2015 is expected to be a historic year for global sustainable development. A number of milestone events are expected to set in motion crucial actions that will benefit both the people and the planet. With UN DESA playing a leading role in these efforts, DESA News met with Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General, to learn more about upcoming events as well as gains made during the past year.
“Critical, busy and productive” said Mr. Wu, as he summarized the past year in just three words. Meeting in his office right before his departure for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, or COP20, Mr. Wu described an eventful 2014, with UN Member States preparing for the post-2015 development agenda.
“There are two important achievements,” Mr. Wu said. “One is the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals,” he said, describing the success of the group in proposing 17 goals and 169 targets aimed at creating a sustainable, prosperous and people-centred future of our planet. Mr. Wu also explained that many had not believed this to be possible at all. “They made the impossible possible with the support of DESA colleagues,” he said.
“Second is the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing,” Mr. Wu continued, explaining that this is another area of great interest for the international community. “We all know that without financial support, the development programme means nothing,” he said, highlighting how the Committee of Experts has come up with more than 115 policy recommendations and how their efforts have been commended by the UN General Assembly as well as by Member States.
In August 2014, the Committee presented its final report, including options on ways to finance the sustainable development agenda. It established that, with appropriate reallocation, around $22 trillion in annual global savings could meet the financing needs for sustainable development in the future, to improve people’s lives and protect the planet for generations to come.
“This is the first time in human history that development is globally acknowledged to cover three dimensions – economic, social and environmental”
Providing inputs for post-2015 development agenda
Mr. Wu, who served as Conference Secretary-General for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), described how the department, under his leadership, organized the highly successful conference, which took place in Apia, Samoa on 1-4 September 2014.
“This was a resounding success,” said Mr. Wu. “It was welcomed and well received by the international community and Member States and in particular by SIDS,” he explained, also emphasizing how the event produced solid and meaningful input to the post-2015 development process. In addition to the conference outcome, the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway, 297 partnerships were registered to support small island developing states, bringing the total value of these commitments to over $1.9 billion.
Mr. Wu also highlighted other major events including the Special Session of the General Assembly on the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014, as well as the first ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. These two events took place back-to-back at UN Headquarters on 22-23 September and were well received by the international community.
Areas of interest for people worldwide
“We also worked hard to help Member States carry out the reform of the ECOSOC system to make ECOSOC more efficient, effective and to be more relevant to the mandates,” said Mr. Wu, also describing the regular tasks performed by the department. “We continue to publish high-quality analysis on the world economic situation and also on the implementation of the MDGs,” said Mr. Wu, pointing to the relevance of this work for policy makers worldwide. “We also promote forest management and forest economy,” Mr. Wu explained. “Next year will be important for the UN Forum on Forest because the Member States will make decisions to renew the mandate,” he added.
“We also have very important mandates to strengthen governance,” said Mr. Wu. “We actually cover quite extensive areas, for instance, public administration and internet governance. These are really the areas of great interest to people worldwide,” he said. Mr. Wu also highlighted the vital role of the Statistics Division as they are not only conducting their regular work, but are also supporting the Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution.
Key moments for a sustainable future
“There will be three things mainly on the UN’s agenda,” said Mr. Wu when discussing a busy 2015 ahead. “Number one to celebrate the 70th birthday of this international organization,” he said. “Second, to accelerate implementation of the Millennium Development Goals,” he continued. “Third, which is the most important of all, to officially launch the post-2015 development agenda,” he said. Mr. Wu also explained the vital role of UN DESA in supporting the inter-governmental negotiation process that will lead to the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.
“We will be successful, and I am confident, because the professionalism, the hard work and team spirit demonstrated by my colleagues in this department give me strength, give me confidence”
In this context, Mr. Wu underscored the importance of financing for development and the upcoming Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place in Ethiopia in July next year, for which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has designated him as its Secretary-General.
“We will be very busy and what we are expecting is a sustainable development agenda post-2015 for the whole world,” emphasized Mr. Wu. “This is the first time in human history that development is globally acknowledged to cover three dimensions – economic, social and environmental,” he added, pointing to some of the challenges along the way and how he can foresee that all colleagues from all divisions will get involved in the substantial support of these efforts.
“We all know the last mile is always the difficult one. So the last dash to the finish line will be very challenging,” Mr. Wu added. “What we want, what will be the end results, this is to be decided by Member States,” he said, while at the same time highlighting how the professional knowledge, advice and support of UN DESA will be indispensable in this process. “We will be successful, and I am confident, because the professionalism, the hard work and team spirit demonstrated by my colleagues in this department give me strength, give me confidence,” Mr. Wu concluded with a smile.