Economic and Social Council: 2017 Integration Segment, 28th Meeting

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SIX OFFICIAL 10-May-2017 02:20:25
Speakers stress need to address exploitation of Africa’s resources, urging paradigm shift, as Economic and Social Council concludes segment at 28th meeting.
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Continent Bleeding, Nigeria Warns, Citing System Rigged by Multinationals...

Speakers from myriad sectors in Africa shared perspectives on why the continent, despite being resource rich, remained home to the planet’s poorest people, as the Economic and Social Council concluded its integration segment today.

In its third and final day of discussions on the theme “making eradication of poverty an integral objective of all policies: what will it take?”, the Council held a panel this morning on “eradicating poverty in Africa”, during which speakers urged the need for a radical paradigm shift, some emphasizing that the system had been designed to keep the continent in a state of poverty.

Irene Ovonji-Odida, Chairperson of the International Board of ActionAid International, said many of the continent’s citizens believed that the system was not broken, but rather built that way. With an abundance of minerals, natural resources, land and water, she questioned as to why Africa remained at the bottom of the economic heap. Urging a conversation on exploitation and exploitative relations, she noted the actions of multinational companies who she said armed warlords to gain control over resources.

Emphasizing the role of data in development, South Africa Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said that, while the number of people living in poverty had reduced, the intensity of poverty had remained steady. He urged the need to address unemployment, education gaps and stimulate trade. Welcoming his country’s greater weight on the role of statisticians in shaping policy, he said development policy “could only be successful if we have credible and accurate data”.

Calling for a more even distribution of development, Zeinab Bashir el Bakri, Member of the High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows and Member of the Inspection Panel of the World Bank, expressed concern that several African countries were driving the continent’s growth. That meant that conflict, drought and famine threatened gains on a mass scale. She urged enacting policy that protected the poor from falling back into poverty. That would include improving efficiency in public spending, following policies that favoured inclusive growth, and paying special attention to conflict prevention.

Donald Mmari, Member of Southern Voice, said changing demographics including a “youth bulge” had presented a host of new challenges for Africa. Expressing concern for low investments in skill development, he warned that if the trend persisted, the next generation would be less educated and lacking in skills. To address growth in rural areas, it was important to improve farm productivity by investing in the agriculture industry and also encourage rural workers to move into non-farmer sectors.

In the discussion that followed, Cameroon’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasized that eliminating poverty on the continent was becoming more challenging with increasing economic inequality, climate change and illicit financial flows. Africa poised to have the planet’s largest and most youthful workforce by 2050 and that required investments in education.

Several speakers called for a shift in narrative with Liberia’s representative urging the need to ask why Africa’s growth had not translated to reducing poverty. “We have to be fair to ourselves and intelligent enough to follow and adapt to international developments and trends,” he said.

“Africa is bleeding,” warned Nigeria’s delegate, stating his continent’s system had been rigged against Africans and exploited by multinationals.

In the afternoon, the Council held panel discussions on “bringing the Economic and Social Council system together” and “a multistakeholder approach: roles, responsibilities and results”, both of which were followed by interactive discussions.

In closing remarks, Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, stressed the importance of maintaining a universal dialogue. Integrated approaches offered the opportunity to maximize synergies between economic, social and environmental dimensions. Social policies alone could not bring forth solutions, he added, calling for a mix of well-integrated policies to fully address poverty. Fiscal, monetary, financial, trade, industrial and labour policies all had an impact on poverty and inequality. Noting that the United Nations was in a unique position to strengthen all mechanisms for inter-agency collaboration, he underscored the need to enhance governance and streamline the fight against poverty by aligning practices globally and nationally.

Nabeel Munir (Pakistan), Vice-President, Economic and Social Council, said the 2017 integration segment reinforced the need to empower women, educate youth and protect smallholder farmers. He called on the United Nations to intensify efforts to promote multilateralism, underscoring the role of Regional Commissions in supporting policy integration. He touched on highlights from various discussions from yesterday’s deliberations on national experiences to today’s panel on poverty and development in Africa. A paradigm shift was indeed needed to mobilize resources for African development, he added.

Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa, Norway, Ireland, Algeria and Switzerland.

Panel Discussion II

This afternoon, the Council held a panel discussion on “bringing the Economic and Social Council system together”. Moderated by Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of Office in New York, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it featured the following panellists: David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations and Chair, sixty-second session, Commission on the Status of Women; Philipp Charwath, Deputy Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations, and Chair, fifty-fifth session, Commission on Social Development; Cristina Popescu, Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations, and Vice-Chair, fiftieth session, Commission on Population and Development; and José Antonio Ocampo, Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs, Director, Economic and Political Development Concentration, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University (United States), and Chair, Committee for Development Policy.

Panel Discussion III

The afternoon’s second panel on “a multistakeholder approach: roles, responsibilities and results”, was moderated by Andrea Ordóñez, Research and Partnership Coordinator, Southern Voice. It featured presentations by Huguette Labelle, Chair, Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, former Secretary of State, Canada and former President, Canadian International Development Agency; Shira Kilcoyne, Director, Government Affairs International, GlaxoSmithKline; and Manuel F. Montes, Senior Advisor, South Centre.
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