Speaker Underlines Importance of Institutional Capacity, Reliable Data to Improving Health, Education, as Economic and Social Council Continues Segment


Many Delegates Outline Challenges Related to Climate Change, Constrained Resources

Government officials from around the globe today outlined efforts � often inspired by the deeply cross-cutting nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development � to implement integrated, multisectoral policies, as they addressed the Economic and Social Council’s integration segment.

Entering the annual session’s second day, the Council heard a variety of perspectives related to this year’s theme, Making eradication of poverty an integral objective of all policies: what will it take? Speakers during a morning panel discussion on national experiences relayed both opportunities and challenges, citing policies ranging from private sector investment incentives to the establishment of social protection floors for the most vulnerable.

Paulo Luiz Moreaux Lavigne Esteves, General Supervisor at the Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) Policy Centre, was among the speakers citing concrete national policies as well as measurable results. In that regard, he described Brazil’s recent enrolment of almost 14 million families into a conditional cash transfer programme, noting that it had led to improvements in health, education and gender rights. That success was largely due to favourable sociopolitical conditions � including strong institutional capacity and reliable data � on the ground, he said.

Edward Sambili, Professor at Egerton University and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, outlined that country’s interagency road map for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which he said involved Government, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and other partners. Drawing attention to Kenya’s increasing focus on poverty reduction, he said social initiatives � such as the provision of both primary and secondary education and social protection schemes targeting the marginalized � were critical.

Striking a different tone, a number of delegates outlined rapidly accelerating challenges related to climate change, food insecurity and constrained resources � both natural and financial. Several speakers recounted national efforts to take such emerging issues into account in their policy approaches.

In that regard, Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said supporting the sustainable development of small island developing States meant boosting human resources and technical capacity, particularly around data collection and analysis. Attracting private investment remained a challenge for such States due to their size and remote locations, he said.

During the ensuing interactive dialogue, discussions emerged about the specific needs of middle-income countries, small island developing States and others in special circumstances. In that regard, Mr. Sareer warned against categorizing countries into different baskets, recalling that despite Maldives’ 2011 graduation to middle-income status it continued to face major structural challenges.

In the afternoon, the Council held a panel discussion on Policy instruments for an integrated approach to poverty eradication, moderated by Sanjay Reddy, Associate Professor of Economics at the New School for Social Research. It also concluded its general debate, during which representatives outlined additional policies aimed at integrating the various elements of sustainable development.

Speaking during the general debate were the representatives of China, Thailand, Zimbabwe and Azerbaijan.

The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 10 May, to hold a panel discussion on the eradication of poverty in Africa.

Panel Discussion I

The Economic and Social Council held a panel discussion this morning on National experiences, moderated by Elizabeth Thompson, former Government Minister and Senator of Barbados and former Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. It included the following panellists: Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States; Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru; Miska Simanainen, researcher, Social Security Institution of Finland; Paulo Luiz Moreaux Lavigne Esteves, General Supervisor, Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Policy Centre; and Edward Sambili, Faculty Member, Economics Department of Egerton University and former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Kenya.

Mr. SAREER said the first step to achieving policy integration was through improving coordination and coherence at different levels of governance. Economic, social and environmental challenges must not be considered independently, but rather as cross-boundary issues. In order to assist small island developing States tackle gaps and vulnerabilities, there was a need for increased human resource and technical capacity, particularly around data collection and analysis. Attracting private investment remained a challenge for small island developing States due to their size and remote locations. However, despite those challenges, those States continued to work to incentivize investments. Oceans remained the main resource for small island developing States. In the case of Maldives, achieving fisheries through pole and line fishing while restricting other harmful methods and preserving the marine environment remained crucial. His country faced limitations in public spending, as well as limited space and infrastructure.

Mr. MEZA-CUADRA said recent figures had demonstrated a radical change and reduction in poverty in Peru; however, the background is much more complicated. He said his country had entered a period of political instability in the 1990s, which did not see economic development reach the most vulnerable. Since 2000, a number of political changes took place, bringing forth long-term policies that involved civil society. A basic development consensus had been established, he said, outlining how different sectors had worked together to reach rural areas and the most remote. Peru met its Millennium Development Goals by investing in infrastructure, telecommunications and hygiene. Specific programmes targeted vulnerable groups, he continued, emphasizing the need to take into account dimensions of poverty beyond income. For instance, 40 per cent of the Peruvian population was anaemic, he said, adding that the Government was working to reduce that number. Describing a programme that provided rural mothers funding, he said such initiatives benefiting specific groups remained critical.

Mr. SIMANAINEN played a video describing Finland’s pilot scheme that pays its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum for two years, irrespective of whether they find work or not. He said his Government’s main goal was to enact policy that improved employment and to study the effect monetary work incentives had on the employment rate. Basic income at that level could not be considered as a policy for eliminating poverty. There were lessons learned during the design and implementation stages of the experiment. In Finland, there were strong constitutional and other limitations on what could be experimented on. Designing a treatment was as difficult a task as designing a real policy, he said. Trials would take time, he continued, adding that experimentation was a learning process. Large scale system reforms may be too difficult to experiment with, he concluded.

Mr. ESTEVES outlined how Brazil by 2012 had enrolled almost 14 million families into a conditional cash transfer programme, which had a positive impact on their health, education and gender rights. The success was largely due to favourable sociopolitical conditions on the ground, including a set of institutional capacities in place and a reliable database of families living in poverty. In the same vein, there were bottlenecks that had to be overcome with the help of the United Nations. The Government of Brazil joined forces with the United Nations development system to create centres to foster policy. Those centres, namely the International Poverty Centre for Inclusive Growth and the Centre of Excellence against Hunger, had been successful in monitoring and assessing the impact of the country’s national development policy.

Mr. SAMBILI described Kenya’s interagency road map which included Government, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and Council of Governors partnering for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the last two decades, the Government had enhanced its focus on poverty reduction initiatives. In 2016, Kenya had launched a transparent and open social platform that allowed players to share knowledge and experiences. The social dimensions of poverty reduction initiatives included providing primary and secondary education, and social protection schemes targeting the marginalized. However, challenges persisted including a lack of jobs, high population growth, high youth unemployment, poor economy and rampant corruption. To address some of those issues, the Government had reserved 30 per cent of its contracts for youth, women and persons with disabilities. At least 30 per cent of public sector jobs had also been reserved for women. Regarding the environmental dimension of sustainable development, the Government had implemented school tree planting programmes and community driven forest management. Still, corruption, quality of data, lack of expertise and Government rigidity remained challenges.

In the ensuing discussion, answering a question posed by Ms. THOMPSON about the funding challenges of small island developing States, Mr. SAREER said that categorization of countries into different baskets was where the issue really creeps up. Maldives had become a middle-income country in 2011, but that doesn’t really change anything on the ground. Maldives still faced major structural challenges. It’s a remarkable thing to see a country do well in its development, but the small island developing States category is not one to graduate from. The moment a country becomes middle-income, concessionary loans become limited.

Answering a question on the new rise in groups that rejected social safety nets and how it could potentially impact social protection policies worldwide, Mr. SIMANAINEN said there was clear evidence that better health, equal access to education and better employment reduced poverty.

Mr. ESTEVES, responding to a query about how Brazil monitored abuse of the conditional cash scheme, said the initiative was transparent. There were however challenges facing graduation from the programme, he added, asking: would people want to graduate from programmes that provided them with grants? It was, however, important to remember that the cash programme was conditional and the conditions included school attendance, doctor visits and immunizations.

Responding to a question on how the United Nations could help bring different parties to the table, Mr. SAMBILI said that Governments would remain the drivers of the development of long-term strategy. Bringing in the private sector, Government, civil society and the United Nations enabled different parties to look at how the issues align, particularly on the economic and social goals. However, alignment on environment issues was more challenging as the effects of climate change were not immediate and therefore delayed action. He welcomed the United Nations role in getting parties on the same page in that area.

The representative of Brazil outlined the important role of Brazilian civil society in designing and implementing policy, adding that their role would only grow in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ecuador’s delegate said conditional cash initiatives were critical in helping developing countries.

Responding to a question posed by Norway’s delegate about the outcomes of the income experiment in Finland, Mr. SIMANAINEN said the main objective of the experiment was to see the effect of monetary incentives on the employment rate. We have ground to believe this will have a positive effect on employment, he said, emphasizing that the basic difference between the income and the unemployment benefits schemes was the unconditionality of the former.

Responding to a question posed by the representative of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development on rallying investments from the renewable energy industry, Mr. MEZA-CUADRA said the Peruvian Government aimed to have diversified investments. His Government had invested in solar energy, he continued, adding that renewables were crucial to Peru, which remained very vulnerable to climate change.

Adding to that, Mr. SAREER said his Government had also been focused on addressing climate change challenges largely by reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and moving toward depending on renewables. The private sector had been instrumental in supporting the Government’s goal.

Delivering a statement, the representative of the International Committee for Peace and Reconciliation urged the international community to wake-up to eliminate poverty which had affected too many people worldwide particularly, women, young people and the displaced.

Panel Discussion II

This afternoon, the Council held a panel discussion on Policy instruments for an integrated approach to poverty eradication. Moderated by Sanjay Reddy, Associate Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research (United States), it featured the following panellists: Bente Angell-Hansen, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations in Vienna and Chair, Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its sixtieth session; Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, United Nations Global Pulse; Hanaa Elhelaly, Managing Director, Amwal Financial Investments (Egypt); and Shoaib Sultan-Khan, Chairman, Rural Support Programmes Network (Pakistan).

Mr. REDDY, describing today’s world as one in which expertise is clearly devalued, said there was nevertheless a critical role for expertise in the formulation of development policy. The policy instruments we seek should be ones that bring together the role of expertise as well as democratic legitimacy and consensus, he stressed in that regard.

Ms. ANGELL-HANSEN, citing strong links between poverty and drugs, said the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was working to implement the three important United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)-related conventions. During its recent sixtieth session, more than 1,000 delegates, including representatives of civil society, had discussed ways to build on the success of the General Assembly’s 2016 special session on the world drug problem, focusing on issues related to supply and demand sides, as well as human rights, gender and youth. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs’ agenda dealt closely with all three of the United Nations core pillars � namely security, development and human rights � she said, adding that the estimated $2.1 trillion annual illicit drug trade represented a major impediment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While the Commission already cooperated on a number of issues with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Statistical Office, the Commission on the Status of Women and other entities, she stressed that the Economic and Social Council could play an important role in connecting those dots.

Mr. KIRKPATRICK said modern data sources � including social media and mobile technology � offered a tremendous opportunity to measure and improve human development in real time. The United Nations Global Pulse was working to harness big data for the public good, in particular sustainable development and humanitarian action. Data revolutions are characterized by letting us see things that used to be invisible, he said, pointing to x-rays and genetic analysis as examples. Today, social media, online news, retail advertising and other public sources of data � as well as more private, highly-guarded ones such as online searches, web traffic and financial transactions � could complement statistics and help researchers better understand human behaviour. Global Pulse was engaging a variety of businesses, encouraging them to share their data in a safe, anonymous ways that would allow it to be used to support human well-being and sustainable development. While the risk of misuse of data was real, he concluded, the non-use of those data could also risk perpetuating ongoing preventable harm.

Ms. ELHELALY, focusing on social protection systems, outlined a number of manifestations for such systems: health care for the poor, conditional cash transfers, school feeding programmes, ration cards, social housing, slum development, labour-intensive projects and insurance and pension schemes. Noting that over one third of Egypt’s population was classified as poor, she recalled that while the country had enjoyed a 6 per cent annual growth rate before 2011, that growth did not trickle down to the poor. Today, the Ministry of Social Solidarity was engaged in a public of protection schemes, including a conditional cash transfer programme known as Takaful or solidarity. Emphasizing that such programmes were crucial to supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized, she described the creation of autonomous social funds in Egypt as well as her own work in helping Liberia establish social safety nets during the recent Ebola crisis.

Mr. SULTAN-KHAN, noting that 20 per cent of the world’s population currently consumed 80 per cent of its resources while its poorest 20 per cent only accounted for 1.3 per cent, stressed that the centrepiece of poverty-alleviation policy framework must be the mobilization of the poor, in order to enable them to participate directly in the decisions that affected their lives. Governments typically consisted of two pillars � an administrative one and a political one � but, critically, lacked a socioeconomic pillar. Noting that such a pillar required an institutional mechanism with the resources of a Government and the flexibility of a non-governmental organization, he called for a multi-tiered, holistic approach. He also relayed a number of personal observations from his work on the ground in Pakistan � stressing that many communities only needed the support of an organization to unleash their potential � and underscored the importance of using the time-tested principles of development rather than reinventing the wheel.

As the floor was opened for discussion, the panellists responded to a number of questions, including one posed by NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and Chair of this afternoon’s session, on the topic of microcredit schemes and conditional cash transfer programmes. Among other things, he asked them to explain the difference between those instruments and to outline their comparative advantages.

To that, Ms. HELALY described Mexico’s poverty targeting toolkit, which helped the Government deploy the right instrument for the right population. Noting that microfinancing played a critical role in Egypt’s rural areas � with non-governmental organizations distributing the loans � she said female-headed households represented the bulk of the beneficiaries. Increasingly, loan recipients were managing those funds and repaying them with the help of mobile technology, she added.

In that regard, Mr. KIRKPATRICK said granular-level data emerging from the use of loans and cash transfers could prove helpful in learning whether communities did, or did not, benefit from those programmes. Partnerships with the private sector would be necessary to access such data in a safe and responsible way.

The representative of Mexico welcomed the panel’s discussion of the General Assembly’s special session on the world drug problem. He called that session a new paradigm in global efforts to combat the global drug problem which, in particular, linked those strategies with the 2030 Agenda. All United Nations agencies must remain involved and engaged in those efforts.

Ms. ANGELL-HANSEN emphasized the importance of incorporating drug prevention programmes in a wide range of the United Nations work, including its growing work to support refugees and migrants. She also spotlighted the role of public-private partnerships in creating alternative livelihoods for drug producers, citing one such partnership between Nespresso and the Government of Colombia aimed at substituting coca plant production with coffee farming.

In response to a question posed by Mr. Reddy, Mr. SULTAN-KHAN said communities were often able to develop their own plans to lift themselves out of poverty if provided with the adequate resources.


LIU JIEYI (China), associating himself with the Group of 77 developing countries, said the international community must step up its work in a number of critical areas, including speeding up its global poverty reduction efforts. It should also strengthen cooperation in that area, paying particular attention to the financing needs of developing countries. For their part, developed countries should fully honour their official development assistance (ODA) commitments and provide developing countries with debt relief and broader market access. Calling, in that regard, for an open world economy and a fair, inclusive and orderly global financial system as essential preconditions for poverty eradiation, he outlined some of China’s own poverty reduction strategies. Having already reduced poverty among its rural population by some 700 million people, the country was on track to achieve full poverty eradication by 2020.

NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77, declared: We need to recognize that poverty goes beyond the lack of income, encompassing the lack of jobs, opportunities and access to basic services. Thailand had mainstreamed poverty eradication into its 20-year national strategy, as well as its economic and social development plans. It had also long pursued a people-centred approach that enabled individuals to transform their thinking and escape the vicious cycle of poverty, employing the principles of moderation, resilience and reasonableness, guided by knowledge and moral considerations. Thailand had also been sharing that approach through South-South and triangular cooperation frameworks, and planned to present its national voluntary review at the Council’s high-level session in July.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country was focusing on food security, social services and infrastructure. Highlighting the interlinkage between them all, he said it would not be possible to eliminate poverty without ending hunger. Addressing health and education was dependent upon addressing gender equality, water and sanitation, sustainable energy, and job creation. All the goals were linked and dependent on one another, he added, urging the need for multi-stakeholder participation and partnerships across the board. He also called for investments in the empowerment of women and girls. As long as we remain farms and quarries we will forever be susceptible to boom-bust cycles of commodity prices, he added. It was therefore important to add value to the rich natural resources and agricultural products.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that with some 20 million people facing starvation and famine, worldwide funding was critical to avert the calamity, which further demonstrated that there could be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development. For its part, the economic policy of Azerbaijan aimed to improve citizens’ socioeconomic standing. By incorporating the 2030 Agenda into its national plans, the Government had made progress in diversifying the economy, increased spending on agriculture and created more decent jobs. It had also provided social protection to low-income families. In the last decade, the poverty and unemployment rate had been reduced to 5 per cent and some 3,000 schools and 600 hospitals and health centres had been built or renovated. Emphasizing that particular attention must be paid to internally displaced persons, he noted that some 250,000 had already been provided with housing.

Source: United Nations