Senior UN officials urge Member States to craft ‘bold, pragmatic’ post-2015 agenda

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) addresses the High-Level Stocktaking Event at the General Assembly. Assembly President John Ashe is at right. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

11 September 2014 – With an “intense and important year ahead,” United Nations Member States must work to build a framework that will sustain and finish what was accomplished with the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease, while rising to challenges old and new – not least climate change.

This was the charge given to the 193-Member General Assembly today by its President, John Ashe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, at the opening of a High-Level Stocktaking Event to weigh the various post-2015 development-related processes which have occurred during the current session of the Assembly.

The MDGs, targets adopted by the Assembly in 2000 and which galvanized the world towards goals such as halving extreme poverty rates, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, are set to expire next year. This stocktaking event is a key step in preparation for the negotiation phase of the post-2015 development agenda during the Assembly’s 69th session, which opens next Tuesday, 16 September.

Mr. Ashe invited Member States and other stakeholders to be “bold and pragmatic in their thinking about what could constitute a truly participatory, inclusive, people-centred post-2015 development agenda that has the eradication of extreme poverty as its overarching objective.”

He stressed that such an agenda should also address access to information; participation and representation of the most vulnerable and marginalised – women, the young, indigenous people, older persons and persons with disabilities; and one with a concise set of goals that are specific, measurable, time-bound, implementable, and has the appropriate accountability mechanisms built in so that progress in implementation can be monitored.

“In short, what we seek is a transformational agenda that will reshape global development, and hopefully benefit generations to come, said Mr. Ashe, explaining that the outcome of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) had put the international community on a path to redefine global development in a way that all nations should assume responsibility for the well-being of people and planet.

“The highly anticipated post-2015 development agenda, which you will begin negotiating, must represent our collective commitment to end poverty and ensure that sustainable development becomes the norm for all nations, societies and economies…[it] must pick up where the MDGs left off, fill in its gaps and take us to the next level.”

Mr. Ashe said the post-2015 development agenda must be more than ideas – it must be focused and action oriented. Just yesterday, the Assembly had agreed that proposals by the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would be the main basis for the concise set of goals that will encapsulate a truly transformative agenda.

“The SDGs build on the MDGs and incorporate economic and environmental dimensions. They break new ground by including issues such as energy, economic growth, inequality, cities, sustainable consumption and production, as well as peaceful societies.”

However, Mr. Ashe stressed that the UN cannot achieve “the new” by relying on “the old.” Member States need an updated “toolkit” on the way forward, he said, suggesting that: policies should take into account relationships between issues and sectors; policy-makers should explore new ways of engaging civil society; institutions must be open and transparent; the global partnership for development must be strengthened; and a robust accountability framework must be ensured.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General explained that he would produce a synthesis report bringing together the results of all the different work streams on the post-2015 development agenda to facilitate the body’s further deliberations.

“As I craft the synthesis report, I will do my utmost to remain faithful to the key elements and the high level of ambition that Member States and all other stakeholders around the world have set,” he said, adding: “We have an intense and important year ahead.”

Indeed, all the elements of a transformative post-2015 UN development agenda will need to coalesce in a way that meets the expectations of all Member States and all citizens of the world, especially at the country level.

“We must build a framework that will sustain and finish what we have accomplished with the MDGs in our fight against poverty, hunger, ignorance and disease. We must rise to challenges old and new, not least climate change, said Mr. Ban, declaring: “Our goal is simple but daunting – prosperity and dignity for all in a world where humankind lives in harmony with nature.”

Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson reminded Member States that the legitimacy of the post-2015 agenda would be found in finishing the work started with the MDGs. “Let us remind ourselves that this is a universal agenda that applies to all countries, regardless of geography, national conditions or level of development. Let us remind ourselves that sustainable development is the key to the new agenda and to making poverty eradication irreversible.”

“We have a historical opportunity to correct our current unsustainable development path. We must show that we are sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the nations and peoples of the United Nations. The future we want is a life of dignity for all,” he said.

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