Tag Archives: SDGs

The Secretary General Remarks at Launch of Policy Brief on Persons With Disabilities and COVID-19

New York, 5 May 2020 (recorded 4 May)

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting every aspect of our societies, revealing the extent of exclusion that the most marginalized members of society experience.

Today, I would like to highlight how the pandemic is affecting the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities.

Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access education, healthcare and income opportunities or participate in the community.

This is exacerbated for those in humanitarian and fragile contexts.

People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and they experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.

The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities — and producing new threats.

Today we are launching a report that recommends a disability-inclusive response and recovery for everyone.

People with disabilities are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

They face a lack of accessible public health information, significant barriers to implement basic hygiene measures, and inaccessible health facilities.

If they contract COVID-19, many are more likely to develop severe health conditions, which may result in death.

The share of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes — where older people with disabilities are overrepresented — ranges from 19 per cent to an astonishing 72 per cent.

In some countries, healthcare rationing decisions are based on discriminatory criteria, such as age or assumptions about quality or value of life, based on disability.

We cannot let this continue.

We must guarantee the equal rights of people with disabilities to access healthcare and lifesaving procedures during the pandemic.

Persons with disabilities who faced exclusion in employment before this crisis, are now more likely to lose their job and will experience greater difficulties in returning to work.

Yet, only 28 per cent of people with significant disabilities have access to benefits — and only 1 per cent in low-income countries.

People with disabilities — particularly, women and girls — face a greater risk of domestic violence, which has surged during the pandemic.

I urge governments to place people with disabilities at the center of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and to consult and engage people with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities have valuable experience to offer of thriving in situations of isolation and alternate working arrangements.

Looking to the future, we have a unique opportunity to design and implement more inclusive and accessible societies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

 Last year, I launched the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy to ensure the UN system is doing its part.

The Strategy represents the UN’s commitment to achieve transformative and lasting change.

When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we are investing in our common future.

All hands on deck to fight a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic

By António Guterres

Only by coming together will the world be able to face down the COVID-19 pandemic and its shattering consequences. At an emergency virtual meeting last Thursday, G20 leaders took

UNSG Antonio Guterres

steps in the right direction. But we are still far away from having a coordinated, articulated global response that meets the unprecedented magnitude of what we are facing.

Far from flattening the curve of infection, we are still well behind it. The disease initially took 67 days to infect 100,000 people; soon, 100,000 people and more will be infected daily. Without concerted and courageous action, the number of new cases will almost certainly escalate into the millions, pushing health systems to the breaking point, economies into a nosedive and people into despair, with the poorest hit hardest.

We must prepare for the worst and do everything to avoid it. Here is a three-point call to action — based on science, solidarity and smart policies — for doing just that.

First, suppress transmission of the coronavirus.

That requires aggressive and early testing and contact tracing, complemented by quarantines, treatment, and measures to keep first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact. Such steps, despite the disruptions they cause, must be sustained until therapies and a vaccine emerge.

Crucially, this robust and cooperative effort should be guided by the World Health Organization, a member of the United Nations family; countries acting on their own – as they must for their people – will not get the job done for all.

Second, tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis.

The virus is spreading like wildfire, and is likely to move swiftly into the Global South, where health systems face constraints, people are more vulnerable, and millions live in densely populated slums or crowded settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons. Fuelled by such conditions, the virus could devastate the developing world and then re-emerge where it was previously suppressed. In our interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health systems.

Clearly, we must fight the virus for all of humanity, with a focus on people, especially the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups.

The United Nations has just issued reports documenting how the viral contagion has become an economic contagion, and setting out the financing needed to address the shocks. The International Monetary Fund has declared that we have entered a recession as bad as or worse than in 2009.

We need a comprehensive multilateral response amounting to a double-digit percentage of global Gross Domestic Product.

Developed countries can do it by themselves, and some are indeed doing it. But we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the IMF, namely through the issuance of special drawing rights, and of the other international financial institutions so that they can rapidly inject resources into the countries that need them. I know this is difficult as nations find themselves increasing domestic spending by record amounts. But that spending will be in vain if we don’t control the virus.

Coordinated swaps among central banks can also bring liquidity to emerging economies. Debt alleviation must also be a priority – including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020.

Third, recover better.

We simply cannot return to where we were before COVID-19 struck, with societies unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis. The pandemic has reminded us, in the starkest way possible, of the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services. It has underscored and exacerbated inequalities, above all gender inequity, laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of invisible and unpaid care labour. It has highlighted ongoing human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The recovery must lead to a different economy. Our roadmap remains the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations system is fully mobilized: supporting country responses, placing our supply chains at the world’s disposal, and advocating for a global cease-fire.

Ending the pandemic everywhere is both a moral imperative and a matter of enlightened self-interest. At this unusual moment, we cannot resort to the usual tools. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. We face a colossal test which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, for all.

The article first appeared in The Guardian.

The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations

United Nations Secretary-General launches plan to address the potentially devastating socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 Establishes global fund to support low- and middle-income countries

PRESS RELEASE

NEW YORK, 31 MARCH 2020—The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods. The potential longer-term effects on the global economy and those of individual countries are dire.

In a new report, Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic

UNSG Antonio Guterres

impacts of COVID-19, the United Nations Secretary-General calls on everyone to act together to address this impact and lessen the blow to people.

The report describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of COVID-19, which has so far claimed the lives of 33 257 people, with 697 244 confirmed cases in 204 countries, areas and territories.

“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

The report comes after the IMF has announced that the world has entered into a recession as bad or worse than in 2009. The report calls for a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global GDP.

The United Nations system—and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, will support all governments and partners through the response and recovery.

To that end, the Secretary-General has established a dedicated COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries. Its approach underpins the reformed UN with a coordinated multi-agency, multi-sectoral response for priority national and local actions to address the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. It will count on the country leadership of Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams in swiftly supporting and enabling governments in this crisis, and recovery.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The shared responsibility and global solidarity roadmap calls for:
• Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic.
• Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods.
• Learning from this human crisis to build back better.

Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic

The report warns that there is no time to lose in mounting the most robust and cooperative health response the world has ever seen. The strongest support must be provided to the multilateral effort to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic, led by the World Health Organization. At the same time there is great need for scientific collaboration in the search for a vaccine and effective therapeutics. This must be matched with assurances of universal access to vaccines and treatment. Throughout the report a people-centred approach is promoted that calls for engaging communities affected by COVID-19, respect for human rights and inclusion, gender equality and dignity for all.

Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods

Recognizing that epidemics can expose and exacerbate existing inequalities in society, the road map shows it will be crucial to cushion the knock-on effects on people’s lives, their livelihoods and the economy. The report highlights examples of actions countries could take, such as direct provision of resources to support workers and households, provision of health and unemployment insurance, scaling-up of social protection, and support to businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job loss. The report strongly recognizes that women and girls must have a face in the response; and opportunities for young people, seriously affected, need to be preserved.

Learn from this crisis to build back better

The world will be faced with a choice in its recovery. Go back to the world we knew before or deal decisively with those issues that make everyone unnecessarily vulnerable to this and future crises. From stronger health systems and fewer people living in extreme poverty to achieving gender equality and taking climate action for a healthy planet, the report gives hope that lessons from this human crisis can build more just and resilient societies and deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Partnerships for progress

No single country or entity will win alone against the pandemic. A successful response and recovery will require international cooperation and partnerships at every level — governments taking action in lock step with communities; private sector engagement to find pathways out of this crisis. Partnerships based on solidarity will be the cornerstone for progress. Civil Society, women and grassroots organizations, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations will play a vital role. In assisting the most vulnerable populations, these networks are active in bringing economic and livelihood opportunities and adapting responses to the community context. These organizations, in many locations in the world, are the first, or only, point of reference for individuals and families as they seek to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 and for the recovery ahead.

Call to action

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a defining moment for modern society, and history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family.

The United Nations and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, supported by established coordination mechanisms, will work with partners to ensure first and foremost that lives are saved, livelihoods are restored, and that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis.
The 129 UN Resident Coordinators and the UN Country Teams will provide comprehensive policy and operational support at the national level in support of a whole of society approach in countries. With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the beginning of a new type of global and societal cooperation.

Recommended measures to cope with the impacts of COVID-19:

1. Global measures to match the magnitude of the crisis
• Advocate and support implementation of a human-centered, innovative and coordinated stimulus package reaching double-digit percentage points of the world’s gross domestic product.
• Resist the temptation to resort to protectionist measures.
• Take explicit measures to boost the economies of developing countries.

2. Regional mobilization
A coordinated regional approach will enable collective examination of impacts, coordination of monetary, fiscal and social measures, and sharing best practices and the lessons learned. • Adopt DO NO HARM trade policies, preserve connectivity, and ensure regional monetary-fiscal coordination. • Engage with private financial sector to support businesses. • Address structural challenges and strengthen normative frameworks to deal with transboundary risks.

3. National solidarity is crucial to leave no one behind
The pandemic is hitting an already weak and fragile world economy. Global growth in 2019 was already the slowest since the global financial crisis of 2008/2009. According to ILO estimates, the world could lose between 5 million and 25 million jobs.
• Undertake fiscal stimulus and support for the most vulnerable.
• Protect Human Rights and focus on inclusion.
• Support to Small and Medium sized Enterprises.
• Support decent work.
• Support education.
• Prioritize social cohesion measures.

COVID-19 socio-economic estimates for 2020 as of March 2020
5 – 25 million jobs lost (ILO)

US$ 860 billion – US$ 3.4 trillion losses in labor income (ILO)

30% — 40% downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows (UNCTAD)

20% – 30% decline in international arrivals (UNWTO)

3.6 billion people offline (ITU)

1.5 billion students out of school (UNESCO)

 

A New Year’s Message from the United Nations

From here at the United Nations, I join you in welcoming the New Year.

We enter 2020 with uncertainty and insecurity all around.

Persistent inequality and rising hatred.

A warring world and a warming planet.

Climate change is not only a long-term problem but a clear and present danger.

We cannot afford to be the generation that fiddled while the planet burned.

But there is also hope.

This year, my New Year’s message is to the greatest source of that hope: the world’s young people.

From climate action to gender equality to social justice and human rights, your generation is on the frontlines and in the headlines.

I am inspired by your passion and determination.

You are rightly demanding a role in shaping the future.

I am with you.

The United Nations stands with you – and belongs to you.

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

We are launching a Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, our blueprint for a fair globalization.

This year, the world needs young people to keep speaking out. Keep thinking big.  Keep pushing boundaries.  And keep up the pressure.

I wish you peace and happiness in 2020.

Thank you.

Video message available here

United Nations Secretary Generals Op-ed on Investors’ Alliance

People around the world are taking to the streets to protest against rising living costs and real

UNSG Antonio Guterres

or perceived injustice. They feel the economy is not working for them — and in some cases, they are right. A narrow focus on growth, regardless of its true cost and consequences, is leading to climate catastrophe, a loss of trust in institutions and a lack of faith in the future.

The private sector is a critical part of solving these problems. Businesses are already working closely with the UN to help build a more stable and equitable future, based on the Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 global goals were agreed by all world leaders in 2015 to address challenges including poverty, inequality, the climate crisis, environmental degradation, peace and justice, by a deadline of 2030.

There has been some progress in the four years since the global goals were adopted. Extreme poverty and child mortality are falling; access to energy and decent work are growing. But overall, we are seriously off-track. Hunger is rising; half the world’s people lack basic education and essential healthcare; women face discrimination and disadvantage everywhere.

One reason for the faltering progress is the lack of financing. Public resources from governments are simply not enough to fund the eradication of poverty, improve the education of girls and mitigate the impact of climate change. We need private investment to fill the gap, so the UN is working with the financial sector. This is a critical moment for business and finance, and their relationship with public policy.

First, businesses need long-term investment policies that serve society, not just shareholders. This is starting to happen — some major pension funds are cutting fossil fuels from their portfolios. And more than 130 banks with $47tn in assets have signed up to the Principles for Responsible Banking, designed in collaboration with the UN. They represent an unprecedented commitment to business strategies that align with the global goals, the 2015 Paris Agreement to prevent global temperatures from rising, and banking practices that create shared prosperity. I urge all financial institutions to sign up to this transformation.

Second, we are finding new ways for the private sector to invest in sustainable growth and development. In October, 30 leaders of multinational companies launched the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance at the UN. Top executives at Allianz and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are among those who have publicly committed to acting as agents of change in their own companies and more widely. They are all already backing major sustainable infrastructure investments including clean, accessible energy projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the use of innovative financial instruments to mobilise billions of dollars for food security and renewable energy. They will now take on an even bigger role in channelling capital towards sustainable development, matching opportunities with investors.

I hope all business leaders follow their lead, investing in the economy of the future: clean, green growth that provides decent jobs and improves people’s lives for the long-term. Business must move further and faster if we are to raise the trillions of dollars required to meet the global goals.

Third, we call on business leaders to go beyond investment and push for policy change. In many cases, companies are already leading the way. Sustainability makes good business sense. Consumers themselves are exerting pressure. One investor described sustainable finance as a “megatrend”. But private finance is often battling subsidies for fossil fuel that distort the market and entrenched interests that favour the status quo. Major investors including Aviva warn that subsidies for fossil fuels could decrease the competitiveness of key industries, including in the low carbon economy. Governments lag behind, reluctant to change outdated regulatory and policy frameworks and tax systems. Quarterly reporting cycles discourage long-term investment. Fiduciary duties of investors need updating to include broader sustainability considerations.

We need business leaders to use their enormous influence to push for inclusive growth and opportunities. No one business can afford to ignore this effort, and there is no global goal that cannot benefit from private sector investment.

It is both good ethics and good business to invest in sustainable, equitable development. Corporate leadership can make all the difference to creating a future of peace, stability and prosperity on a healthy planet.

About the Author; Antonio Guterres, is the current Secretary General of the United Nations.

Zambia Hosts SDGs Sub-Regional Centre for Southern Africa

By Charles Nonde, Public Information Assistant, UNIC Lusaka

In September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United

H.E. President Paul Kagame cuts the ribbon after being presented with keys to the SDGs Sub Regional Center as H.E. President E. Lungu of Zambia looks on. Photo:Nonde/UNICLusaka/2019

Nations Member States. The agenda is anchored on five pillars of People, Planet, Peace, Prosperity and Partnership aimed at guaranteeing growth, social inclusion while protecting the environment. The SDGs comprise an ambitious and interrelated set of 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030. Following the adoption of the SDGs in September 2015, Africa has made commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals Universal Agenda (SDG 2030) and the African Union Agenda 2063.

At the adoption of the SDGs Africa’s starting point was lower than all the other regions. Additionally, 37 African countries were classified as low human development indicators within the Human Development Index (HDI) of less than 0.55.

The Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (SDGC/A) is an international not-for-profit institution that was launched in September 2015 by African Leaders, in order to provide support technical support, neutral advice and expertise as input to national governments, private sector, civil society, academic institutions to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs agenda across Africa.   In July 2016, the SDGC/A signed a host country agreement with the Government of the Republic of Rwanda as an international, non-profit continental institution, and officially launched its headquarters a few months later, in January 2017. Its main engagement and invention areas are; planning, costing, tracking and reporting, financing and governance, setting agenda for policy dialogue, Center engagement on global forums and espousing synergies and partnerships of key stakeholders.

The launch of the SDGCA Sub-Regional Center for southern Africa follows the Host Country Agreement signed in September 2018 between the Government of Zambia and the SDGC/A as a continuation of the Centers commitment to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development throughout the five regions of Africa.

On 7 August, 2019 during a one day event at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Lusaka saw the official launch of the Sub-Regional Center where over 200 government officials, international development partners, development finance institutions, Statistics Institutions and

Ceremonial key presentation for the SDG Sub Regional Center. Left to Right Dr. Belay E. Begashaw, Director General, SDGC/A, H.E. President Paul Kagame, Rwanda and H.E. President E. Lungu, Zambia. Photo:Nonde/UNIC Lusaka/2019

experts from the Southern Africa and aboard, joining high level dignitaries to discuss the major themes relevant to the implementation in Africa with focus on the southern Region.

The United Nations in Zambia was represented by the Resident Coordinator a.i. Dr George Okech with some members of the United Nations Country Team in attendance. Dr. Okech participated in the first panel discussion on the key findings of the SDGs 3 years report and the 2019 SDGs Africa that was presented by Dr. Enock Twinoburyo, Senior Economist from the SDGC/A.

His Excellency, Mr. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia where present for the launch. During the keynote address given by President Kagame who is also the Chair of the SDGCA Board, thanked the people of Zambia for accepting to hosting the first Center in Southern Africa. He also expressed his gratitude at the commitment to leadership demonstrated by his counterpart in making this a reality.

In his acceptance speech the Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu said the city of Lusaka was synonymous with the struggle for freedom and self-determination in the region. It was a struggle that was successfully waged from here by the liberation movements.

“Today, we meet to rekindle that hope among our people through yet another wave of self-determination from the sustainable Development Front” Lungu said.  He reiterated that the launch of the Centre renewed the hope, and win the war against poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and the negative effects of climate change and other challenges.

The Republican President said the centre would bring everyone together and together make the Centre a critical asset in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063.

At the close of the ceremony President Kagame presented a symbolic key to President Lungu officially launching the SDGC/A for Southern Africa with Dr Belay E. Begashaw also on hand to receive the key.

UNIC Lusaka promotes better understanding SDGs among pupils

By Shiho Kuwahara, University Volunteer, UNIC Lusaka

In continued efforts to create awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Shiho (middle) presenting the SDGs to students.

Shiho Kuwahara (middle) presenting the SDGs to students.

among children and youth, UNIC Lusaka conducted educational outreach activities in three Lusaka-based schools (North Park, Great North Road Academy and Rhodes Park) from 12-14 February 2019. More than 200 eleventh and twelfth grade pupils participated in the activities.

The presentations focused on how pupils can contribute to the goals at their ages in their attainment. As an introduction, there was a short video of the background of SGDs to let them know about its history. Presenters explained each SDG and needed actions to achieve the goals with actual examples which are familiar with children’s daily life. Pupils were eager to learn about it and participated actively in all the sessions through questions and contributions.  A crucial point that all the goals are important and interlinked was made and that there, therefore, need to make progress on all of them in order to have sustainable development.

As part of the sessions, a lively quiz was given to assess the knowledge levels of the pupils. The pupils deepened their understanding of SDGs.

“Is it really possible to achieve these goals by 2030,”? asked one pupil and Rhodes Park School. It was later emphasized that progress on the SDGs depends on efforts and cooperation by everyone including governments and individuals.

The SDGs were adopted by the 193 UN Member States, including Zambia, at the Sustainable

Shiho Kuwahara, shares a light moment with students at Great North Road Academy.

Shiho, shares a light moment with students at Great North Road Academy.

Development Summit in New York in 2015. The 17 goals focus on the three interconnected elements of sustainable development: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection with the aim to make a better world by the year 2030. The first step to achieve the goals is to know about them, especially for youth because they are the future leaders. UNIC Lusaka will continue to work with UN agencies in Zambia to create awareness about the SDGs and encourage people to act for the Global Goals.

 

Worrisome risks lurk beneath solid global growth

By Elliott Harris

On the surface, the world economy remains on a steady trajectory moving into 2019. Headline

Elliot Harris, UN Chief Economist and Under Secretary General for Economic Development

Elliot Harris, UN Chief Economist and Under Secretary General for Economic Development

figures suggest that – while global growth has likely peaked – activity around the world will continue to expand at a solid pace. Several developed economies are operating close to their full potential with unemployment rates at historical lows.

Yet, headlines do not tell the whole story. Beneath the surface, a much more worrisome picture of the world economy emerges. The newly-released World Economic Situation and Prospects 2019illustrates how a combination of rising economic, social and environmental challenges hampers progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. There are several risk factors that could disrupt activity and inflict significant damage on longer-term development prospects. Over the past year, trade policy disputes have escalated, and financial vulnerabilities have increased as global liquidity tightens, casting a shadow over the outlook for 2019 and beyond.

Should such a downturn materialize, prospects are grim. Global private and public debt is at a record high, well above the level seen in the run-up to the global financial crisis. Interest rates remain very low in most developed economies, while central bank balance sheets are still bloated. With limited monetary and fiscal space, policymakers around the globe will struggle to react effectively to an economic downturn. And, given waning support for multilateral approaches, concerted actions – like those implemented in response to the 2008/09 crisis – may prove difficult to arrange.

Even if global growth remains robust, its benefits do not reach the places they are needed most. Incomes will stagnate or grow only marginally in 2019 in parts of Africa, Western Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Many commodity exporters are still grappling with the effects of the commodity price collapse of 2014-16. The challenges are most acute in Africa, where per capita growth has averaged only 0.3 per cent over the past five years. Given a rapidly growing population, the fight against poverty will require much faster economic growth and dramatic reductions in income inequality.

And, perhaps most importantly, the critical transition towards environmental sustainability is not happening fast enough. The nature of current growth is not compatible with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In fact, the impacts of climate change are becoming more widespread and severe. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is increasing.Floods, coastal storm surges, droughts and heat waves are damaging vital infrastructure and causing large-scale displacements. The human and economic costs of such disasters fall overwhelmingly on low-income countries.

Many of the challenges before us are global in nature and require collective and cooperative policy action. Withdrawal into nationalism and unilateral action will only pose further setbacks for the global community, and especially for those already in danger of being left behind. Instead, policymakers need to work together to address the weaknesses of the current system and strengthen the multilateral framework.

The author is UN Chief Economist and and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development

The UN Secretary General- Message on The International Day of Zero Tolerance For Female Genital Mutilation

6 February 2019

Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent human rights violation affecting women and girls

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

around the world. It denies them their dignity, endangers their health and causes needless pain and suffering, even death.

Female genital mutilation is rooted in gender inequalities and power imbalances– and it sustains them by limiting opportunities for girls and women to realize their rights and full potential. An estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have been subject to this harmful practice. And every year, almost 4 million girls are at risk.

The Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of female genital mutilation by 2030. The United Nations joins hands with global, regional and national actors in supporting holistic and integrated initiatives to achieve this objective. Tackling FGM is also a central part of our efforts in the Spotlight Initiative, launched in partnership with the European Union to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

With strong political commitment, we are seeing positive change in several countries. However, if current trends persist, these advances will continue to be outpaced by rapid population growth where the practice is concentrated.

On this Day of Zero Tolerance, I call for increased, concerted and global action to end female genital mutilation and fully uphold the human rights of all women and girls.

Message in other UN official languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian,Spanish.

More information

Ending poverty is possible, but it means facing up to inequality: within and between countries

Op-ed by Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations

World leaders have committed to ending poverty everywhere for all people by 2030. Achieving this aim means facing up to the need for dramatic declines in inequalities – in income, in opportunity, in exposure to risk, across gender, between countries and within countries – over the next decade.

Inequality is a well-recognized barrier to poverty eradication, as well as many other

Mr. Liu become the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Mr. Liu, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

development challenges. It features in multiple dimensions across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—the universally adopted plan to promote prosperity and social well-being while protecting the environment. According to many metrics, income inequality among countries has declined somewhat in recent decades, driven primarily by strong growth in East Asian and South Asian economies.  But there are many countries—particularly in parts of Africa, Western Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean—where income levels have continued to fall further behind, exacerbating income inequalities between countries.

The latest United Nation’s analysis in the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2019indicates that per capita income levels essentially stagnated or declined in a total of 47 developing and transition economies last year. Most of these countries have been consistently falling behind for several decades. This poses an enormous challenge as countries strive to reduce poverty, develop essential infrastructure, create jobs and support economic diversification. Most of the lagging countries are highly dependent on commodities, stressing the importance of both diversification and effective management of natural resource wealth to tap into their development potential. Several countries have also suffered long-standing armed conflict or civil unrest and political instability.

If this trend continues, eradicating poverty and creating decent jobs for all will become increasingly out of reach. Weak economic performance is also linked to insufficient investment in quality education, health services, social protection, programs for marginalized groups and mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Faster GDP growth alone will not necessarily lead to broad-based improvements in living standards. Deep inequalities also persist in the distribution of income within countries, acting as a major barrier to development progress.  High inequality within countries is associated with social exclusion and fragmentation; weaker institution-building and governance; and increased risk of violence and internal conflict.

Fundamental transformations are needed going forward, to narrow the income gaps between and within countries. According to UN estimates, without significant changes in behaviour, more than 7 percent of the global population may remain in poverty by the year 2030, including about 30 per cent of the populations in Africa and the least developed countries (LDCs).

In Africa, where the population is expanding at a rate of more than 2 per cent per year, reducing the level of extreme poverty to below 5 per cent by 2030 will require a combination of double digit GDP growth and dramatic declines in inequality; well-outside the realms of historical precedence.

Integrated and cross-cutting policy measures that both raise prospects for economic growth and reduce income inequalities are essential to shift the world towards a more sustainable and inclusive path. This includes investing in education, health care, resilience to climate change, and financial and digital inclusion, to support economic growth and job creation in the short-term, while promoting sustainable development in the long term.

Macroeconomic stability and a strong development-oriented policy framework, including a well-functioning and robust financial system, are key elements for successfully tackling inequality. Well-designed fiscal policies can help smooth the business cycle, provide public goods, correct market failures and directly influence the income distribution. Broadening access to quality education is also crucial, coupled with employment policies, such as raising minimum wages and expanding social protection. Prioritizing rural infrastructure development, through public investment in transport, agriculture and energy, can also support poverty alleviation and narrow inequalities within countries.

While there is no one-size-fits-all policy prescription that guarantees delivery of a more equal and prosperous society, one overarching message is clear: calls to eradicate poverty are meaningless without concerted and committed policy action to reduce inequality.

***

Mr. Liu become the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs in July 2017. Prior to his appointment, he was the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of China since 2013. Mr. Liu brings to the position more than 30 years of experience in the diplomatic service, with a strong focus on the promotion of bilateral, regional and global issues. He was deeply involved for 10 years in climate change negotiations, including the conclusion of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.