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ECOSOC/7054
7 July 2021
High-Level Political Forum

Replacing Temporary COVID-19 Pandemic Responses with Lasting Social Protection Measures Key for Realizing Sustainable Development, Speakers Tell High-Level Political Forum

Long-term social protection measures must replace temporary COVID-19 pandemic responses to help countries regain traction towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, delegates and panel experts said today, as the high-level political forum moved into the second day of its two-week session.

The forum is the United Nations central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015.  Providing for the full and effective participation of all Member States of the United Nations and of specialized agencies, the 2021 forum — under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council — will review, from 6 to 15 July, progress in implementation.

The forum held three panels today, focusing on issues under the 2021 theme:  “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”.

The morning panel discussion centred on Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 8 and 17, considering the interlinkages among them and the other 13 objectives set out in the 2030 Agenda.  During the dialogue, representatives shared progress reports on their own efforts and challenges in realizing Goal 1 on no poverty; Goal 2 on zero hunger; Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth; and Goal 17 on partnerships.

Permanent social protection measures, targeted help for farmers and proposals for new models to shape inclusive, responsive and green growth and planet-friendly food systems were among the issues discussed.  Panellists and representatives alike pointed to their own pandemic-triggered temporary cash‑transfer systems, with many showcasing how this currency infusion has buoyed economies and helped citizens avert poverty.

In a keynote address, Sania Nishtar, Federal Minister and Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, shared several pandemic response efforts, describing how the Government implemented a cash‑transfer programme that now reaches 100 million people.  While each country has its own way to address welfare and social protection, there are opportunities within reach for all.  In fact, COVID-19 has unearthed the opportunity to recast the notion of a “welfare State”, she said, adding that investing in social protection is a critical tool and a solid evidence-based policy choice that has improved lives, especially during the pandemic.  New data technologies and leveraging partnerships can further advance such efforts, with a view to making a better world for all.

The panellists shared their own experiences and offered suggestions.  Meryame Kitir, Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium, said that all countries have adopted temporary measures during the pandemic, but more than half of the global population does not benefit from any form of social protection.  While many nations do not have the resources to set up social protection systems, she said the idea is not for other countries to endlessly provide these resources.  Instead, it is to craft sustainable systems with domestic resource mobilization that stand on their own in the end.

Some speakers said these transfer programmes and related efforts must reach deep into rural areas, especially towards farmers and marginalized groups.  From a business perspective, the systems hit hardest during the pandemic were in those countries without social protection measures, said lead discussant Ruramiso Mashumba, Director and Founder of Mnandi Africa, in Zimbabwe, adding that Governments must ensure farmers are not left behind.  Noting that female farmers like herself lost work during the pandemic, she said discussions must now become action-based solutions because hunger continues to increase.  She suggested a multi‑stakeholder approach to support farmers and businesses, as everyone in the value chain can play an effective role.

Panellists shared their own expertise, with Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), saying that creating sustainable, productive, resilient and inclusive food systems to better tackle poverty requires targeted investments and policies, prioritizing vulnerable groups and ensuring gender equality.

In a similar vein, Katherine Richardson, Professor at the Biological Oceanography Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen, said that, unless efforts aim at reducing the global food system’s environmental impact, it will be impossible to provide nutritious food for all by mid-century and achieve the 2030 Agenda’s climate and biodiversity goals.  Outlining requirements for such a transformation, she said efforts must focus on empowering small-scale farmers in developing countries and providing them with safety nets, as they increasingly face climate‑change-related crop losses and failures.  “We know what needs to be done and we have the technology to do it,” she declared.

Maximo Torero, Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), serving as a lead discussant, said $50 billion annually would ensure that Goal 2 on ending hunger, is met.  A total of 80 per cent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, which must be the focus of growth, investment and financing, he said, suggesting the creation of public, private, bilateral and multilateral funding initiatives and innovative models.

Highlighting some transformational changes already under way, the representative of the European Union said a $700 billion project is supporting a green transition in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  The European Fund for Sustainable Development is also helping the private sector step in to help developing countries.

Similarly, Sweden’s delegate said her delegation recognizes the potential to create jobs in a green economy at a time when unsustainable practices among companies must end.  Encouraging dialogue on ways to do so, she said companies and countries must also increase ambitions on gender equality, ending corruption and fostering sustainable practices.

Some speakers outlined road maps towards transformational changes required to advance progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.  Employment levels, wages and social protection coverage are key to fighting poverty and hunger, said lead discussant Eric Manzi, Deputy General Secretary of the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation.  Calling for a decent work-driven recovery, he said concrete action on the ground would mean investments in climate-friendly jobs and scaling up social safety nets, among other things.  Meanwhile, a new model of global governance is needed.  Right now, the moral imperative of global governance is to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, he said, calling on Member States to lead the way in making the new social contract a reality.

Many agreed that paper promises must undergo their own transformation into concrete results.  A representative of the indigenous peoples major group for sustainable development said that, to get on track to end poverty and hunger, efforts must urgently transform the current unsustainable global economy controlled by corporations and a few elites.  In its place, people-centred and care-oriented economies would respect planetary boundaries, she said, adding that this approach requires the recognizing and protecting the indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, territories and resources.

Also delivering presentations during the morning panel were Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Yongyi Min, Chief of the Sustainable Development Goals Monitoring Section in the Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Guy Ryder, Director‑General of the International Labour Organization (ILO); and Aloysius Ordu, Head of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and former Vice-President of the African Development Bank.

In the afternoon, the forum held panel discussions on the themes “Looking at the 2020 targets: implementation and review”, and “Sustainable Development Goals in focus:  SDGs 12, 13, 17 and interlinkages among those goals and with other SDGs”.

The political forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 8 July, to continue its work.

Panel 4

The forum began its second day with a discussion on the theme “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in focus:  SDGs 1, 2, 8, 17 and interlinkages among those Goals and with other SDGs”.

Chaired by Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, the panel featured a keynote address by Sania Nishtar, Federal Minister and Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and presentations by Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Yongyi Min, Chief of the Sustainable Development Goals Monitoring Section in the Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Moderated by Gerda Verburg, Coordinator at Scaling-Up Nutrition Movement, the discussion featured the following panellists:  Guy Ryder, Director‑General of the International Labour Organization (ILO); Aloysius Ordu, Head of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and former Vice-President of the African Development Bank; Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and Katherine Richardson, Professor at the Biological Oceanography Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

Lead discussants were Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Ruramiso Mashumba, Director and Founder of Mnandi Africa, Zimbabwe (business and industry major group); Maximo Torero, Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and Eric Manzi, Deputy General Secretary of the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation-Africa, Rwanda (workers and trade union major group).

Serving as respondents were Meryame Kitir, Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium; Silvana Eugenia Vargas Winstanley, Minister for Development and Social Inclusion of Peru; Lassané Kabore, Minister for Economy, Finances and Development of Burkina Faso; and Thanawat Tiensin, Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security.

Mr. KELAPILE said poverty and hunger are on the rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a time when many people do not have social protection and inequalities continue to grow.  Introducing the panellists, he wished participants a fruitful dialogue on efforts and suggestions on how best to advance progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ms. NISHTAR, delivering the keynote address, said the pandemic-related impact has seen millions fall into poverty as inequities have broadened and jobs have been lost.  Countries like Pakistan adopted and fast-tracked social protection measures to respond, such as cash grants that have reached 100 million people.  The world’s third largest, the programme contains a range of measures to ensure inclusion and effectiveness.  Pakistan also scaled up efforts to protect human capital, food security and health services.  To address gender gaps and related needs, from health to education, girls are given a higher amount in the cash transfer system, she said.

While each country has its own way to address welfare and social protection, there are opportunities within reach for all, she said.  Indeed, the pandemic has unearthed the opportunity to recast the notion of a “welfare State”, as investing in social protection is a critical tool and a solid evidence-based policy choice that has improved people’s lives, especially during the pandemic.  Using new data technologies and leveraging partnerships can further advance such efforts, with a view to improving the world.

Ms. SPATOLISANO, providing highlights of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs report “Sustainable Development Goals Good Practices, Success Stories and Lessons Learned”, said that approximately 460 practices were identified as examples drawn from 740 submissions from all types of stakeholders and all regions.  All results are now available on the Department’s website at https://sdgs.un.org/partnerships/good-practices, she said, offering several examples.  In terms of tackling pandemic-related challenges, she said the Impact Investing project by Merck pharmaceutical company aims at bridging gaps in access to care for a sustainable and resilient global health ecosystem.  Already helping more than 9 million people worldwide annually, the project’s $40 million investment in organizations is bringing urgently needed health solutions across different underserved communities, including millions of doses of vaccines delivered with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Bridge Fund.

“As we advance in the Decade of Action on the Sustainable Development Goals, it is time to move from words to action and speed up our ambition if we are to avert the worst outcomes of the pandemic and ensure a fairer, more sustainable world for everyone,” she said, inviting everyone to share information about acceleration actions, such as Pakistan’s Ehsaas emergency cash programme, launched to mitigate pandemic-related economic hardship among vulnerable groups.

Ms. MIN, presenting a slideshow on the Secretary-General’s latest progress report on Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 8 and 17, said the Department of Economic and Social Affairs had collaborated with 50 international and regional organizations and gathered information based on data from national statistical systems to capture the current landscape.  Noting that COVID-19 is set to increase the number of extreme poor in 2020 by between 119 and 124 million, she said this caused the extreme poverty rate to rise for the first time in a generation, from 8.4 per cent in 2019 to 9.5 per cent a year later.  Based on current projections, the global poverty rate is expected to be 7 per cent in 2030, which represents approximately 600 million people.  The poverty eradication target will not be achieved unless immediate, substantial policy actions are taken.

Turning to social protection measures, she said they are fundamental to preventing and reducing poverty across the life cycle.  However, by 2020, only 47 per cent of the global population were covered by at least one social protection cash benefit, leaving as many as 4 billion people without a social safety net.  Highlighting that the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of social protection systems to guard people’s health, jobs and incomes, she said that between 1 February and 31 December 2020, Governments worldwide announced more than 1,600 new measures in response to the crisis, but almost all — some 95 per cent — were short-term.  Highlighting other elements of the report, she said that with the roll‑out of vaccines and continued fiscal and monetary support, a global economic recovery is under way, led by China and the United States.  Global gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is projected to increase by 4.3 per cent in 2021 and 3.1 per cent in 2022.  However, for many countries, economic growth is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022 or 2023.

Ms. VERBURG, opening the panel discussion, highlighted the importance of partnerships in realizing all the Sustainable Development Goals.  As this is the Decade of Action to deliver on the Goals, she said such approaches are key, as are concrete proposals and efforts on how to foster progress and growth.

Mr. RYDER said the International Labour Organization (ILO) World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021 projects global unemployment to stand at 205 million people in 2022, greatly surpassing the 2019 level of 187 million, with an unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent.  Excluding the COVID-19 crisis period, such a rate was last seen in 2013.  Highlighting the economic impact and labour market crisis triggered by the pandemic, he said collective efforts can indeed address these worrying analyses.  Unanimously adopting a Global Call to Action at the ILO International Labour Conference held in June, participants voiced support for measures to foster a human-centred inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery.

The Call to Action also encourages Governments and social partners to work towards a job-rich recovery that strengthens worker and social protection and supports sustainable enterprises, with specific attention focusing on inequalities, he continued.  As many countries will not be able to do this alone, the Call to Action demands urgent, coordinated efforts in such areas as international solidarity to ensure global and equal access to vaccines, treatments and preventive measures.

Mr. ORDU said that, amid current challenges of poverty, hunger and job loss, the world must work to overcome them together.  In Africa alone, 520 million people have fallen into poverty during the pandemic.  The global priority now is tackling COVID-19, with robust international cooperation.  This is no longer a time for words, but a time to act, he said, stressing that it is well known that 11 billion vaccines are needed to reach everyone.  Now, efforts must meet that need, he continued, emphasizing that effective initiatives must reach people in the South.  Noting that only 2 per cent of Africa’s population has been vaccinated, he said multilateralism must guide efforts to tackle grave problems, especially for those in developing States.

Lead discussants then presented experiences from their perspectives, from farmers in Africa to ministerial efforts in Europe.

Mr. DE SCHUTTER, outlining his work as Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, emphasized that social protection is an essential component of a new much-needed effective development model for growth.  Moving beyond narrowly targeted schemes, efforts must formalize all workers using a rights-based approach.  In addition, fiscal space must expand so Governments can work towards measures that aim at social protection.  A proposal for global social protection fund was considered at the Human Rights Council in June, he said, encouraging States to support this approach.

Ms. MASHUMBA said that from a business perspective, the systems hit hardest during the pandemic were in countries without social protection measures.  In this vein, she said farmers and businesses must be supported, and a multi-stakeholder approach is needed, as everyone in the value chain can play an effective role.  Governments must ensure farmers are not left behind.  Noting that female farmers like herself lost work during the pandemic, she emphasized that discussions must now result in action-based solutions because hunger continues to increase.

Ms. KITIR, highlighting a range of good practices, said social protection is necessary to provide safety nets for all and to bounce back faster economically.  While all countries have adopted some form of temporary measures during the pandemic, more than half of the global population does not benefit from any form of social protection, meaning that, if they lose their jobs, they have no income.  Asking participants to imagine what it feels like to be unable to feed one’s children or pay for their schooling, she said this is the moment when the cycle of poverty starts, once people lose the power to make their own choices.

Providing social protection is about empowering people, she said, adding that Belgium partners with such agencies as UNICEF and ILO to support a range of efforts, including creating decent work, strengthening labour laws, formalizing employment and establishing a system of child benefits.  But, all these efforts are not enough, and more cooperation is needed.  While many nations do not have the resources to set up social protection systems, she said the idea is not for other countries to endlessly provide these resources, but instead hinges on crafting sustainable systems with domestic resource mobilization that stand on their own in the end.

Ms. VARGAS WINSTANLEY, serving as a respondent, said poverty can only be reversed if investments are made in human development.  Outlining several initiatives under way in Peru, she said poverty reduction efforts were affected by the pandemic.  As a result, Peru is implementing new measures, including a $900 million initiative that, among other things, allocates cash transfers.  Poverty is multidimensional and must be tackled using a multipronged approach.  A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer applicable, she said, adding that the Government adopted social protection measures that, among other things, recognize the multidimensional elements of measuring poverty.

In the ensuing discussion, participants shared their experiences and offered ways to improve results.  Representatives of stakeholder groups voiced their concerns, with some drawing attention to the need to ensure vulnerable communities are not left behind in the race to realize the 2030 Agenda.

The representative of Indonesia, providing examples of national efforts, said strengthening food security has become a development priority.  Initiatives includes protecting farmers and land alongside cash assistance, training and tuition aid programmes to reach those who lost jobs during the pandemic.  In addition, job‑creation efforts are under way to reduce unemployment.

The representative of Thailand said national action includes poverty‑reduction efforts, as well as agricultural initiatives to increase land use for sustainable farming.  Thailand has also developed online services to reach vulnerable groups and is working to ensure that all policies are inclusive.

A representative of the major group for women said they were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, from employment losses to rising violence against them.  Such effects are the result of policy decisions, which now must address structural inequalities affecting women and girls, who continue to face barriers to justice and other services.  A holistic approach is needed, she said, calling on States to adopt comprehensive social protection systems and expand rights for workers.

The representative of the European Union, in his capacity as observer, said recovery plans must focus on social inclusion to leave no one behind.  Having just adopted such a policy to address related issues, from homelessness to poverty, the European Union has taken many actions, including adopting a $700 billion budget to support a green transition in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  Among other efforts, he said the European Fund for Sustainable Development is helping the private sector step in to help developing countries.

The representative of Sweden, speaking also as part of the private sector, said addressing pandemic-related increases in inequalities must recognize the potential for change in approaches to sustainable development.  Sweden recognizes the potential to create jobs in a green economy.  Unsustainable practices among companies must end, she said, encouraging dialogue on ways to do so.  Companies and countries must also be more ambitious about achieving gender equality, ending corruption and creating sustainable practices.

A second round of the discussion began with presentations by panellists.

Mr. HOUNGBO said IFAD focuses on addressing the needs of vulnerable groups in rural areas, as many small-scale producers suffer from poverty and hunger, with the pandemic underscoring the need to make their voices heard.  Food systems must become more sustainable, productive, resilient and inclusive to better tackle poverty.  This requires targeted investments and policies, prioritizing vulnerable groups and ensuring gender equality.  Tools to help with this include measuring food security combined with real-time monitoring and gender disaggregated data.  Governments, development organizations and civil society need such information to better invest in areas requiring assistance.  Partnerships and cooperation are also essential in reaching these common goals, he said.

Ms. RICHARDSON said that, for too long, efforts aimed at solving poverty and hunger were carried out separate from those tackling environmental challenges when it is precisely these ecological resources that are the true currency.  Goal 2 on hunger recognizes this.  The 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report found that, unless efforts aim at reducing the global food system’s environmental impact, it will be impossible to provide nutritious food for all by mid-century and achieve climate and biodiversity goals.  Outlining requirements for such a transformation, she said efforts include focusing on empowering small-scale farmers in developing countries and providing them with safety nets, as they increasingly face climate change-related crop losses and failures.  It also includes changing global trade agreements to ensure equal market access and promoting agroforestry and agroecology.  Today’s food system comes with enormous environmental costs and cannot nutritionally feed the global population of today, much less tomorrow, she said, adding that:  “We know what needs to be done and we have the technology to do it.”

Lead discussants then shared their views.

Mr. TORERO said 80 per cent of the world’s extremely poor people live in rural areas, which must be the focus of growth, investment and financing, both public and private.  A food system approach is also required, he said, emphasizing that a total of $50 billion annually would ensure that Goal 2 is met.  To address these issues, public, private, bilateral and multilateral funding initiatives are necessary along with the development of innovative models.  Policies also must change, reflecting efforts to address market support, research and infrastructure, among other areas.

Mr. MANZI said that, given the dramatic impact of the pandemic, the Sustainable Development Goals are more relevant today than ever before to build a human-centred recovery.  Goal 8 has a strong leverage effect on other objectives through its targets on workers’ protection, decent work, social protection, inclusive growth and environmental preservation.  Employment levels, wages and social protection coverage are key to fight poverty and hunger, he said, also noting that Goal 8 aims at decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, thus fighting climate change.

Calling for a Goal 8-driven recovery, he said concrete action on the ground would mean investments in climate-friendly jobs, scaling up social protection and equality through the promotion of employment opportunities for women and youth, investments in the care sector, equal pay for work of equal value, minimum living wages and eliminating gender-based violence in the world of work.  Financing these policies requires strengthened development cooperation, debt relief, progressive taxation and ending tax evasion and illicit financial flows.  A new model of global governance is needed, one that will pave the way to global resilience.  Right now, the moral imperative of global governance is to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, he said, calling on Member States to lead the way in making the new social contract a reality.

Mr. KABORE, serving as a respondent, highlighted Burkina Faso’s development strategies and pandemic response plan, both of which are based on the principles of inclusive, sustainable growth in line with the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  Sharing several examples of lessons learned and good practices, he said efforts have resulted in a 5.5 per cent economic growth rate between 2016 and 2020, which reduced the prevalence of poverty to 36.2 per cent in 2018 from 40 per cent in 2014.  A recession and the pandemic have led to Burkina Faso carrying an $8.5 billion debt with an 18 per cent interest rate, which remains difficult to repay at a time of fragile security across the region.  Despite Burkina Faso’s bold development plan, he said realizing the 2030 Agenda will be extremely difficult without adequate funding for targeted efforts.  Success hinges on finding innovative solutions to such common challenges as security and climate change facing Burkina Faso and other nations in the Group of Five for the Sahel.

Mr. TIENSEN outlined several initiatives pursued by the Rome-based Committee on World Food Security, the United Nations foremost inclusive intergovernmental platform to address governance of food security and nutrition.  These include the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, adopted in February, which address many issues discussed today.  At this critical turning point, hundreds of millions of people are undernourished and more than 3 billion people cannot afford healthy diets.  Issues of hunger and malnutrition must be tackled using a systemic approach, with diets and food production radically changing, he said, expressing hope that the forthcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit will prompt this transformation and allow for shifts towards a more sustainable path.

For its part, the Committee supports nature-based solutions to address the issues of severe hunger and malnutrition, including through its recently adopted Policy Recommendations on Agroecological and Other Innovative Approaches, he said.  Other actions include investing in data systems to monitor progress on Goal 2 in the fight against inequalities around food security and nutrition.  The Committee’s multi‑stakeholder, inclusive, consensus- and evidence-based model can foster policy coherence and convergence to reverse negative food security and nutrition trends in this era of pandemics, increasing disparities and economic turmoil.

After a short break, the forum resumed the discussion, hearing from Member State representatives and speakers from major stakeholder groups.

The representative of China said actions must shape post-pandemic recovery efforts, using a people-centred approach to safeguard the rights to survival and development.  Economic development must go hand in hand with sustainable practices.  Strengthening international cooperation is another area for action, he said, adding that developed countries should share their best practices with developing States.  For its part, China’s food production has remained stable for six years.  Looking forward, China will continue to promote international cooperation on, among other things, realizing the 2030 Agenda.

A representative of the indigenous peoples major group for sustainable development said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed glaring inequalities and discrimination.  It has also aggravated poverty and hunger for indigenous peoples, who comprised 15 per cent of the poorest, even before the pandemic.  These conditions are also the result of relentless exploitation of indigenous peoples’ land resources, severely affecting their sustainable food systems, livelihoods and health conditions.  To get on track to end poverty and hunger and build inclusive and sustainable economies, efforts must urgently transform the current unsustainable global economy controlled by corporations and a few elites towards people-centred and care-oriented economies respecting planetary boundaries.  This requires the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources.

The representative of Guatemala said national efforts aim at realizing the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, despite added pandemic-related challenges.  Decent and inclusive jobs are important vehicles to get there.  Steps are under way to implement social protection measures and address education, health and other sectors.  To reduce hunger, efforts include a school meals programme, reaching 3 million children.  Other proposals on food systems are being considered.  Turning to climate disasters and the pandemic, she said such challenges are producing new strategies, including economic incentives for farmers.  Guatemala stands ready to consider better practices and innovative approaches.

The representative of the Russian Federation said targeted national policies have already resulted in record agricultural production in 2020 that led to the country becoming a food exporter.  Citing other efforts, he said the Russian Federation contributes more than $70 million to address food-related areas, including developing productive systems.

A representative of the LGBTI Stakeholder Group said a combination of discriminatory laws, negative social attitudes and projects that do not acknowledge specific needs have held people back.  In the wake of the pandemic, the aftershocks of these inequalities are felt by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities worldwide, particularly in terms of decreased income, lower food security and worsening health.  However, the lack of robust disaggregated data across relevant indicators pertaining to the Goals being discussed make it difficult to assess the extent to which progress is made or what gaps and issues exist.  Appealing to the United Nations to consult with local LGBTI groups in both the design and implementation of any support programmes, she said Members States should be urged to review domestic legislation on non‑discrimination to harmonize them with implementing the 2030 Agenda, while prioritizing policies that grant access to justice, housing, employment, health care, education and legal recognition to LGBTI people.

The representative of the Holy See, in his capacity as an observer, said poverty eradication strategies must be strengthened and fully integrated into pandemic recovery measures.  For its part, the Catholic Church will continue to play its role in providing charitable assistance to the poor.  Drawing attention to what Pope Francis has called “pharmaceutical poverty”, he pointed to the alarming proportion of those who still lack access to COVID-19 vaccines, a clear demonstration that poverty is not merely about the lack of money to survive from day to day, but rather the absence of economic and social justice as a whole.  Ensuring that all countries, particularly the poorest, have equitable access to vaccines is an ethical imperative and a common responsibility.  To face these and related challenges, the international community must come together and renew its commitment to multilateralism, working together in service of the common good.

The representative of Bangladesh said a paradigm shift is needed in the approach to tackle the menaces of poverty and hunger.  Highlighting significant national progress in reducing poverty, which currently is 20.2 per cent, he said women’s empowerment remains central in ongoing efforts, in addition to robust social safety‑net programmes, decent work and financial inclusion initiatives for vulnerable groups.  Such strategies are now helping with national COVID-19 response programmes for the most vulnerable.  However, he expressed concern about the pandemic’s multidimensional impact that may slow down progress, particularly the downturn in commodity prices, global trade and foreign direct investment (FDI), travel and remittances flows.  As such, Bangladesh adopted a five-year plan focusing on structural transformation and job creation.

Calling for enhanced global support and actions geared towards poverty eradication in the next programme of action for the least developed countries, he highlighted several suggestions.  Poverty alleviation is a multidimensional phenomenon requiring a whole-of-society approach that addresses the root causes and creates opportunities.  In addition, innovative approaches must work to forge new social investments, businesses, jobs connecting to national, regional and global value chains to ensure upward mobility of the poor.

Also participating in the discussion were representative of Nepal, France, Finland, Switzerland, Norway and the Philippines.  Representatives of civil society and stakeholder groups also participated.

Panel 5

Next, the forum held a discussion titled “Looking at the 2020 targets:  implementation and review”, chaired by Juan Sandoval Mendiolea (Mexico), Vice‑President of the Economic and Social Council.  Moderated by Manish Bapna, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of World Resources Institute, the dialogue featured the following speakers:  David Donoghue, Distinguished Fellow of ODI, former co-facilitator of the negotiations on the elaboration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Peter Thomson, United Nations Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean; Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity; Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Jean Todt, United Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety; Alice Ruhweza, Africa Region Director for the World-Wide Fund for Nature; and Javier Surasky, Professor and Chair of the International Cooperation Department of the Institute of International Relations at the La Plata National University, Argentina (Together 2030 Stakeholder Group).

Mr. MENDIOLEA said that, when the 2030 Agenda was negotiated, Member States decided that certain targets within the Sustainable Development Goals should be achieved within an accelerated timeline to raise the level of ambition, and in some cases, to align with other parallel intergovernmental processes.  None of these targets were fully achieved in 2020, he said, calling for intensified efforts to achieve them.  Noting that many of targets, especially those related to biodiversity, are being reviewed and likely made more ambitious through their own parallel processes.

Mr. BAPNA said this session will explore what can be done about the 21 targets that went unmet by their 2020 maturity date, including an option to update those targets in the 2030 Agenda.

Mr. DONOGHUE, explaining why some targets in the 2030 Agenda had 2020 as their “maturity” date rather than 2030, said Member States, in the Open Working Group phase, did not want to detract from existing agreements if their time-bound targets were ambitious.  If the 2020 targets were not met, it was not the end of the world, nor the end of the story.  Any reopening of the Goals or targets risks dismantling the entire framework.  “If some people feel that we could achieve a higher level of ambition by revisiting individual targets, I have to say that I fear the opposite -— that we would end up weakening many of the targets we already have,” he said.  Instead, use the various parallel processes which are under way in certain sectors to see whether additional commitments or objectives could be agreed, he urged.

Ms. MREMA also cautioned against reopening the agreed targets, saying that such action could disrupt the momentum that has been built by existing processes. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.  COVID-19 served as a reminder that a problem can be solved collectively.  The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework adopted at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in China built on the Aichi process, she said, calling for an awareness‑raising campaign calling for action by leaders and executives.

Mr. THOMSON said he fully agrees with the previous speakers.  The 2030 Agenda is a blueprint for the survival of humanity and must be treated with respect for its delicate balance.  As for Goal 14, three targets matured in 2020.  Target 14.6 is only one year behind the target date.  The upcoming United Nations Conference on Ocean will put all those targets under a microscope.  Missing the target does not mean diminishment of work.

Ms. ALGAYEROVA noted that while the world has lost 178 million hectares of forest since 1990, the forest area in the ECE region increased by about 33.5 million hectares in the last 30 years.  Europe has the lowest rate of road traffic deaths per population worldwide, and road fatalities in the ECE region declined by 14 per cent between 2010 and 2019.  This is real progress but still far short of the 50 per cent reduction target.  On water and oceans, much remains to be done in the Arab region to protect oceans and marine resources.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, target 14.5 to conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020 was reached.  This shows that effective approaches to implement the 2020 targets are available.  The United Nations Regional Commissions and the broader United Nations system in the regions are supporting the acceleration of progress in these crucial areas.  Updating the 2020 targets and keeping them within the 2030 framework may facilitate action around these targets in the future, she said, also noting that the Regional Commissions are ready to collaborate on alternative approaches should Member States so decide.

Mr. TODT said that there is a worrisome reality that, after a decade of efforts to achieve target 3.6 — to halve the number of road deaths and injuries by 2020 — the number of lives lost on the roads has increased.  There are 1.4 million road deaths each year and more than 50 million more injured.  That puts road injuries in the same league as other global burdens such as disease, including the current pandemic.  Road injuries are the leading killer of children and young people.  “The good news is that although we did not meet our SDG target in 2020, we are well equipped to achieve it for our extended 2030 deadline,” he said, urging all countries to develop a national road safety strategy and action plan reflecting targets 3.6 and 11.2.

Ms. RUHWEZA said the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be met without better relationships with nature.  The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of interconnectedness.  In Kenya, her organization is working with communities to ensure that no one is left behind, including women, youth and indigenous peoples.  Stressing the need to support rural communities, she called for greater funding to protect nature.

Mr. SURASKY said none of the 2020 targets have been achieved, including those related to Goals 14 and 15.  If that trend continues, the consequence would be a further unbalancing of the environmental, social and economic spheres of sustainable development.  He noted some advances, including an increase in official development assistance (ODA) for granting scholarships and the implementation of regulations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  Pointing to the failure of meeting target 17.18 on support for the creation of statistical capacity in developing countries, he said that this has resulted in implementation of the 2030 Agenda without data-driven decision-making.  “We cannot allow the situation experienced with the 2020 targets to be a precursor to 2031,” he warned.

Following these presentations, the floor opened to delegates and other speakers.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that a high-level meeting on road safety to be held by 2022 is a critical opportunity to share best practices.

The speaker for Belgium called for intensified efforts to update the 21 targets that matured in 2020.  The relevant intergovernmental fora and bodies should review and as needed adjust their frameworks to allow updated targets and measures to reflect a suitable level of ambition, worthy of the Decade of Action.  The United Nations Secretariat must get involved with this issue to ensure progress on all 21 targets.

The representative of Finland said that, even though all targets are equally important, not all targets with 2020 deadline should be treated equally.  For practical reasons, those targets should be grouped into three categories:  targets for which a responsible thematic body exist, and an update has already been agreed, even though the update has not been brought into the 2030 Agenda; targets for which a responsible thematic body exist, and for many targets in this group, the process of preparing an update is ongoing; and targets for which no thematic body exist and no process of update is ongoing.  The United Nations Secretariat should prepare an analysis of targets with 2020 deadline, and a proposal on how their updates could be brought into the 2030 Agenda.  This process could start from targets of the first group, where a new internationally agreed target already exists.

The representative of Indonesia said that 19 of the 21 targets that were meant to mature in 2020 have been incorporated into Indonesia’s national targets and indicators.  This is reflected in the main body and statistical annex of Indonesia’s 2021 voluntary national review, she said.

Wrapping up the discussion, Mr. BAPNA highlighted key messages, such as the importance of 2020 targets and data to monitor their implementation, stressing that missing 2020 targets is not the end of the story.  Noting most speakers were cautious about reopening the 2030 Agenda, he said responses to the COVID-19 pandemic offered a lesson that it is possible to respond to multiple challenges at once.

Also speaking were the representatives of Switzerland, Denmark and Guatemala, as well as an observer for the European Union.

Panel 6

The forum next held a discussion titled “Sustainable Development Goals in focus”, exploring ways to revamp and transform consumption and production, and address and mitigate climate change.  Chaired by Pascale Baeriswyl (Switzerland), Vice‑President of the Economic and Social Council and moderated by Jennifer Morris, Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy, the dialogue featured the following panellists/resource persons:  Bruno Oberle, Director‑General of International Union for Conservation of Nature; Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Europe; and Nikhil Hirdaramani, Director, Hirdaramani International Group, Sri Lanka.

The lead discussants included:  Ligia Noronha, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) New York Office; Louise Mabulo, chef, farmer, entrepreneur, United Nations Young Champion of the Earth, Philippines; and Kossivi Adessou, Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction’s West and Central Africa Regional Coordinator, Togo (Sendai Stakeholder Mechanism).

The respondents included:  Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries;  Annika Jacobson, State Secretary to Minister for Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister Per Bolund of Sweden; Rodrigo Rodriguez Tornquist, Secretary of Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Innovation, Argentina Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and Chair of the 10YFP Board; and Alexandre Leitão, Special Envoy for Climate Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal.

Other speakers included:  Malik Aslam, Minster for Climate Change and Special Assistant to the Prime Minster of Pakistan, and Heather Page, Statistician, SDG Monitoring Section, Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Ms. BAERISWYL said that climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste are interlinked emergencies driven by human activities.  Urgent action is needed to address these emergencies and get on track to achieve the rest of the 2030 Agenda.  Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production and Goal 13 on climate action are mutually reinforcing goals that will be met only with major structural transformations in the way people live, work, produce and consume.  These transformations will be built on a strengthened global, action-oriented partnership that includes Goal 17 — one that advances a bold vision and high levels of investment from Governments and the private sector.

Mr. ASLAM said the COVID-19 pandemic taught the world two very important lessons:  the fight against nature cannot be won and there is no choice for the world but to live in harmony with nature, and a better pathway exists, one that is low‑carbon, in balance and in harmony with nature.  This path has been defined through the Sustainable Development Goals and gives clear direction until 2030.  Pakistan remains committed to this direction and it has already framed its national policies and development pathway to be aligned with the Goals.  The country’s “Green Stimulus” plan focused on two things:  nature protection and delivering jobs to the people.

Pakistan is also focusing on expanding its renewable energy systems with a clear target of switching to 60 per cent clean energy by 2030, he said.  The Clean Green Pakistan Index engages 80 cities to ensure that nature-based solutions, as well as green code and clean energy solutions are embraced by these cities.  Pakistan was happily surprised last year when an independent auditor gave it the thumbs up by stating that the country has met Goal 13 targets 10 years ahead of schedule, he said.

Ms. PAGE presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production, Goal 13 on climate action and Goal 17 on partnerships.  A growing global population combined with the unsustainable use of natural resources is having a devastating impact on the planet — propelling climate change, destroying nature and raising pollution levels.  Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, and 5 trillion single‐use plastic bags are thrown away each year.  The global material footprint increased 70 per cent between 2000 and 2017.

It is time to fully embrace the decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation, a reduction in carbon emissions, improvements in resource efficiency and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles, he said.  The world remains woefully off track in meeting the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  To meet these goals, global carbon‑dioxide emissions need to be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.  However, the means of implementation for the Goals have been negatively affected by COVID-19.  In 2020, FDI fell by as much as 40 per cent, dropping below $1 trillion for the first time since 2005.

The forum then watched a video featuring children and youth climate activists.

Ms. MORRIS said the ensuing panel discussion will focus on the concrete and transformative policies and actions needed to make meaningful progress towards sustainable consumption and production, and in combating climate change, also exploring the vital and interrelated roles of Governments, business, local communities, civil society and the multilateral system.

Mr. OBERLE highlighted the critical role of agriculture and forestry in sustainable production and consumption, stressing the need to urge players in these sectors to change their practices and adopt nature-based solutions.  Pointing out that only a small amount of investment in pandemic recovery will go towards supporting nature, he encouraged the authorities in charge to allocate at least 10 per cent of those investments to support the environment.  It can be done, as food production and nature conservation are not a contradiction, he stressed.

Ms. ESPINOSA said the rollout of trillions of dollars to address post‑COVID‑19 recovery is an opportunity to accelerate the transition away from fossil-fuel and high-emissions-based economies towards economies that are low‑carbon, sustainable and resilient.  Stressing the need to boost partnerships towards “inclusive multilateralism”, she called for more climate solutions, more dynamic and robust nationally determined commitments and more ambitious climate action, which will bring the world closer to achieving the global Goals.  “A rising tide, as they say, raises all boats.  We must rise to the challenge of our times,” she said, calling upon all to help achieve success at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow in November.

Mr. HIRDARAMANI described how his family’s fashion business contributes to sustainable production and consumption.  He emphasized that sustainability still costs money and businesses ultimately need to make a profit.  The fashion industry’s culture is changing, with consumers finally starting to seek environmentally friendly products, he said.  Environmental, social and governance responsibilities are a top priority of the fashion industry’s agenda.  He also stressed the importance of driving shifts in supply chains.

Ms. MABULO said that there is an opportunity for young people to be torchbearers in promoting a just transition towards a future of responsible production — especially in countries with an aging population of farmers.  In her town in the Philippines, her group has been pioneering regenerative agroforestry through work at her social venture, The Cacao Project, utilizing tools and resources to aid farmers in cultivating resilient and climate-smart livelihoods, while advocating youth interventions and engagement, building women farmer associations and creating a localized food distribution system in collaboration with the local government.  This work shows that young people can help spearhead solutions given the platform, and these solutions are practical and viable.  There is opportunity to scale and replicate these models across different communities in varying ways, she said.

Mr. TORNQUIST said Argentina has put the environmental agenda at the centre of its public policy priorities.  Despite the economic and social situation derived from unsustainable indebtedness and the recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in December 2020, the country decided on a goal to limit greenhouse‑gas emissions to 25.7 per cent lower than the level previously committed in 2016.  Moreover, during the Climate Summit, President Alberto Fernández announced that Argentina will increase its goal by an additional 2 per cent.

Ms. JACOBSON emphasized that the future must be fossil‑free, and a clean climate transition should form the basis for green recovery.  Countries must enhance their nationally determined contributions.  Sweden together with India has launched LeadIT, the Leadership Group for Industry Transition.  The initiative is a global public-private collaboration and comprises countries and heavy industry actors who are committed to achieve net‑zero emissions by 2050.  Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first United Nations conference on the human environment held in Stockholm.  In June 2022, Sweden will host the United Nations meeting “Stockholm+50”.

Mr. SINKEVIČIUS called for a post-pandemic pathway that is green, circular, resilient and just, with the global Goals as the compass.  That’s what the European Union wants to achieve with its “Green Deal”.  Circularity is essential for sustainable consumption and production, and a more efficient use of resources.  “By keeping products in the economy for longer, we reduce the need for extracting raw materials, and we also cut our emissions,” he said.  Earlier this year, to promote the circular economy around the world, the bloc, together with UNEP and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), launched the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency, with 14 countries having already joined it.  The European Union will keep promoting and implementing ambitious environmental and climate policies, he said, adding that success requires cooperation, diplomacy and intense engagement with all partners.

When the floor opened to delegates, the representative of France said his country will host the World Nature Conference in September, also highlighting that citizens in his country have participated directly in drafting a law aimed at addressing climate change.

The representative of Denmark stressed that the only way to achieve sustainable production and consumption is through education, especially for youth, urging investment in vocational training and education towards a sustainable future for all.

The representative of Guatemala said the country is currently implementing a national plan for climate change adaptation, which involves visiting various regions and generating local capacities to reduce carbon emissions.  The country’s sustainable production and consumption strategies include the use of vegetable material for straws and dishes, vegetable-based, lead-free paint, low wood consumption for kitchen cooking fires and other methods being used by 67 different communities.

The representative of Bangladesh said the preparations for upcoming meetings of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries are taking place in parallel, stressing the need to seize this opportunity to provide special attention to the particular vulnerabilities of the least developed countries.

The representative of Switzerland called for launching negotiations in 2022 on a convention concerning plastics.

Ms. ALGAYEROVA said a circular economy provides a necessary alternative to the “make-use-dispose” linear model, by designing waste out of the system, closing material loops and preserving natural capital.  At the sixty-ningth session of the Economic Commission for Europe in April, Governments announced commitments to advance circularity and sustainable resource use, including by improving waste management, increasing energy efficiency, allocating more resources for innovation and setting specific targets for multiple related issues.  Norms and standards lay the foundation for incorporating circularity principles into products and supply chains and for facilitating international cooperation.  Regional initiatives, such as the newly established African Continental Free Trade Area, can facilitate consensus-building on sustainable consumption and production, and transboundary trade of green products and services.

Ms. NORONHA said that decoupling is not happening, stressing the need for more targeted action.  She called for a hard look at value chains to identify responsible stakeholders and the most powerful agents of change in the food and agriculture sectors.

Mr. ADESSOU said climate change has directly impacted communities, putting people at risk.  The COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse.  To address these challenges, local actors must be empowered, and their views of groups at risk must be considered in policymaking.

Mr. LEITÃO said the environmental crisis must be tackled in an integrated manner.  Portugal’s sustainable recovery rests on three pillars — decarbonization, circularity and coastal management.  Describing how Portugal leads the way on green growth in Europe, he said 60 per cent of the country’s energy needs are met by renewable sources.  Stressing the nexus between climate change and the ocean, he said Lisbon will host the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2022.

Also speaking were delegates of Indonesia, Guyana, Finland, Morocco and China as well as several representatives of civil society.

For information media. Not an official record.