2 June 2020

United Nations Fully Mobilized to Help Countries Respond, Recover from COVID-19, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Financing for Development Forum

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the virtual meeting of the Financing for Development Forum on financing and policy solutions to respond to COVID-19, in New York today:

Allow me to start by congratulating the President of the Economic and Social Council and the Council for convening this informal meeting of the Financing for Development forum and bringing together key actors from Member States, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to scale-up efforts towards the implementation of the Addis Ababa commitments and mobilizing sufficient financing for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause immense global suffering.  It has exposed underlying fragilities that will have to be addressed as part of the healing response to ensure we are on firmer footing to emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis.  The pandemic has resulted in both a global health crisis and a severe economic slowdown.  By all measures, we are in a recession of unparalleled proportions.

Developing countries are already experiencing a significant shock, with entire sectors coming to a sudden stop and supply chains collapsing.  As countries struggle to meet the needs of their population, respond to growing unemployment and support their economies, their budgets are being strained.

Financing on an unprecedented scale is essential to an effective response.  Countries must have the financial means to fight the pandemic, and to invest in the recovery.  How to make available the financing to close the fiscal gaps and give countries the space to proactively respond is a tough question that demands tailored policy responses.  But it is necessary medicine.

This will require mobilizing domestic and external resources, and in many cases sizable debt relief, based on level of vulnerability, rather than income and accounting for heterogeneous debt situations across countries.  As the Secretary-General has stressed, financial support is a key aspect of solidarity.

Individuals and communities are looking to the United Nations system to navigate this crisis.  And since the start, the United Nations system has been at forefront of the global response, guiding global efforts and supporting country responses to tackle the health, humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of the crisis.

Let me highlight three concrete ways in which the United Nations system has provided support at national and global levels.  First, the 131 United Nations country teams have been fully mobilized to provide comprehensive policy and operational support at the national level.  Using the United Nations framework for immediate socioeconomic response, countries are completing socioeconomic impact analyses.

The regional economic commissions are providing timely and solid analysis of the situation of each region to guide policy advice and advocacy efforts on Secretary-General’s initiatives around the socioeconomic impacts of COVID and on debt and financing issues at the national, subregional and regional level.  For example, in the Caribbean, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) is working with countries in advancing swaps for Caribbean external debt for annual payments into a resilience fund, and the Economic Commission for Africa is providing support to African Ministers of Finance and the African Union in their efforts to secure debt relief. 

The United Nations is now in emergency mode and is adjusting its existing $17.8 billion development portfolio to support the COVID-19 response, tailored to each country context.

Second, through the work around integrated national financing frameworks, the United Nations is offering targeted funding and support to countries to analyze all available financing sources and non-financial means of implementation.  It is also assessing policy options and designing a strategy for the response that also will bridge to achieving sustainable development targets.

Third, the United Nations is working to analyze, support, and address core financing challenges, with a particular focus on six areas:  global liquidity and financial stability; debt vulnerability and engaging private sector creditors in the solutions; the drop in external finance flows for inclusive growth; and stemming illicit financial flows to enable effective response and recovering better for sustainability.

For example, in respect of the debt challenge, the Secretary-General has put forward a three-phase approach starting with an across-the-board debt standstill, followed by efforts to address debt sustainability and structural issues.  The United Nations has been working closely with international organizations and international and regional development banks, building on existing efforts, as well as the private sector for urgent forward movement on this issue.

Last week, the Secretary-General co-convened the high-level event on financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond, supporting the work of the Economic and Social Council for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.  Governments and international organizations agreed to address this massive challenge by focusing on the six priority areas I just mentioned.  Today’s meeting will further inform our continued engagement with key stakeholders.

Our shared challenge is to make progress in these areas by sustaining a collaboration process throughout the year.  As countries across the globe are reeling from the effects of the pandemic, we must provide financing solutions, especially in the most vulnerable countries.

We have the opportunity today to advance towards concrete financing and policy options that can support your response at the national level.  The United Nations system is fully mobilized to support you in your crisis response and in recovery, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda as our road map.  Let us recover better together for a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable global economy.  Thank you for allowing me to join you in this important event today.

For information media. Not an official record.