continue to say no to misogyny, while also addressing the marginalization of boys,” he added.
Mr. BREEN, agreeing on the need for more work related to partnerships, said tourism is one area that should be looked at seriously. Tourism was important for Ireland’s economic recovery and it can benefit other small island countries, as well. He went on to note that technological innovation and digitalization can lift many barriers to global markets, including the virtual labour market.
Mr. BHUCKORY said small island developing States are coming up with innovative solutions to their challenges — but often then operate in silos within their own regions. They can learn much from each other about best practices, he said, suggesting that partnership among these countries be addressed as part of the midterm review of the SAMOA Pathway.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Jamaica and the Bahamas, as well as of the women’s major group and the stakeholder group of persons with disabilities.
MARIA-FRANCESCA SPATOLISANO, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, made closing remarks.
Thematic Review II
The Council then held a thematic review titled “Perspectives of Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries”. Moderated by Hope Muli, Regional Project Manager, Opening Contracting, Hivos, it featured presentations by Jerry Tardieu, Congressman, Petion-Ville, Haiti; Saad Alfarargi, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; and Ricardo Fuentes‑Nieva, Executive Director of Oxfam Mexico. Serving as lead discussants were Doma Tshering (Bhutan), co-facilitator of political declaration of the midterm review of the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, and Richard Ssewakiryanga, Co-Chair for the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness, and immediate past Presiding Officer of the African Union — Economic and Social Cultural Council.
Ms. MULI invited participants to examine the challenges to inclusiveness and equality in least developed countries and how can they be addressed, as well as the changes that are needed in international rules and institutions to support least developed countries and landlocked developing countries in achieving greater inclusion and equality.
Mr. TARDIEU said most least developed countries face challenges in building institutional resilience, stressing the need for well-crafted policy by Parliament. Access to credits is vital for fostering small and midsize businesses in broader efforts to leave no one behind. Stressing the importance of development financing, he said Government, the private sector, Parliament and civil society are all key institutional actors in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also critical to include diasporas in the national development strategy.
Mr. ALFARARGI pointed out that the 2030 Agenda, Sendai Framework on disaster reduction and the Addis Abba Action Agenda all support the right to development. That right is about placing people at the centre of development and about achieving real human development. In the five regional consultations, he found that the right to development must be inclusive and comprehensive.
Ms. ‘UTOIKAMANU pointed out that, while least developed countries and landlocked developing countries have achieved 5 per cent economic growth in recent years, the gains have not translated into poverty eradication. At the current pace, these nations are unlikely to end poverty by 2030. Over the past 47 years, only five nations have graduated from these categories, and 12 are now at various stages of graduation. Least developed countries and landlocked developing countries deal with inequality, a lack of access to services and technology, high exposure to disasters and high transit costs. They are seeking to diversify their economies, but still not receiving enough support from development partners. While domestic resources must be mobilized, partners must also fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments. The establishment of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries is a remarkable achievement as it supports capacity‑building. The international community should invest in it, she urged, also stressing that the International Think‑Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries will help strengthen the analytical capacities of the world’s 32 poorest landlocked nations in economic growth and poverty reduction.
Mr. FUENTES-NIEVA said that inclusiveness is a political choice and can be achieved through public policies. Calling taxation a social contract and key element of inclusiveness and equality, he said the gap between men and women must be addressed. While public policies are important, it is also crucial to recognize local contexts, he said, underscoring more importantly that local civil society needs support.
Ms. TSHERING underscored the need for resources to implement the Vienna Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals. Support for capacity‑building, domestic resource mobilization, export diversification and regional integration are also essential. Least developed countries and landlocked developing nations must attract foreign direct investment, he said, as well as maintain digital connectivity and take part in regional value chains. Reliable data at the national level is also essential, he added, noting that women and girls must be recognized as drivers and multipliers of development.
Mr. SSEWAKIRYANGA said graduation from least developed country and landlocked developing country status must be viewed differently. These decisions are not about metrics, he assured, but, rather, about people. Although these countries have seen impressive economic gains, they also see alarming poverty rates and inequality is rising. Moreover, least developed countries are home to 19 per cent of the world’s young people and graduation criteria must consider these elements.
The representative of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, expressed concern about slowing growth, persistently high rates of extreme poverty and global partnerships under serious strain. In addition, lower levels of ODA are provided to Africa, where many countries carry high debt. He highlighted the need to increase private-sector investment and further integrate into the global trade system. Domestic resource mobilization must increase, while the opportunities presented by new frontier technologies must be leveraged.
The representative of Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the 32 landlocked developing countries, said the national assessments and the three regional reviews clearly indicate that not enough progress has been made in fulfilling the priorities of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the decade 2014‑2024, or the Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve the Goals, it is crucial that the Programme of Action’s six priorities are fully implemented, as this is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda. Support from development partners is needed to improve infrastructure, increase connectivity and face the challenges of climate change, he said, highlighting the importance of greater investments in the areas of energy, and information and communication technology.
The representative of the European Union said the bloc is the largest provider of ODA, reiterating its offer of financial support and noting that such aid has increased by €1 billion since 2016. Trade can make an important contribution to poverty eradication in these countries, he said, noting that the bloc opened its market for exports from least developed countries and that these measures are essential for building their resilience.
The representative of Nepal, a least developed and landlocked developing country, intends to graduate from these categories by 2021, but the transition must be smooth and irreversible. There will be upfront costs, he stressed, calling for support from development partners and the international community.
The representative of Ethiopia said landlock developing countries deserve special attention. Development partners must keep and enhance their commitments, he said, underscoring the need for technical assistance in capacity building and for industrialization policies.
The representative of Zambia said lack of access to territorial waters, high transit costs, poor access to infrastructure, energy, water and transport all make people in these nations vulnerable, she said, noting that her country incorporated the Vienna Programme of Action into its national plan.
The representative of Turkey said challenges facing least developed countries cannot be addressed only through national actions. Global partnerships are needed. Stressing that Turkey provided $8.2 billion in ODA in 2017, a leading country, she said her delegation will host a side event on the Technology Bank.
The representative of the Asia-Pacific Regional CSO Mechanism stressed the need to end the caste system and discrimination in Nepal. Inequality is increasing in her region, she said, noting that support for the regional approach, including means of implementation, is needed
The representative of the women’s major group called for revolutionary change to empower women, who are often denied basic human rights.
The representative of indigenous peoples major group described how human rights of indigenous peoples are violated across the world, citing the killing of indigenous leaders in Guatemala and the arrest of those protesting mega‑infrastructure projects affecting their land in Kenya.
Mr. TARDIEU, responding to those comments, said Haiti has transitioned from an agricultural economy into a remittance economy, with $2.5 billion received from diasporas that accounts for 30 per cent of gross domestic product.
Mr. ALFARARGI said all relevant stakeholders must be included in all domestic planning, programming and evaluation processes. The international community must secure budgets for the effective participation of these stakeholders.
Ms. ‘UTOIKAMANU, underscoring the important role of Parliament, also urged support for countries graduating from least developed country and landlocked, developing country status.
Mr. FUENTES-NIEVA called for expanding the space for civil society, with ODA supporting such efforts.
Mr. SSEWAKIRYANGA said the positive impact of migration must be discussed, along with the role of diasporas.
The representative of Morocco explained how his country is strengthening trade with other African countries, opening its market to exports from least developed nations and signing trade and tariff agreements with several African countries.
The representative of Paraguay said 2019 is an important year as the midterm review will take place, stressing the need for solidarity and expressing support for the work of the United Nations Office for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
The representative of Haiti said remittances from diaspora is an option, but it is crucial that development partners provide ODA to address anomalies in his country.
The representative of Mali stressed the need to support transit countries.
The representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies urged Governments in vulnerable countries to reduce disaster risk.
The representative of Niger, underlining the need to address security challenges, said his Government allocates 20 per cent of its budget to security, which takes resources away from socioeconomic expenditure.