Helen Clark: statement at the 91st Meeting of the Development Committee

Apr 18, 2015

The Current Development Context

The deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is fast approaching. As the international community works to finalise an ambitious new sustainable development agenda, it is timely to reflect on the remarkable development progress of the last fifteen years, and to discuss how we implement our new shared vision for the future.

The MDG targets of halving extreme poverty and cutting by half the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water were achieved in 2010, five years ahead of schedule. Gender parity in primary schooling has been largely achieved. Even where the MDG targets have not yet been fully met, we have seen considerable improvements: the tide is turning on HIV; levels of infant and child mortality have decreased significantly, and; there is a downward trend in maternal mortality and in deaths from tuberculosis and malaria.

It is clear, however, that there is much MDG unfinished business. While many countries have enjoyed sustained economic growth and development advances over the last decade and a half, others have been left behind. Even in countries which have done well, certain populations have been excluded from progress. Many have also been thrown back into poverty because of conflicts, disasters, or other shocks. This shows not only how vulnerable development progress can be, but also reveals many of the challenges ahead.

Once in a Generation Opportunity to Mobilize for Sustainable Development

This year, the world has a once in a generation opportunity to set a transformational global agenda for sustainable development, by reaching global agreements on financing for development, the post-2015 development agenda, and climate change.

The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) which took place in Sendai, Japan last month was an important first step. The United Nations welcomes the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 agreed at the conference, and its clear acknowledgement that disaster risk reduction is essential to sustainable development. The UN commits itself to provide coherent and co-ordinated support to Member States in the implementation of the Framework.

The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

This September UN Member States will adopt a new sustainable development agenda which will guide global development priorities for the next fifteen years.

A major milestone was achieved last July when the General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), consisting of representatives from seventy Member States, developed a proposal for a set of seventeen goals. This proposal was informed by an unprecedented consultative process led by UN development system-facilitated global outreach which gathered the views of over seven million people through national and thematic consultations and the MY World online survey.

The proposed SDGs are more ambitious and bolder than the MDGs. In addition to tackling ongoing major development priorities, including the eradication of poverty, hunger, and gender inequality, the proposed agenda aims to address the need for peaceful and inclusive societies and problems which have emerged, or become more pronounced, over recent years, such as climate change and other accelerated environmental degradation, and income inequality.

The new development agenda will be a universal one which advocates that countries at all income levels make the transformations to their economies and societies which will ensure that development and prosperity occur within planetary boundaries. The new agenda is, at its core, about ensuring that human development is also sustainable development.

Financing for Development in the Post-2015 Era

The upcoming Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 13 to 16 July, provides an important opportunity for the international community to consider the financing requirements of the new agenda, as a key part of the means of implementation. Agreeing on an ambitious financing framework in Addis will lay the groundwork for a successful Special Summit on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in New York in September, and for a new global agreement on climate change in Paris in December (COP21).

The Addis Conference will build on the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development. It is expected to achieve three outcomes: a cohesive and holistic financing framework for sustainable development; concrete deliverables in crucial areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, social needs, and small and medium-sized enterprises; and a strong follow-up process which seeks to ensure that no country is left behind and draws on the technical expertise and participation of the FfD institutional stakeholders.

Although the challenges to be addressed under the new sustainable development agenda are broader than in the past, the world has more resources and capabilities at its disposal than ever before with which to tackle them. The Addis Ababa Accord is expected to include agreements on the availability of the required resources for sustainable development, including of ODA, on the importance of enabling environments domestically and internationally for resource mobilization, on the need for capacity building, and the significance of setting the right incentives for resource allocation – public and private – to sustainable development.

The United Nations recognizes the continued importance of Official Development Assistance (ODA), in particular for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and for countries in special situations, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and fragile states. ODA can also play a catalytic role in many middle-income countries. A reaffirmation in Addis by donors of their longstanding commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of GNI to ODA, as well as their pledge to allocate at least 0.15-0.2 per cent of GNI to the LDCs, will be critical in supporting countries to achieve the new goals. The Zero Draft of the Addis outcome document calls on countries to set firm timetables to reach these ODA targets.

The range of goals and targets which the post-2015 agenda seeks to address, however, requires financing far beyond what ODA can provide. This is fully recognized and elaborated upon in the Discussion Note prepared by the multilateral development banks (MDBs) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for this meeting of the Development Committee. For example, investments will need to be scaled-up at the global level in areas like communicable disease control, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and science, innovation, and new technologies, in order to support and enable the transformation to sustainable development which the world needs. The UN welcomes the proposals in the Discussion Note on the role of the MDBs and the IMF in working together to unlock these resources.

Resources are needed for the new agenda from both public private sources, including from households, investors, and lenders. Conducive incentives and regulations can help ensure that private investment decisions across the productive and financial sectors move the world towards sustainable development. In particular, changes in regulatory frameworks, at both the national and international level, can address currently poorly aligned incentives, reduce investment and other risk, and ensure that more private finance is aligned with long-term sustainable development aims. MDBs and the IMF, have an important role to play in these areas, including in providing policy guidance and in leveraging private finance for development.

Important ways to help reorient more private finance towards sustainable development ends include the pricing of greenhouse gas emissions and the progressive elimination of inefficient and ineffective fossil fuel subsidies. Low oil prices provide a favorable context for the latter. As well, enhancing financial inclusion, including for women and youth, can support entrepreneurship, and help grow businesses and jobs.

Tackling tax evasion and avoidance and illicit financial flows will also enhance domestic resource mobilization, and should be a major priority in the financing for development discussions in Addis Ababa.

The Addis Ababa Accord is being negotiated in times of great volatility and risk. The financial costs of conflict, disasters, disease outbreaks, and economic crises are high and increasing. Investments which do not take into account an understanding of risk of all kinds could very well fail to contribute to long-term development. If development is not risk-informed, it is not sustainable development. It is vital therefore for governments to invest in resilience and to put in place regulatory, investment, and legal regimes which help reduce and manage risk. The international community has a big opportunity before it to develop a financing for development framework which tackles underlying vulnerabilities and incorporates risk management.

This endeavor must also extend to addressing sovereign debt distress and crises, which can affect countries at all income levels and can lead to considerable human development set-backs. Over the long-term it will be important for the international community to devise more effective and predictable approaches to sovereign debt crisis resolution, and, in the short-term, provide better support to those countries, including middle income SIDS, which are experiencing significant debt sustainability challenges.

Overall, a successful outcome in Addis is a prerequisite for securing an ambitious post-2015 development agenda and a comprehensive agreement on climate change.

Addressing Climate Change

Climate change is a major threat to development. The success of global efforts to tackle climate change will have a huge bearing on whether the objectives of the post-2015 global development agenda can be met.

It is entirely possible to reduce poverty, lower carbon emissions, and address other environment and development priorities at the same time. Coherence across the poverty eradication, disaster reduction, and climate agendas is essential for inclusive, low emission, and climate-resilient development.

The Lima Call for Climate Action agreed in December 2014 laid the foundation for a global deal on climate change in Paris in December. It is critical that countries make ambitious national commitments to address climate change, and that capitalization of the Green Climate Fund is accelerated.

Many countries have emphasized the inadequacy of current pools of public climate finance. Building the capacity for countries to access, leverage, and deploy climate finance is also an urgent priority, in particular to ensure that adaptation finance is genuinely available to those countries and communities facing the greatest climate impacts.

The United Nations will to do its utmost to contribute to an ambitious outcome at COP21 in Paris and to support countries’ efforts to tackle climate change.

UN and World Bank Collaboration

The United Nations values and appreciates its relationship with the World Bank Group. We collaborate on many issues from supporting country level efforts to reduce poverty and accelerate MDG progress to building sustainable economies and societies and tackling issues related to conflict and fragility.

Our partnership with the World Bank, the European Union, and the African Development Bank currently in supporting Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to plan for and finance recovery from the Ebola crisis is vital.

Stepped up collaboration between the World Bank and the United Nations development system will be critical for the implementation of the post-2015 agenda.  We look forward to strengthening our co-operation, drawing on our existing joint work, including on the MDG Acceleration Framework.

Under the UN Development Group’s Sustainable Development Working Group, work is underway on how to support countries to ‘land’ the post-2015 agenda and accelerate progress on the SDGs. In doing this we will also seek to strengthen partnerships, including with the World Bank, and support the data revolution necessary to inform policymaking, monitor progress, and enhance accountability.

The planned special high-level meeting of ECOSOC with the Bretton Woods Institutions, WTO, and UNCTAD will be an important opportunity to discuss coherence, co-ordination, and co-operation in the context of financing for development and the post-2015 development agenda. We look forward to working with the World Bank Group in the implementation of the new sustainable development agenda.