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.
The Forum then held a panel discussion on the theme “review of implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development)”, which was moderated by Kate Brown, Executive Director, Global Island Partnership, New Zealand. It featured four keynote speakers: Peter Thomson (Fiji), President, United Nations General Assembly; Olof Skoog (Sweden), Co-President, United Nations Ocean Conference; Luke Daunivalu (Fiji), Co-President, United Nations Ocean Conference; Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General, United Nations Ocean Conference; and Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel. It also featured two panellists: Jake Rice, Chief Scientist-Emeritus, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada; and Marjo Vierros, Director, Coastal Policy and Humanities Research and Senior Associate, Global Ocean Forum, and two lead discussants: Ronald Jumeau, Permanent Representative of Seychelles to the United Nations; and Tui Shortland, Director, Pacific Indigenous and Local Knowledge Centre of Distinction at Te Kāpehu Whetū, Aotearoa, New Zealand. Yongi Min of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistical Division presented a brief “statistical snapshot” related to Goal 14.
Mr. THOMSON, delivering the first keynote address, said the 2030 Agenda’s inclusion of an oceans Goal was recognition both of humanity’s existential relationship with the oceans and that their health was in trouble. That fact was reflected in declining fish stocks, coastal degradation, marine pollution and such phenomena was ocean acidification and ocean warming. Recalling that the General Assembly had mandated the United Nations Oceans Conference to support the implementation of Goal 14 on oceans, he said the summit — held in June — had proved to be a major success. “Above all, the conference showed that we are all in this together,” he stressed, expressing hope that it would prove to be an event that turned the tide on humanity’s relationship with the ocean. In practical terms, the meeting had produced a strong “Call for Action” outcome document, a comprehensive range of solutions and nearly 1,400 voluntary contributions from the public and private sectors. Urging participants not to forget the immense scale of the challenges facing the oceans, nor of the world’s collective responsibility to face them, he underlined the importance of holding of a second ocean conference in 2020.
Mr. SKOOG, also delivering a keynote address, spotlighted the forceful and tremendous energy generated by the Ocean Conference in the span of just one week. “The Ocean Conference has sparked a movement,” he said, noting that it had been the first time the oceans had been addressed in such a way at the United Nations. The resounded response of the thousands of conference participants had been overwhelming, he said, adding that it had provided a voice to small island developing States, least developed countries and others in special circumstances. The Call for Action outcome, adopted by consensus after three rounds of negotiations, had sent a clear message of commitment to addressing the challenges facing the oceans and represented a firm call for appropriate follow-up to the nearly 1,400 voluntary commitments made during and following the conference. Pointing out that the summit could serve as a model for how to galvanize action around other Sustainable Development Goals, he added that the Call for Action had emphasized the need for stronger oceans governance and called on the Secretary-General to increase inter-agency cooperation in that regard.
Mr. DAUNIVALU, in his keynote address, underlined Fiji’s commitment to take a multisectoral approach in its efforts to implement the 17 voluntary commitments it had undertaken during the recent conference. For small island developing States such as his and across the Pacific, the Ocean Conference had come at a critical time as the world’s oceans were deteriorating at an alarming rate. That challenge was compounded by the effects of climate change, leading to sea-level rise, increases in ocean acidity and warmer waters affecting reefs, marine ecosystems and fish stocks. Noting that small island developing States and least developed countries were some of the most vulnerable nations in that context, he said the conference had helped show the world that their very survival was linked to the health of the oceans. Citing awareness of the special circumstances of small island developing States as a main takeaway from the meeting, he said partnerships remained a vital tool to support their efforts to adequately address the threats they were facing.
Mr. WU, describing the Ocean Conference as a “historic” event drawing together a wide range of stakeholders, said its Call for Action outcome document was rooted in 22 forward-looking actions. Pointing out that the meeting had raised global consciousness of the importance of the oceans and the challenges facing them — including plastic and other pollution, overfishing, ocean acidification and others — he added: “It should be seen as the start of our mission to save the ocean.” Urging Member States to seize the momentum and implement their nearly 1,400 voluntary commitments, he said the United Nations had undertaken a preliminary analysis of those commitments, which was now available on the Conference website. It was also in the process of building a database of actors who had made commitments in order to facilitate the timely exchange of information on those actions. Through such partnerships, the Ocean Conference had broken new ground and proved to be a “game changer” in enhancing collaboration to ensure a healthy ocean for current and future generations.
Mr. SOARES, delivering his keynote address, said UN-OCEANS — the United Nations system inter-agency network to coordinate action on the oceans — could assist partners in implementing the voluntary commitments they had made during the Ocean Conference. An integrated and cross-sectoral approach was already reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which laid out the global legal framework for the world’s oceans, as well as in the General Assembly’s annual consideration of the issue. However, regional efforts had been largely sectoral to date, he said, noting that the Ocean Conference had sought to broaden those approaches. For its part, the UN-OCEANS network and its 24 members were working to identify further areas for collaboration and synergies, and had registered its own voluntary commitment related to awareness-raising. He also pointing out that the network was well-placed to take up an enhanced role in facilitating collaboration on oceans-related issues.
Ms. MIN said the ocean covered almost three quarters of the world’s surface while nearly 40 per cent of its population lived in coastal communities. However, only about 13 per cent of it was covered by marine protected areas, and in 2013, nearly 90 per cent of global fish stocks were overfished or fully depleted. The rate of ocean acidification was faster than at any time since the last ice age, having increased by about 26 per cent since the start of the industrial revolution. Of 63 large marine ecosystems studied, 16 per cent were at high risk of coastal eutrophication, she said, adding that all those figures pointed to a need for accelerated action to address the challenges facing the oceans.
Mr. RICE, noting that the dialogues at the Ocean Conference had brought diverse stakeholders closer together, said achieving sustainable development would require greater use of the ocean — which was already under great stress. That required using the ocean “smarter, not harder”, he said. Indeed, achieving the Goal on global food security would require getting more protein from the ocean, while increasing the earth’s use of renewable energy sources would require tapping into the largely untapped potential of energy from the ocean, he added. Despite much talk about marine protected areas, no rational person would think all the other Goals could be met while further limiting the areas of the ocean that could be used. In that context, efforts were required to protect critical ocean areas, fill knowledge gaps, enhance the necessary technologies and immediately take forward the voluntary commitments made at the Conference.
Ms. VIERROS, echoing the concerns voiced by the other speakers, said there was also cause for optimism. Many tools existed to address the challenges facing the oceans. Societal context was also critical, she said, drawing particular attention to participation, inclusion and benefit-sharing. The most innovative solutions were those found at the local level, especially those emerging from the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities and other peoples who relied on the oceans, she said, describing several elements of traditional marine management. Emphasizing that communities needed support in implementing those systems, she underscored the importance of respecting their ownership and their ability to manage their own resources, and introduced several examples of “ridge-to-reef” and ecosystem-based management systems. She called for true interdisciplinary collaboration in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals drawing together those who worked on ocean, poverty, health and other targets. Further, she called on Member States to undertake efforts to make oceans more sustainable at the national level.
Mr. JUMEAU, agreeing that humans needed to “use the ocean more and use it better”, also echoed the call for true respect for indigenous and other coastal communities. “There cannot be sustainable development on islands without addressing climate change and its effect on the oceans,” he stressed, underscoring the need to quantify the financial and technical requirements emanating from the Ocean Conference’s voluntary commitments, as well as to develop a strong follow-up mechanism to track progress in implementing the Call for Action. Turning to innovative ways to mobilize the means of implementation, he recalled that Seychelles had just completed a “debt swap” to turn 30 per cent of its exclusive economic zone into marine protected areas, and noted that plans for other similar activities were also under way.
Ms. SHORTLAND, emphasizing the close and historic connection of the Pacific peoples with the ocean, said traditional knowledge must contribute to the sustainable management of the world’s oceans and seas. Indigenous peoples must be empowered to be primary actors in that regard, she stressed, calling in particular for the institutionalization of their participation. “Our relationship with the ocean is our anchor in time” and would be their legacy for future generations, she said, calling for “purposeful action” going forward. Also critical was monitoring the well-being of small island developing States’ communities, ensuring their dignity and rights, and avoiding their exploitation.
In the ensuing discussion, many speakers welcomed the voluntary commitments registered at the Ocean Conference and underscored the need to maintain momentum towards their implementation. Representatives from several coastal States drew attention to particular challenges facing their countries – ranging from illegal fishing to sea-level rise to piracy — while others outlined national or regional strategies for sustainable oceans management.
The representative of Papua New Guinea, speaking on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, recalled that the inclusion of a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal on oceans had not been a foregone conclusion. Noting that such an omission would have left small island developing States around the world behind in the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, he went on to agree with panellists that the achievement of the other 16 Goals would be impossible without ensuring the health of the world’s oceans. As serious and mounting threats related to human activity continued to harm the oceans, with a “critical tipping point” approaching, the Call to Action outcome document was extremely timely, he said.
The representative of the Philippines described her country’s national development plan which aimed, among other things, to improve the quality of environmental data. As the current Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines had also worked to elevate the issue of marine pollution — especially from plastics and microplastics — as a critical regional issue. Voicing support for such funding instruments as the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund, she called for sustained financing to support oceans-related sustainable development policies.
“We need to act urgently” to address the increasing challenges facing the world’s oceans, stressed the representative of Maldives, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States. Voicing support for Goal 14 as a road map for such action, she recalled that, while small island developing States had registered many commitments at the Ocean Conference, they required support from their partners, including in the areas of financing and the transfer of technology.
The representative of Viet Nam, noting that hers was a coastal State confronting the impacts of climate change, expressed concern that those challenges could hinder its efforts to reduce poverty. In that regard, she voiced support for the sustainable management of fisheries and enhanced capacity-building and technology transfer, as well as the establishment of rights under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Also voicing support for bolstered international cooperation and capacity-building, the representative of Togo described national efforts to manage the country’s coastal environments. Those had included the establishment a Council on the Seas and a specific programme aimed at protecting the shoreline, he said, adding that Togo had also updated its strategic national plan on biodiversity. Noting that acts of piracy, pollution, illegal fishing and the impacts of climate change were compromising the security of both oceans and coastal areas, he urged stakeholders to accelerate efforts to address those challenges.
The representative of Italy recalled that the oceans had historically been seen by many as an unlimited source of raw materials, as well as a place to deposit waste with no repercussions, emphasizing: “We could not have been more wrong.” As the majority of marine litter in the Mediterranean was composed of plastic, the region’s countries were seriously committed to a ban on plastic bags, with Italy leading the way in that regard.
The representative of Honduras, emphasizing that concrete scientific data must be the basis for the follow-up and review of the implementation of Goal 14, also underlined the importance of ensuring equality in benefit-sharing related to ocean resources.
The representative of the women’s major group, underlining the importance of ensuring women’s participation and leadership in the achievement of Goal 14, called on stakeholders to urgently address such activities as experimental sea bed mining and the overconsumption of fish in developed countries.
The representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said the agency’s Regional Seas Programme was best-placed to sustainably manage oceans at the sea basin level. He also drew attention to UNEP’s work in drafting a number of guidance documents for the follow-up and review of Goal 14 at the regional level.
Also speaking were the representatives of Madagascar, Croatia, Mexico, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia, Finland, Tonga and Kenya.
A representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization also participated.
Also speaking was a representative of the persons with disabilities major group.