UN official: Decades of development progress now reversed

UNITED NATIONS – The head of the UN’s development agency warns that the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and war in Ukraine have led to “an unprecedented reversal” of decades of progress in the fight against poverty and hunger in the world and in ensuring a quality education for children everywhere.

Collen Kelapile, president of the Economic and Social Council known as ECOSOC, said there was growing concern that funding for critical UN development goals, including ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030, be overlooked by Western donor countries that support Ukraine militarily and financially in its war against Russia.

ECOSOC’s message is: “Please let’s not forget other pre-existing challenges. … We need to fund development. We need to fund climate. We need to fund many more conflicts around the world. “, he said in an interview with The Associated Press. .

Making a mistake and putting these issues aside, Kelapile warned, could lead to higher costs in the future if they get worse “because they’re not being cared about anymore”.

ECOSOC, one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, focuses on promoting development on three fronts – economic, social and environmental – and on coordinating efforts to achieve the 17 goals for 2030 that the 193 member countries agreed in 2015. The UN body has 54 member countries and more than 1,600 non-governmental organizations in consultative status.

Kelapile said that with decades of undone development progress, climate change causing widespread damage, and new geopolitical tensions from the war in Ukraine leading to widespread food insecurity and an energy crisis, the mandate of the ECOSOC “has never been more important than it is today.”

“It can harness its convening power,” he said, and bring together people from diverse backgrounds, inside and outside the United Nations, with “creative and transformative ideas that can really move us forward.”

A high-level ECOSOC meeting on promoting the UN’s 2030 goals and building back better after the COVID-19 pandemic concluded on Monday with the adoption of a ministerial declaration by 32 pages.

Ministers and representatives, noting that they were meeting “against the backdrop of a fragile and highly uncertain global socio-economic outlook”, pledged “to accelerate action” to implement the 2030 goals. eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, they include ensuring good health for people of all ages, quality education for all children, and gender equality.

Ministers also expressed deep concern that the pandemic has deepened inequalities and created new obstacles to the achievement of UN goals and stressed the urgency of addressing the impact, underlying causes underlying and challenges exacerbated by COVID-19.

Kelapile, who is Botswana‘s ambassador to the UN, said in the interview last Friday that for him, “the fight against poverty and inequality is very important”.

There is a saying that “a hungry man is an angry man”, he said, quoting people who have recently expressed their anger over the lack of food and fuel, including in Sri Lanka.

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Kelapile said, funding to advance development was dwindling and access to technologies for people in developing countries, especially computers and computers. Internet access was lacking.

The ECOSOC president said the world’s wealthiest nations must also consider another impact of the pandemic – the growing indebtedness of poor countries and ways to alleviate it.

There are highly indebted countries whose borrowing has worsened during the pandemic, Kelapile said.

“Is it fair to continue to ask them to invest in pandemic control and recovery, and at the same time expect them to service their debts?” He asked. “I don’t think it’s possible.”

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