As 2013 came full circle, DESA News got an exclusive interview with the department’s Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Wu Hongbo, who shared some of the past year’s gains as well as some highlights for an eventful and action-packed new 2014. “We will discharge our mandates […] and do whatever we can to make our work a success next year,” said Mr. Wu.
During an intense and activity-filled 2013, UN DESA has worked in many different areas to promote social, economic and sustainable development worldwide. A number of important achievements have been gained and it looks like the coming year will be as busy for the department. During 2014, Mr. Wu and his staff will be involved in many key events, which will be essential as the world community moves forward preparing for a sustainable development agenda beyond 2015.
Gains for social, economic and sustainable development
“If we look back to the year 2013, it is a year full of achievements and I am very proud of the colleagues of my department,” Mr. Wu said, pointing to some of the many major events carried out in the past 12 months. “First is the Forum on Forest,” said Mr. Wu, highlighting the importance of this event, which took place in Istanbul on 8-19 April and which helped raise the profile of forests globally. “It is the first time that the participants in the forum actually discussed financing for sustainable forest management,” he added.
If we look back to the year 2013, it is a year full of achievements
Mr. Wu discussed the well-attended Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which focused on how the Internet, relevant ICTs and technologies could serve the future sustainable development agenda. He also underscored the importance of the High-level Meeting on Disability and Development, which was another successful event arranged by UN DESA in September. “That Member States are discussing disability inclusive arrangements for post-2015, is very important,” Mr. Wu emphasized.
The High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development that took place in October was also organized by the department. “This is the second time, that such a high-level dialogue on migration takes place within the framework of the United Nations,” Mr. Wu said. “Member States were discussing the implications of the international migration and the relevant suggestions relating to post 2015,” he added.
Support of GA President and inter-governmental processes
Mr. Wu also shared how UN DESA has been busy supporting the President of the General Assembly. “We had PGA’s special event on MDGs last September, it was very important in that it promoted the awareness of the Heads of State to implement further the MDG commitment,” he said, also underscoring its role in providing new ideas towards a sustainable development agenda.
“I would not do justice to our work if we do not mention the two important inter-governmental processes as a result of the implementation of the Rio+20 follow up,” Mr. Wu added, referring to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and the Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. “These two inter-governmental processes are well under way and discussions have been very productive,” he said. Mr. Wu also pointed to the establishment of the High-level Political Forum, which held its inaugural meeting in September.
Although Mr. Wu underscored the challenge to single out a specific event or activity more memorable than others, he mentioned that the PGA’s special event on the MDGs was very important, given the remaining work on implementing the MDGs, particularly when it comes to eradicating poverty.
Important work outside of the spotlight
We are trying to make the opportunities available as much as possible to civil societies to get involved
He also wanted to bring to the forefront, the work of UN DESA that is not always visible to the public eye. “I think I should mention some of the areas which are not in the spotlight in our work. For instance, statistics,” Mr. Wu said, pointing to the important contribution of the Statistics Division, “providing the basis for discussions for the sustainable development agenda.” Mr. Wu also described the significance of capacity building and capacity development. “We have been doing quite a lot to help the Member States and other organizations,” he explained.
Mr. Wu highlighted the analytical work and the flag ship publications issued every year by UN DESA. “They are influential; they remain high-quality and are very popular,” he said. In addition, Mr. Wu underscored the support provided by the department to civil societies during important high-level events. “We are trying to make the opportunities available as much as possible to civil societies to get involved and it has been greatly appreciated,” he explained.
Prepared for busy year ahead
Mr. Wu is well prepared for an eventful 2014, filled with many important events, among them the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa in September. “As the Secretary-General for the SIDS Conference, I have been through all the preparation processes so far and I think next year will be very busy, because the General Assembly has already adopted modality resolutions,” he said, adding that global negotiations will begin shortly.
“What I hope is that the SIDS as a vulnerable group would be able to stand up and voice their concerns. It is good timing for them to do so, because in September next year, hopefully the Open Working Group will come up with a set of sustainable development goals,” Mr. Wu explained.
Hopefully the Open Working Group will come up with a set of sustainable development goals
Mr. Wu also shared that Member States have mandated the Secretary-General to produce the synthesis report on the post-2015 development agenda next year, summarizing our current standing as well as suggesting a way forward. “This is very heavy responsibility,” said Mr. Wu, adding that the department will soon begin gathering the views of various stakeholders.
Another upcoming event is the Summit on Climate Change, where the department will be involved in the preparations. “That summit, is not a summit for negotiations, it is designed to mobilize political wills of Heads of State, Heads of Governments, and try catalyze the actions on the ground in dealing with climate change,” Mr. Wu explained.
Moreover, Mr. Wu highlighted the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September and the department’s continuous support of the President of the General Assembly. “We are going to have three high-level meetings and three thematic debates, one stocktaking session. So you will see every big event, in every month starting in January next year,” Mr. Wu added.
“I know the road ahead is full of challenge, and I am confident that my colleagues and I are fully prepared for the challenge. We will discharge our mandates, as given by the Member States and the General Assembly, and do whatever we can to make our work a success next year,” Mr. Wu said.
“To serve the development issues together with all my colleagues, over 500 of them […] is a pride for me, and I think I cannot find better colleagues to work with,” he concluded. Mr. Wu and his team will now continue their work in 2014, striving towards an inclusive, prosperous and sustainable world.
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