Remarks by U.S. Representative to ECOSOC Elizabeth Cousens, at the 67th UNGA 2nd Committee General Debate, October 8, 2012

Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
U.S. Representative to ECOSOC 
New York, NY
October 9, 2012


Mr. Chair, Thank you and congratulations to you and the Bureau on your election. We are grateful for your service and look forward to working with you and all colleagues on the Second Committee.

Mr. Chair, The landscape of development is changing dramatically. In recent years, we have made unprecedented global development gains. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, thereby achieving the Millennium Development Goal target for reducing poverty. We have also reached MDG targets for expanding access to drinking water, improving the lives of many slum dwellers, and enrolling girls in primary education. That is gratifying, important, and hard won.

However, such gains have not been enjoyed everywhere or on every issue, and far too many of the world’s people face desperate conditions and choices. Progress in reducing maternal mortality is falling short. Hunger and malnutrition remain a corrosive global challenge. Least Developed Countries have seen particularly limited improvement with low-income conflict-affected states, lagging especially far behind in achieving the MDGs. As President Sirleaf of Liberia reminded us just last week, close to one-sixth of the world’s population lives in states affected by conflict or fragility, making this a paramount development challenge for the 21st century.

The global economic recovery also remains incomplete, with persistent high unemployment in much of the world. Concern over sovereign debt and its impact on global growth has dampened trade, while recent fluctuations in food and fuel prices add to economic uncertainty.

As the world’s largest provider of development assistance, the United States will continue to prioritize strategies to mitigate such risks and promote sustained and inclusive development. Our Global Health and Feed the Future initiatives remain a cornerstone of our efforts to reduce poverty, and we will continue to seek “game-changing” technological innovations to tackle critical development challenges around the world.

Our work in the Second Committee this year must be placed in the context of a vigorous effort to accelerate achieving the Millennium Development Goals alongside our efforts to elaborate a post-2015 development agenda that can galvanize both member states and all development partners. Over the course of this session of the Committee,

the United States will return to two cross-cutting themes: one, economic empowerment and two, critical enablers for sustained growth and development, chief among them democratic and accountable governance.

First, empowering all people to participate meaningfully in an inclusive economy is both our moral obligation and critical to overall economic growth and development. Women, girls, youth, the disadvantaged and the marginalized, need to be at the center – not the margins -- of development efforts.

When we advance equality and opportunity for women and girls, we unlock the potential of half of the world’s population. When we promote youth employment, we do more than change a person’s life, we transform societies. When we bring the disadvantaged and the marginalized into our development planning, we give hope to millions who would otherwise be ignored and create opportunities for them to contribute to their communities and societies.

A growing body of evidence shows that empowering women, in particular, and reducing gender gaps in health, education, labor markets, and other areas is associated with lower poverty, higher economic growth, greater agricultural productivity, better nutrition and education of children, and a variety of other positive outcomes.

Job creation for youth is also imperative. We need to harness their energy, ideas, and talents, and give them the real and sustained economic opportunities that all our children deserve. We also cannot afford the long-term costs of youth unemployment or disenfranchisement, where lack of prospects and economic marginalization can fuel radicalism or crime.

Second, we want to work within this Committee and the wider UN system to see greater practical attention on advancing critical enabling conditions for development. This must include the essential foundations of the rule of law and effective policies and governing institutions that can deliver on the promise of development for all their citizens. Essential to that promise is a commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability in governance at a time that citizens around the world increasingly, and rightly, demand it.

Good governance gives confidence to everyone from the small-holder farmer to the light manufacturer to the global investor and importantly is essential in attracting the large flows of capital that are essential to sustained growth. Official development assistance makes up approximately 13 percent of capital flows to developing countries. ODA remains essential and must be sustained, particularly for those areas that cannot attract private capital. But what will drive significant growth and development is not ODA, it is investment, and related factors, including trade, and remittances. Achieving our shared goals will require that we do better to tap these wider sources of investment as well as expand innovative partnerships with the private sector and civil society.

We also must expand the development dialogue to engage emerging economies and tap their drive, creativity, and growing investment capacity.

Finally, we are of course mindful that we are having this discussion after Rio+20. Our view is that in the 21st century, we cannot afford for development not to be “sustainable,” and this poses a challenge to us all to better align our economic, social, and environmental policies as well as to refine and better use our institutional and operational tools. We need to build on Rio+20 to craft a realistic, but ambitious post-2015 development agenda. We need the UN development system to be operationally more efficient and effective in carrying its development activities, and we need institutions focused on implementation and results.

Mr. Chair, we look forward to a dynamic and active session under your leadership and to working with you and all colleagues in this common endeavor.

Thank you.


PRN: 2012/206