High-Level Dialogue on Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development

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

Minister Hatta of Indonesia,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentleman,

First, let me thank you very much, Mr. Minister, your Government and the Office of the Mayor of Solo. Your tremendous hospitality during these past three days is greatly appreciated.

We traveled from all over the world to this city, rich with culture, to discuss ideas, in a frank and open manner, on the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD).

We made progress in more clearly defining the options for strengthening IFSD. Six months ago, at the 2nd preparatory committee meeting, our vision on IFSD was still blurred. It is now clearer – thanks to Solo.

We heard a couple of words repeated often in the past 3 days.

One is integration. Horizontally, integration among the three pillars of sustainable development. Institutions have not often achieved this on their own. But a number of you mentioned success stories in achieving closer integration in your planning and policy making.

A strengthened institutional framework must support governments in achieving closer integration.

Integration also needs to be vertical – that is, closer integration between decisions taken at the global level, policies at the national level and actions on the ground. Translating international sustainable development commitments into domestic policy and practice can benefit from sharing of international, regional and national experience.

The second word is implementation. Many of you have registered disappointment with implementation of sustainable development commitments – whether in Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation or others …

The evidence of weak implementation is all too visible. One of you even alluded to three crumbling pillars.

Weak implementation is not only an institutional problem. It can also be the result of weak political will. That is why Rio+20’s objective of securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development is so important.

Once political will is there, we need strong and effective institutions to carry out it out. Many of you shared concrete suggestions on how to empower the UN system to provide effective support for implementation.

For implementation, several of you also mentioned the importance of engaging more closely with the international financial institutions and other parts of the economic pillar. They are highly influential in setting and financing the development agenda. Further mainstreaming sustainable development in their work would go far towards genuine integration.

Another point I heard: the need for greater coordination and coherence among international and regional institutions. There is much fragmentation, overlap, and duplication. We all agree there is room for streamlining and closer alignment of work programmes and objectives … also for realizing greater synergies, including among multilateral environmental agreements.

We have heard the proposals for strengthening the international architecture range from the incremental to the more ambitious.

There is widespread agreement on the need to strengthen the environmental pillar of sustainable development … while at the same time reinforcing the economic and social pillars and achieving greater balance among the three.

Obviously, there is general support for strengthening UNEP. The specifics differ from proposal to proposal. One with some support is to turn UNEP into a specialized agency. It seems there is no consensus on this at the moment.

Of course we have heard elsewhere a proposal for creation of a World Environmental Organization. Along with strengthening UNEP, this proposal is being examined in the EC-ESA+ study which several of you said you are eagerly awaiting. We will do our best to make sure the study addresses these questions.

On strengthening integration among three pillars, some ideas have generated interest from Member States and other stakeholders.

One significant proposal is the formation of a sustainable development council. There are variations on this proposal. But the basic motif is to address the necessity to integrate the three pillars at a high level within the United Nations.

I think we can agree to explore further the possibility of creating such a sustainable development council. There are a number of questions which need to be sorted out.

For example, how concretely would such a council achieve genuine integration among the pillars? How specifically do we make it effective in supporting implementation?

Then there could be structural questions: While creating such a council, what should we do with the CSD? Transforming CSD or something else? What would be the proposed council’s relationship to ECOSOC and the General Assembly? How would it relate to other organizations, including UNEP? What subsidiary bodies and support mechanisms may be needed?

We must work hard in coming weeks to offer as many answers to these and other questions as possible. This would help Member States and other stakeholders to make informed decisions about this proposal based on a clear understanding of how it could work in practice – for integration and for implementation.

Some countries have described rich experience in achieving genuine integration among the three pillars in national policy making. But in too many cases such efforts – for example, in the form of national councils on sustainable development – have remained under-resourced and dominated by environment ministries. How can we ensure adequate resources for these institutions and involve all relevant ministries?

Many emphasized the importance of meaningful civil society and business participation in national and local sustainable development governance. How can we make this happen? One way is through enhancing public access to environmental and other relevant information. This includes greater transparency in policy processes and resource allocation decisions.

At present, many international institutions are already involved in supporting sustainable development at the national and local level. These include the UN and the International Financial Institutions, as well as other public institutions, private businesses, philanthropies, and public-private partnerships. How can their respective contributions be made mutually reinforcing?

Many noted that the international and regional framework for sustainable development needs to facilitate the flow of knowledge, and the sharing of experience and good practices, among countries, local authorities and other stakeholders. I’m sure we can all support this view.

We all know sustainable development partnerships were one institutional innovation coming out of Johannesburg. They were meant to facilitate knowledge, resource and technology sharing. Ten years later, they are even more important. There have been some notable successes, but results have been mixed. Considerable efforts need to be made to make such partnerships be made more effective and accountable in the post-2012 period.

Generally we all agree, as underlined by the Rio commitments twenty years ago, the international and regional institutional framework also needs to reinforce technology cooperation and support technology transfer, financing and capacity building, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable countries and populations. How should it be done – what role should government play in addition to market forces?

We all agree we need to address new issues and challenges? The question is do existing institutions have the capacity to address. This has been called into question in recent years.

How to make those institutions more relevant and effective in the 21st century, and how to strengthen them? How can we broaden their reach to engage multiple stakeholders more effectively in decision making and implementation? How to take a genuinely integrated approach to sustainable development?

The message generated from the Solo meeting needs to get out. I can assure you that the summary of the discussions at this meeting – the Solo Message – will be reflected faithfully and objectively in the compilation text that will be based on inputs from Member States, Major Groups and UN entities.

For your information, I have the pleasure to inform you that a number of other important meetings hosted by Member States are on the calendar for the next few months, until the November 1st deadline for your inputs.

These include events in Brazil, China and India. (There are others after November 1.) I am confident that these country-led events will provide valuable inputs into the compilation text.

I am very encouraged to learn that so many Member States and civil society organizations are gearing up to provide substantive inputs to the compilation text. I encourage others who have not yet done so to make haste.

Indeed, the national and regional preparations for Rio+20 offer an excellent opportunity to put into practice broad multi-stakeholder consultative processes. This should also help ensure integration and balance among the three pillars of sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let’s seize the opportunity of Rio+20. Not only to renew, but to reinforce commitment to sustainable development – by all stakeholders and at all levels.

I wish you a safe trip home, and I would like to thank our Indonesian hosts once more for taking the initiative to convene such a valuable meeting. And perhaps also a historic meeting….one that leaves a lasting legacy as we look ahead, to 2012 and beyond.

Like the Minister, on behalf of the United Nations, I would also like to thank the national and local organizing committee and also the other supporting staff for their hard work.