Achieving sustainable development is complex and requires collective and urgent action

Global problems need global solutions, UN officials tell ministers at development forum

News | 29 August 2017
The intense policy discussions and presentation of 43 national reviews during the UN’s second High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) culminated in the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration which focused on eradicating poverty and called for accelerating the pace of urgent action given the daunting development challenges facing the global community.

The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Frederick Shava of Zimbabwe, said that although an “international enabling environment” and bold actions can be key to effective national poverty eradication strategies he cautioned that “globalization is creating pressing challenges.”

This presaged a constant refrain in the discussions that the benefits of globalization and economic development are not equally shared and required bold and immediate action. For example, women on average spent almost triple the amount of time on unpaid domestic and care work as men, based on data from 2010 to 2016. Additionally, recent research shows that excessive inequality tends to contribute to lower economic growth and less social cohesion.

The HLPF is an annual forum at which governments discuss actions taken and successes achieved in implementing the development agenda outlined in the sustainable development goals (SDG) adopted during the General Assembly in 2015. This year’s gathering, convened on the theme of “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”, brought together 77 Ministers and deputy ministers as well as 2,458 registered participants from all over the world.

The formal outcome of the meeting is the Ministerial Declaration which covers a wide range of issues including the multidimensional nature of poverty, ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, mitigating the effects of climate change, fostering peaceful, gender equality, just and inclusive societies that provide equal access to justice and respect for human rights.

The Declaration highlights the importance of taking targeted measures to eradicate poverty through implementing nationally appropriate social protection systems, including social protection floors. The document speaks about the inclusivity and sustainability of industrialization as integral to the structural transformation of economies necessary for the creation of decent jobs for all, as well as the disruptive potential of new technologies on our labour markets and on the jobs of the future.

As one of the major side event during the HLPF was the convening of the second annual Partnership Exchange Forum organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in collaboration with the Office for Partnerships (UNOP) to enhance the global partnership for sustainable development.

Delivering the keynote address at the forum, ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, stated that the “ILO is leading a range of partnerships to address interconnected challenges” presented by the SDGs. “All of these partnerships apply the principles of the ILO: social dialogue and full involvement of workers, employers and governments. This approach requires investment of time and effort, but we have learned over many decades that such an inclusive approach is essential for truly sustainable solutions and partnerships” stated Mr. Ryder.

In highlighting the Social Protection Systems and Floors Multi-stakeholder Partnership, Mr. Ryder emphasized that “social protection is a human right and an economic necessity” and urged governments to recognise the importance of this partnership as an important initiative in reducing poverty, achieving social justice, sustaining social peace and increasing economic development.

During the review panel addressing SDG 1 (eliminating poverty), the ILO Deputy Director General for Policy, Deborah Greenfield, stressed the importance of strengthening collective bargaining, implement minimum wage policies and reduce informality as a way to reduce the number of working poor.

“Social dialogue in all its forms is key to reducing poverty whether it is relative or absolute. And that means involving workers themselves as well as enterprises, whether they are large enterprises, multinationals or whether they are SMEs or micro‐enterprises” stated Ms. Greenfield.

The ILO contributed substantively to the SDGs review process by providing information on the main decent work indicators to the report of the Secretary-General on progress towards the SDGs and submitting a technical paper drawing on the ILO Governing Body discussions. A number of ILO-co-sponsored side events were also organized in the area of social protection, women economic empowerment, skills for youth, future of work, cooperatives and green jobs.

The ILO’s efforts were giving increased resonance through the participation of a trade union delegation, led by the ITUC Deputy General Secretary, Wellington Chibebe. Trade unions are increasingly becoming powerful voice at the UN for people who work with some members participating as part of their respective official country delegations.

The closing of the HLPF, marked by the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration, demonstrated the importance of openly addressing myriad challenges the international systems face today. The efforts of the member States and the UN system requires a constant assessment of “how the promise of sustainable and equitable growth can be turned into a reality for all people around the globe,” said ECOSOC President Frederick Shava in his closing remarks.

“There is growing consensus that the interconnected and global nature of challenges in all dimensions of sustainable development – the economic, social and environmental – cannot be solved by one nation alone,” he added.