High-Level Dialogue on Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

His Excellency Mr. Hatta, Minister for Environment,
Honourable Ms. Rina Iriani, Head of District Karanganyar,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and pleasure to be back in Indonesia to attend this High-level Dialogue.

On behalf of the United Nations and in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, I want to extend our deep appreciation to the host, the Indonesian government, for your support to the Rio+20 process, for convening this timely Dialogue and for your warm welcome.

I also congratulate you for the leadership you have always provided towards advancing the sustainable development agenda. That leadership was demonstrated historically during the Johannesburg process, when Indonesia chaired the Bureau of the WSSD Preparatory Committee and hosted its Ministerial Meeting in Bali. Now you are again playing an important role as facilitator, convening not just this meeting but a number of informal consultations, and most recently hosting a retreat on the eve of this Dialogue. These events have provided invaluable opportunity for the airing and exchange of views, which will contribute positively to the work we have ahead. I thank you for this.

Today, we discuss one of the two themes of the Rio+20 Conference: the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development.

It is very encouraging for me to see this important topic receive such considerable attention. If there is one common lesson that has emerged since Rio, it is that institutions play a critical and fundamental role in implementing sustainable development policies.

As you all know, a strong governance structure is critical for advancing sustainable development. A coherent, coordinated institutional framework for sustainable development at local, national, regional and global levels can greatly contribute to reaching development goals and addressing emerging challenges.

As we prepare for Rio+20, the international community must begin to reach a common understanding on how best to strengthen the institutional framework for sustainable development at all levels.

During PrepCom I and PrepCom II, and the inter-sessional meeting, as well as through informal meetings held in New York and elsewhere, there have been substantial discussions on how best to address the gaps and weaknesses in institutional frameworks for sustainable development. Various options have been presented. I think there is already one common element – at Rio, we must aim at strengthening institutions for all three pillars – environmental, as well as economic and social; and we must ensure that the voices of major groups will become stronger in these institutions.

So, what are the next steps? How do we proceed? How do we reach an agreement that produces the best result for strengthening institutions governing all three pillars of sustainable development?

Solo presents us with an opportunity.

This historical moment is also one of rethinking conventional wisdom on many fronts – on how we manage our financial institutions, our economies, our food and energy systems, our social protection systems, our global environment.

This is also a moment when major shifts are occurring in international relations. New voices are making themselves heard, both those of governments in dynamic developing countries and those of civil society and business. Both public and private sector actors have increasing global reach.

In a globalizing and inter-dependent world, institutions, whether national, regional or global, can no longer operate in isolation from each other.

We are faced with multiple inter-linked challenges – food, energy, climate, finance, jobs, development – and the institutions we build for the future must be prepared to address these in a coherent and integrated way.

Today’s Dialogue provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the challenges and emerging issues that will require this strong institutional framework.

I hope we will hear from developing countries – in particular – on how we might support them. How do we help you enhance local and national capacity to implement sustainable development strategies in a more coherent fashion?

At Rio+20, our ideas should be in place. Now is the time to start zeroing in on them.

This is intended to be a working meeting. We have three days to apply ourselves to reviewing current arrangements… and assessing frankly and openly what no longer works and why.

In doing so, let’s broaden our vision and horizon.

We should be looking towards strengthening governance structures at the international, regional, national and local levels. But at the same time, we should be looking towards greater integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

Furthermore, our solutions should fulfil three goals:

We, in the United Nations system, are increasingly concerned about better collaboration within the UN system, across funds and programmes and specialized agencies, at the country level, as well as at the regional and global levels. This is also being translated into efforts by the UN system to seek more responsive and coordinated relationships with Member States. In essence, the UN system is seeking to Deliver as One.

We are not starting on a clean slate. Institutional reform has been initiated with all the major UN Conferences. We can draw from these experiences,… we can learn from them.

Most recently, we converted the Human Rights Commission to a Human Rights Council with enhanced mandates and resources. We added new functions to ECOSOC – the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum. We set up the Peacebuilding Commission. Can some of these experiences help us in our search to improve what exists? The President of Switzerland, ten days ago, called for the establishment of a Sustainable Development Council. I hear many variants of this idea when I talk to people around the world. Can we examine this more closely? This is a thought I wish to leave with you.

Distinguished Representatives,

Last but not least, let us not lose sight of the importance of political will. We can design the best institutions at national, regional and global levels; yet if we do not have the political will that allows these institutions to work, we will not get anywhere. Without political will, we will come to a standstill. This happened, for instance, in disarmament; and recently, during CSD-19.

It is therefore our hope that the work coming out of this meeting will make a valuable contribution to decision-making on the institutional framework for sustainable development, which must culminate in Rio, backed by a unified political will to make future institutions work.

This meeting is an important milestone in the Rio+20 preparatory process. In many ways your work here will lay the groundwork for what is to come. And I encourage you to make the most of it.

I look forward to participating in your discussions over the coming days.

May we all have a productive and frank dialogue.

Thank you.