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General Assembly Second Committee

General Assembly Second Committee (Economic and Financial)


The General Assembly Second Committee addresses the economic development of Member States and the stability and growth of international financial and trade networks. The Second Committee deals solely with the economic development of Member States and State-to-State assistance. It does not set or discuss the budget of the United Nations, which is addressed only by the Fifth Committee. The Second Committee also does not address social issues that affect development; such issues are considered by the Third Committee. The Second Committee also adheres to the purview guidelines of the General Assembly as a whole.

Topic 1: Agricultural development, food security and nutrition

Food security—defined as having access to adequate quantity and quality of food for an active and healthy lifestyle—is one of the most severe issues facing the world. Despite historically consistent progress in reducing global undernourishment by about one-third since 1971, recent estimates show the trend reversing since 2015. In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that the number of undernourished people in the world reached 811 million, an increase over previous years in both absolute and relative terms. More than 70 percent of the world’s food-insecure people live in rural areas of developing countries, many of whom are subsistence farmers who have trouble feeding their own families. Worldwide, the social and economic costs of malnutrition in 2013 totaled approximately US $3.5 trillion. The struggle of ensuring food security is worsened by population growth, increased consumption and climate change, all of which have varied impacts on States. Agricultural development is necessary not only to fill these gaps but also to reduce poverty and expand developing economies.

Agricultural development has always been linked to food security and nutrition challenges. The United Nations established the FAO in 1945 and tasked it with achieving food security for all and ending hunger. In 1946, the FAO published the first World Food Survey, which was the first data collected to confirm that wide-spread hunger and malnourishment were rampant. The next few decades saw the buildup of United Nations food and agriculture infrastructure with the founding of the World Food Programme in 1963 in the midst of the Green Revolution, which brought high-yielding food varieties to developing countries. After the devastating 1974 Bengal famine, the international community adopted the Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition at the first World Food Conference. Through this declaration, governments affirmed freedom from hunger and malnutrition as a fundamental human right, and agreed to ensure this right was realized by all within a decade. This goal, however, was not met, and in 1995 the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) revisited the issue, including the role of sustainable agricultural development for the first time. Through negotiations at the 1996 World Food Summit, the 1997 review of the Earth Summit and finally the Millennium Declaration, the international community set a new goal. Target 1C of the Millennium Development Goals was halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Despite the global recessions of the 2000s and increased natural and humanitarian disasters, the international community did reduce the number of people suffering from hunger by about 45 percent, just shy of meeting the target. In 2014, the international community reconvened for the Second International Conference on Nutrition. The Conference discussed that 45 percent of all child deaths were caused by undernutrition in 2013. Moreover, representatives at the Conference identified a new nutrition issue: obesity. In 2014 over 500 million adults were obese across both developing and developed countries, a number which would increase to 672 million only three years later. Millions of individuals in many countries are now faced with the double burden of malnutrition and obesity. Through the Rome Declaration on Nutrition, representatives encouraged coordinated action across all actors to create comprehensive food policy and increase investments for achieving food security.

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the United Nations once again aims to end hunger and achieve food security for all. The interconnected nature of the SDGs, however, reflects the complexity and importance of agricultural development and food security to sustainable development. Woman farmers face larger hurdles in accessing supplies and markets than their male counterparts. Deforestation and desertification both hurt rural communities’ livelihoods while contributing to climate change. Extreme poverty is concentrated in rural areas, which themselves rely on agriculture for their food supply and income. In an attempt to maintain a more holistic view of this issue, recent publications have focused on taking a food system based approach. The food system includes all economic activity related to agriculture and nutrition, including waste management and food processing, and more easily reflects not only the various contexts of different States but also the different options available for development. Under this paradigm, sustainable agricultural development includes reducing food waste, limiting agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and increasing resilience to climate change and natural disasters.

In 2017, the General Assembly declared 2019-2028 the United Nations Decade of Family Farming. As family farms produce about 80 percent of global food value, international work on food security and nutrition must focus on the role of family farms. If the world is to support billions more people over the coming decades, all States will need to develop sustainable food systems that are both productive and resilient. Doing so will require the advancement and distribution of new technologies and the building of infrastructure to utilize them. Moreover, it has become clear in recent years that ensuring sufficient quantities of food is not enough; the global rise of obesity, even in developed countries, has revealed a nutrition crisis. Recent advancements in genetically modified crops have proved promising to meet food supply and nutrition goals, however their impact on biodiversity and the environment are yet to be fully understood. Furthermore, nutrition-driven policies and environments will be necessary to tackle the double burden of malnutrition and obesity.

Questions to consider:

  • How can governments increase the nutrition of the food available in their system?
  • How can governments support the success of family farms, increase their agricultural productivity, and ensure they contribute to food security? Are there downsides to this approach?
  • What is the relationship between agriculture and obesity? What steps should the international community take to fight rising rates of obesity?


United Nations Documents

Topic 2: Promotion of sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, for poverty eradication and environmental protection

As global societies and economies have become increasingly interconnected, peoples’ desire and ability to experience other cultures and environments has also grown. Since the founding of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 1975, transportation options and accessibility have grown dramatically, with the number of international tourists increasing more than six-fold between 1975 and 2018. However, as travel and tourism now represent about 10% of global economic output, their impact on global and local environments must also be considered. In 2013, travel and tourism contributed about 8% of global greenhouse emissions, and tourism can negatively impact the quality of local environments through littering and air pollution. Unsustainable tourist industries, moreover, can increase local inequality and inflame tensions with residents. At the same time, the tourism industry is also susceptible to the impacts of climate change, and droughts, heatwaves and sea-level rise reduce the attractiveness of tourist destinations. These effects are exacerbated in small island developing states (SIDS) and developing countries, which furthermore often lack the resources necessary to afford the initial cost of establishing sustainable tourism industries.

While the World Tourism Organization joined the United Nations system in 1975, international efforts to promote tourism date back to before the founding of the United Nations. The UNWTO traces its origins to the International Union of Official Tourist Propaganda Organizations, which was founded in 1934 and reorganized into the International Union of Official Travel Organisations (IUOTO) in 1947 to oversee the growth of tourism following the end of the Second World War. In the next three decades, IUOTO and United Nations bodies—especially the Economic and Social Council and the International Civil Aviation Organization—oversaw the development of international cooperation for both travel and tourism. The 1963 United Nations Conference on Tourism and International Travel formed the foundation of international work in this area, establishing the commonly used definitions for “visitor” and “tourist,” as well as recommending freedom of movement and simplified international travel formalities. In 1980, the first World Trade Conference highlighted the importance of tourism as a force for global peace.

Two key concepts emerged toward the turn of the century, as the United Nations began to focus on sustainable development: ecotourism and sustainable tourism. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) introduced the idea of ecotourism to emphasize two pillars of responsible tourism: that it conserve the environment and that it sustains the well-being of local people. In 2015 TIES added a third pillar: that it involve education and interpretation. The adoption of Agenda 21 and the 1997 Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry, expanded conversations about tourism to include efforts to make the entire travel and tourism industries more sustainable. Sustainable tourism attempts to minimize the effect of travel on the environment and local cultures of areas that depend on tourism. It seeks to establish a suitable balance between the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development.

With the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 and the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, developing countries have looked to sustainable tourism and ecotourism to meet the challenges of ending poverty and spurring economic development. To help coordinate efforts, the United Nations, the Rainforest Alliance and the United Nations Foundation established the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria in 2008. These criteria establish minimum requirements any tourism business should observe in order to sustain the natural resources as well as the cultural resources of a destination, while also ensuring that tourism serves to alleviate poverty and as an overall boon to the local economy and population. Divided into criteria for industries and for destinations, these criteria broadly promote integrating tourism into local communities, respecting the legal rights of visitors, workers and community members and minimizing resource consumption and pollution. The UNWTO Academy has worked since 1998 to provide educational tools and research programs for training and developing the necessary human capital needed for developing countries to expand their tourism industries. Recently, UNWTO Academies have partnered with private organizations to establish tourism education centers in certain Member States. As with many issues, United Nations involvement serves to highlight the importance of an issue and to focus international attention on challenges and solutions. In 2014, for example, it established the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme to coordinate tourism development programs across the world (by 2018 this Programme was involved in over 390 initiatives with over 90 partners) and the year 2017 was the International year of Sustainable Tourism.

Much progress still remains on expanding the sustainability of tourism. Nearly half of World Heritage sites lack plans to prevent negative effects of tourism. While a developing tourism industry can be a potent source of economic development when managed correctly, improper implementation can exacerbate inequality and harm communities. Economic diversification is still crucial to ensure stable development, and tourism has its own benefits and weaknesses that individual countries will need to take into consideration, not the least of which is the sensitivity of tourism to conflict and pandemic conditions. The tourism industry is also continually evolving and relying on digital technologies, including travel booking, GPS location services, and artificial intelligence —a trend pre-dating but no doubt accelerated by the global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As States look to capitalize on tourism for their own development, international cooperation will be needed to ensure they have the resources, capacity and strategy to make the most of it.

Questions to consider:

  • How can States manage the role of technology in tourism, and how can the use of technology increase sustainability?
  • What can States do to avoid the negative impacts of tourism?
  • How can tourism industries be made more robust in the face of armed conflict, crisis (such as a pandemic) and climate change?


United Nations Documents