UNITED NATIONS, Apr 16 (APP):The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development, held under Pakistan’s presidency, concluded Thursday, after reaffirming commitment to strengthen multilateral cooperation to combat the ill effects of coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately impacted the developing countries.
“We are now facing a multidimensional health and socioeconomic crisis that is compounded by climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation,” the Forum, meeting at a ministerial level, stated in a 13-page outcome document of agreed conclusions and recommendations.
“Although the virus has impacted everyone, everywhere, developing countries, especially the most vulnerable countries, have been disproportionately affected,” according to the outcome document, which the ECOSOC president, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, called “ambitious”.
“The message that comes through this document is that the global recovery from the COVID pandemic must be undertaken urgently and comprehensively and should restore us on the path of sustainable development towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris climate goals, and other goals that we have all endorsed,” said Ambassador Akram, who presided over the four-day Forum on FfD.
On Monday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan opened the Forum, calling for mobilization of funds for developing countries “to recover from the COVID-inducted recession” and put them on the path to achieve U.N. development goals for 2030 including eliminating extreme poverty.
The Forum’s outcome document — which states that “equitable, affordable access for all” to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics is “at the center of global recovery” — is structured around the Addis Ababa Action Agenda’s seven chapters: domestic public resources; domestic and international private business and finance; international development cooperation;
international trade as an engine for development; debt sustainability; addressing systemic issues; and science, technology, innovation and capacity-building; as well as an additional section on data, monitoring and follow-up.
It also includes a discussion of cross-cutting issues in recognition of the devastating global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and concomitant risk of losing years of development progress, such as pre-existing inequalities within and between countries and the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women and girls.
By its terms, the participating ministers resolved to ensure timely access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries and called for increased funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) and its COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
They also stressed the importance of investment in sustainable infrastructure to inclusive post-pandemic recovery and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In terms of domestic public resources, the Forum’s ministers said that appropriate, exceptional fiscal measures should be maintained for as long as needed to secure health, social and economic recovery.
They further called on the United Nations to support countries in building capacity for effective, efficient taxation of the digital economy and on Member States to strengthen international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows.
On international development cooperation, senior officials stressed that official development assistance (ODA) is indispensable for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, urging developed countries to fulfill their commitments in this regard, including achieving the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income for such assistance.
They also emphasized the importance of scaling up and improving access to climate finance for countries that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Turning to international trade as an engine for development, they committed to ensure that any emergency trade measures designed to tackle the COVID-19 crisis are targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary; will protect the most vulnerable; and will not create permanent barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains.
In the area of follow-up, it was decided that the seventh Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development Follow-up will be held from 25 to 28 April 2022.
In closing remarks, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that the worst health and economic downturn in recent history has exacerbated vulnerabilities in societies around the world, leading some to describe COVID-19 as “the inequality virus”.
While some advanced economies increased their fiscal expenses by 13 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP), many other countries faced strained fiscal spaces, high borrowing costs and limited possibilities for action, Ms. Mohammed said.
“The diverging world we are hurtling towards is a catastrophe for all of us,” she stressed, raising the potential for a lost decade of development.
Ms. Mohammed underscored the need for structural transformation, first and foremost by supporting countries in their rapid acquisition and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Further, international debt architecture must be reformed through a multi-stakeholder process, while eligibility criteria for debt relief must be based on country need.
“Governments should not be forced to service debts at the expense of helping their people,” she insisted. This call for systemic change was also voiced earlier in the day during two panel discussions on the themes “Walking the talk on illicit financial flows:
Actions to achieve tangible progress” and “Building the economy of the future that is climate-resilient and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the African Union Development Agency and Co-Chairman of the High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity, said that the High-Level Panel’s February report makes the case that a systemic approach is needed to reform, redesign and revitalize global architecture to foster financial integrity.
Stronger values, policies and institutions — coupled with greater transparency around company ownership and public spending — are needed to support durable recovery from the pandemic, he stressed.
Hiro Mizuno, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investments, spoke similarly of the need for structural change by pointing out that the private sector makes financial decisions “according to the rules of the game” as they currently stand.
He underscored the need for Governments to support green transformation through policies, regulations and guidance that ensures the “game” in which financial players are engaged is one centred on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.