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Migration, sustaining peace, development high on UN General Assembly’s agenda for 2018

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Migration, sustaining peace and development are among the priorities of the United Nations General Assembly for the remainder of the current session through September 2018, the President of the main UN deliberative and policymaking body said Friday.

“We are nearly four months into the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. And I believe we can say we have achieved a lot in this time,” said Miroslav Lajčák in his briefing to UN Member States, noting that the body has already adopted more than 250 resolutions and a new regular budget for 2018-2019 period, among other accomplishments.

“We need to see these eight months as an opportunity; as a chance to ensure that, when we get to September 2018, we will have even more achievements to point to,” he added.

Such achievements would include, he said, agreement on the world’s first-ever Global Compact on Migration.

When negotiations on the Compact begin on 20 February, Member States will all have to compromise and mobilize support at home, he said, adding that an agreement must be in place in July so that the compact will be adopted in December.

A second achievement relates to sustaining peace, and he will convene a high-level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace on 24 and 25 April, he said.

On this subject, he stressed the need for a stronger focus on conflict prevention. “We should be acting faster, and sooner, when there is a peace to keep – rather than scrambling for solutions once it has been lost,” he said.

Underscoring the importance of partnerships and the participation of women and youth, he also highlighted the need for better financing for the chronically underfunded UN peacebuilding and sustaining peace activities, and the need to integrate UN efforts in this regard.

“Sustaining peace is not a task for one office, or one team at the United Nations. Instead, it must be mainstreamed […] Everything the United Nations does must be seen through a lens of peace,” he said.

As for development, he plans to convene three major events in the resumed part of the session. The first will focus on water. On 22 March, he will convene a high-level launch of the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development.’

The second event will be a youth dialogue on 30 May. A wide range of topics will be covered – from education, employment and opportunities, to prevention of violent extremism and radicalization.

The third contribution from his Office to the ongoing implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is an event on financing on 11 June. It should act as a platform for stronger public-private partnerships.

The discussions and outcomes of these events will feed into the High-Level Political Forum in July.

Mr. Lajčák said he also intends to focus on human rights “because there can be neither peace nor development without respect for dignity and fundamental rights.”

That is why human rights must be mainstreamed throughout all of our activities – from peacebuilding and sustaining peace, to SDGs implementation and migration, he said.

Important tasks remain to be done for UN reform. The first round of intergovernmental negotiations for Security Council reform will take place at the end of January.

After the Secretary-General’s concrete proposals to reposition the UN development system are considered by the Economic and Social Council in February and March, the General Assembly will have an important role to play.

As for management reform, further discussions will be needed once the Secretary-General submits his comprehensive report. And work must continue on the reform of the UN’s peace and security pillar once the Secretary-General submits his second report.

Mr. Lajčák stressed the need to revitalize the work of the General Assembly, as it is the most representative body in the world.

The Assembly’s agenda also includes many mandated processes, such as planning for the diplomatic conference on a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

Preparations for the first-ever high-level meeting on ending tuberculosis will also begin. And the Assembly will also convene the first comprehensive review of the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, and organize the first informal interactive hearings with indigenous people, on the margins of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, in April.

In June, the biennial review of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy will take place.

For the first time, the Assembly will be conducting dialogues with the candidates for the position of President of the General Assembly for the 73rd session.

Wrapping up his remarks, Mr. Lajčák warned that “multilateralism is under threat” because the very purpose of the United Nations is being questioned not by one actor but by many.

Up for debate now are truths, accepted for decades, such as that we are stronger together, than apart; that all voices should be heard – not just those belonging to the most powerful; and that a compromise or agreement for all is better than a win for one, or a few, he said.

“We all have a responsibility to push back, against this trend,” he urged.

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Finance

Uganda Can Rein in Debt by Managing its Public Investments Better

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In the wake of a waning COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and upon full re-opening of the economy, optimism—regarding expected acceleration of growth and a clearer outlook for oil production with the signing of the Final Investment Decision in February 2022—has been dampened by new global shocks, including the impacts of the war in Ukraine.

The 19th edition of the Uganda Economic Update (UEU): Fiscal Sustainability through Deeper Reform of Public Investment Management, a biannual analysis of Uganda’s near-term macroeconomic outlook, estimates growth at 3.7 percent in 2022, which is lower than pre-COVID-19 projections of over 6 percent. Uganda’s gross national income per capita stood at about $840 in FY21 and has increased only marginally in the year since.

Real gross domestic product grew by 4.3 percent in the first half of 2022 supported by a strong and speedy recovery of the service sector upon the opening of the leisure and entertainment industry, accommodation, and food services, as well as sustained buoyancy of the information and communications sector. The report projects a 5.1 percent growth rate in FY23, 0.5 percentage point below the December 2021 forecast, increasing to about 6 percent in FY24.

Rising commodity prices and the overall increase in cost of living pose new risks to livelihoods, that had just begun recovering from the effects of COVID-19. These and other shocks are threatening to stall socio-economic transformation, thus increasing the likelihood of the people falling deeper into poverty,” said Mukami Kariuki, World Bank Country Manager for Uganda. “It is therefore crucial for the Government of Uganda to adopt targeted interventions to support the vulnerable while managing debt and rising inflation.”

The UEU proposes four policy actions that will enable Uganda to sustain a resilient and inclusive recovery: i) accelerate vaccination efforts against COVID-19; ii) adopt targeted interventions to support the vulnerable – such as building shock responsive social protection systems; iii) maintain prudent fiscal and debt management to support the fiscal consolidation agenda; and iv) cautious monetary tightening in the face of rising inflationary pressures.

The report also recommends accelerating longer term structural reforms to (i) strengthen revenue mobilization through the implementation of the Domestic Revenue Mobilization Strategy; (ii) improve public investment management; (iii) rationalize public expenditure to support faster, sustainable, and inclusive growth by investing strongly in human capital development; and (iv) improve the trade and business environment and enable green investments.

The UEU notes that fiscal consolidation is needed to rein in debt and to create the necessary space to respond to shocks that could hurt or stall recovery. This can be done through better Public Investment Management (PIM) building on important reforms that have been undertaken by the government.  The benefits of these efforts are starting to show.

Uganda has a great opportunity to harness Public Investment Management by making sure that beyond preparing good projects, effort is also directed at ensuring that they are efficiently funded, implemented, monitored, operated, maintained, and evaluated.  These steps ensure that the country can reap the maximum value of public investments,” said Rachel Sebudde, World Bank Senior Economist and the lead author of the Uganda Economic Update. Strategic capacity building for government officials is crucial as it will improve the Ministries, Departments and Agencies’ effectiveness across the PIM cycle.”

Notwithstanding the progress achieved in the PIM process, key challenges remain. These include low execution rates on donor and own-budget projects; long implementation delays; cost- and time-overruns on projects; and high commitment fees in the case of non-concessional externally funded projects. Overall, the improvements around the administrative processes of the pre-investment phase of PIM are being discounted by challenges in critical areas, including project prioritization and selection, budgeting, and implementation.

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Environment

New UN financing initiative goes live to power climate action

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A new UN-led financing tool to strengthen weather and climate forecasting, improve life-saving early warning systems, safeguard jobs, and underpin climate adaptation for long-term resilience, officially opened for business on Thursday.

The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) is a key building block for a new initiative spearheaded by UN Secretary-General General António Guterres to ensure that early warning services cover everyone on Earth, within the next five years.

SOFF seeks to address the long-standing problem of inadequate weather forecasting and climate services, especially in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

In support of the Paris Agreement on climate change, it will strengthen the international response to keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, “by filling the data gaps that limit our understanding of the climate”, according to a press release issued by the World Meteorological Organization, WMO.

These gaps affect national agencies’ ability to predict and adapt to extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves, all of which are on the rise, in line with the warming climate.

Heads of the three founding agencies, WMO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), joined ministers from donor countries, LDC Group members, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) representatives and development partners, at the first SOFF Steering Committee meeting in Helsinki on Thursday to get the facility up and running.

Boost ‘the power of prediction’

“As the climate crisis worsens, it is crucial that we boost the power of prediction for everyone so countries can reduce disaster risk”, said the UN chief.

“That is why we have launched an initiative to ensure that every person on Earth is protected by early warning systems within the next five years. SOFF is an essential tool to achieve this.  I thank all the countries that are providing initial funding to the SOFF UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund and urge others to do the same”.

“Early warning systems are built on the foundation of weather observation data, but this foundation is patchy to non-existent in many in LDCs and African countries,” stated Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action and Just Transition.

Join the club

“I want to congratulate all the countries that have come forward and announce or soon will announce their financial contributions to the SOFF UN Multi Partner Trust Fund. I urge others to follow suit and help create a strong global data foundation upon which timely, accurate, people centered early warning systems can be built for   everyone. Our collective efforts are needed more than ever.”

WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, pointed out that today, less than 10 per cent of required basic weather and climate forecasting systems are available from SIDS and LDCs.

“The world urgently needs this data and this is why SOFF will be a partnership of equals where everyone has a role and responsibilities.”      

SOFF provides benefits not only to the most vulnerable countries, but to all countries across the globe, said WMO. The improved availability of weather and climate observations enabled by the SOFF are essential if the world community is to realize the 162 billion US dollars annually in socio-economic benefits of weather and climate prediction.

Best science, best data

Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, emphasized that “now is the time to begin business by providing financial resources and technical capacity, by ensuring that from local to the global, all our actions can be informed by the best science and the best data. My deep thanks to the generous funders who will announce their firm pledges today. I encourage all to follow suit because now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work for people and for planet.”

UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator Usha Rao-Monari followed, adding that “The United Nations Development Program is a proud co-founder of the SOFF UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund. Together with WMO and UNEP we are building upon the momentum generated over the past two years and I want to sincerely thank all stakeholders that contributed to the development of the SOFF. The specialized support provided by SOF is needed more than ever.”

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World News

Safer roads, a global development challenge for all

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Every 24 seconds someone is killed in traffic, making safety on the world’s roads a global development challenge for all societies, especially for the most vulnerable, a senior UN official has said, ahead of the first ever High-level General Assembly Meeting on Improving Road Safety. 

Nneka Henry, who heads the United Nations Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) Secretariat, noted that 500 children die in crashes every day, and that of the older population, women are 17 times more likely to be killed during a car crash than men, even when wearing seatbelts. 

Challenge for all 

Despite these statistics, road safety is not just a challenge for women or for young people. It is “for each and every one of us who walk, ride, cycle or drive on our roads,” Ms. Henry told Diedra Sealey, a young diplomat in the President of the General Assembly’s HOPE Fellowship programme. 

The interview took place ahead of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Improving Road Safety, which gets underway at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday and Friday, organized by the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, and the World Health Organization (WHO).  

Coinciding with the meeting, is the UN Road Safety Fund pledging conference. The Fund was established in 2018 with a vision to “to build a world where roads are safe for every road user, everywhere.” It specially finances projects in low- and middle- income countries, where some 93 per cent of road deaths and injuries take place. 

“I am here in New York to remind all 193 Member States of their commitment to the Fund’s mandate and success,” Ms. Henry said.  

Those successes include the announcement that as of 1 July, all vehicles imported in East Africa need to be below the Euro 4/IV emission standard and no more than eight years old. 

The Fund has been working with the Economic Community of West African States’ 15 members, to harmonize vehicle standard resolutions.  

Major benefits 

“This will have major air quality and road safety benefits,” Ms. Henry said about the latest announcement.  

Some of the other achievements by the Fund include legislation in Azerbaijan to help emergency post-crash response, help to increase enforcement of the speed limits and other road traffic rules in Brazil and Jordan, as well as improving data collection in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, and training urban planners on making safer school zones in Paraguay.  

Vision for the future 

As part of the High-level meeting this week, UN Member States will adopt a political declaration, to lay out a “vision for the future of mobility as one that promotes health and well-being, protects the environment, and benefits all people,” according to a press release. 

The interconnected targets are part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that show how road safety is also integrated into the SDGs, from allowing safer access to education, to allowing people access to groceries and reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. 

Halving traffic deaths and injuries by 2030 is a target under the third SDG, on good health and well-being. 

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