Remarks delivered by HE Mr. Maksim Reshetnikov, Minister of Economic Development of Russia, at the High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of ECOSOC
Honorable Chair, Excellencies,
Participants of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development,
It is my great honour to present Russia’s first Voluntary National Review on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
All 17 Goals are covered by the 12 National Projects. In my statement I will cover key achievements and challenges that we consider critical in the current environment.
The coronavirus pandemic has no doubt affected the prospects for the 2030 Agenda. And the speed with which our nations have addressed the COVID-19 challenges is testament to our efficient work during the last five years.
The task at the front of our minds right now is safeguarding employment and incomes for all Russians. This corresponds directly to SDG 8 “Decent Work and Economic Growth”. To this end, we have deployed support measures for the population and developed a National Action Plan for Restoring Employment and Incomes, Economic Growth and Long-Term Structural Transformation. The overall volume of financial support the Government is allocating to the population and businesses amounts to 5 trln rubles.
Thanks to loans that could be written off we were able to support over 2,3 million jobs. From May to July, we have increased unemployment benefits threefold. Families, where one or both parents lost their jobs, received additional financial aid.
Small businesses were supported by interest-free grants to pay worker wages. These were distributed to about 2 million individual entrepreneurs and small businesses in April and May 2020. More than 5 million jobs were supported.
The National Action Plan will forward these crisis response packages. Not only will it restore growth after the pandemic, it will also to help us achieve sustainable GDP growth above the pre-COVID rates. In 2022-2023 we forecast growth at 3% and above. We expect this to ensure that incomes grow consistently.
Ensuring youth employment is a key consideration of ours. We are creating conditions for young people to fulfil their economic potential, including though social lifts. In the near future, we plan to create even more opportunities for young entrepreneurs by making it possible for people as young as 16 years old to register as self-employed and thus be eligible for tax benefits to start a business.
It is important to note that in 2019 almost 90% of young Russians were either working, studying or acquiring professional skills. And with their talent and energy, I am sure they can even do all of those things at once.
Another key task is enhancing living conditions for our people, especially for low- and middle-income families. The Housing and Urban Environment National Project directly corresponds to SDG 11 “Sustainable Cities and Communities”. Our development programs are aimed at doubling the number of comfortable cities in Russia. Federal subsidies are planned to increase housing availability. Over half a million people will get quality homes as we eliminate obsolete housing.
Russia aims to achieve balanced regional development by supporting territories with insufficient socio-economic development. Our goal is to narrow the gaps between regions and ensure advanced development for rural areas.
At the same time, we recognize that most of the economic value added is created in cities and urban agglomerations. This is why we consider sustainable development of our cities as a strategically important task.
SDG 9 “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” is a priority for us, as manifested by the Comprehensive Plan for Modernizing and Expanding of Main Infrastructure. In the last three years, cargo turnover for all modes of transportation has increased by 10% and passenger travel – by more than 12%.
Upgrading transport infrastructure will allow Russia to tap into the country’s transit potential as part of the ‘West – East’, ‘Europe – Western China’ and ‘North – South’ routes. We intend to increase consistently the volume of cargo traveling through the waters of the Northern Sea Route.
Social development is the key second aspect of sustainable development. Russia has essentially eradicated extreme poverty as understood by global standards – less than 1 % of our population live below the international poverty line.
Yet, in 2018, 12.6% of Russians lived under the national poverty threshold. This is why halving poverty is an absolute top priority for the government.
Our poverty eradication strategy is primarily aimed at supporting low-income citizens – retirees, families with children and the unemployed. As part of our COVID-19 response programme, we have arranged for special grants and significantly increased unemployment benefits.
Moving on to SDG2 “Zero Hunger”, we contend that this issue for Russia is essentially resolved. With that said, we attach particular importance to increasing the quality and safety of food, especially for the young. The President recently signed a law that will provide all primary schoolchildren with free hot meals every day. By the way, we are open to share this experience with our partners worldwide. There are ongoing multi-year projects to help build national food systems for schools in Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries that we support via the UN System.
In this pandemic, the urgency of achieving SDG 3 “Good Health and Well-Being” is particularly acute. We aim both to increase the quality of medical services and significantly increase access, especially in rural areas. Our primary focus is preventing and treating cardiovascular and oncological disease. As of 2019, mortality in Russia continued to decrease.
The social focus of national policy is manifested by the share of public spending on human well-being. More than half of Russia’s budget is allocated to education, health and social support.
Gender equality in Russia is not simply a constitutional principle, but a living practical norm. In 2019, the unemployment rate for women was lower than that of men. As does the rest of the world, we face the challenge of closing the gender pay gap. To achieve this, in 2017, we have come up with the National Action Strategy in the Interest of Women.
In SDG 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” we consider the target of creating effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels of government a key priority. For example, since 2009, a growing network of My Documents public services centers has become the single window for people-to-government interaction. Today 13,000 centers provide 97% of our population with public services.
In 2019, My Documents won the UN WSIS competition in the E-Government nomination, while Your Control (a system for public services evaluation) was top-five in WSIS 2020.
The pandemic will speed up digitalization in all areas of life. In 2019, more than half of Russians received public services online and we expect this share to grow. We intend to digitalize as much of the interaction of our people and companies with the government as possible.
Protecting the environment and addressing climate change is the third aspect of sustainable development. Russia is a major contributor to the global effort to counter climate change. This issue is more acute for Russia than for many countries – the atmosphere is heating 2.5 times faster on our territory than the global average
We are an active participant of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In late 2019, we ratified the Paris Agreement and are now implementing the national plan for climate change adaptation. We are now in discussion with experts and the private sector on a strategy for low-carbon development up to 2050.
We have met the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to lower than 70% of 1990 levels.
Coal and oil-based energy consumption is decreasing, while solar and wind energy sources have been growing faster than any other in the last years. When compared to the year 2000, the energy intensity of Russia’s GDP has decreased by 40% while the economy itself grew by 81%.
To address SDG 12 we are strengthening our solid waste management system, raising the standards of environmental monitoring and introducing best available technologies. These are some very complicated issues. In 2020, over 80% of our cities with a population over 100,000 will have the infrastructure for waste segregation. In 26 cities, the system will be fully operational.
We see immense potential for green finance. In 2018, Russia joined the club of nations whose companies were issuing green bonds.
I would like to emphasize the growing role of the Russian private sector in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Our companies are involved across all targets, implementing new models of production and consumption, integrating standards of responsible business conduct and non-financial disclosure.
Over 50 Russian companies are members of the national UN Global Compact Network, two of them – PhosAgro and Sakhalin-Energy – have LEAD status.
PhosAgro has recently launched a project with an end to create a network of soil labs across Africa.
En+ Group has introduced an internal carbon tax, adjusting the price of the final product to factor in mitigation of potential negative impacts on the climate.
RUSAL’s new brand of aluminum has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry, three times less than the global average.
In the diamond industry, ALROSA is promoting high standards of environmental protection and human rights. The company is deeply involved in the Kimberley Process to tackle the issue of conflict diamonds.
Those are just several examples. By early 2020, the national Registry of Non-Financial Reports had over 200 companies. Two thirds of all reports were in compliance with the international GRI standards.
Monitoring SDG progress is in itself a crucial effort undertaken by the Russian government. Apart from following the implementation of the global indicators, we are currently working on a national set of sustainable development indicators. To ensure transparency of these monitoring efforts, Rosstat – the Russian statistical service – publishes official data on its web portal.
In this presentation we have discussed only some of the measures, priorities and indicators that demonstrate Russia’s approach to achieving the SDGs. We invite you all to read our VNR, which covers all 17 Global Goals. We have tried to showcase our best practices and solutions and are open to share them with our partners globally.
In Russia, the VNR preparation process was coordinated by the Analytical Center of the Government, with a broad range of stakeholders involved from the government, civil society, academia and the private sector.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the discussions on sustainable development, particularly in the civil society. Activist individuals and organizations play a key role in monitoring the agenda. We are open to an all-round evaluation of our work and to receiving any suggestions.
Delegates of the HLPF,
The world is going through a difficult time, when our economies and our very lives are undergoing substantial readjustment. But we cannot abandon the trajectory of global development that we all chose five years ago when we agreed on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
We are certain that thanks to partnership grounded in goodwill, respect and trust, our nations will succeed in reimagining our socio-economic development strategies not only to recover from this crisis, but also to lay the foundations for long-term sustainable development.
I wish you good health and thank you for your attention!