UN Philippines chief enjoins economic journalists to be truth tellers in a time of disinformation
22 September 2022
Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez called on the journalists to get the the message out that attaining the SDGs cannot afford a “business as usual” approach
Manila, 22 September 2022--United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez addressed today a conference of members of the Economic Journalists of the Philippines (EJAP), saying, "The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a reliable and comprehensive lens to see progress in human development, and journalists have a major role in informing, alerting and advocating for progress."
Gonzalez lauded the EJAP for focusing on the SDGs, with the theme of the webinar being "The Triple Bottomline: For people, planet and profit”. He said, "We need your support in getting the message out that attaining the SDGs cannot afford a “business as usual” approach."
At the same time, Gonzalez reminded the journalists to "be the truth tellers in this time of increasing disinformation and misinformation. You must continue to hold institutions and duty bearers, whether it’s the UN, the government, private companies, accountable to our member states, constituents, stockholders, and all those we seek to serve."
The full text of the UN Resident Coordinator's message, as prepared, follows:
Good morning to all of you.
I am honored to be invited by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines to speak to all of you today on the country’s progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Today’s webinar comes at an opportune time as we confront significant, multiple, and interlinked development challenges in front of us at the global, regional, and country levels.
With only eight years left to 2030, the UN Secretary General has called for “an urgent rescue effort” for the Sustainable Development Goals which we are at risk of not achieving. The UN ESCAP 2022 SDG Progress Report for the Asia and the Pacific put it in simpler and more sobering terms: “The region is not on track to achieve any of the SDGs.” At the current pace of progress, the Asia Pacific region will only attain the SDGs in 2065.
In addition, the food, energy, and finance crisis, brought about by the Ukraine conflict and amplified by COVID-19 and the climate emergency, may have catastrophic effects such as increasing global hunger and sparking social unrest. In its first report soon after the start of the conflict, the United Nations Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance (or the GCRG) already noted that 1.7 billion people in the world living in 107 economies were severely exposed to at least one of the crisis’ three channels of transmission, namely: rising food prices, rising energy prices, and tightening financial conditions. In its second report in June, the GCRG highlighted the need to increase people and countries’ capacity to cope and support them in helping the poor and most vulnerable populations. The third report released last August noted that more people are forecast to be pushed into food insecurity and extreme poverty by the end of this year.
Needless to say, the Philippines, and even all of us present here today, have directly felt such effects. As you know, the Philippine Statistics Authority recently reported that average inflation reached its highest this year at 6.4 per cent in July, then slightly eased to 6.3 per cent in August. Two of the major drivers of the uptrend in inflation in the previous five months were the higher annual growth rate in the indices for food and transport (primarily due to increased fuel prices).
For us in the United Nations working in the Philippines, we look at these global, regional and country challenges to the SDGs from the lens of our core agenda which is to Leave No One Behind. This means reducing inequalities in all its forms is what drives the priorities identified in our cooperation framework with the government. With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to reflect on some issues of inequality that are reflected in the topic of our webinar today on the Triple Bottom Line: Social inequalities facing our People; Environmental inequalities that arise from impacts on our Planet; and Economic inequalities that result due to the focus on Profit:
ON PEOPLE: There is education inequality. Most of you will be aware by now of the learning losses brought about by the pandemic and related school closures. Almost two-thirds of the 2.3 million out-of-school children and youth come from families with a lower socioeconomic status. 25 million children have been learning only remotely for almost two years, with over 80% of children unable to access online learning. In June 2022, more than 30% of schools remained closed for in-person classes since March 2020. In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, only 5% of schools had reopened. That is why the UN system had actively advocated for the reopening of schools and the return to in-person classes and we are very grateful that the current administration has heeded this call.
On PLANET: There is climate inequality. The Global Climate Risk Index ranks the Philippines 4th for countries affected by climate induced hazards. The country as a whole is already highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, increased frequency of extreme weather events, rising temperatures and extreme rainfall. However, Typhoon Odette which hit the country at the end of last year exposed underlying inequalities. In January 2022, we found that almost 1.7 million houses were damaged, with houses made from light materials were hit the hardest. The six regions placed under a state of calamity due to the typhoon already had very high stunting prevalence, while more than one-third of households in five of those regions were unable to afford a diet that would meet nutritional needs.
ON PROFIT: There is economic inequality. As the country recovered from its worst post-war recession in 2020, Forbes reported that the collective wealth of the Philippines richest 50 Filipinos rose by 30% to USD 79 billion in 2021, with the highest individual family worth USD 16.6 billion. On the other hand, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the average income of Filipinos from January to December 2021 was estimated at PHP 307,000 (or about USD 5,400 at current exchange rates) and noted this was even lower the average family income for the same period in 2018 which was PHP313,000. For that same year, the PSA reported that poverty incidence among the population had increased to 18.1 per cent, or nearly 20 million Filipinos, from 16.7 per cent in 2018.
To strengthen the UN’s response to both long-standing and new inequalities and development challenges brought about by the pandemic, we updated our cooperation framework with the government in 2020 through the UN Socioeconomic and Peacebuilding Framework for COVID-19 Recovery in the Philippines 2020-2023. In this revised document, we underscored the importance of addressing the causes of inequalities across all the three pillars of our strategy, namely People, Prosperity and Planet, and Peace. Very soon, the United Nations Country Team will update its new cooperation framework with the Philippines to align with the priorities of the new government under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to be outlined in the new Philippine Development Plan for 2023 to 2028. It will be another opportunity to pool all our capacities, knowledge and resources to support the Philippines in the next six years in its challenging journey towards attaining the SDGs by 2030.
I would like to end my remarks with two important messages for the members of EJAP:
First, we need your support in getting the message out that attaining the SDGs cannot afford a “business as usual” approach. We need to collectively act with urgency and greater ambition. We need integrated and innovative approaches if we are to achieve our shared goals by 2030.
Second, we fully support the important role that media practitioners such as yourselves – economic journalists – to be the truth tellers in this time of increasing disinformation and misinformation. You must continue to hold institutions and duty bearers, whether it’s the UN, the government, private companies, accountable to our member states, constituents, stockholders, and all those we seek to serve.