9 October 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 4th Meeting (PM)

In Face of Pandemic, 100 Million People Worldwide on Brink of Extreme Poverty, Assembly President Says, as Second Committee Concludes General Debate

With COVID-19 continuing to wreak havoc on national economies, delegates urged the international community to focus on sustainable development in recovering from the pandemic´s devastating effects, as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) concluded its general debate today.

Noting that 100 million people worldwide verge on extreme poverty in the face of the pandemic, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) stressed the importance of achieving global pacts.  Accords like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement on climate change are perfect frameworks in emerging from COVID-19, he said, urging the international community to intensify efforts to implement them.

The current pandemic is a tragedy, Togo’s representative said, stressing that the world must translate it into a catalyst to foster social and economic development.  “We have the necessary tools,” he said, adding that the 2030 Agenda, created five years ago, should not remain wishful thinking.

Also emphasizing the need for sustainable recovery, North Macedonia’s delegate underscored the importance of international financial reform in achieving it, noting that the coronavirus has led to unprecedented consequences for health and economies.  Recognizing also that poverty cannot be tackled with short-term assistance, he said it must be accompanied by long-term resiliency plans.

Similarly, Jamaica´s representative said COVID-19 has shown how painstakingly quickly economic gains can be upended, calling for increased access to low-cost concessional financing and special funds to boost pandemic response efforts.  Focusing on international commitments, Lesotho’s delegate implored global partners to honour official development assistance, allowing nations to invest in health, education and social safety nets.

Ghana’s delegate said restructuring the global financial framework is now more important than ever, as is halting illicit monetary flows from developing countries.  According to World Bank statistics, he added that the pandemic could throw some 46 to 56 million children into extreme poverty in 2020, increasing inequalities.

COVID-19 is a “global wake-up call” Serbia’s delegate said, while others cited multiple challenges posed by economic instability, growing social inequality and climate change, with some outlining ambitious and sustainable recovery plans in their countries.  They noted that some States are uniquely vulnerable to climate change and other hazards, emphasizing that years of hard-earned economic growth and social progress can be undermined by a single natural hazard like COVID-19.

The Committee also orally approved a draft decision deciding that statements delivered during the general debate will be reflected in the its summary records, with an annotated footnote for statements made through pre-recorded videos.  The Russian Federation’s delegate reaffirmed his position that video statements are not alternatives to statements made in the meeting room.

Also speaking were the representatives of Nicaragua, Switzerland, Afghanistan, Argentina, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Ecuador, Myanmar, El Salvador, United States, Iran, Guatemala, Maldives, Montenegro, Malaysia, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Tunisia, Bahrain and Zimbabwe.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 October, to take up Sustainable Development in a virtual informal meeting.

Opening Remarks

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said that the work of the Second Committee is extremely appropriate, with 100 million people around the world on the verge of extreme poverty.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change, among others, provide a great framework for sustainable recovery from the pandemic, he said.  The post-COVID world requires a United Nations, he stressed, highlighting the importance of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  It should propel the international community to intensify efforts towards sustainable development, he said, also calling on the Committee to signal the need for inclusivity.  Leaving no one behind is the right thing to do not only as a moral imperative but one with social and economic benefits.  The norms and mandates the Second Committee develop has the potential to improve the lives of people around the world, while strengthening the community of nations.

The Committee then orally approved a draft decision, deciding that all statements delivered during the general debate shall be reflected in the its summary records, with an annotated footnote in the case of statements made through pre-recorded videos.  The Russian Federation’s delegate reaffirmed his position that the inclusion of oral statements cannot be considered an alternative to statements made in the room and should not establish a precedent for the future.

General Debate

The representative of Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, drew attention to the organization’s recent declaration, which complements national efforts to control the pandemic with a regional plan.  Stressing the importance of exploring new actions to ensure that food production systems are capable of dealing with hunger and malnutrition, he said the System is committed to achieve sustainable development in all its dimensions.  Also voicing support for initiatives to promote South-South cooperation at the regional level as well as triangular cooperation, he stressed the need for a fair system of trade, based on non-discriminatory rules.  Promoting public-private partnerships and the development of a mechanism that increases interregional trade are other strategies that will enable development.  Noting that Central America is extremely vulnerable to the adverse consequences of climate change, he called on developed countries to shoulder their responsibility in mitigation efforts.

The representative of Ghana, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, noted that COVID-19 has had multidimensional effects around the world.  According to World Bank statistics, some 46 to 56 million children could fall into extreme poverty due to the pandemic, which will lead to a rise in global inequality and its resultant challenges.  Stressing that collective as well as national Government efforts are needed to combat such inequality, she said restructuring the global financial framework is more important than ever, as is halting illicit financial flows from developing countries.  Adding that the importance of tackling climate change, preserving biodiversity and improving health cannot be overestimated, as demonstrated by the current pandemic, she emphasized that strengthening collective action is the only way forward.

Jamaica’s representative said COVID-19 has shown how painstakingly quickly economic gains can be upended, especially in the tourism sector, which it largely depends on.  In response to the pandemic, his country has launched a programme called CARE to cushion COVID-19’s economic impact on individuals and businesses.  He also noted that some countries are receiving digital dividends, while others are suffering due to the growing divide, which has led to unequal developmental outcomes.  There is also an urgent need for increased access to low-cost concessional financing to soften the blow of reduced development due to COVID-19.  He called for increased access to development finance and special funds that would add to pandemic response efforts.

The representative of North Macedonia noted that the devastating impacts of COVID-19 have led to unprecedented consequences to health and economies, disproportionately affecting women, girls and other vulnerable groups.  The international community must work towards financial reform as well as implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Recognizing that poverty cannot be eradicated with short-term assistance, he said this must be accompanied by long-term resiliency plans and programmes.  North Macedonia has become a champion of gender equality in the region, he said, while its Government also works to bolster education and labour relations and well as legislation aimed at combating discrimination and violence against women.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that amidst the growing tangles of trade and economic problems, volatile financial markets and sovereign debt, the international community must pay special attention to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  In August, his country established the first coronavirus vaccine, and is prepared for international cooperation to ensure global coordination efforts.  Green recovery and climate protectionism should not take pandemic recovery hostage, he said, adding that sustainability, which has social, economic as well as environmental dimensions, is a better framework for post-COVID recovery.  Natural gas and atomic energy are among the cleanest sources of energy, he said, and will be able to meet the growing needs of the world in post-recovery.  Voicing concern about unilateral sanctions regimes, and their effect on countries that are unable to import food and medicines, he highlighted his Government’s creation of green corridors that are free of trade wars and sanctions.

The delegate of the United Arab Emirates called for digital cooperation in the international sphere, adding that her nation is one of the leading countries in providing medical aid around the world in the wake of the pandemic.  Also noting that of the total aid provided by the United Arab Emirates, 91 per cent was directed to development, she pointed to various strategies undertaken to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.  Voicing commitment to energy security in small island developing States, she highlighted the United Arab Emirates–Caribbean renewable energy partnership.  The country is also taking measures to ensure the sustainability of wildlife and increase public awareness of biodiversity issues.  Further, it has launched a national food security strategy aimed at implementing flexible agricultural practices that increase productivity while preserving ecosystems.

Lesotho’s representative, noting that sustainable recovery and future resilience are inextricably linked, said that vulnerable countries such as his are at the greatest risk of being left behind.  Imploring development partners to take concrete steps to meet their official development assistance (ODA) targets, he said this will enable developing countries to invest in health, education and social safety nets.  International financial institution must prioritize the financing of resilient projects, he said, cautioning that the adverse impacts of COVID-19 may further jeopardize international trade.  The expected recovery in 2021 is also uncertain with the outcome depending largely on the duration of the health crisis, he pointed out, noting the consequences for least developed countries such as Lesotho which depend on trade as a driver of economic growth.  The international community, the United Nations system and international financial institutions must join hands in supporting vulnerable countries to build sustainable social and economic recovery plans.

The representative of Myanmar, aligning himself with the Group of 77, said 100 million people worldwide could be pushed into extreme poverty due to COVID-19 and its disastrous economic effects.  Stressing the need for a global response to combat the pandemic, he said it has disrupted key growth engines in Myanmar, which will lead to a lower growth rate for 2020.  Currently, his country is implementing a COVID-19 recovery plan aimed at several important economic and development sectors.  Adding that sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace and security, he said his country is suffering from internal and external conflicts, which are hampering its efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda.

The representative of the United States, praising the World Food Programme (WFP) for receiving a Nobel Prize, said her country was a stalwart supporter of the agency in its efforts to support populations in food crises.  She added that the United States is leading in the global response to COVID-19, noting that it has contributed over $20 billion to assist developing countries.  She stressed the need to work towards more inclusive societies, adding that a more resilient recovery from the pandemic would mean that women have the opportunity to fully contribute.  Her country is also working with others to ensure that United Nations infrastructure projects complied with legal and other norms, which will uphold the Organization´s integrity and prevent a strain on its limited resources, among other negative effects.

Iran’s delegate stressed that COVID-19 will not be defeated unless it is approached in the spirit of multilateralism and solidarity.  The pandemic has dealt a severe blow to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, exposing the fragilities and challenges many countries face.  Adding that the unilateral approach adopted by a few nations are undermining the efforts of others, he said that financing for development is now more than ever faced with challenges.  He added that the international community should assist vulnerable countries suffering from natural hazards, stating that the biggest challenge for his and other countries of the region is arid land for a large portion of the dry season.

The delegate of the Maldives, associating herself with the Alliance of Small Island States and the Group of 77, said that her Government took numerous steps to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic and the closure of the tourism industry in her country.  These included stimulus packages for businesses, subsidies on utility bills and controlling the prices of essential products.  Maldives has also embarked on an ambitious recovery plan that aims to build a more resilient country, she said, welcoming recent discussions on financing the 2030 Agenda.  Calling for simplified financing options, mechanisms for credit guarantees and schemes that reduce the cost of borrowing, she said the United Nations is a critical platform to build a better world.  Small island developing States such as hers are uniquely vulnerable to climate change and other hazards, she stressed, noting that years of hard-earned economic growth and social progress can be undermined by a single natural disaster as proved by COVID-19.

The representative of Montenegro, associating herself with the European Union, said a more inclusive and sustainable model of economy is the only way to reverse the negative trends of climate change, poverty and inequality.  The Second Committee is an important platform for support to Member States in accelerating actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic is undermining her country’s steady progress.  Acknowledging the significant economic and social potential of digitalization to enhance work on sustainable development priorities, she highlighted the importance of ensuring gender equality in all policies.  Another important aspect for building back better is focusing on youth policies and education, she said, highlighting her Government’s youth strategy, which focuses on improved access to labour markets and employment as well access to quality education

Serbia’s delegate, aligning herself with the European Union, said the COVID-19 pandemic is a global wake-up call.  Noting the multiple challenges posed by economic instability, growing social inequality and climate change, she reaffirmed Belgrade’s commitment to the implementation of various international agreements, including the 2030 Agenda.  Among the measures it is undertaking to achieve the Agenda, she outlined measures to enable decent work, economic growth, greater inclusivity, better education and health protection as well as full gender equality.  Though the country was hit hard by the pandemic, it is launching economic measures to enable short-term economic resilience and is prioritizing efficient allocation of resources.  Turning to climate change, she called on the international community to seize the opportunity to move towards green resilient recovery and highlighted Serbia’s national low carbon development strategy.

The representative of Togo, noting that the pandemic has caused the most far‑reaching health crisis in modern times, highlighted the high death toll which continues to go up even as the world economy is plunging into a recession.  Drawing attention to the report of the Secretary-General, he said that 100 million people are at risk of falling back into extreme poverty between now and the end of 2020.  Developing countries, which already must deal with multiple challenges, are facing the full brunt of the pandemic, he said, calling on the international community to work together.  While the current pandemic is a tragedy, he said, the world must translate it into a catalyst to further foster social development.  “We have the necessary tools,” he stressed, adding that the 2030 Agenda should not remain wishful thinking.

For information media. Not an official record.