The SDGs in time of crisis: A sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 as an opportunity to realize the SDGs

The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, undermining decades of development efforts. In 2020, over 100 million people were pushed back into poverty and hunger; an equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs were lost; and an additional 101 million children and youth fell below the minimum reading proficiency level, wiping out the education gains achieved over the last two decades. Violence against women and girls has intensified and child marriage is also expected to increase. The economic slowdown associated with COVID-19 has done little to slow the climate crisis. Instead it has reinforced and exacerbated existing inequalities and threatened the achievements of the SDGs.

At the same time, the pandemic led to scientific breakthroughs with the development of effective vaccines, demonstrating the power of science, innovation, and public-private partnerships. Yet, developing countries’ equitable access to vaccines remains a major challenge due to political, technical and logistical hurdles. This has elicited strong calls for COVID-19 vaccines to be a global public good. Vaccine equity remains a prerequisite for a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 everywhere.

Countries are still struggling to find the appropriate response to the pandemic and its social and economic impacts. While important stimulus packages have been implemented, the measures taken so far have often fallen short of the response required to overcome the Impacts of the pandemic and move to a track to realize the SDGs. They have not boosted long-term investments in the SDGs, nor created new jobs or sufficiently supported transitions to carbon neutrality and environmental sustainability and supported the furthest behind.

Economic resilience with new fiscal and debt sustainability frameworks, societal resilience with universal social protection schemes and climate resilience with greater investments in sustainable development overall, including in sustainable infrastructure, are key building blocks of a resilient recovery. Such efforts need to be bolstered by international solidarity and universal access to the vaccine so that the world can move to the trajectory of sustainable development.

The HLPF reviews shall take into account the different impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic across all Sustainable Development Goals, consider progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda in its entirety and address the interlinkages between Goals, to promote integrated actions cutting across economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. It will thus discuss actions that can create co-benefits, address synergies and trade-offs and meet multiple objectives in a coherent manner, leaving no one behind. The review shall also cover the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals with a 2020 timeline.

The pandemic has put a spotlight on the poor and most vulnerable, including women, older people, young people, children, low-wage earners, informal workers, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, people in situations of conflict, refugees and migrants. Countries need to enhance social protection and access to essential services for the poor and most vulnerable to ensure an inclusive recovery and that no one will be left behind.

Achieving the SDGs will depend on the collective response over the coming 18 months; whether the COVID-19 crisis serves as a much-needed wake-up call that spurs a decade of truly transformative action that delivers for people and planet is still to be seen. Countries in special situations, including LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, as well as middle-income countries, would require a tailored approach that takes into account their needs and priorities. The 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs is still the best available blueprint for a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and to profoundly improve the lives of all and transform our world for the better.

Proposed guiding questions:
  • Where do we stand on the SDGs given the dramatic impacts of COVID-19?
  • What can we learn from the different country experiences in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What mix of policies have been more effective in addressing COVID-19’s impacts while putting countries back on track to realize the SDGs?
  • What are immediate actions that countries should consider addressing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable?
  • What should be done to ensure the availability of timely and reliable data and improve the resilience of the statistics offices/operations to make informed decisions for recovering from COVID-19 and achieving the SDGs?
Chair:
  • H.E. Mr Munir Akram (Pakistan), President of Economic and Social Council
Presentation:
  • Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, presentation of the report of the Secretary-General on the progress towards SDGs and measures to realize the SDGs at the time of COVID-19 pandemic

Followed by a townhall style meeting

(The speaking order in the meeting is thought of as to stimulate an interactive conversation rather than following protocol.)

Moderator:
  • Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP
Lead Speakers:
  • H.E. Ms. Sania Nishtar, Federal Minister and Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety to the Prime Minister of Pakistan
  • H.E. Ms. Marsha Caddle, Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment of Barbados
  • H.E. Ms. Claudine Uwera, Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning of Rwanda  
  • H.E. Mr. Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, United Kingdom
  • H.E. Mr. Isaac Alfie, Director of the Office of Planning and Budget of Uruguay
  • H.E. Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar, Deputy Vice-Minister for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands
  • Ms. Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of United Nations Children’s Fund
  • Ms. Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
  • Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Visiting Senior Fellow at Khazanah Research Institute, Visiting Fellow at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, and Adjunct Professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia
  • Mr. Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, Centre for Global Public Goods, Member of Managing Board, World Economic Forum
  • Ms. Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of Care International

Followed by interventions of Member States

Biographies
H.E. Mr. Isaac Alfie
Director of the Office of Planning and Budget of Uruguay
H.E. Mr. Isaac Alfie

Director of the Office of Planning and Budget of Uruguay

Economist and Accountant

Professor of Economics and Public Finance and Macroeconomics.

Chief Economist of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (1996 - 2003)

He oversaw the team of technical negotiations with the United States Treasury and the Multilateral Organizations to respond to the financial crisis. July 2002.

August 2002 - May 2003. He led the technical team in charge of the financial program and formulated a proposal for an agreement with the creditors of public debt.

Minister of Economy and Finance (2003 - 2005)

Senator of the Republic (2005 - 2010)

Director of the Office of Planning and Budget (2020 -)

H.E. Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar
Deputy Vice-Minister for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands
H.E. Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar

Deputy Vice-Minister for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands

Birgitta Tazelaar is the deputy Director-General for International Cooperation at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a career diplomat with over 25 years experience in political affairs, human rights and development cooperation. Birgitta has worked in The Middle East, Southern Africa and the UK in a variety of bilateral and non-governmental organizations, in both advisory and senior management posts. Before her current job as deputy Director-General, she was Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department preceded by serving as head of Mission in Ramallah managing amongst others a sizeable development cooperation program. From 2008-2011, Birgitta was the political counsellor at the Dutch Embassy in London, responsible for foreign policy areas ranging from security files such as NATO and nuclear, to EU external policy and various crises areas worldwide. Other postings included deputy head of the human rights division in the Hague where she was active on promoting women’s rights in the UN and spokesperson for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Birgitta worked amongst others for the Netherlands Development Agency, mainly in Botswana working in regional planning. Birgitta studied Human Geography in Utrecht and did research in Kenya and Spain.

H.E. Ms. Claudine Uwera
Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning of Rwanda
H.E. Ms. Claudine Uwera

Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning of Rwanda

Dr. Claudine Uwera is the Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN). Before joining the MINECOFIN, Dr. Uwera was the Coordinator of the Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) program. Based on the System of Environmental Economic Accounting, NCA is an appropriate tool to better measure and integrate the value of natural resources into the GDP. Dr. Uwera has substantial experience working on strategic planning with focus on Green Economy and Environmental Valuation. Dr. Uwera has been teaching at the University of Rwanda, in the School of economics, for more than 10 years’ experience. Dr. Claudine Uwera is an Economist with a specialization in Environmental Economics. She did her PhD studies in Sweden where she gained a high experience by working closely with the economists’ team of the University of Gothenburg, from 2008 and 2013. She speaks Kinyarwanda, French and English.

H.E. Ms. Marsha Caddle
Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment of Barbados
H.E. Ms. Marsha Caddle

Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment of Barbados

Marsha Caddle is an economist, Member of Parliament and Minister for Economic Affairs and Investment in Barbados. Her specialties in Economics are financing for development; economic governance; competitiveness and investment; and inequality, social protection and human development. Prior to joining the Cabinet of Barbados, Ms. Caddle managed the Governance strategy of the Caribbean Development Bank, following her role as Programme Manager, Poverty and Economic Security with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She also formerly managed the Economic Security and Rights programme of the then United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Caribbean Office.

Ms. Caddle received her Economics training in Santo Domingo, and has since continued her training in International Economics with the University of Utah, and in Poverty Analysis and Measurement with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. She has been a member since 2006 of the International Association for Feminist Economics and the International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics and International Economics (GEM-IWG).

In her current role, Minister Caddle leads on Government’s climate action and climate finance agenda, spearheading Barbados’s Roofs to Reefs programme, which is a multi-year investment roadmap for climate resilient development. Her Ministry also has responsibility for public investment, economic research and policy, physical planning and development, competitiveness and the growth environment, and data and national statistics.


H.E. Ms. Sania Nishtar
Federal Minister and Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety to the Prime Minister of Pakistan
H.E. Ms. Sania Nishtar

Federal Minister and Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety to the Prime Minister of Pakistan

Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar is a member of the Senate of Pakistan. She is the Special Assistant of the Prime Minister of Pakistan with the status of Federal Minister. She has the Cabinet portfolio of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety. She is the founder of Ehsaas, the Government’s flagship social protection program, and leads its implementation. She also chairs the Benazir Income Support Program and the Government of Pakistan’s Council on Poverty Alleviation.

Dr. Sania Nishtar is a member of the United Nations Global Alliance on Poverty Eradication. She is the former co-chair of World Health Organization’s High-Level Commission on Non-communicable diseases along with the presidents of Uruguay, Finland and Sri-Lanka. She is also a member and former chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Healthcare and has recently chaired the U.S National Academy of Sciences Global Study on the Quality of Healthcare in low and middle-income countries. In addition, she also chairs the United Nations International Institute for Global Health’s Advisory Committee. She has founded the NGO Heartfile in Pakistan and has also previously served as a federal minister in the Pakistan government in 2013.

In 2017, she was Pakistan’s nominee for Director-General of the World Health Organisation and was in the final shortlist of three. Earlier she was also founding Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Women’s and Children’s health and chaired WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. She has received many international awards for her work and is widely published. Sania Nishtar graduated from Khyber Medical University as the best graduate in 1986. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and took a Ph.D at Kings College London. On October 16, 2019, Kings College London honoured Dr. Sania with a Doctorate in Science, Honoris, Causa.

HE. Mr. Tariq Ahmad
Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, United Kingdom
HE. Mr. Tariq Ahmad

Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, United Kingdom

Lord Ahmad is the Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). He was first appointed as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict and as Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations on 13 June 2017.

He was educated at Rutlish School and London South Bank University (LSBU) as well as the Chartered Institute of Financial Services.

Lord Ahmad had a 20 year career in the City working in banking and finance, including at the NatWest Group where he was a senior manager in corporate banking and financial markets. He was later Vice-President and Marketing Director of Alliance Bernstein and his last role before joining the government was as Strategy and Marketing Director at Sucden Financial.

Mr. Achim Steiner
Administrator of UNDP
Mr. Achim Steiner

Administrator of UNDP

Achim Steiner became UNDP Administrator on 19 June 2017. Following the recommendation of the Secretary-General, after consultation with Member States, the General Assembly confirmed Achim Steiner of Germany as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for a further four-year term of office beginning on 17 June 2021. Mr. Steiner is also the Vice-Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group, which unites 40 entities of the UN system that work to support sustainable development.

Over nearly three decades, Achim Steiner has been a global leader on sustainable development, climate resilience and international cooperation. He has worked tirelessly to champion sustainability, economic growth and equality for the vulnerable, and has been a vocal advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Prior to joining UNDP, he was Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professorial Fellow of Balliol College, University of Oxford. Mr. Steiner has served across the United Nations system, looking at global challenges from both a humanitarian and a development perspective. He led the United Nations Environment Programme (2006-2016), helping governments invest in clean technologies and renewable energy. He was also Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi. Achim Steiner previously held other notable positions including Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams.

Achim Steiner has lived and worked in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the United States. He graduated in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (MA) from Worcester College, Oxford University and holds an MA from the University of London/School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Mr. Dominic Waughray
Managing Director, Centre for Global Public Goods, Member of Managing Board, World Economic Forum
Mr. Dominic Waughray

Managing Director, Centre for Global Public Goods, Member of Managing Board, World Economic Forum

Dominic Waughray is currently Managing Director, Centre for Global Public Goods; Member of Managing Board at the World Economic Forum.

Dominic holds a Degree (Hons) in Geography from Cambridge University and a Master's in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics from University College London. From 1994-98, he was Senior Scientific Officer, Natural Environment Research Council Institute of Hydrology for the UK Civil Service. From 1998-2005, he was Managing Partner of Environmental Resources Management. More recently, he served as Senior Director, Head of Environmental Initiatives, World Economic Forum, where he was responsible for the agenda on environment and sustainability issues, including events (Annual Meeting in Davos and regional meetings), analysis and initiatives (multistakeholder projects). His focus areas include resource scarcity (water-food-energy linkages); water security; climate change and green investment; sustainable production and consumption.

He is an International Fellow, IIED; Associate Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs; Trustee, The Climate Group, an international NGO; Vice-Chair, Water Resources Group Executive Committee, an international public-private partnership on water hosted by the World Bank Group; and a Member, UNFCCC Momentum for Change Advisory Panel, an initiative to select and showcase the world's most promising climate change mitigation and adaptation projects.

Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram
former Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development of FAO and former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development of UNDESA
Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram

former Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development of FAO and former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development of UNDESA

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is Senior Adviser at the Khazanah Research Institute, Fellow of the Academy of Science, Malaysia, Emeritus Professor at the University of Malaya, Visiting Fellow at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, and Visiting Professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia. He was Professor at the University of Malaya (1986-2004), Founder-Chair of International Development Economics Associates (IDEAs), UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development (2005-2012), Research Coordinator for the G24 Intergovernmental Group on International Monetary Affairs and Development (2006-2012), Assistant Director General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (2012-2015) and third Tun Hussein Onn Chair in International Studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia (2016-2017). He has authored, edited and translated over a hundred books, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

Mr. Liu Zhenmin
Under-Secretary-General
Mr. Liu Zhenmin

Under-Secretary-General

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Mr. Liu Zhenmin of China as the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs effective 26 July 2017. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Liu was Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of China since 2013. Among his various diplomatic assignments, he served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland (2011-2013). Mr. Liu brings to the position more than 30 years of experience in the diplomatic service, with a strong focus on the promotion of bilateral, regional and global issues. He was deeply involved for 10 years in climate change negotiations including the conclusion of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. He also widely participated in the international activities on the protection of our planet including Antarctica and the oceans. Over the last several years, in various capacities, he has been consistently highlighting and advocating for sustainable development issues. Mr. Liu started his career at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in 1982. Since then, he has served the Ministry in various capacities, including as Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs (2009-2011); Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations (2006-2009); Director-General, Department of Treaty and Law (2003-2006); and Deputy Director-General, Department of Treaty and Law (1998-2003). He also served in the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland (1992-1995) and in the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations (1984-1988). As Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Liu guides UN Secretariat support for the follow-up processes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. He also oversees the substantive services to many intergovernmental processes, including the annual meetings of the Second and Third Committees of the General Assembly, the meetings of the Economic and Social Council, including its Development Cooperation Forum, and the work of the subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC. In addition to intergovernmental processes, Mr. Liu oversees DESA’s policy analysis and capacity development work. He also serves as the Convenor of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs, and advises the United Nations Secretary-General on all development-related issues, including climate change, internet governance, and financing for development. Mr. Liu holds a Master of Laws from the Law School of Peking University. He was born in August 1955 in Shanxi Province, China. Mr. Liu is married.

Ms. Henrietta H. Fore
Executive Director of UNICEF
Ms. Henrietta H. Fore

Executive Director of UNICEF

Henrietta H. Fore became UNICEF’s seventh Executive Director on 1 January 2018. She has worked to champion economic development, education, health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in a public service, private sector and non-profit leadership career that spans more than four decades.

From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Fore served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Director of United States Foreign Assistance. The first woman to serve in these roles, she was responsible for managing $39.5 billion of U.S. foreign assistance annually, including support to peoples and countries recovering from disaster and building their futures economically, politically and socially.

Earlier in her career at USAID, Ms. Fore was appointed Assistant Administrator for Asia and Assistant Administrator for Private Enterprise (1989-1993). She served on the Boards of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In 2009, she received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award the Secretary of State can bestow.

From 2005 to 2007, Ms. Fore served as Under Secretary of State for Management, the Chief Operating Officer for the U.S. Department of State. She was responsible for the staff, resources, facilities, technology and security of the Department and was the Secretary of State’s principal adviser on management issues. She oversaw a management budget of $3.6 billion, 7,200 employees, 30,000 contractors and 267 embassies and posts in 172 countries.
From 2001 to 2005, Ms. Fore was the 37th Director of the United States Mint in the U.S. Department of Treasury, managing the world's largest manufacturer of coins, medals and coin products. In 2005, she received the Alexander Hamilton Award, the Department of Treasury’s highest honor.

Immediately prior to her appointment with UNICEF, Ms. Fore was Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Holsman International, a manufacturing and investment company. She also served on the boards of a number of domestic and international public corporations, including as Global Co-chair of the Asia Society, Chair of the Middle East Investment Initiative, and Co-Chair of WomenCorporateDirectors. She also served on the boards of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Aspen Institute, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) and the Center for Global Development (CGD).

Ms. Rola Dashti
Executive Secretary of ESCWA
Ms. Rola Dashti

Executive Secretary of ESCWA

Rola Dashti was appointed Executive Secretary of ESCWA in January 2019. From 2012 to 2014, she served as Minister for Planning and Development of Kuwait, and as Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. She has also held key positions in research and development institutions, and has worked for major national and international financial and development organizations.

She won the 2010 North-South Prize of the Council of Europe with Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev. She also received the Clinton Global Citizens Award for 2009, the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for 2006, and the King Hussein Humanitarian award for 2005.

Ms. Dashti holds a doctorate degree in population dynamics from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a master’s degree in economics and finance from California State University in Sacramento, and a bachelor of science in agriculture economics from California State University in Chico.

Ms. Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro
Secretary General of Care International
Ms. Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro

Secretary General of Care International

A leader in international development and humanitarian response, Sofia brings over 25 years of experience of working at CARE.  She was integral to placing gender equality at the very heart of CARE’s work. In CARE’s 75th year history, her leadership is pivotal to CARE’s contribution to Sustainable Development Goals.

First joining CARE in 1994, she has served in several positions, providing support to programs in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. With extensive experience in program design and implementation; impact measurement and evaluation; and advocacy, Sofia is dedicated to transforming power relations inside and outside of the organization. Her unshakable commitment to gender equality is drawn from many years of working alongside some of the worlds most marginalized women; from domestic workers, women working in the garment sector and victims of gender-based violence.

Prior to working in international development, Sofía worked in the field of public opinion in her home country, Uruguay. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from the Universidad de la República Oriental del Uruguay and an MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Statements
Statements
Intervention - Major Group for Children and Youth
Intervention - Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities
Talking Point - H.E. Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar
Talking Point - Mr. Achim Steiner
Talking Point - Mr. Jomo Sundaram
Talking Point - Ms. Henrietta Fore
Talking Point - Ms. Rola Dashti
Talking Point - Ms. Sofia Sprechmann
United Nations