Strengthening multilateralism for sustainability
Ministers discuss future of international cooperation
Reaching decisions at Rio+20 in June to advance sustainable development was one thing. Putting them into practice is another. With that in mind, more than 50 government ministers gathered together in New York during the General Assembly to figure out how the multilateral system could improve to deliver on the promises of Rio.
The upshot was that the UN officials and ministers believed there ought to be of the three “c”s—more coherence, coordination and collaboration.
"A strengthened multilateral system must be able to address immediate concerns as well as broad sustainable development challenges -- from poverty, high unemployment and food insecurity, to biodiversity loss and climate change. That means being coherent and coordinated," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
A "major systemic rethink" is what the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Miloš Koterec said was needed. Speaking at the opening of the Special Ministerial Meeting under the theme 'Building the Future We Want,' he said there had to be far greater policy coherence across the economic, social, and environmental pillars.
On collaboration, the ministers said that sustainable development can only be achieved with a broad alliance of people, governments, civil society and the private sector, as stated in the "The Future We Want," the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
All participants agreed that, given the magnitude of the world’s challenges, determined action was needed. "We are not seeking to strengthen ECOSOC or the United Nations for its own sake," Norway’s Minister of International Development said. "It is for our sake. There isn't a Plan B because there isn’t a Planet B."
Leading up to the Special Ministerial Meeting, the ECOSOC received questions ranging from renewable energy to education for sustainable development from the public via an online forum for the participating ministers.
Responding to the questions and deliberating on a strengthened multilateral system, ministers stressed the importance of collaboration with various constituencies such as civil society, academia, youth and the private sector. They agreed that greater involvement with civil society and the private sector would establish a better sense of ownership among the stakeholders.
The ministers discussed that preparing for and agreeing on a development framework after 2015 ought to be on the top agenda, as the Millennium Development Goals reach the target date. The Foreign Affairs Minister of Finland said this was among the most important issues facing the international community, urging that the ECOSOC embark on serious policymaking and not just in academic exercise. The representative from Sri Lanka also said that “Our interactions should not remain at the level of a mere exchange of ideas but be translated into action.”
Many speakers emphasized the necessity to weave together the three pillars of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental—to achieve the goals and set the post-2015 agenda. The representative from Ecuador suggested including political and cultural components in the sustainable development framework.
More on the Ministerial Statement