UN - United Nations

10/12/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/12/2021 16:41

Speakers Highlight Critical Need to Restore Degraded Lands, Protect Ecosystems, as Second Committee Concludes Debate on Sustainable Development

In rerouting the global community onto a sustainable path after COVID-19 setbacks and devastating natural hazards, speakers in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today highlighted the need to restore degraded land, protect biodiversity, conserve natural ecosystems and tackle climate change.

The representative of Timor-Leste observed that biodiversity and ecosystems contribute to human life by providing economic growth, food, water security and a stable climate. Her country is finalizing its first national climate change policy on the conservation and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, as well as forests, she said.

On natural hazards, she said her nation is suffering from multiple calamities alongside the impacts of climate change, with a flash flood leaving widespread destruction in April 2021. In tandem with the coronavirus, these shocks have further exacerbated the country's vulnerabilities as a least developed and small island developing State, hampering its ability to transform into an upper-middle-income country by 2030.

Noting that her nation is working to reverse land degradation, including desertification, India's delegate said it is assisting other developing countries in a collective effort to develop like strategies. Adding that India is one of the top three countries to have regained forest areas, she said the numbers of animals, including lions and tigers, have recently increased.

Likewise, Burundi's delegate said her country has identified degraded land in desperate need of rehabilitation and is working with donors, as well as international organizations, to restore it. The Government has taken severe measures to restore agricultural land and ensure all relevant areas are reforested, a mammoth task warranting support from the international community, she said.

Also today, the Committee concluded it discussion on information and communications technology (ICT), as well as globalization and interdependence.

On ICT, many speakers emphasized the need to shrink the digital divide, saying the pandemic has shown the importance of meaningful Internet connectivity for livelihoods, employment, health and social participation. "Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline," the representative from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said, stressing the need to provide affordable access to technology and empower people with digital skills.

Addressing globalization, several delegates highlighted the unique plight of middle-income countries in their efforts to reduce poverty, improve environments and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Economic indicators like gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income, which determine these nations' right to financing, are unreliable in stripping them from benefits like official development assistance (ODA), many said.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Nicaragua, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mozambique, Eritrea, Tonga, Bahrain, Mauritania, Costa Rica, Cameroon, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Ghana, Oman, Russian Federation, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

An observer for the State of Palestine also delivered a statement.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 October, to take up macroeconomic policy questions.

Sustainable Development

The representative of Nicaragua, associating herself with the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said her Government, together with the people, have worked in a sustained and consistent manner in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Nicaragua has executed plans and programmes that have managed to reduce the indices of general poverty and extreme poverty; increased access to drinking water; guaranteed free public education and health care; increased electricity coverage to 98.5 per cent of the population; transformed the energy matrix with renewable resources; and achieved a growth in national production of up to 76 per cent. She emphasized that the imposition of unilateral coercive measures against developing countries prevent them from fully implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, denying them the right to development. It is imperative to halt these measures, which represent one of the greatest obstacles to the development of peoples and, in times of pandemic, become a crime against humanity, she said.

The representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said his country was taking strict measures in the area of crisis management to avert natural hazards and other calamities. In coping with such crises as the continuing threat of climate change and to improve living conditions for the country's people, it is making every effort to optimize the use of natural resources and technology, in close collaboration with the international community.

The representative of Timor-Leste, associating herself with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that while the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, her nation is also experiencing multiple natural hazards and the negative impact of climate change, with a flash flood hitting the country in April 2021. The twin shocks further exacerbated its pre-existing vulnerabilities as a least developed and small island developing State, making it hard to realize its objective to transform its society into an upper-middle-income country by 2030. She stressed the importance of protecting biodiversity and nature, noting that biodiversity and ecosystems contribute to human life by supporting economic growth, sustaining livelihoods, and providing the basis for food, water security and a stable climate. Timor-Leste's Constitution recognizes the role and importance of natural resources, together with the protection of the environment. As a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Timor-Leste strives to reach the 2050 vision for biodiversity, in its utmost efforts. In this regard, it has enacted several laws and regulations on biodiversity conservation. It is in the process of finalizing its first national climate change policy on the conservation and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, and forest conservation for the benefit of current and future generations.

The representative of Mozambique, aligning himself with the Group of 77, African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said its geographic location makes it vulnerable to natural hazards like cyclones, floods and droughts. It is currently recovering from the destruction of infrastructure caused by such calamities over the past two years, which has aggravated reconstruction challenges linked to adaptation and resilience, in line with Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Despite these challenges, the Government is reviewing legislation on land, forests and the environment, with a view to integrating issues related to adaptation and reduction of climate risk, and emissions of greenhouse gases.

The representative of Eritrea, associating himself with the Group of 77, African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said its contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is very small, amounting to .01 per cent. Yet Eritrea is among the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, due to its geographic location. Those impacts are manifested in the current drought, erratic rainfall leading to severe land degradation, depletion of water resources, declining agricultural productivity and loss of biodiversity, among others. These phenomena pose significant challenges and directly affect billions of people in the world. In that regard, there is a need for harmonized and continued action at the national, regional and international levels. He reaffirmed Eritrea's commitment to embarking on a carbon-neutral sustainable development pathway. More specifically, it aims to reduce its unconditional emissions by 12 per cent and its conditional emissions by 38.5 per cent by 2030. Noting his country's other efforts on climate action, he said it is also taking part in regional and international initiatives to tackle issues such as biodiversity loss, land degradation, water depletion and loss of agricultural productivity.

The representative of India, aligning herself with the Group of 77, said concrete action is necessary to improve the climate and her country is the only one in the Group of 20 on target to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. India has contributed to many global climate partnerships. On energy, it is providing inclusive energy at rational prices, and clean cooking sources and solar rooftop programmes. India is one of the top three countries that has gained forest areas recently. The numbers of many animals, including lions, tigers and others, have increased in recent years. India is working to reverse land degradation, including desertification and is helping other developing countries develop their land strategies. The progress has been disrupted by the pandemic, which has had an unequal impact on developing countries. Sustainable development can only be achieved through collective efforts.

The representative of Tonga pointed out that her country was ranked as the world's second most "at risk" country in the 2020 World Risk Report, noting its support for the Pacific Islands Forum's Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change Related Sea Level Rise. She went on to reaffirm Tonga's commitment to the 2030 Agenda, the Samoa Pathway, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement, and called upon the international community to make ambitious new and updated nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. Stressing the urgent need for developed countries to provide climate financing, particularly prioritizing resilience funding, and to provide development assistance, she welcomed the completion of the multidimensional vulnerability index as an important tool for small island developing States, in implementing informed policies and strategies towards building resilience.

The representative of Bahrain said it has tackled the pandemic by providing tests and vaccines to all people in the country, and has stepped up its partnerships with the World Health Organization (WHO). On climate change, she said it is one of the most significant challenges the international community has ever faced, calling for ongoing cooperation in combating it. Bahrain will participate in the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Glasgow to join efforts to overcome this phenomenon.

The observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Group of 77, said the gross development product (GDP) index is not the right tool for measuring economic development. When Governments focus on increasing their GDP, they miss measuring the opportunity costs of raising production and consumption, which have led humanity to face an existential threat, he said. Climate change and the degradation of ecosystems now pose challenges to sustainable development. The chronic Israeli occupation is the main obstacle before the Palestinian people to achieve their development ambitions, he said. Israel, the occupying Power, is surrounding and imposing an illegal and inhuman siege on Gaza enclave, affecting 2 million Palestinian people, and denying their basic human rights, including to development and freedom of movement. Noting the worsening situation, he said 60 per cent of the West Bank area is classified as "Area C", that is fully under control of the occupying Power and off limits to the Palestinian people, leading to great economic losses. Noting that Israel's constant violations are undermining the two-State solution and the Palestinian people's right to development, he called on the international community to take measures of accountability with respect to Israel's violations in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The representative of Mauritania could not be covered due to a lack of interpretation services.

The representative of Burundi said her country has identified degraded land that needs rehabilitation and is working with donors and international organizations to achieve that aim. The Government has taken drastic measures to restore agricultural land and ensure all relevant areas are reforested, a task that warrants support from the international community, she said. Adding that regions in the north and east of the country are facing prolonged and recurrent drought, she also called for support in efforts to implement drought management policies.

Information and Communications Technology, Globalization

The representative of Costa Rica said the pandemic has created systemic disruptions throughout the global economy. Renewed international cooperation is necessary to place sustainability at the heart of development. In 2020, half of the global population lacked Internet connections. Measures must be taken to correct this situation or pre-existing inequalities will continue and the human rights of people will be impacted. Costa Rica is convinced that solidarity and scientific technology can be used to reduce inequalities. For example, technology can be used to speed up the delivery of vaccines. A new paradigm is needed to recognize the limitations of middle-income countries. Technological and digital tools can be used to help create a green and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

The representative of Cameroon, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, pointed to the widening digital divide and called for international cooperation in boosting the potential of Internet and communications technology (ICT) development. Cameroon intends to fully benefit from such technologies and other technical innovations to speed up its efforts to achieve sustainable development. Adding that the country is implementing national technology policies to strengthen economic performance, he said it had established a committee for technological development. This committee has, for example, ensured that all high school students have their own laptop computers, he said, calling on development partners and financial institutions to support the Government's efforts to achieve sustainable development.

The representative of Indonesia, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that States must reaffirm their commitment to bridging the digital and knowledge gaps through multidimensional-based action, which ensures fast, stable and affordable digital technology. Cooperation must be strengthened to lower existing barriers and to prevent the emergence of new hurdles. In recovering from the pandemic, States must also support each other by leveraging their experiences and best practices, he said, adding that resources and financing must be mobilized to ensure the development of digital technology infrastructure and literacy in developing countries. He went on to say that Indonesia's presidency of the Group of 20 in 2022 will include a focus on addressing the digital divide and empowering micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises through transformative technology.

The representative of Sri Lanka, associating himself with the Group of 77, said that affordable technology must become the new normal. Sri Lanka is in the midst of a digital transformation that has been accelerated by the pandemic, guided by a national policy framework that makes the building of a technology-based society a priority. He detailed how the country is rolling out 4G network service in rural areas, with the aim of achieving near-100 per cent coverage by the end of 2023. Pandemic updates are disseminated via the MyHealth Sri Lanka app and a one-stop web page, while the Government - with the cooperation of telecommunications firms - developed a free e-learning site for schoolchildren. Data protection and cybersecurity legislation are in the last stages of being adopted by Parliament, he said, adding that digital technology can help deal with climate change and disaster prevention.

The representative of Bahrain said the United Nations report on digital government of 2020 ranked her country second in the Arab region. Bahrain is highly developed in e-government and ranks fourth globally in terms of percentage of people using the internet. Considering the current situation, she said Bahrain tries to adapt the latest technology to contain the pandemic. Using smartphones and cloud computing, it is able to follow up on different health situations, conduct contact tracing, guarantee social distancing and provide clear communication to the public. Bahrain was commended by the United Nations, she said, for its Tawasul application - a unique channel that promotes interaction between the public and different Government entities to provide support. The electronic presence of Government through portals facilitates digital interactions and facilitated more than 8 million transactions since 2007. As well, its highly developed information and communications infrastructure support both private and public schools.

The representative of Ghana, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said middle-income countries are facing unique challenges as they work to reduce poverty, improve their environment and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The economic indicators used to define these middle-income countries need refinement to adequately address their development needs. Indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income are not always correct indicators of a country's need for financial resources. Innovative policies and strategies are needed to address the challenges middle-income countries face as they work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Ghana supports the United Nations reform process. She said the global goals provide an unprecedented opportunity to deliver results for all countries.

The representative of Oman underscored the importance of science, technology and innovation in boosting development, as well as tackling climate change and the pandemic. Pointing to wide gaps between the developed and developing worlds, she stressed the need to close the digital divide and make COVID-19 vaccines available to all. The international community must go beyond words in developing programmes to build capacity and assess challenges to advance policies effective for achieving sustainable development.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that, in his country, the information technology industry is developing dynamically in accordance with its national programme on digital economy. During the past five years before the pandemic, the export of Russian software doubled, he said, adding that its companies regularly win awards at the World Summit on the Information Society. By the end of 2023, the digital transformation will affect 40 per cent of the economy. He said the Russian Federation is the only country which transfers to other countries, not only vaccines, but also technologies for producing vaccines against the coronavirus. It is engaged in international scientific cooperation to combat climate change, and implementation of nuclear and hydrogen technological developments, in the energy and other carbon-intensive industries. Noting that many middle-income countries have shown less resilience to the social and economic crisis due to insufficient social support, poor economic diversification and high levels of debt, he said a review of approaches to address the problems of that group of countries is needed, including an international assessment of their vulnerability. More vigorous measures must be taken to support the strengthening of those countries, he said.

The representative of Belarus said his country concurs with the Secretary-General's recent assessment that the middle-income-country qualification should be more comprehensive. Basing it on a single, arbitrary measure like per capita income leads to unsubstantiated discrimination and cannot be a reliable indicator for stripping countries of benefits, like official development assistance (ODA). Adding that economic achievements in middle-income countries would be greatly accelerated through industrial capacity-building, he also stressed the need for wider markets in achieving the 2030 Agenda. Current cooperation between the United Nations and middle-income countries is insufficient, he said, emphasizing that the development of a comprehensive plan of action with these nations could help strengthen them in all areas of development.

The representative of Azerbaijan, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said her Government has expanded its ICT coverage, leading to 3G network coverage in more than 97 per cent of its populated areas, and 4G coverage in 93 per cent. According to the Global Competitiveness Index, Azerbaijan ranked fifteenth among 140 countries, in terms of the digital skills of population indicator. A key Government goal is to provide all the country's districts with Internet service by 2024. The Government is implementing the Azerbaijan Digital Hub project, which puts its telecommunication infrastructure in line with international standards. It is building a Digital Silk Way, on the historic Silk Road between Europe and Asia. This project, which will make the country a major regional Internet provider, plans the construction of fibre-optic cable lines along the bottom of the Caspian Sea.

The representative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said the pandemic has demonstrated the vital importance of meaningful Internet connectivity for livelihoods, employment, health and well-being, and social participation. Half the world's population has never connected to the Internet, meaning over 3 billion are excluded from an information system that many online take for granted every day. Many of those unconnected live in least developed countries or rural areas, and typically are those in the most vulnerable or marginalized groups. In that regard, ITU has redoubled its efforts to rapidly expand connectivity and facilitate connection for billions of people. She stressed that eliminating global inequalities will become a reality only when people across world have equal access to digital information products and services, and are empowered with skills to succeed in the digital economy. "Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline," she said. The international community must work together to provide affordable access to technology and empower people with digital skills, so everyone everywhere has access to life-changing digital platforms and services. In line with the Secretary-General's road map for digital cooperation, ITU has launched a multi-stakeholder alliance to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in areas least connected, including in the least developed countries.