Photo credit: UNIDO - Photo: 2017

134-Nation Group Garners Support for SDG 9 at UNIDO Meeting

By Ramesh Jaura

VIENNA (IDN) – “We are in a time when multilateralism is being challenged. Your participation in this General Conference reaffirms the relevance of UNIDO’s work to your governments and the people on the ground,” said Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia’s Foreign Minister and President of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly until September 2018.

Lajčák was speaking at the opening session of the conference in Vienna, on November 27, nearly one month before the central European country ceases to be a member of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). In a letter signed by him as Foreign Minister, Slovakia had denounced the UNIDO convention in December 2016. Subsequently, it will cease to be a member of the Organization on December 31, 2017.

Slovakia will be the 12th country to quit the UNIDO since 1993 when Canada became the first member state to walk out, followed by the United States in 1996 and Australia in 1997 – all during the tenure of Mexico’s Mauricio de Maria y Campos. Fifteen years later, the United Kingdom and Lithuania quit in 2012 and New Zealand in 2013 – when Sierra Leone’s Kandeh Yumkella was UNIDO head.

Five countries have walked out of UNIDO during Li Yong’s first term as the Organization’s Director General that began in June 2013: France and Portugal in 2014. Belgium in 2015, and Denmark and Greece in 2016.

Formerly China’s Vice-Minister of Finance, Li has been re-appointed as the UNIDO chief for the next four years by the Organization’s supreme policy-making organ, the General Conference (GC) where Member States meet once every two years.

As of January 2017, 168 States are Members of UNIDO, which was established as a UN programme in 1966 with headquarters in Vienna, the capital of Austria, and became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1985. Its mission, as described in the Lima Declaration adopted at the fifteenth session of the UNIDO General Conference in 2013, is to promote and accelerate inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) in Member States.

The relevance of ISID as an integrated approach to all three pillars of sustainable development is recognized by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNIDO’s mandate is fully acknowledged in SDG 9, which calls to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”. ISID applies in to all SDGs.

Against this backdrop, UNIDO’s policy-making organs and other related bodies such as the General Conference, the Industrial Development Board, and the Programme and Budget Committee have been very much concerned about the members’ exodus. Though some countries blame Li for the situation, others do not share this view.

Chairman of the Vienna Chapter of the Group of 77 (G-77) and China, Ambassador Reza Najafi of Iran and Permanent Representative to the UN in Vienna, has assured the Group’s “unwavering support to the Organization, especially in its efforts to fulfill its enhanced responsibilities in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The Group – meanwhile comprising 134 UN Member States categorized as ‘developing’ countries – is aware of the challenges the UNIDO is facing, Najafi said in his remarks to the General Conference, and expressed appreciation for the Director General “for his leadership of the Organization in these challenging times.”

The Group also expressed support for Li’s efforts in trying to develop alternative mechanisms to improve and sustain the financial situation of the Organization, while emphasizing that these efforts would minimize the impact of the expected financial constraints on the budget of the Organization and would ensure the continuity for projects and technical assistance programmes.

At the same time, the G-77 and China said, the withdrawal of some Member States from the Organization had resulted in a significant reduction in the regular budget. “The Group called upon the Director General to enhance the visibility of UNIDO and its mandate in order to encourage Member States to stay with the Organization by channelling public information and outreach initiatives.”

The Chairman of the G-77 and China said: “The message must be sent forth that industrial development is a cause worthy of participation by the international community and that through UNIDO countries can accelerate their development processes. The result will clearly benefit developed and developing countries alike and may even encourage former Member States back into UNIDO’s fold.”

In this context, and taking into account the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Group is encouraging Li to invite potential new and former Member States to consider joining the Organization in light of its importance for the implementation of the SDGs, particularly SDG 9.

The Group expressed its satisfaction that 2016 was once more an excellent year in terms of mobilization of voluntary contributions. The Group welcomed the increase in the amounts of voluntary contributions in 2016 by 4.8 million euros (about 5.71 million U.S. dollars) to a total of 216.8 million euros (257.9 million U.S. dollars).

It took note of the significant imbalance between the regular budget, funded by assessed contributions, and the voluntarily financed operational budget, and calls upon the Secretariat to propose ways to bridge this gap. “The Group takes this opportunity to recognize the voluntary contributions from governments and institutions that facilitated further technical cooperation, as well as advisory services in many of the G-77 countries,” Ambassador Najif said.

While taking note of the efforts by UNIDO to promoting partnerships, cooperation and knowledge sharing among Member States and with relevant stakeholders, the G-77 and China “urges the Organization to strengthen its work to increase South-South, North-South, as well as triangular cooperation on a results-based management.”

Possible ways and means of halting further withdrawals of Member States from UNIDO were also discussed in July at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2017.

The Group of Friends of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development (FOISID), comprising of Permanent Representatives of more than 30 countries from all regions of the world, said that achieving SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure will be one of the most efficient ways to enable economic growth in developing countries and therefore requires significant political attention and investment by the international community.

Ambassador Tekeda Alemu of Ethiopia to the United Nations who delivered the statement on behalf of the Group of FOISID, pointed out, “empirical evidence has shown that countries and regions that have successfully developed their manufacturing sector have made spectacular progress in poverty reduction…”

In developing countries, he added, the achievement of sustainable industrialization (SDG 9) enables consistent and inclusive economic growth more than nearly any other factor.

It also significantly contributes to poverty reduction (SDG 1), ending hunger (SDG 2), creation of decent jobs and income (SDG 8), and reduction of inequalities (SDG 5 and 10), while improving health and well-being (SDG 3), increasing resource and energy efficiency (SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12) and reducing greenhouse gas and other polluting emissions, including from chemicals (SDGs 13, 14, 15).

According to the document submitted to the Fourth Donor Meeting on November 28 as part of the 17th session of the UNIDO General Conference that concluded on December 1, the past five years (2012-2016) showed a high level of funding from governmental and institutional sources, “bearing witness to the value attached by our partners to the Organization as well as recognition for the quality of services provided.”

The document notes that net funds made available for UNIDO technical cooperation amounted to $951.8 million over the reporting period and reached $210 million in 2016. Included in this figure is a record high of $79.5 million received from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The largest contributor during the past five years was the European Union with a total contribution of $111.9 million. The second highest contributor was Japan ($52.4 million), followed by Switzerland ($52.3 million), Sweden ($5.6 million), Italy ($25.1 million), Norway ($17.6 million), China ($15.1 million), Austria ($13.4 million), Republic of Korea ($10.9 million), Germany ($10.6 million), Russian Federation ($10.6 million) and Nigeria ($10.2 million).

The Donor Meeting not only highlighted the contribution of donors to UNIDO’s work, but it also provided an insight into the Organization’s work on the ground and its contribution to the SDGs. A series of panel discussions focused on some of UNIDO’s top donors, including the European Union, Finland, Japan and Sweden. Several success stories were presented, with panels featuring representatives of donor countries, as well as direct beneficiaries.

“Partnerships and adaptability” were key themes of the meeting, according to the Deputy to the Director General of UNIDO, Hiroshi Kuniyoshi. Per-Einar Tröften from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) stated that for SIDA, “working with the private sector is the best and most effective way to reach the SDGs.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 December 2017]

Related IDN articles:
UNIDO Chief Has A ‘Dream’, Urgently Needs Funds
China and UNIDO Have Engaged in Substantial Cooperation
Industrial Development is About a Decent Life for All People

Need to Perceive Africa from an African Point of View

Photo credit: UNIDO

IDN is the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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