Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating socioeconomic consequences must not leave anyone behind, speakers told the high-level political forum on sustainable development as it opened its 2021 session today.
Over two weeks, the forum — under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council — will review progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2015.
The 2021 session provides a paramount opportunity to show unwavering commitment for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda despite the obstacles and challenges posed by the pandemic, said Munir Akram (Pakistan), President of the Economic and Social Council, stressing that the forum can offer a further basis for a multilateral effort to resume and accelerate progress to ultimately realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda.
This year’s theme focuses on sustainable, resilient recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive, effective path for realizing the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.
In a keynote address, Macky Sall, President of Senegal, pointed out that Africa, whose economic growth rates had regularly exceeded the world average, is in recession for the first time in more than 20 years, due to the impacts of COVID-19. Though his country is among a few rare exceptions, its growth has fallen from more than 6 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
In order to not leave the continent behind, the world’s economic and financial governance must be reformed by giving developing countries access to capital markets, he said, also outlining necessary measures, including a relaxation of the rules of debt and deficit ceilings, a correction to the perception and assessment of investment risk, and a more transparent and fairer rating of developing countries. The fight against tax havens and illicit financial flows must be toughened, he added, calling for a “New Deal'' where the interests of all countries will be considered to achieve a fairer and more inclusive world.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), warned against vaccine inequities and vaccine nationalism, which are further deepening the divide between high‑ and lower-income nations. “If countries immediately share doses with COVAX [the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility], and if manufacturers prioritize COVAX orders, we can vaccinate at least 10 percent of the population of every country by September, and at least 40 per cent by the end of the year,” he said.
Outlining key priorities, he urged countries to share their mRNA COVID-19 vaccines technologies and know-how with the WHO technology transfer hub and the COVAX Manufacturing Task Force, so that those countries with manufacturing capacity can get to work. They should also support the proposal for a pandemic treaty. It is time to move beyond the cycle of panic and neglect that has marked global emergency response for decades, he said.
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said that the IMF raised its global growth forecast to 6 per cent in 2021 and 4 per cent in 2022. But, the overall growth picture masks dangerously uneven developments. Nigeria, for instance, because of the pandemic, faces a six-year delay in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Countries must focus on pro-growth structural reforms, supported by more fiscal capacity through domestic resource mobilization. Countries also need to collect more in taxes. Moreover, reforms that spur private sector engagement are needed.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), emphasized that rapid, equitable vaccine roll‑out is a prerequisite for inclusive economic growth. Trade is indispensable for ramping up COVID-19 vaccine production on the scale needed to end the pandemic, she said, urging WTO members to free up vaccine supply chains by lowering export restrictions and facilitating trade; work with manufacturers to identify supply chain bottlenecks; bolster investment to increase production, particularly in developing countries; and find pragmatic solutions to issues regarding technology transfer, know-how and intellectual property to assure developing countries near-automatic access.
Michael Kremer, Professor in Economics and Public Policy at the University of Chicago and 2019 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on alleviating global poverty, said that innovation is crucial to achieving the global Goals and important for well-being beyond income. While it is a public good as new ideas developed in one place can spread cheaply and easily, individual countries tend to underinvest in innovation, he pointed out, emphasizing the need for more investment, particularly in innovations that serve the needs of impoverished people. Recounting how his research on water safety led to an innovation that benefits 2 million people daily across Kenya, Uganda and Malawi, he noted that he set up a lab to support development innovation.
Following the opening segment, the forum held three panel discussions, titled, respectively, “The SDGs in time of crisis: A sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 as an opportunity to realize the SDGs”; “Ensuring that no one is left behind”; and “Building resilience against future shocks through structural changes and investment in sustainable infrastructure”.
In addition, Juan Sandoval Mendiolea (Mexico), Vice‑President of the Economic and Social Council, presented key messages from its Integration Segment held on 2 July.
The political forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 July, to continue its work.