15 November 2017
Regional Commissions Reflect on AAAA Implementation
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The UNGA's Second Committee held a dialogue with the heads of the UN's five regional commissions, to discuss priorities in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

ESCWA proposed the creation of an Arab Reconstruction and Development Bank and a dedicated Arab Financing for Development Forum, while ECLAC supported the creation of a Resilience Fund with debt relief and a Green Fund to restore and rebuild new infrastructure after disasters.

October 2017: UN Member States and representatives of the UN Regional Commissions have discussed priorities for implementing the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA). Participants highlighted: improving domestic revenue mobilization (DRM); strengthening public expenditure management; private sector engagement; public-private partnerships (PPPs) for infrastructure; enhancing financial inclusion; and promoting regional financial integration.

The annual dialogue of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) with the Regional Commissions took place on 23 October 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), noted that ten Asia-Pacific countries rank among world’s top 20 in terms of gross saving rates. In addition, the high level of regional trade integration has significantly contributed to poverty eradication and job creation. Therefore, the region thus has significant financial capacity to support sustainable development, if channeled where it is most needed. She said the region needs to: strengthen its public finance management; focus on the quality of taxation policies; and boost financial inclusion. As challenges she identified: the low tax-to-GDP rate in fragile countries; local governments’ finance, which collect less than one third of a country’s revenues; and the rationalization of tax incentives.

Vera Songwe, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, noted that the poverty rate has fallen but remains high, at 42%, and the number of undernourished children has increased since 2012. She stressed the need for investment in irrigation and increasing the quality and resilience of seeds. She said challenges include the commodity prices crash and corruption. She stressed the need for: standardizing engagement with the private sector; developing PPPs that focus on enhancing the role of the domestic sector; and establishing high-level platforms for public-private consultations.

Alhakim reported that for every US$1 received in foreign direct investment (FDI), US$1.79 leaves the region.

Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Executive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said the region is in crisis, requiring a significant volume of humanitarian funding. He noted that food security is becoming extremely important for the Arab region because of land degradation, climate change and water-related issues. He mentioned that by 2030, 92 million youth in the region will need jobs. Several other challenges he identified included: the lack of development banks in the region; more than US$3 trillion needed to achieve the SDGs; lack of financing for fragile countries; low taxation and high use of subsidies, which slow economic growth; illegal financial flows (IFFs); and negative financial flows. He reported that for every US$1 received in foreign direct investment (FDI), US$1.79 leaves the region. Alhakim emphasized the need for: advocating for trade justice rather than trade equality; fostering deeper regional trade and financial integration; providing support to recalibrate regional trade agreements in order to improve terms of trade and induce green structural transformation; exploring the viability of an Arab Reconstruction and Development Bank; creating a dedicated Arab Financing for Development Forum; and advancing the 2030 ‘ACCESS’ (Arab Common Citizens Economic Security Space).

Olga Algayerova, UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Executive Secretary, called for involving the private sector in greening the region’s infrastructure. Meanwhile, the public sector should shape the space for private investments through environmental regulations, environmental performance reviews and standardization. She noted that from 2012 to 2016, assets managed under sustainable, responsible and impact investment principles almost doubled globally to US$23 trillion (a 4.5% increase in the percentage of total global assets).

Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), stressed the need for increased trade, technology transfer, greening the economy, increased investment in infrastructure and financial inclusion. She noted that while the region has returned to positive growth (1.2%), its imports and exports are projected to continue falling. Among challenges facing the region, she noted: PPPs are still weak, most countries in the region are middle-income countries (MICs) in transition that no longer have access to concessional finance or official development assistance (ODA); very low investment rates; corruption, tax evasion and trade miss-invoicing; and high levels of sovereign debt in many countries. She said ECLAC is advocating for relief for US$2 billion multilateral debt. It is also working to create a Green Fund to restore and rebuild new infrastructure after disasters.

In the ensuing discussion, participants raised issues related to gender equality and women’s empowerment, environmental financing, the impact of unilateral economic measures on sustainable development, and the role of regional cooperation in disaster risk reduction (DRR). [Event Concept Note] [Meeting Webcast]

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