2021 ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (2nd Meeting)

12-Apr-2021 02:30:25
Cooperation in tackling COVID-19 key to averting lengthy global recession, speakers say, as Economic and Social Council opens annual financing for Development Forum.

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Warning Pandemic Has Pushed 120 Million People Back into Extreme Poverty, Secretary-General Says Solidarity Will Save Lives, Prevent Catastrophic Debt

The Economic and Social Council opened its annual financing for development forum today amid warnings that, with more than 3 million lives lost to COVID-19 and infections still on the rise, Governments must urgently heed the lessons learned thus far if they are to avoid a lengthy global recession.

“Solidarity will save lives and prevent communities and economies from falling into catastrophic debt and dysfunction,” Secretary-General António Guterres said as he opened the four-day forum in the General Assembly Hall and made the case for choosing an equitable path towards recovery.

Stressing that no element of the multilateral response has gone as it should, he said some 120 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty and the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs have been lost. Just 10 countries account for 75 per cent of global vaccinations, while many others have yet to inoculate their health‑care workers and most vulnerable citizens. Many developing countries face insurmountable debt that will put the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach. Some estimates place the global cost of unequal access and vaccine hoarding at more than $9 trillion.

He called for urgent action — first and foremost to make vaccines available to all countries. It is also important to reverse the fall in concessional financing, including in middle-income countries, and he urged Governments to consider a “solidarity or wealth tax” on those who have profited during the pandemic. More broadly, he called for debt suspension, relief and liquidity for countries that need it, as well as extension of the Group of 20 (G20) Debt Service Suspension Initiative until 2022, and expansion of both that programme and the bloc’s Common Framework to include all countries in need.

Beyond debt relief, he recommended bolstering the international debt architecture, starting with a time-bound, open dialogue among all stakeholders to build trust. Finally, a new social contract based on investments in education, decent and green jobs, social protection and health systems is needed. With just 2.5 per cent of recovery spending having green characteristics, he said the world is missing a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for bold, creative solutions.

“We need an enormous push at the highest political level,” he said, urging the Forum to provide ambition and momentum for financing an inclusive and equitable future for all.

Along similar lines, Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, acknowledged that the pandemic has precipitated the single largest economic contraction in 90 years. The international community must seize the opportunity to mobilize resources in a way that promotes equitable and sustainable recovery.

“We must move beyond rhetoric and mobilize financing for development,” he said, urging all Member States to recommit themselves to leaving no one behind. Noting that the most vulnerable countries have received woefully inadequate resources to promote their recovery, he said “it will take at least five years for least developed countries to reach their pre-pandemic development levels.” He called for a shift towards debt forgiveness and cancellation, and a push for donor countries to fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments.

The meeting — chaired by Munir Akram (Pakistan) — also featured a video message by Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, who called on the international community to ensure that vaccines are available to everyone, everywhere, as soon as possible. To this end, patent and technology-transfer restrictions should be waived and production ramped up. He condemned vaccine nationalism and any use of the vaccine to advance national foreign policy objectives.

More broadly, he welcomed the G20’s extension of debt suspension, but stressed that its scope should be enlarged to encompass all vulnerable countries, especially small island developing States. Further, the forthcoming International Development Association replenishment should be enlarged to $60 billion, he said, and developing countries should be able to borrow from the markets at the prevailing low interest rates available to developed countries.

He concluded by endorsing the United States’ recent proposal for a global minimum corporate tax, expressing support for the declaration of a moratorium on exorbitant claims adjudicated against developing countries in investment disputes, and emphasizing that unequal, exploitative investment agreements should be cancelled and revised.

In the ensuing general debate on financing the recovery from COVID-19, Heads of State and Government from across the globe addressed the Forum in person — and through pre‑recorded video statements — reaffirming their commitment to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted at the third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015. Almost all of them called for greater partnership to counteract the deleterious and expanding impact of the pandemic, with many specifying the need for debt suspension and a more precise economic vulnerability index to capture the needs of middle-income nations.

The forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 April, to continue its work.

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