ECOSOC Integration Segment Discusses Resilience, Technology
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The 2018 ECOSOC Integration Segment analyzed pathways to build resilience through integrated policies to advance the 2030 Agenda.

Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, calls for forward-looking institutions that plan for risk.

Journalist Eduardo Porter said a variety of shocks should be taken into consideration when discussing resilience, including climate change, technological advances and political challenges.

3 May 2018: The 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Integration Segment analyzed pathways to build resilience through integrated policies to advance the 2030 Agenda. Participants explored the role of technology and innovation as key tools for building resilience.

Themed ‘Innovative communities: leveraging technology and innovation to build sustainable and resilient societies,’ the Segment convened from 1-3 May 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Opening the meeting, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, ECOSOC Vice-President, observed that there is no blueprint for what constitutes resilience or for how to accomplish it. He said technology and innovation have been identified as two important enablers for building resilience, while national policies and structures remain “at the heart” of the implementation efforts.

Noting that the rapid pace of technological change makes it difficult for governments to keep up, Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed the need to prioritize policies that are “pro-poor” to ensure that “no one is left behind.” Adding that crises and shocks are increasingly complex, he called for forward-looking institutions that plan for risk.

In a dialogue on ‘The quest for resilience and sustainability: seizing the moment,’ Eduardo Porter, The New York Times and author of The Price of Everything, mentioned that a variety of shocks should be taken into consideration when discussing resilience, including climate change, technological advances and political challenges. Daniel Recht, Chief Executive Officer, Volute Inc, presented storm-resistant renewable energy products. Explaining that because they live amid water shortages, flooding and mudslides, the poor already have solutions to resilience challenges. Sheela Patel, Founding Director, Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres, said poor people should be included in creating things as co-producers and not as charity causes.

In a session on ‘Resilience decoded – building blocks towards 2030,’ Ayona Datta, King’s College London, cautioned that the absence of critical infrastructure has major impacts on the vulnerable and disenfranchised, and particularly on women. Noting that usually it is men who have access to and control of mobile phones and thus information about safe zones and routes, she called for mainstreamimg gender vulnerabilities into smart city agendas. She underscored the need for resilience to be decoded along multiple axes of vulnerabilities, such as gender, age and poverty.

Rashmi Jaipal, American Psychological Association, said social media use by youth is linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, poor sleep, loneliness and isolation. to build psychological resilience to the negative effects of technology, she stressed the importance of supportive parents, close relationships with extended family and peers, and good schools. She also noted the increase in suicide in high‑income countries, with the US’ suicide rate in 2014 being the highest in 30 years. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, UN Committee for Development Policy, cautioned that the least developed countries (LDCs) recommended for graduation often face “traumatic challenges” following their upgraded status, because the vulnerability remains, particularly for those in environmentally difficult areas.

In a session on ‘Designing a resilient and sustainable future – a toolkit to better prepare for tomorrow,’ Jamil Ahmad, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), spoke about different uses of technology in prevention and resilience: satellite imagery can be used to assess flood damage to rice crops, helping identify villages hit by drought and streamline payouts to farmers; and insurers are using mobile phones to collect premiums and make payments in a timely manner.

Marshall Moutenot, Co‑Founder, Upstream, invited a focus on initiatives that translate raw data into informed action. He explained that Upstream, by allowing projects to be spread out over much larger areas, could contribute to reducing monitoring costs through satellite imagery that can: spearhead city and rural planning by instantly searching for project locations and assessing environmental benefits at scale; help understand key project metrics in real time to track successes and adapt management; and optimize planning by building scenarios and simulating outcomes with decades of data.

The 2018 Integration Segment also included sessions on ‘Technology and disaster risk reduction,’ ‘Balancing infrastructure development and sustainability,’ ‘National strategies for resilience,’ and ‘Leveraging technology and innovation to support resilience and inclusiveness in Africa in the context of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.’ A summary of the segment will highlight key policy recommendations and guidance on implementing the 2030 Agenda, as an input into ECOSOC’s High-level Segment and the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July 2018. [Meeting summary, 1 May] [Meeting summary, 2 May] [Meeting summary, 3 May] [ECOSOC Integration Segment Webpage]


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