The Ministerial Dialogue with the UN System and Major Groups Commission on Sustainable Development

By Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Minister Ferraté,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the High-level Interactive Dialogue and thank you for joining us. This is a tripartite dialogue: Ministers are with us, along with representatives from the nine Major Groups of civil society as defined by Agenda 21. Heads and representatives of UN agencies are also here, and for the first time, the Governing Councils and Executive Boards of various UN system entities. The Commission has invited all of you here in an effort to be more inclusive than in past years.

I am sure you agree that when more stakeholders are present, there is a broadened sense of ownership toward sustainable development initiatives which will increase the likelihood of success.

This session is an opportunity for us to discuss the challenges in the goals of the five themes in the current CSD cycle and to brainstorm about how to overcome them. As you know, the themes under review are chemicals, waste management, mining, transport and the 10 Year Framework Programme for sustainable consumption and production patterns.

The Commission, in an effort to be innovative in its work, has discouraged the reading of prepared statements today. Your comments and ideas are needed, but we seek to create a spontaneous, open atmosphere in which we talk with one another, rather than at each other. Please voice your opinions this morning on the issues you think are most urgent so that we make the most of the little time remaining in this 18th Session.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year, a “Review Year” for the Commission, we have relied on implementing partners to provide information, data, and feedback on what is working and what is not working at the ground level. It has been a learning session. Lessons learned this year pave the way for formulating appropriate policy in May 2011 at CSD-19.

Over the past days delegations and other stakeholders have had in-depth discussions on the five thematic issues. Challenges and obstacles that impede the implementation of agreed goals were identified. Successful best practices have also been recognized and shared.

Allow me to highlight a couple key points for your consideration this morning. These ideas have been common threads in the discussions held so far and they can serve as springboards for your dialogue today.

First, the issue of financing. We must recognize that the global financial crisis has led to a decreased capacity of governments, UN agencies and civil society to effect change. In the field of transport, for example, we know that additional financial resources and innovative finance schemes are urgently needed to make transport systems in developing countries more sustainable.

The most basic transport infrastructure and services are still grossly lacking in many rural areas of developing countries. We have heard that about one billion people live more than two kilometres away from the nearest all-weather road. These conditions perpetuate poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and hamper the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

I was glad to see that financing initiatives for transport systems have been discussed in the last week. Bus rapid transport systems at the national level, for example, might qualify for support under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. New financial arrangements have been proposed for chemicals management as well. Calls have been made for the private sector, civil society and academic and scientific societies to participate in financing sound chemicals management.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the time we have left, please focus on the importance of increased financing and innovative financing on all thematic issues. Its importance cannot be overemphasized. Yes, the current economic climate makes it difficult, but we have no choice but to mobilize all available resources and dedicate them to sustainable development initiatives.

What can each of you offer in this regard? Ministers, how can your national budgets be redirected, even to small extents, to accommodate urgent changes needed in transport, chemicals management and waste management? How can you ensure that sustainable practices are at the core of your country’s efforts to combat climate change?

UN Agency Heads and representatives, how can your funds and funding mechanisms be stretched and parlayed? Where can you be more resourceful in your allocations for climate change projects?

Civil society partners, what are the contributions you can make with your knowledge and experiences at the grassroots level? Please remember that all your environmental initiatives are part and parcel of sustainable development plans.

I pose these same questions to you on the matter of technology transfer. Over the past week we have heard that developing countries urgently need technology, data, infrastructure and training from developed countries and the international community. Without such support, many countries cannot improve the disposal and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes. Huge swaths of populations, especially in crowded urban neighborhoods, will continue to live in unsanitary conditions and be exposed to dangerous levels of toxins. Miners will suffer unnecessarily high risks of sickness and death in their daily work.

Please voice your opinions and volunteer your ideas, therefore, on how technology transfer can occur across the thematic areas. In order for governments to implement the 3Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle— the sharing of technology must happen.

Here again, innovative, creative plans are needed, as they are for financing. Ministers, have you identified all the gaps in technological know-how in your countries? How can you use today’s forum to push further for needed technology and commensurate training?

UN Agency Heads and representatives – what further links can you make between civil society and governments? How can the relationships you build around technology transfer activities feed into your mandates on climate change?

To those of you who represent civil society groups: where can you extend your human and technical resources to assist local communities in developing countries? What do you need from the UN community in order to be more effective?

Furthermore, how can the sharing and transfer of technology truly be digested or absorbed in developing countries? How can you help through the dedication of human resources and time spent on the ground in hands-on instruction? Without knowledge-sharing, assistance through financing and technology transfer will not be successful.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope that you will use today’s session to address the inter-linked issues of financing and technology transfer that underlie all progress in sustainable development.

Radical improvements in transport, chemicals, waste management and mining cannot happen without additional and innovative financing schemes. They cannot happen without the transfer of technological know-how from developed to developing countries. And they are vital to building on the support you have voiced for a 10 Year Framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. Indeed, such a framework is contingent upon how well we can organize ourselves financially and logistically, and the degree to which we can spread technology.

The 10 Year Framework will also be a crucial building block of our collective work on climate change. Protecting our environment is not only about emissions reductions. It is also about the transition to low-emissions economies and a commitment to sound, sustainable ways of consumption and production. These efforts will help combat climate change as well.

I know that the scope of sustainable development is very wide. It cuts across environmental, scientific, economic and social arenas.

Furthermore, our priorities may differ and our perspectives may conflict. But we must summon understanding and strive for cooperation. The results of this 18th Session are crucial right now for the international community, as we prepare for the High-Level Plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, the High-Level Event on the Five-Year Review of the Mauritius Strategy, and the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.

As we begin the discussion, let us listen to each other carefully and pinpoint areas of urgent need.

On behalf of UNDESA, I want to express my sincere appreciation for your commitment and contribution to sustainable development, and your presence here today.

I wish you a productive meeting.