Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

22nd Meeting of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB)
Session on the Political process for the Post 2015 development agenda

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to give a brief background on the various processes in place for elaborating the post-2015 development agenda. 

Since 2001, significant progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have made a real difference in people’s lives. This progress can be expanded in most of the world’s countries by the target date of 2015, with strong leadership and accountability.

After 2015, efforts to achieve a world of prosperity, equity, freedom, dignity and peace will continue unabated. 

The United Nations is working with governments, civil society and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs. The UN will continue its work to elaborate a universal and action-oriented post-2015 sustainable development agenda, which is intended to serve as a signpost for sustainable development relevant to all Members States. The agenda is expected to be adopted by the UN Member States at its 70th anniversary in 2015.

Indeed, a lot is riding on this agenda.  It must integrate all three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, social development, and environmental sustainability.

It must guide countries coming from very different starting points, towards our common goal of sustainable development.

In June 2012 at Rio+20, UN Member States adopted, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, ‘The Future We Want’, which set in motion inter-governmental processes to prepare for the post-2015 development agenda.  As a result, critical work is underway in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, and the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. And, the High-level Political Forum is taking shape.

As you know, my department, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) serves as the secretariat for all three entities. 

Between now and the September 2015 Summit, the Secretary-General and the UN System will continue to support the UN Member States as intergovernmental deliberations continue. Results from consultations and other processes in 2014 will feed into the Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report, which is expected by the end of 2014.   Here are a few more details on these processes:

Since January 2013, the Open Working Group has held eleven sessions. It will deliver its report on proposals for a set of Goals by September 2014 to the General Assembly. In its April and May 2014 sessions, the Open Working Group has focused on working documents prepared by the co-chairs from Kenya and Hungary. 

Based on these discussions, the Co-Chairs issued a zero draft of the OWG report on 27 May, which contains 17 focus areas for Sustainable Development Goals. There is presently broad agreement on the MDG-related goals.  But delicate areas remain, notably how to deal with Means of Implementation and whether to have a goal on peaceful and inclusive society, rule of law and capable institutions. The Group will meet again in June and July. 

Rio+20 also created an intergovernmental committee of 30 experts to develop options on an effective strategy for financing sustainable development. The committee has been working since July 2013.  In May, it reviewed the zero draft of its report prepared by the Co-Chairs from Nigeria and Finland.  The committee has one session left, in August, and will complete its report by September 2014.

The High-level Political Forum on sustainable development will hold its second meeting from 30 June to 9 July.  It will focus on charting the way towards an ambitious post-2015 development agenda.  As of 2016, the Forum will conduct reviews of the implementation of the post 2015 development agenda. 

The High-level Political Forum, which carries the weight of the decisions from Rio+20 onward, meets at a critical time.  In addition to a universal agenda and participation, it will have:

  • a strong regional dimension;
  • an emphasis on integrated policies;
  • a focus on countries with special circumstances, such as small island developing states;
  • a willingness to look into the future by building a strong science-policy interface; and
  • it will devote special attention to the consumption and production patters that are presently driving development that is not sustainable.

Full-scale Intergovernmental negotiations to elaborate the post 2015 development agenda will begin at the 69th session of the General Assembly, this September. By the end of 2014, the Secretary-General will prepare a synthesis report of inputs on the post-2015 development agenda as a contribution to intergovernmental discussions.

The report may have to fill in any gap in the outcomes of the Open Working Group and the Committee on sustainable development financing — while also elaborating on the Secretary-General’s broad vision for the post-2015 development agenda. A meeting at the level of Heads of State in September 2015 will serve to endorse the post-2015 agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Water and sanitation for a sustainable world is among the 17 focus areas for SDGs, currently under consideration by the Open Working Group.  The high visibility given to water and sanitation in the process this far, is not least due to the strong advocacy and expert advice of UNSGAB and its members. Generally, there is broad support for a water and sanitation stand-alone goal. 

At the 11th Group meeting last month, eight possible targets for water and sanitation were discussed.  I don’t need to list the details since the information is in your documentation; however it is clear that these go beyond the MDG targets, to incorporate:

  • water quality and wastewater management;
  • water use efficiency including recycling and reuse;
  • water harvesting and storage;
  • water related disaster risk reduction;
  • integrated water resources management; and
  • transboundary water cooperation -which was a delicate but important issue also discussed.

Member States shared many views and proposals during the 11th OWG session.  Some countries want water-related targets to address inequalities in access.  Others support the inclusion of a separate sanitation and open defecation target given the urgency of the crisis.

A range of Member States, especially developing countries, highlighted the importance of having corresponding means of implementation for all focus areas, including infrastructure investments and associated capacity development and technology transfer. These delegations called for supporting developing countries in facilitating access to water and sanitation related technologies treatments and innovations.  

This is the beginning of the negotiations that I’m sure will prove to be both interesting and challenging.  It is the beginning of a search for an integrated vision of development that considers people and our planet.

As the Secretary-General noted in his communication to your new Chair, he hopes that UNSGAB will support the international community to reach consensus on the more difficult issues, while keeping an ambitious agenda for water, and also to find support towards leveraging means of implementation in finance, capacity building and technology transfer. 

DESA is looking forward to working with the Board in this effort. I am very pleased to be able to take part in this conversation today.