Second Committee Concludes Work, Approves Texts on Climate Change, Energy, Rural Poverty
Photo by IISD/ENB
story highlights

The UNGA's Second Committee approved 23 resolutions in its final two days of work for the 74th session.

The Committee approved a resolution on eradicating rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda by a recorded vote, with some Member States expressing concern that the resolution is based on national interests and “undermines work against poverty”.

3 December 2018: The UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) concluded its work for the main part of the 73rd session, approving numerous texts in meetings on 30 November and 3 December 2018. The Committee approved draft decisions and resolutions on eradicating poverty, addressing the digital divide, tackling illicit financial flows, climate change, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and energy, among other issues.

On poverty eradication, the Second Committee approved the draft resolution titled, ‘Eradicating rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (A/C.2/73/L.18/Rev.1) by a recorded vote, with 121 in favor, 49 against and two abstentions (Georgia, Turkey). The resolution states that achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty depend on increased investment in natural resources management, agriculture and capacity building. By the text, the UNGA reiterates the urgent need to accelerate the pace of rural poverty eradication, and requests the UN Secretary-General to submit to the 74th session of the UNGA a report on the status of the implementation and follow-up to the resolution to identify gaps and challenges faced in rural poverty eradication, especially in developing countries. The resolution also calls for adding a sub-item on ‘Eradicating rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ to the provision agenda of UNGA 74.

Speaking after the vote, China hoped the global community could find consensus around eliminating rural poverty.

Egypt on behalf of the Group of 77 and China (G-77/) underlined poverty as the “greatest impediment to implementing the 2030 Agenda,” particularly in rural areas. Austria, on behalf of the EU and other States, supported eradication of rural poverty and, as the world’s biggest provider of official development assistance (ODA), expressed its commitment to fighting poverty but said the “issue should not be based on national interests” and the resolution “was the opposite” of the EU’s outlined principles. The US, associating itself with the EU, said it has contributed US$34.7 billion in ODA in 2017 but voted against the resolution, which he said “undermines work against poverty.” Speaking after the vote, China expressed hope that the global community can find consensus around eliminating rural poverty.

On the digital divide, the Second Committee approved the draft titled, ‘Information and communications technologies (ICT) for sustainable development’ (A/C.2/73/L.29/Rev.1) without a vote, following rejections to an amendment related to certain paragraphs on leaving no one behind. The Resolution expresses concern over continued digital and broadband divides between and within countries, recognizes a persistent gender digital divide, and notes with concern a widening gender digital divide in Africa. In the text, the UNGA requests the UN Secretary-General to submit a report on the status of implementation and follow-up to the resolution, taking into account key processes, as part of his annual report on progress made in implementation and follow-up to outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The UNGA also decides to include an item on ICT for sustainable development on UNGA 74’s provisional agenda.

On illicit financial flows, the Committee approved the text titled, ‘Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return to foster sustainable development.’ By this draft, the UNGA calls on countries to cooperate in automatic exchange of financial account information and mutual legal assistance in pursuit of tackling illicit financial flows. After the approval, Austria for the EU said there is no agreed international definition on illicit financial flows and the Committee should not attempt to define them. The US said the text fails to acknowledge the UN Convention against Corruption as the primary legal framework for combatting corruption, and disagreed with the implication that developing countries are more affected by corruption than developed ones. Liechtenstein stressed that the resolution should be consistent with the Convention against Corruption, and expressed disappointment with the lack of transparency in the negotiation process, adding that illicit financial flows are not limited to stolen assets.

On climate change, the Committee approved the draft titled, ‘Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind.’ Mexico said his country has made climate change one of its foreign policy priorities and advocates for ambitious and flexible climate governance that focuses on commitments to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change. Austria for the EU said the resolution sends a timely signal by urging completion of the Paris Agreement Work Programme, but expressed regret that the resolution lacks stronger language, particularly on shifting financial flows towards green technology. The US joined the consensus on the resolution but reaffirmed its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

On DRR, the resolution titled, ‘Disaster risk reduction’ (A/C.2/73/L.15/Rev.1), highlights the need to address the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change. The draft emphasizes that disaster preparedness, prevention, early action and resilience-building is, in most cases, significantly more cost-effective than emergency response.

On energy, the Committee approved a resolution titled, ‘Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,’ which encourages governments and other stakeholders to increase the global share of new and renewable energy and underscores the importance of wider access to cleaner, more sustainable cooking and heating methods. The Russian Federation, also on behalf of Algeria and Turkey, said the text fails to recognize the role of different energy sources, stating that fossil fuels will represent 70% of global energy until 2040. Venezuela said her country discounts references to elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, which intrude on national sovereignty.

The Committee approved a number of other draft resolutions, including the following:

  • ‘International trade and development’
  • ‘International financial system and development’;
  • ‘Convention on Biological Diversity’;
  • ‘Implementation of the outcomes of the UN Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the UN Human Settlements Programme’;
  • ‘Follow‑up to the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries;
  • ‘Follow‑up to the second UN Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries’;
  • ‘Implementation of the Third UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018–2027)’;
  • ‘Operational activities for development of the UN system’;
  • ‘South‑South cooperation for development’;
  • ‘Industrial development cooperation’;
  • ‘Agriculture development, food security and nutrition;’
  • ‘External debt sustainability and development’;
  • ‘Follow-up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the SIDS’;
  • report of the UN Environment Assembly of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); and
  • ‘Effective global response to address the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon.’

The Committee approved a draft decision on the second high-level UN Conference on South‑South cooperation’s draft provisional rules of procedure and provisional agenda. The Committee also approved the UNGA 74 draft programme of work of the Second Committee.

In closing remarks, Elliott Harris, DESA, highlighted the Committee’s contributions to the UNGA, including guidance on the SDGs. He also highlighted the Committee’s focus during the session on poverty eradication, migration, the environment, agriculture and food and the new circular economy. [UN meeting coverage, 30 November] [UN meeting coverage, 3 December]

related posts