ECOSOC Session 2019 Financing for Development Forum

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15-Apr-2019 03:00:32
World ‘Not Keeping Pace’ in implementing Sustainable Development Goals, Secretary-General stresses, as development financing forum begins at 1st and 2nd meetings.

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Citing a fragile world economy and unravelling multilateral alignments, delegates at the Economic and Social Council’s 2019 forum on financing for development follow-up today also spotlighted a crucial window of opportunity to render the global financial system fairer and more fit for purpose.

Officials from Governments around the world joined academic experts and private sector leaders on the annual forum’s opening day. Many called for an overhaul of the planet’s trading system, energy pricing schemes, debt structures and fiscal policies. Meanwhile, speakers deliberated ways to turn emerging challenges — from dwindling trust in institutions to rising sea levels — into reforms that will help countries around the globe achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Simply put, we need more money to implement the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in opening remarks. Noting that 2019 is a defining year, he emphasized that “so far, we are not keeping pace”. Spotlighting the threats posed by heightened global trade tensions, possible economic challenges and rising greenhouse‑gas emissions, he added that many people live in countries where inequalities and gender gaps are still widening. International assistance, domestic tax revenue and efforts to combat illicit financial flows should all be increased, he said.

Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Economic and Social Council, agreed that the world has not yet seen the broad transformation needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by their 2030 deadline. Warning that global risks are increasingly threatening common aspirations, she said climate change — from the Caribbean to the Sahel — has reversed development gains, while trade tensions are dampening growth and rising debt levels and vulnerability are stifling investment in developing countries.

Echoing such concerns, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said there is still time to close finance gaps. Pressing countries that have made official development assistance (ODA) commitments to keep them, she called for stronger political will, renewed efforts to create 600 million new decent jobs by 2030 and reforms of the world’s normative financial frameworks. Meanwhile, she said, fiscal policies must be redistributive, allowing Governments to address tax evasion and avoidance and contributing to a fairer economic order.

Tim Yeend, Chef de Cabinet and Principal Adviser to the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), cited evidence of the importance of trade in helping countries harness growth for development. The integration of developing countries into the multilateral trade system, by providing access to new technologies and investments, has catalysed a “take-off”, he stressed, noting the importance of ensuring that such gains are not undone by today’s challenges. Economic uncertainty will likely persist until tensions among the largest countries are resolved, he said.

Keynote speaker Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore and Chair of the Group of 20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, declared: “There is a very real risk that we are drifting into a more fragmented world.” Long‑standing alignments are unravelling, he said, warning that less multilateralism will result in less capacity to deal with increasingly complex global challenges. Describing a combustible mix of unemployment, climate change and biodiversity loss, he called for a new, international cooperative order to address such looming threats.

Raghuram G. Rajan, Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, also delivered a keynote address. He said the open, liberal democratic market system that brought about enormous prosperity following the Second World War is now under attack — including from the prosperous nations that benefitted most. It is now up to emerging and developing countries to take on more responsibility in keeping the world open, he stressed.

Other speakers during the morning session included Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who stressed that “the world economy is at a delicate moment” with the global expansion seen in recent years continuing at a slower pace than previously expected. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice-President of the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships of the World Bank Group, agreed that growth has lost momentum, dropping from 3.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 to below 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter. The effects of the stimulus measures adopted in some economies have waned, elevating policy uncertainty and jeopardizing efforts to leave no one behind, he said.

Participants also held four interactive panel discussions, two of which were attended at the ministerial level. They focused on themes ranging from economic headwinds and tailwinds, to non-economic trends, to reducing inequalities and mobilizing finance for climate action. In addition, the forum began its general debate.

The forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 April, to continue its work.

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