Volume 18, No.01 - February 2014

Global dialogue on development

Open Working Group on SDGs holds final stocktaking session

The eighth and final session of the stocktaking phase of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals will take place from 3 to 7 February in New York.

The first two days will be dedicated to the themes oceans and seas, forests, and biodiversity. The following one and a half days will focus on promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and a further one and a half days will be devoted to conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance.

Briefs on these issues drafted by the United Nations Technical Support Team, as well as the draft programme for the eighth session, can be found on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. The session can be followed live via UN Web TV and @SustDev, which will be live-tweeting using #OWG8.

The Open Working Group will start the second, so called consolidation phase of its work, with a meeting from 3 to 5 March.

For more information:

Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform 


Commission for Social Development focuses on empowerment

empowermentWhen the Commission for Social Development meets for its 52nd session from 11 to 21 February at UN Headquarters in New York, it will tackle the priority theme of “Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”.

The United Nations has long held empowerment at the core of its development efforts, but the 52nd Commission will make history in explicitly and specifically targeting the issue. During the session, the Commission is expected to adopt for the first time in the United Nations history a resolution on empowerment of people in the context of social development.

“Promoting empowerment is essential not only for social development, but for all three dimensions of sustainable development. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities. They can create, build, invest and innovate. When people are empowered, they become agents of change,” UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo said at the Commission’s 51st Session on 6 February 2013.

High-level panel discussions
On Tuesday, 11 February from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, a high-level panel discussion will be held on the priority theme allowing Member States, civil society organizations and other key stakeholders to engage in a substantive dialogue on policies and strategies that effectively promote empowerment and its role in facilitating other social development goals. This dialogue aims to inform national and international policy debates, including the ongoing debates on the post-2015 international development agenda and the future sustainable development goals.

A second high-level panel discussion will take place on Thursday, 13 February from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, focusing on the Family in Observance of the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family, 2014. The panel will present regional achievements in family policy development and their contribution to overall development efforts. It will also reflect on how to anchor family policy development in the post-2015 development agenda.

A third panel discussion on emerging issues will be held on Friday, 14 February from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, taking aim at the social drivers of sustainable development. The panel will engage in an interactive dialogue with Member States to explore ideas and exchange views on which social policies should be enhanced to strengthen the linkages among the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainable development.

Special Rapporteur on Disability to address Commission
The Special Rapporteur on Disability, Mr. Shuaib Chalklen will address the Commission on Thursday, 13 February. As Special Rapporteur, Mr. Chalken establishes a direct dialogue with Member States and with local non-governmental organizations and experts, seeking their views and comments on issues affecting persons with disabilities in the context of social development.

Also on the Commission’s agenda is the consideration of matters relating to social groups and review of various reports of the Secretary-General, including on promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all, review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on ageing, policies and programmes involving youth, mainstreaming disability in the development agenda towards 2015 and beyond and the preparation and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Bringing together civil society actors
A Civil Society Forum will be convened on Monday, 10 February under the theme “The Role of Civil Society: Empowerment for Inclusive and Transformative Development,” as it relates to the priority theme of the Commission, as well as to the discussions related to preparation of the post-2015 development framework. Held a day prior to the opening of the Commission, the Forum has set a tradition of bringing together prominent civil society actors, representatives of Member States and officials of the United Nations to reflect on a key issue relevant to the work of the current session. It will present its conclusions to the Commission at its opening session. In addition, more than 30 side-events, covering a range of relevant topics in regard to social development, will be organized during the Commission.

Established in 1946, the Commission is a functional body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Its 46 members are elected for terms of office of four years on the following basis: 12 from the African States; 10 from the Asia-Pacific States; 5 from the Eastern European States; 9 from the Latin American and Caribbean States; and 10 from the Western European and other States. As a result of the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), the mandate of the Commission was reviewed and its membership expanded from 31 to 46 members in 1996.

The Commission has been the key United Nations body in charge of the follow-up and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. Each year since 1995, the Commission has taken up key social development themes as part of its follow-up.

For more information:

Fifty-Second Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD52)


ECOSOC explores changing development landscape

ecosoc_operationalsegmentThe first operational activities for development segment in the new ECOSOC cycle will take place on 24-26 February at UN headquarters in New York focusing on the theme “The changing landscape: what does it mean for the UN system?”

The segment aims to start a forward-looking dialogue on how to adapt the UN system to important changes taking place in the broader development landscape. In the view of many stakeholders, the UN development system is at an inflection point. As a result, the UNDG has recently launched an internal dialogue on how to make the UN development system fit-for-purpose. Member States are also deliberating on a new development agenda with focus on sustainable development. The upcoming operational activities for development segment, provides an opportunity for Member States, UN leaders and other stakeholders to discuss the inter-linkages between these important processes.

Many of the changes in the global development cooperation environment are well-known. For example, there is a large number of new public and private actors in both developed and developing countries engaged in development cooperation; official development assistance (ODA) is under stress due to budget constraints in a number of donor countries; and new technologies and knowledge are enabling fresh solutions to long-standing development problems. Even more importantly, the capacity of developing countries has significantly increased in the recent decade and the geography of poverty has changed in a major way, with an estimated 75 per cent of poor people now living in middle-income countries.

The past two decades have also seen the intensification of global challenges such as sustainable development which require collective action. Responding to these and other global challenges may call for a shift away from fragmented projects to greater emphasis on strengthening the catalytic and normative role of the UN system.

The past decade has also seen increasing number of social upheavals and multiple natural disasters and humanitarian crises in many developing countries that needed quick response and significant resources.

The reforms initiated in 1997, including the establishment of the UNDG and UNDAF and the strengthening of the UN resident coordinator system, among others, have contributed to improved coherence of the UN system. Recently, UNDG has developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for countries adopting the delivering-as-one approach with a view to enhancing system-wide coherence and reducing transaction costs for Governments, other national stakeholders, development partners and UN country teams. The SOPs provide an integrated package of guidance on programming, leadership, business operations, funding and communications.

Against this backdrop, the 2014 operational activities for development segment of ECOSOC aims to contribute to an understanding among Member States, UN leaders and other stakeholders of the need to rediscover the spirit of adapting to change. Within this in mind, the segment will, inter alia, attempt to address questions such as the following: how can the UN system be fit-for-purpose in a post-2015 era with focus on sustainable development? How can the specialized agencies exploit more effectively their comparative advantage in norm- and standard-setting in a post-2015 era? What are the lessons learned from issue-based alliances within the UN system and what is their potential as a future business model for the Organization? How can the UN system improve its effectiveness, efficiency and results in countries in transition from relief to development? Are the SOPs likely to lead to sufficient simplification and harmonization of business practices and reduction of transaction costs and efficiency gains at the country level?

For more information:

Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)


Social inclusion integral to sustainable urbanization


“The world is rapidly urbanizing, and so cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost,” said Ambassador Korosi, Co-Chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, as he summarized one of the key messages that had come out of the Group’s seventh session which took place on 6-10 January.

Deliberations of the session had focused on sustainable cities and human settlements, sustainable transport, sustainable consumption and production, and climate change and disaster risk reduction.

The Ambassador presented the Co-Chairs’ draft summary, in which the Co-Chairs outline some of the main arguments made during the five days of discussion. Cities were acknowledged to be large consumers of energy and materials. While they can achieve agglomeration of economies, making available more jobs and affordable network infrastructure services, such as water, transport, and ICT, they also concentrate pollution and waste.

“Cities are home to a large share of the wealthy and middle class, and therefore have relatively high use per capita,” the Co-Chair said. It was noted that social inclusion is an integral part of sustainable urbanization.

The importance of sustainable transport was also underlined, with many Delegates calling for future SDGs to ensure access to safe, affordable and environmentally friendly transport for all.

Sustainable consumption and production
The cross-cutting nature of sustainable consumption and production was well recognized during the meetings on this issue, but there was no consensus on whether there should be a stand-alone goal on it. However, there were proposals for targets to decouple economic growth from resource use.

It was also acknowledged that a mix of policies will be needed to promote sustainable consumption and production, including fiscal instruments, education and awareness raising, voluntary certification schemes, and regulations, standards and legislation. Some Delegates argued for a life-style approach, which would involve different styles of inhabiting the planet, in harmony with nature.

Climate change
Stressing the urgency of action on climate change that had been highlighted in the course of the session, Ambassador Korosi said that “climate change poses a real and immediate threat to sustainable development, putting at risk developing gains of recent decades.”

There was support for addressing climate change as a cross-cutting issue in the SDGs framework, while respecting the negotiating role of the UNFCCC and not prejudging its process.

Members of the Open Working Group also suggested that strong action on climate change mitigation and adaptation are among the most effective means of reducing disasters. Without such actions the frequency, intensity, and vulnerability to disasters would only increase through decades.

More information on the seventh session of the Open Working Group, including a short version of the Co-Chairs summary, can be found on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.