Note: A complete summary of today’s Economic and Social Council meeting will be available after its conclusion.
Moderated by Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Vice-Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Mexico, the first panel was titled “review of implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 9 (build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”. The keynote address was delivered by John Danilovich, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce, and a statistical snapshot was provided by Yongyi Min, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Panellists included Maria Kiwanuka, Special Adviser to the President, Uganda and Magnus Arildsson, Head, Internet of Things Product Management, Ericsson, Sweden. The lead discussants were Patrick Ho, Deputy Chairman, China Energy Fund Committee and former Secretary for Home Affairs, Hong Kong, China, as well as Arnt Holte, former President, World Blind Union, Norway.
Mr. DANILOVICH said that he had consistently advocated for the Sustainable Development Goals to be regarded as the “business development goals”, since 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. That was particularly true with regard to Goal 9. Policy coherence between local, national and global policies was critically important, and meeting the objectives set forth in Goal 9 would require sound domestic policies combined with a steadfast commitment to international cooperation. The debate around trade was strained in many countries and it was clear that the benefits of trade did not always meet everyone’s needs. To achieve the development goals, entrepreneurship was essential, as it would allow businesses to create new jobs. The scale of the new jobs challenge was daunting. He cited 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. “We will succeed or fail together when it comes to meeting the [Sustainable Development Goals],” he said.
Mr. CABAÑAS said the discussion was aimed at reviewing progress at the individual country level as the world sought to fulfil Goal 9. Leaders must address cross-cutting issues such as the demand for infrastructure, innovation and science and technology to understand how they could be harnessed for sustainable development needs. “No goal stands alone,” he said. It was essential to find ways to leverage infrastructure to bring high-quality education and health care to all, including the most vulnerable, to ensure their access to basic services. It was estimated that, by 2018, the demand for scientists specializing in data would increase by about half, demonstrating the clear need for skilled workers. Policy consistency must be ensured at all levels — state, municipal and national — while it was also important to gain a better understanding of the impact of technology across the board and in all areas of life.
Ms. KIWANUKA stressed that infrastructure was a support industry although, all too often, it was seen as a “means to an end”. Emphasizing the need for cross-benefit analyses for projects to ensure the benefits were fully understood and realized, she said more must be done to have optimal implementation of Government projects. Different ministries must pull together on the national level for projects, which brought to the forefront the need for greater investment in social sectors. There should be a balanced mix of capital-intensive projects with job demand. Innovation and science and technology helped increase productivity, but were not as strong regarding job creation. Cutting down “middle men” would allow for workers to receive more returns, particularly in the agricultural sector. There was a great need for Governments to implement projects in a timely fashion, as that would have ripple effects down to the individual level. Sustainability and inclusiveness depended on giving adequate attention to education and health sectors, which was, again, a task for Governments. The private sector needed to have more access to affordable financing for viable projects.
Mr. ARILDSSON said his organization monitored areas that ranged from utilities to water to agricultural production. 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. Communications technologies could help train farmers in agronomic practices. For example, wireless devices had been implanted in cows to detect changes in their health in a more scientific fashion rather than farmers making educated guesses about their animal’s health, which risked 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 fashion, he said, noting that many devices that could be used were very small and relatively inexpensive, and becoming increasingly cheaper over time.
Ms. MIN said that manufacturing was the principle driver of economic growth, which had increased in most of the regions of the world, with Central and South‑East Asia enjoying the most growth. Global investment in infrastructure and research and development continued to grow and official development assistance (ODA) for economic infrastructure had reached $57 billion in 2015, with transport and energy receiving the most funding. Mobile cellular service had spread much faster than anticipated.
Mr. HO emphasized that, to achieve Goal 9, infrastructure, technology and investment would all be required. Infrastructure should provide jobs and a foundation for growth, as well as equity and environmental sustainability. Industrialization should never lose sight of equity and the profits of such advancements should be shared by all. Innovation was important for future growth and profits should be redirected to further research and development. Energy for all underpinned all development and efforts should be made to ensure all people worldwide had electricity. Small-scale enterprises should have access to financing in the form of small loans to individuals, so they could lift themselves out of poverty. The most significant impacts of emerging technology on industrialization were automation technology and artificial intelligence.
Mr. HOLTE said that Goal 9 could serve as one of the best ways to avoid leaving people behind, although to do so, there must be a shift in thinking patterns. If vulnerable groups were included from the very beginning, there would be less risk of leaving anyone behind. On infrastructure, he emphasized that transportation systems must not only be functional, but they must also be accessible for all people. Stressing that new industry would be the key for the future, he expressed concern that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was unacceptably high. Technologies would give new opportunities and possibilities, while also giving disabled persons access to more information. Giving access to everyone, including those with disabilities, from the very beginning was not only socially and political correct, it was also smart.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Switzerland stressed the need for financing for infrastructure that was low-carbon, resilient, economically and climate smart, as well as socially acceptable. Underscoring the importance of the target contained within Goal 9 related to the access of small and medium-sized enterprises to financial markets, the representative of Argentina recalled that such businesses made up about 95 per cent of companies worldwide and were a huge provider of employment opportunities. The representative of Lebanon said that her country had already launched a national committee on the Sustainable Development Goals and had begun a gap analysis with the help of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The representative of the European Union recalled that the European Commission had made investment in green infrastructure a key priority and believed that addressing climate change would provide countless opportunities to invent better ways to produce, consume, invest and trade. The representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) highlighted that the commonly held belief was that poverty could not be reduced without achieving economic growth, adding that inclusive industrialization and structural transformation were some of the most effective ways to eradicate poverty.
Describing his country’s recently adopted development plan called “The Future We Want”, the representative of Chad said that strengthening international support, good governance, a stronger economy and improving the well-being of ordinary citizens were the primary objectives of that plan. The representative of Nigeria called on developed countries to support innovation-driven development and on the international community to support infrastructure development and the integration of developing countries into the global economy.
Also speaking were the representatives of Chile, China, Benin, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico and Ethiopia.
The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also delivered a statement.
Statements were also made by representatives of the business and industry and the children and youth major groups.