New York

25 May 2021

Deputy Secretary-General's closing remarks at Global Roundtable on Transforming Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development [as delivered]

Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, Distinguished Experts, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My thanks to all of you for joining us today, and to the Regional Economic Commissions for hosting the preceding roundtables on Extractives and for their invaluable support throughout this process.

Our global economy has reached a critical juncture. Decisions and investments taken today, including in the extractives sector, will shape the world’s ability to recover from the pandemic, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, implement the Paris Agreement and avert climate disaster.

Over the course of today’s discussions, we acknowledged that, at their best, extractive industries have fueled progress and enabled societies to build dynamic economies.  But we also recognized that at their worst, they have caused great harm to local communities, cultures and ecosystems. Our challenge is to eliminate and prevent the damage while seizing the benefits, bearing in mind that climate action requires a major change in traditional cost-benefit modes of thinking.

The major challenges highlighted today include the management of natural resources, governance, accountability and transparency, all of which have consistently undermined the ability of extractives to contribute to sustainable development outcomes.

Moreover, women, indigenous communities, and vulnerable groups have traditionally been excluded from both the design and the benefits of extractives operations—despite being disproportionately impacted by them.

Yet, there are also concrete solutions that stakeholders can take to address these challenges.

To begin with, this must include ensuring that all countries have an equal chance of benefitting from their natural wealth, in a way that both supports and profits from the green transition. We must overcome the resource curse if we are to have any chance of supporting sustainable, equitable and inclusive growth.

 As we look ahead to a post-COVID-19 world with the Sustainable Development Goals as our blueprint, extractive industries can be an essential part of the solution.

But a transformation of the sector will require coordinated efforts across all regions, and a shift in mindset -- away from short-term economic gains and towards long-term profits, and a focus on a just transition as central to our efforts, in recognition of the intrinsic value of healthy societies and a healthy planet.

In the short-term, COVID-19 stimulus packages and multilateral finance should be used to accelerate the transformation of the sector, including by investing directly in sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy.

As reiterated by several participants, including His Excellency James Marape, Prime Minister of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, developing countries dependent on extractive industries, including small island developing states, will need significant support to ensure they can afford to protect their natural ecosystems and undergo this important process of transformation.

Financial institutions and developed countries should provide debt relief and restructuring, facilitate debt swaps, de-risk investments, and increase concessional finance to expand the fiscal space for investments in green initiatives.

In the long-term, Governments and companies, including private mining companies and multinational enterprises, also need to create aligned national plans to achieve a net-zero economy and to commit to a global framework for extractive industries that aligns investments and operations with the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement.

In this regard, today we heard recommendations for financing strategies for a just transition, integrating just transition criteria into ESG assessments, reforming tax sectors, diversifying economies, and shifting tax subsidies away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, technology and innovation, and investments in local communities and vulnerable groups. 

Circular economy principles must be integrated throughout the sector, including by lowering trade barriers and removing protectionist policies to facilitate the transfer of clean and renewable technologies.

Importantly, different policies and levels of support will be needed on a case-by-case basis, including for those who are poised to benefit from the green transition, and those who are more reliant on fossil fuels.

Social inclusion and dialogue will be critical, especially with civil society and vulnerable communities, including women, indigenous groups, and youth, in the design, monitoring and evaluation of extractives programmes. 

The Secretary General’s policy brief on extractives, and the recommendations heard today, provide a road map to begin to transform the extractive sector into an enabler for a just transition.

Now, we must work collectively to turn rhetoric into action, including by scaling up local, regional, and global collaboration and coordination on a scale not seen before, as suggested by Ms. Mitrova and other speakers. Innovative ideas heard today in this regard—including the creation of a global training program for local governors to support just transition programs—are critical.

I urge developed countries to consider how they can support developing and emerging economies, including by increasing financial support for green programs, eliminating tax havens and bolstering governance and transparency across the entire value chain.

Efforts are also needed to bolster transparency and good governance measures, including by enhancing the coordination and exchange of information with the collaborative support of initiatives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). 

Global, harmonized norms and standards, and thorough methods of reporting on adherence to them, are critical to ensure that the transition to sustainable development in the sector is a success.

In this regard, I invite all stakeholders to remain engaged and welcome initiatives to carry this work forward, including the upcoming forum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on developing a regional value chain around battery production and the World Circular Economy Forum to be held in Canada.

I also invite all stakeholders and to join us in creating a Working Group on Extractives hosted by the United Nations to help transform the sector and chart pathways to a just transition.

The United Nations will continue to work closely with the Regional Coordinators, Regional Economic Commissions, and UN entities to streamline these efforts and produce tangible outcomes.  

Achieving a just transition, and reconciling our goal of ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all with our responsibility to protect our planet, may well be the biggest challenge we will face in the coming decades.

The United Nations looks forward to working with all partners to meet this test and build lives of dignity and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.

Thank you.