Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin with a note of immense appreciation to the Government of Costa-Rica and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization for holding this important event.
Likewise, I would like to extend particular thanks to the organizers for making a short segment on our agenda devoted to the findings of some regional conferences on the topic of middle-income countries, held earlier this year.
As you may well be aware, on 16-17 May 2013 Belarus hosted a regional conference entitled “The Middle-Income Countries Perspective on Sustainable Development in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern and Southern Europe”.
First, a few words about how we arrived at the idea proper. Being a staunch advocate of MICs’ interests, Belarus was naturally concerned as the global economic crisis pushed the topic to the backyard of global agenda. Nevertheless, we saw that the international context set in motion last year by the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development created an opportunity to revive the theme of middle-income countries. Thus, we seized this opportunity by proposing to integrate at our conference the topics of middle-income countries and sustainable development. The idea received a very positive response.
The conference was attended by around 100 people representing 26 countries, various UN agencies, secretariats of the CIS and the Eurasian Economic Community, as well as numerous national state and non-state partners. That event concluded with a chair’s summary.
In terms of structure, the conference featured an opening session, three round tables, and a closing session. Let me briefly share with you the findings of discussions at the round tables.
The first round table addressed at large the issue of challenges and opportunities for the region’s MICs in terms of sustainable development. Many speakers pointed out that the middle-income countries have significantly reshaped the global political and economic landscape over the past few years. In particular, this group currently contributes to more than 50 percent of global economic growth. At the same time, the MICs continue to face a multitude of challenges, like, among others, poverty, inequality, vulnerability to external shocks, environmental degradation.
This session also extensively featured a discussion related to the so-called “middle-income trap”. This phenomenon is generally characterized by significantly reduced growth rates caused primarily by countries’ failure to address reliance on cheap labor and natural resources. The participants agreed that the “middle-income trap” was very relevant to the region’s countries.
What is more, the discussion on the “middle-income trap” clearly demonstrated the need for governments to focus not just on economics, but on ordinary people with their comprehensive development needs. This understanding, in turn, necessitates a comprehensive “sustainability paradigm” on the global scale that would address in a balanced way economic, social and environmental concerns.
The second round table basically covered the issue of MICs’ cooperation with the UN system. The representatives of UN system’s organizations – UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNIDO, UNCTAD, UN Economic Commission for Europe – provided in their presentations a very detailed and thorough coverage of their respective agencies’ approaches and perspectives on cooperation with the middle-income countries in the region.
What can be clearly inferred from this discussion is that the patterns of UN system’s cooperation with MICs need to be shaped by the latter’s dual role, under which the middle-income countries simultaneously stand as both recipients and providers of various forms of international assistance. Therefore, UN agencies’ MICs strategies should, on the one hand, be aligned to the provision of assistance to those middle-income countries still in need. On the other, they must seek to facilitate the spill-over effects from MICs’ successful development experience to least developed countries.
Furthermore, the discussion focused on the issue of interagency coordination and cooperation with middle-income countries. All seem to have agreed that both of these elements need to be streamlined and enhanced. Some speakers argued in favor of adopting a United Nations inter-agency plan of action on cooperation with middle-income countries. Others voiced the idea of establishing a UN Task Team or a similar mechanism that would oversee this plan’s implementation.
The third round table addressed the issue of national consultations on the post-2015 United Nations development agenda. First, the participants tried to identify the place of such consultations among other current tracks on the post-2015 UN development agenda.
The discussion concluded that numerous tracks were indeed necessary if the international community was anxious to arrive at a truly comprehensive future development agenda centered around the paradigm of sustainable development. As for the national consultations per se, there was an agreement that they represented a vital grass-roots’ vision of development challenges, in other words, how ordinary people perceived development. Hence, many underscored that the national consultations stood as an indispensable element among all the other post-2015 tracks.
This segment in addition featured a number of presentations from the representatives of UN country teams from Belarus, Moldova, Serbia and Turkey on their respective national consultations. Generally, all of them have been very inclusive in terms of national participants and encompassing with regard to thematic coverage. Importantly, these countries’ consultations seriously engaged most vulnerable domestic groups, like for instance, the disabled, poor, minorities and others.
Crucially, each national process sought to identify a set of specific development priorities as viewed from the grass-roots’ level. Although these priorities may look different to certain extent in each country’s context, the round table’s participants voiced a feeling that all of them seemed to be converging around a comprehensive “sustainability” paradigm.
The conference ended with the statements by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus and the Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS. Both speakers articulated the need for a vigorous follow-up action in the interests of middle-income countries.
I would like to conclude by saying that the regional conference in Belarus marked an important development in our common efforts to advance the cause of middle-income countries worldwide. I sincerely hope that the current conference in San-Jose will build upon this important regional experience.
Thank you for your kind attention.