Building resilience against future shocks through structural changes and investment in sustainable infrastructure

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our society’s resilience. The sheer magnitude of the crisis was, in most cases, beyond our society’s capacity to cope. Along with tragic losses of human life, the economic and social impacts of the pandemic could last for an extended period, decades in some countries. Resilience is critical to softening the impacts of such shocks on individuals, households, communities and countries, including the poorest and most vulnerable. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have witnessed various policy and societal responses to the crisis. We have seen multiple dimensions of the resilience of people and societies.

The recovery should be used to increase resilience. It should trigger and accelerate the transition towards a more prosperous and more inclusive world; where economic security and people’s well-being are ensured, where no one is left behind, where sustainable development can proceed based on sustainable infrastructure and a world better equipped to deal with environmental crises, including climate change and biodiversity loss. This session will focus on two important dimensions of the reforms we need, namely the reform of our social protection systems and the mobilization of investment in sustainable infrastructure, including social infrastructure, which is a critical way to support the transformations we need.

The reforms, policies and investments we implement today to restructure and strengthen our social protection systems will impact on our economic, social, and environmental trajectories for the years to come and build resilience for future generations, So the emergency social measures implemented to contain the social impacts of COVID-19 should be maintained and evolve into efforts to achieve universal social protection throughout the life cycle, including for the poorest and most vulnerable.

Sustainable infrastructure has multiple benefits for social development and people’s well-being as well as for economic development. Infrastructure investments are catalysts for the economic recovery from the pandemic and for job creation, thus reducing economic insecurity. Sustainable infrastructure can also increase productive capacity, propel climate action and expand biodiversity protection, while strengthening resilience to withstand risks and shocks. Many developing countries however lack adequate health and education infrastructure as well as hard infrastructure in transport, water, sanitation, energy, ICT, roads and urban systems. Investment in sustainable infrastructure thus need urgent attention in the global strategy for recovering from COVID-19. The vast majority of developing countries do not have the public resources to finance infrastructure investments, nor the capacity to borrow at the low interest rates available to the advanced economies. They will have to find ways to mobilize expanded external financing, including private finance. The international community's resolve to achieve the SDGs requires new efforts and the improvement of mechanisms to mobilize resources for supporting investment in sustainable infrastructure, including social infrastructure, in all countries, especially developing countries. Strategies to mobilize sustainable infrastructure investment aligned with the guideposts provided by the SDGs, will be instrumental to realize the 2030 Agenda to support socio-economic development and build resilience.

Proposed guiding questions:
  • How can we restructure our social protection systems to ensure universal social protection and build resilience against future shocks?
  • What areas of infrastructure investment should be prioritised in the context of the global recovery drive and to maximize impacts on social and economic development?
  • What are the crucial policy measures for mobilizing resources for sustainable infrastructure?
  • In what areas are international cooperation and coordination needed the most to build resilience through investment in social protection and in sustainable infrastructure as well as to match resources and needs? What is the role of the United Nations?
  • What kind of reforms, systems and transformations are needed to mobilize resources for sustainable infrastructure investment in developing countries?
Chair:
  • H.E. Mr. Munir Akram, President of Economic and Social Council

Interactive panel discussion

Moderator:
  • Mr. Atif Kubursi, Professor emeritus, McMaster University, Canada

Panellists/Resource Persons:

  • Ms. Isabelle Durant, Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD
  • Ms. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of ECA
  • Mr. Erik Berglof, Chief Economist of Asian Infrastructure investment Bank (AIIB)
  • Mr. Gavin Power, Executive Vice President and Chief of sustainable development and international affairs, PIMCO
  • Mr. Jim Hall, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks and former Director of the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University
  • Ms. Isabel Ortiz, Director, Global Social Justice Program Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)
  • Mr. Stephen Devereux, Professorial Fellow, Co-Director, Centre for Social Protection Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Lead discussants:

  • Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)
  • Mr. Francesco La Camera, Director General of IRENA
  • Mr. Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund
  • Mr. Andre Zhu, Senior Vice President of Global Affairs and General Counsel, Pinduoduo, China
  • Mr. Refat Sabbah, President of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and the General Director and founder of the Teacher Creativity Center, Palestine (Education & Academia Stakeholder Group) 
  • Mr. Suran Maharjan, Volunteers Major Group

Respondents:

  • H.E. Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice President of the European Commission
  • H.E. Mr. Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications of Ireland
Biographies
Dr. Atif Kubursi
Professor emeritus, McMaster University, Canada
Dr. Atif Kubursi

Professor emeritus, McMaster University, Canada

Atif Kubursi is President of Econometric Research Limited which he founded in 1972. He is also Emeritus Professor of Economics at McMaster University, Canada. He taught economics at Purdue University in Indiana, USA, was visiting Scholar at Cambridge University in the UK, Adjunct Professor with the Faculty of the Environment and Urban Change at York University and has served as the Acting Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. In 1981 he worked for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization as senior Development Officer and was consultant to the Organization throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He consulted regularly with UNFAO, UNCTAD, UNILO, UNESCO, UNEP, UNDP, and many other international organizations and governments.

He holds a Ph.D. and M Sc. degrees in Economics from Purdue University, USA. B.A in Economics from the American University of Beirut. He completed three years towards a law degree at the Faculty of Law, Lebanese University 1961-1964. He sits on a number of community and academic boards including Chair of the Global Carbon Footprint Data Foundation, Wellwood, Raising a Village, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, and Development Economics.

H.E. Mr. Eamon Ryan
Minister for Transport and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications of Ireland
H.E. Mr. Eamon Ryan

Minister for Transport and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications of Ireland

H.E. Mr. Eamon Ryan is the Minister for Transport and the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications. He was appointed to these roles in June 2020. Mr. Ryan was elected to represent Dublin Bay South in the 2020 general election. Mr. Ryan studied commerce in University College Dublin before taking a job managing a marketing course in the university’s School of Business. He founded a cycling tourism company, Irish Cycling Safaris, in the late 1980s and in 1996 won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. He was the founding chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign and began his political career as a Dublin City Councillor for the Rathgar-Rathmines ward. He then went on to serve both as an Assembly Delegate for Dublin South and as a Government Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. In recent years he has worked for a European climate organisation and chaired the digital policy group in the Institute of International and European Affairs. He is currently leader of the Green Party/Comhaontas Glas.

H.E. Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis
Executive Vice President of the European Commission
H.E. Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis

Executive Vice President of the European Commission

Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis is serving as Executive Vice President of the European Commission for An Economy that Works for People since 2019 and European Commissioner for Trade since 2020. He previously served as European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union from 2016 to 2020. Prior to that, he served three consecutive terms as Prime Minister of Latvia from 2009 to 2014, becoming the longest serving elected head of government in Latvia’s history. Before becoming European Commission Vice-President, Valdis Dombrovskis was elected for the second time as a Member of the European Parliament (first, 2004-2009) and Head of the Latvian Delegation in the EPP Group. He served as a Member of the Saeima (Parliament) of Latvia (March 2004 - June 2004; January 2014 - June 2014) and was Latvia’s Minister of Finance from 2002 to 2004. Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis was born on 5 August 1971 in Riga, Latvia. He graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Latvia (1993) and economics from Riga University of Technology (1995). He received his master’s degree in physics in 1995 from the University of Latvia.

Mr. Andre Zhu
Senior Vice President of Global Affairs and General Counsel, Pinduoduo, China
Mr. Andre Zhu

Senior Vice President of Global Affairs and General Counsel, Pinduoduo, China

Andre has served as Senior Vice President of Pinduoduo since 2018 and has been appointed as General Counsel since July 2020. He leads Pinduoduo’s corporate strategy and operations and oversees domestic and international legal matters of the company. Before joining Pinduoduo, Andre was a partner in the Beijing office of White & Case LLP. From 2010 to 2017, he was an associate and then counsel in Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Andre received his bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from Tsinghua University, and his Juris Doctor’s degree from University of California Hastings College of the Law.

Mr. Erik Berglof
Chief Economist of Asian Infrastructure investment Bank (AIIB)
Mr. Erik Berglof

Chief Economist of Asian Infrastructure investment Bank (AIIB)

Mr. Erik Berglöf sets the vision and strategy for the Economics Department and leads the planning, implementation, and supervision of its work plan in support of the Bank’s mandate. He is the Bank’s inaugural Chief Economist. Prior to joining AIIB in September 2020, he was Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, London School of Economics, and Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 2006 to 2015, where he was part of creating and co-led the Vienna Initiative, a European crisis response team credited with mitigating the impact of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. He is an expert in transition economics and institutional transformation through private sector development. Mr. Erik Berglöf holds a PhD in Financial Economics and an MA in Business and Economics, both from the Stockholm School of Economics.

Mr. Francesco La Camera
Director General of IRENA
Mr. Francesco La Camera

Director General of IRENA

Francesco La Camera is the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). He was appointed at the Ninth Assembly of IRENA, the ultimate decision-making body of the Agency. Mr. La Camera took office on 4 April 2019 and brings more than thirty years of experience in the fields of climate, sustainability, and international cooperation.

In his role, Mr. La Camera is responsible for leading the delivery of IRENA’s work programme and strategy in cooperation with the Agency’s member states. At a critical time for climate change and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, Mr. La Camera is tasked with redefining the structure and operations of the Agency in response to the urgent needs of its members.

Under his leadership the Agency has forged a series of new strategic partnerships with UN organisations including UNDP, UNFCCC and Green Climate Fund among others. A key priority of his tenure is to implement a more action-oriented approach to the Agency’s work.

Previously, Mr. La Camera served as Director-General of Sustainable Development, Environmental Damage, EU and International Affairs at the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land & Sea since 2014. In this capacity, he developed cooperation and partnership agreements with a wide range of countries, particularly developing countries including Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Mr. La Camera held number of roles at the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea. As the national coordinator for climate, environment, resource efficiency and circular economy, he led the Italian delegation to UNFCCC’s COP 21 to 24 and the EU Presidency at COP 20. He was responsible for the preparation and organisation of Italy’s G7 Environment Presidency in 2017. He was a leading member of the Italian delegation to the G7 Environment Ministers meetings in 2016 and 2018.


He served as co-chair of the Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development established in Rome in partnership with FAO and UNDP and co-chaired the Financial Platform for Climate and Sustainable Development in partnership with the Italian Development Bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti. He has also coordinated a number of national strategies including on sustainable development, green finance and fossil fuel subsides among other things.

Mr. La Camera led the support provided by Italy to several renewable energy initiatives such as the Initiative for Renewable Island Energy (IRIE) and the Global Geothermal Alliance (GGA), coordinated by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Mr. La Camera spearheaded international cooperation on issues related to climate change and the environment. He played a key role in developing initiatives between Italy and multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, UNEP, UNDP and FAO, to implement the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

He chaired the meetings of the Signatories to the Aarhus Convention led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) and chaired the advisory board for the Convention’s implementation.

Author of many publications, Mr. La Camera was a Lecturer of Sustainable Development at the University of Cosenza and of Environment & Land Economics at the University of Roma 3. He began his career as an economic analyst at the Italian Ministry of Budget and Planning.

Mr. La Camera is a national of Italy, and graduate of the University of Messina in Political Sciences (Economic Policy major).

Mr. Gavin Power
Executive Vice President and Chief of sustainable development and international affairs, PIMCO
Mr. Gavin Power

Executive Vice President and Chief of sustainable development and international affairs, PIMCO

Mr. Gavin Power is an Executive Vice President and Chief of Sustainable Development and International Affairs. Prior to joining PIMCO in 2018, he was the deputy executive director of the United Nations Global Compact, which advances sustainability and responsible investment in more than 160 countries. There, he advised U.N. secretaries-general and oversaw sustainability initiatives in both developed and emerging markets. Between 2012 and 2015, Mr. Power co-led the U.N. Global Compact’s role in developing the Sustainable Development Goals. He also led government affairs for the U.N. Global Compact, interacting at ambassadorial and ministerial levels. He was a co-founder and board member of the Principles for Responsible Investment, launched in 2006, and he has held senior positions at Ketchum and Levi Strauss and worked as a financial journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Power holds a degree in economics from the University of California, as well as U.N. accreditation in leadership and ethics, and human rights. He is on the board of the Pacific Institute, an environmental research and advocacy organization, and is a member of the U.N. Development Program's SDG Impact Committee.

Mr. Jim Hall
Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks and former Director of the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University
Mr. Jim Hall

Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks and former Director of the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University

Mr. Jim Hall is a Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks at the University of Oxford. Before joining the University of Oxford in 2011 to become Director of the University's Environmental Change Institute, Professor Hall held academic positions in the Newcastle University and the University of Bristol. Professor Hall is internationally recognised for his research on risk analysis and decision making under uncertainty for water resource systems, flood and coastal risk management, infrastructure systems and adaptation to climate change. Professor Hall is a member of the UK Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology and is Expert Advisor to the National Infrastructure Commission. He also serves as Chair of the Science Advisory Committee of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). He was a member of the UK independent Committee on Climate Change Adaptation from 2009 to 2019. Professor Hall holds a PhD and a civil engineering degree from University of Bristol.

Mr. Refat Sabbah
President, Global Campaign for Education (EASG)
Mr. Refat Sabbah

President, Global Campaign for Education (EASG)

Mr. Refat Sabbah is a lifelong human rights and education activist. He is the General Director and Founder of the Teacher Creativity Centre in Palestine, the Chair of the Arab Network for Civic Education (ANHRE), and the General Secretary of the Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA).He was elected a president of the Global Campaign for Education in 2018. He is also the visa chair of the Regional support group for the ED2030 with UNESCO, and he has chosen to be a member in ED2030 steering committee leading by UNESCO. The Teacher Creativity Center (TCC) is a Palestinian, non-profit, non-governmental organisation established in May 1995 by a group of teachers, including Mr. Sabbah. TCC has been at the forefront of organisations calling for the integration of civic education and human rights concepts into the entire school curriculum, not only in Palestine but also in the wider Arab World, and to date it has trained more than 25 000 teachers in Gaza and the West Bank. Mr. Sabbah also founded ACEA, which represents eleven national education coalitions across the Arab Region.

Mr. Stephen Devereux
Professorial Fellow, Co-Director, Centre for Social Protection Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
Mr. Stephen Devereux

Professorial Fellow, Co-Director, Centre for Social Protection Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Mr. Stephen Devereux is a development economist with 30 years of experience in food security, poverty, and rural development in 13 African countries, including 3 years heading a Rural Research Programme at the University of Namibia and one year researching household drought responses in northern Ghana. He has been a Fellow of the Institute of Development Studies since 1996, where he co-founded the Centre for Social Protection in 2005. He has published more than 70 journal articles and (co-)authored or (co-)edited 9 books, on food security, famine, and social protection. He was a founding associate editor of the journal Food Security. He has worked for numerous international agencies and provided policy advice to many African governments. Since 2016 he has held a Research Chair in Social Protection for Food Security, affiliated to the Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa; and in 2019 he was awarded a Mercator Fellowship at the University of Bremen in Germany. Mr. Stephen Devereux holds a DPhil and a MPhil, both in Economics, from Oxford University.

Mr. Yannick Glemarec
Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund
Mr. Yannick Glemarec

Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund

Mr. Yannick Glemarec is the Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund since April 2019. Mr. Yannick has 30 years of international experience in climate change, development and finance, and their interrelationships. He served as UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programme in UN Women from 2015 to 2018, overseeing services provided by close to 2,000 UN Women staff in over 80 countries worldwide. Before joining UN Women, he was Executive Coordinator of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office in New York from 2013 to the beginning of 2015. He was responsible for the design and administration of about 100 UN trust funds supporting humanitarian, post-conflict, development, and climate action in over 100 countries. Mr. Yannick holds a PhD from the University of Paris in Environment Sciences, and two Master’s degrees in Hydrology and in Business Administration. He has authored several publications in the field of risk management, renewable energy, climate finance, and co-benefits between human rights, gender equality and climate action.

Ms. Isabel Ortiz
Director, Global Social Justice Program Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)
Ms. Isabel Ortiz

Director, Global Social Justice Program Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)

Isabel Ortiz is Director of the Global Social Justice Program at Joseph Stiglitz’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, New York. Earlier she was Director at the International Labour Organization (ILO Geneva, 2013-19) and at UNICEF (New York, 2009-12); senior official at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (New York, 2005-09) and at the Asian Development Bank (Manila, 1995-2003), where she was a founding member of the ADB Poverty Reduction Unit. Earlier, she was at the European Commission and at Madrid University. Isabel Ortiz has worked in more than 50 countries in all world regions, providing advisory services to governments and engaging in high level initiatives at the United Nations, G20, BRICS, African Union and UNASUR, among others. Additionally, she supports policy work of civil society organizations. She has a MSc and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, and has written more than 80 publications translated in several languages.

Ms. Isabelle Durant
Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD
Ms. Isabelle Durant

Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Ms. Isabelle Durant (Belgium) took office as Acting Secretary-General of UNCTAD on 16 February 2021, after over three years as UNCTAD’s Deputy Secretary-General. Ms. Durant had a distinguished career in Belgian and European politics. She held the offices of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Transport and Energy and Senator in the Belgian Government. She also served as Vice-President of the European Parliament and Presidency of the European Union Council of Ministers of Transport. Ms. Durant has a wealth of experience collaborating with civil society and the private sector as well, notably as the Vice-President responsible for relations between the European Parliament and civil society. Finally, Ms. Durant has held posts as a senior consultant on the empowerment of women in local government for the UNDP and as a member of Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region in Belgium

Ms. Mami Mizutori
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)
Ms. Mami Mizutori

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)

Mami Mizutori is the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction, and head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms. Mizutori served for twenty-seven years in various capacities in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Prior to joining the UN, Ms. Mizutori was Executive Director of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of East Anglia, UK, since 2011.

Ms. Mizutori graduated in law from Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, and obtained a Diploma in International Studies from the Diplomatic School of Spain.

A Japanese national, Ms. Mizutori speaks Japanese, English and Spanish.

Ms. Vera Songwe
Executive Secretary of ECA
Ms. Vera Songwe

Executive Secretary of ECA

Vera Songwe is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Upon her appointment, she became the first woman to lead the institution in its 60-year history.

As Executive Secretary, Songwe’s reforms have focused on “ideas for a prosperous Africa”, and have brought to the fore critical issues of macroeconomic stability, development finance, private sector growth, poverty and inequality, the digital transformation, trade and competitiveness.

She was listed as one of Africa’s 50 most powerful women by Forbes in 2020 and named as one of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ by Jeune Afrique in 2019. In 2017, New African Magazine listed her as one of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ and the FT named her one of the ’25 African to watch’ in 2015.

Prior to ECA, she held a number of senior leadership roles with the International Finance Corporation and World Bank.

Statements
Statements
Intervention - NGO Major Group
Intervention - SENDAI Stakeholder Mechanism
Intervention - SENDAI Stakeholder Mechanism
Remarks - Mr. Francesco La Camera
Remarks - Mr. Jim Hall
Talking Point - Ms. Isabel Ortiz
Talking Point - Ms. Mami Mizutori
United Nations