High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development - 8th Meeting

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13-Jul-2017 02:55:11
Mankind must turn tide on relationship with world’s oceans as well-being of both were at risk, speakers warn High-Level Political Forum.

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Building on the momentum of the recent United Nations Ocean Conference, speakers today warned that, with the well-being of the world’s oceans and by extension, humanity, at risk, mankind must turn the tide on its relationship with water bodies across the planet, as the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development continued.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s inclusion of an oceans Goal was indicative of the reality that their health was in jeopardy, said Peter Thomson (Fiji), President, United Nations General Assembly. Recalling that the General Assembly had mandated the conference to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans, he said the summit — held in June — had proved to be a major success. “Above all, the conference showed that we are all in this together,” he stressed, expressing hope that it would prove to be an event that enhanced humanity’s relationship with the ocean.

Describing the Ocean Conference as a “historic” event drawing together a wide range of stakeholders, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Conference, said its “Call for Action” outcome document was rooted in 22 forward-looking actions. Pointing out that the meeting had raised global consciousness of the importance of the oceans and the challenges facing them — including plastic and other pollution, overfishing, ocean acidification and others — he added: “It should be seen as the start of our mission to save the ocean.”

For small island developing States such as his and across the Pacific, the conference had come at a critical time as the world’s oceans were deteriorating at an alarming rate, said Luke Daunivalu of Fiji and Co-President of the Conference. That challenge was compounded by the effects of climate change, leading to sea‑level rise, increases in ocean acidity and warmer waters affecting reefs, marine ecosystems and fish stocks. Noting that small island developing States and least developed countries were some of the most vulnerable nations, he said the conference had helped show the world that their very survival was linked to the health of the oceans.

The rate of ocean acidification was faster than at any time since the last ice age, having increased by about 26 per cent since the start of the industrial revolution, Yongi Min of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistical Division, told the Forum. Of 63 large marine ecosystems studied, 16 per cent were at high risk of coastal eutrophication, she said, adding that all those figures pointed to a need for accelerated action to address the challenges facing the oceans.

Recalling that the oceans had historically been seen by many as an unlimited source of raw materials, as well as a place to deposit waste with no repercussions, the representative of Italy emphasized. “We could not have been more wrong.” As the majority of marine litter in the Mediterranean was composed of plastic, the region’s countries were seriously committed to a ban on plastic bags, with Italy leading the way in that regard.

“We will succeed or fail together when it comes to meeting the [Sustainable Development Goals],” declared John Danilovich, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce, during the Forum’s second panel discussion on the implementation of Goal 9 on infrastructure, industrialization and innovation. In that context, he told participants he had consistently advocated for the Sustainable Development Goals to be regarded as the “business development goals”, as they contained a clear economic imperative that could increase productivity and employment and lead to stronger economic growth which could pull the global economy out of its current malaise and stagnation, he emphasized. He went on to cite three key priorities going forward: trade facilitation reforms to ensure that businesses of all sizes could reach global markets; the promotion of trade policies that harnessed the potential of the Internet to unleash a new area of trade; and concerted efforts to ensure that small businesses could access the finance they needed to grow internationally.

Getting enough food for the increasing population would be a huge challenge as the world reached the outer limits of productivity through processes, such as gene manipulation, and as fertile, arable land became increasingly scarce, stressed Magnus Arildsson, Head of the Internet of Things Product Management at Ericsson in Sweden. Noting that communications technologies could help train farmers in agronomic practices, he pointed to the implantation of wireless devices in cows to detect changes in their health in a more scientific manner, which had helped prevent the overuse of hormones and antibiotics. Technology was ready for a major rollout in support of agriculture; it was simply a matter of moving forward in an inclusive way, he said, noting that many devices that could be used were very small, relatively inexpensive and become cheaper over time.

The Forum also held panels focused on investing in and financing for the Sustainable Development Goals and advancing science, technology and innovation for the Goals.

The High-Level Political Forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday, 14 June, to continue its work.

Panel III

This afternoon, the Forum held two panel discussions on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 17 on partnerships. The first, on the specific theme, “investing in and financing for the Sustainable Development Goals”, was moderated by Manuel F. Montes, Senior Adviser on Finance and Development, South Centre, and featured two keynote speakers: Jerry Matthews Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations; and Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations. It also featured three panellists: Gebeyehu Ganga, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations; Peter Adriaens, CEO, Equarius Risk Analytics, LLC, co-founder and CEO, KeyStone Compact Group Ltd., Director and Head Judge, Global CleanTech Cluster Association, USA; and Kajsa Olofsgård, Ambassador for the Post‑2015 Development Agenda, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden. Chee Yoke Ling, Director of Programmes, Third World Network, Malaysia, served as the lead discussant. Stefan Schweinfest, Director of Statistics, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, also delivered a statement.

Also speaking were the representatives of Denmark, Algeria, Argentina and the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as the European Union.

Representatives of the children and youth major group, the non-governmental organization major group and the women’s major group also participated.

Panel IV

Moderated by Susil Premajayantha, Minister for Science, Technology and Research, Sri Lanka, the final panel of the day was titled “advancing science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals”. It featured Macharia Kamau (Kenya), Co-Chair, Multistakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals; Vaughn Turekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, United States and Co-Chair of the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals; and Heide Hackmann, Executive Director, International Council for Science and Co-Chair, 10-Member Group of high-level representatives in support of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism. Lead discussants were Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director-General, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and Donovan Guttieres, focal point for the Science-Policy Interface Platform of the major group for children and youth.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates said advancing science and technology had a key role in helping States to bridge the development gap and achieve the Goals. The representative of Viet Nam said many Goals and targets had recognized that, but the current digital divide was wide. To help build bridge that divide, Viet Nam and several other States were hosting on 17 July at United Nations Headquarters a meeting to share experiences and best practices.

Several participants, including the representative of China, described recent approaches to sharing best practices with developing countries. The representative of Armenia said that among his country’s efforts was the launch of an innovation lab on 14 July that would focus on using technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Many speakers agreed on benefits of harnessing innovative solutions, with the representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) saying technology was indeed a significant development driver. Japan’s delegate said innovation could help solve development challenges, including in the field of data‑collection.

However, some participants cautioned about the downside of some technological developments. The representative of Mexico said science and technology advances could upset labour markets. Raising another issue, the representative of the United Nations Environment Programme said climate change challenges were largely the result of technological advances and future gains must reinforce the principles behind the Sustainable Development Goals.

Participants highlighted other concerns, with the speaker from the workers and trade unions major group saying that to be a truly effective development tool, technology must be placed in the hands of workers and communities and not kept only for the monetary benefit of corporations. The speaker from the indigenous peoples major group stressed that traditional knowledge must be acknowledged.

Young delegates shared their perspectives, with the speaker from the children and youth major group underlining the importance of digital literacy and ensuring open access to knowledge and technology. In that vein, a youth delegate from Finland said technology education funding was crucial in order to realize of young people’s rights worldwide. Targeted programmes for girls were also critical, she said, highlighting Finland’s introduction of technology courses for all students.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of the Netherlands, South Africa and Iran, as well as the European Union. Speakers from the persons with disabilities major group and the women’s major group also spoke.
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