22nd of July 9-10:20 Online dialogue: launch of the compilation of the High-level Advisory Board for Economic and Social Development

The United Nations High-level Advisory Board
on Economic and Social Affairs
Recover Better: Economic and Social
Challenges and Opportunities
Online dialogue: launch of the compilation of the
High-level Advisory Board for Economic and Social Development
22 July 2020 – 9:00-10:20 a.m. EDT
Held via WebEx and online at www.webtv.un.org  

The COVID-19 pandemic and humanity’s responses to it, is inspiring new thinking and critical insights
about the future of humanity. Even prior to the pandemic, progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the blueprint for a sustainable future –was mixed.

The human tragedy of the pandemic, with close to half a million deaths worldwide so far, present new
and additional challenges. Mandated restrictions on human activities have helped to prevent even greater loss of lives, but have also resulted in lost livelihoods and incomes, forced absence from classrooms, foregone vaccinations against other infectious diseases, stresses on mental health, and, for women in particular, a disproportionate increase in the burden of care work as well as greater risk of domestic violence.

At the aggregate level, most economies are in recession, leading to falling public revenues and shrinking fiscal space, likely to result in poorer public services. Additional stresses are arising in economies dependent on tourism or commodity exports, and with disruptions in food supply chains. At the same time, the temporary declines in greenhouse gas emissions – amid lockdown measures – are confirming that transition towards a low-carbon world is within our reach.

Initial assessments are already indicating some of the likely development outcomes, at least in the short
term. As many as 40 million people may fall into extreme poverty, reversing a declining trend that lasted over two decades. Some 1.6 billion working in the informal sector could see their livelihoods at risk, and many lack access to any form of social protection. Numbers such as these highlight the immense risks of not acting swiftly, coherently, and in a coordinated manner. At the same time, they underscore the imperatives of “ recovering better,” to forestall similar risks to our future.

The United Nations High-level Advisory Board (HLAB) on Economic and Social Affairs was established in June 2018 to help strengthen the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) in the context of United Nations development system reform, and as a key part of efforts to enhance support to Member States of the United Nations in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

The HLAB consists of sixteen globally renowned experts in the economic and social policy fields, including former Heads of State, a Nobel Laureate, former Senior Government Officials and intellectual leaders. It has provided guidance to the research and policy analysis work of UN DESA, including topics for its flagship publications. The Board members themselves have played an active role in strengthening the linkage between UN DESA and the global economic and social policy research community,and have promoted UN DESA publications and reports at national and global levels.

The Board also, through its bi-annual meetings, has provided advice to the United Nations on broad
economic and social issues, including near-term prospects and risks for the world economy, frontier
technologies, inequality, migration, issues associated with countries in special situations, as well as the
implications of these issues for multilateralism and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development. 

Over the course of the last two years, the HLAB has deliberated on many contemporary and cross-cutting issues and challenges. The interventions and insights of the Board have greatly expanded our
understanding of issues of important economic and social significance and inspired the United Nations to break new ground in policy research. This volume is envisaged as the legacy of the first HLAB to advancing the sustainable development agenda.

This online dialogue commemorates the launch of a compilation of essays by HLAB members which
reflects and furthers the discussions members have had on a wide range of development trends and issues of critical importance to the achievement of the SDGs and the recovery from COVID-19. The insights compiled in the edited volume could help to accelerate action, which is particularly important given that the window of opportunity for attaining the SDGs is closing quickly.

As a follow-up, UN DESA will organize a series of policy dialogues among board members, contributing authors and prominent thinkers that will further inform COVID-19 responses so that countries can build back better and avoid returning to a pre-pandemic pathway, where progress towards important objectives was not rapid enough, or was happening at the cost of significant reversals on others. Taken together, these policy dialogues will enhance the understanding of key underlying trends that must be managed as we design and implement policies for the pandemic response and recovery using the framework of the SDGs.
Guiding questions:
  • Are we in recession? How long will it last? How is it different than 2008?
  •  Governments around the world are facing difficult and painful trade-offs between saving lives and saving the economy, as they contemplate reopening the economies. How can governments minimize these trade-offs and use the crisis as an opportunity to build economic, social and climate resilience?
  • What can governments do to ensure stimulus spending not only prevent economic catastrophes but also nudge private sectors towards productive and sustainable investments in future?
  • The pandemic poses the gravest collective challenge that the world has faced since the World War II and yet the global collective response to the crisis is largely discordant, if not missing. What else can the United Nations do to forge a more robust collective response to the global crisis? Pending breakthroughs in vaccine development and treatment, what can governments and the United Nations do to instill public confidence that it is possible to “recover better” but will require significant adjustments in product in and consumption behavior to build resilience against future shocks.
Annex: List of Invitees
Members of the United Nations High-level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs
  1. Giancarlo Corsetti, Professor of Macroeconomics at University of Cambridge
  2. Cristina Duarte, former Minister of Finance, Planning and Public Administration (2006-2016), Cape Verde
  3. Marcel Fratzscher, President of DIW Berlin
  4. Anastasia J. Gage, Professor at the Department of Global Community Health andBehavioral Sciences, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University
  5. Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning,School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  6. Merit E. Janow, Dean, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  7. Ricardo Lagos, Honorary Chairman of the Interamerican Dialogue; former President of
  8. Chile (2000-2006)
  9. Justin Yifu Lin, Dean, Institute of New Structural Economics, Professor and HonoraryDean of National School of Development at Peking University
  10. José Antonio Ocampo, Member of the Board of Banco de la República (central bank),Colombia and Professor, Columbia University
  11. Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor, Columbia University
  12. Joseph E. Stiglitz, University Professor, Columbia University
  13. Heizo Takenaka, Professor Emeritus, Keio University and Professor, Toyo University
  14.  Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira, former Minister of Environment (2010-2016), Brazil
  15. Kori Udovički, Head of Center for Advanced Economic Studies (CEVES)
  16.  Ernesto Zedillo, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization; former
  17. President of Mexico (1994-2000)
  18. Min Zhu, Chairman, National Institute of Financial Research, Tsinghua university
  19. Elliot Harris, ASG for Economic Development and Un Chief Economist (Ex Officio
  20. member)
  21. Alicia Bárcena Contributing author, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commissionfor Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) 

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