Secretary-General Launches 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report at Start of High-level Political Forum’s Ministerial Segment

ECOSOC/6708
6 July 2015

Secretary-General Launches 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report at Start of High-level Political Forum’s Ministerial Segment

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched the 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report as the Economic and Social Council began a three-day ministerial segment of its High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, with two related panel discussions on stakeholder roles and emerging challenges.

Addressing the Council via videoconference from Oslo alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, Mr. Ban said that while setting goals had worked, both as a guide and a benchmark, looking ahead, more must be done to reach those who were most vulnerable.  “We cannot allow hard won gains to be reversed,” he said.  “I am confident we can deliver on our shared responsibility” to eliminate poverty, create a better world and leave no one behind,” he said.

With that in mind, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson underlined how the proposed post-2015 sustainable development goals were aiming high.  The international community, however, could not work in silos and an integrated vision of implementation was essential.  “Our legacy to our children and grandchildren will depend in no small part on whether the agenda we adopt at the September Summit is ambitious and transformative and whether we live up to it,” he said.  “We need more than a toolbox of policy measures.”

Indeed, Prime Minister Solberg said, simply establishing goals would not lift people out of poverty unless there was political resolve to meet the targets.  “We must move beyond a sector mind-set,” she said, stressing that goals must be accompanied by coherent strategies and political will.

On a similar note, President Kagame said achieving development goals required resource mobilization and support from both world leaders and citizens.  Partnerships between Governments and the private sector must also be strengthened and the international community must continue to work together, driven by the fact that millions were still under threat from poverty, disease, conflict and ignorance.  The Millennium Goals had been a springboard to achieve even greater ambitions, he said, adding that “we have already learned what is possible”.

Elaborating on that point, Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, said that, fundamentally, the Millennium Goals challenge had always been of a moral nature, not an economic one.  Heading into a new era with ever more complex issues, including a possible environmental catastrophe, the problems were still solvable, but the question now was whether the world would care enough to solve them.  “There’s nothing we can’t do if we try,” he said.

In a similar vein, Oh Joon, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the Forum would contribute to the process that would chart the way for the next 15 years and beyond.  “If we get it right now, we will get it right for generations to come,” he said.  “We will go down in history as the generation that left no one behind and secured a better future for its children and their children.”

Also making statements during the opening segment were General Assembly President Sam Kutesa (Uganda) and Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance.  Rapporteurs Courtenay Rattray (Jamaica), Paul Seger (Switzerland) and Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), also spoke, providing highlights of messages from the Forum’s discussions held during the week of 29 June 2015.

The morning panel on “A transformative integrated agenda:  How can Governments, societies and the United Nations rise to the challenge?” was moderated by Scott Vaughan, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Sustainable Development, and former Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.  The panel featured:  Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission; Salifou Dembélé, Minister for Youth, Professional Training and Employment of Burkina Faso; and Lisel Alamilla, Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Belize.  The lead discussant was Joseph Severe, Union des Amis Socio Culturels d’Action en Développement in Haiti.

In the afternoon, the Council held a panel on “Thinking ahead: Emerging issues that will matter in the future”, featuring keynote speaker Kazuyuki Nakane, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan.  Moderated by Irene Khan, Director-General, International Development Law Organization, the panel featured:  Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany; Abdul Hamid Zakri, Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and Member of the United Nations Secretary General's Scientific Advisory Board; and Alfred Kammer, Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  Lead discussants were Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Risnawati Utami of the Christian Blind Mission in Indonesia.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 7 July.

Opening Remarks

OH JOON, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the High-level Political Forum would contribute to the process that would chart the way for the next 15 years and beyond.  “If we get it right now, we will get it right for generations to come,” he said.  “We will go down in history as the generation that left no one behind and secured a better future for its children and their children.”  As such, it was essential to be aware of the context in which the Forum was taking place.  Rapporteurs would describe the main message of the coming five days, with a three-day ministerial High-level Political Forum and the Annual Ministerial Review, including national presentations from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines and Zambia.

An integrated agenda would require an integrated vision, he said, particularly at the conceptual level of policymaking.  The Economic and Social Council could provide the leadership to mobilize the whole United Nations system, rallying each part of it.  In addition, all stakeholders — the private sector, civil society, parliaments, academia and philanthropy — must play their expected roles in delivering the post-2015 development agenda.  “Let’s strengthen the platforms for engagement with all of them throughout the system,” he said.  “We are on the verge of creating an exceptional deed.  Let us get it right.”

SAM KUTESA (Uganda), President of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, said that the Forum was taking place at a critical juncture.  The international community was in the final stages of creating an ambitious, inclusive and transformative post-2015 sustainable development agenda.  “We should redouble efforts to bring negotiations over the post-2015 development agenda to a successful close, hopefully by the end of this month,” he said, with concrete deliverables to support the implementation of the new agenda.  Scaled up resources would be needed, as would the global partnership for development.  

He urged all States to work constructively to finalize the outcomes of the Addis Ababa meeting without delay.  With regards to the forthcoming Conference of Parties meeting in Paris (COP21) meeting on climate change, expectations were high that States would adopt a meaningful agenda on that issue.  It was crucial to put the world on a safer and more equitable pathway.  The new agenda must be incorporated into national development plans, he said, adding that the theme of the Forum offered an opportunity to create an inclusive agenda at all levels.

The Forum would play a vital role in ensuring that the new agenda was understood and communicated by all actors, he said.  It would also be a key component of the post-2015 development agenda’s implementation architecture.  Over the course of the Assembly session, a series of high-level events and debates had been held, including on gender equality, ways to strengthen cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations, and a meeting on climate change just last week.  “Let us spare no effort in working towards this new era of sustainable development,” he concluded.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General JAN ELIASSON asked what the world would look like when, in 2030, the Organization hosted a Summit to take stock of the agreement reached 15 years earlier.  “Will the participants be proud of the road travelled?” he asked, and would they see 2015 as a turning point when the path shifted towards a future where men, women and children around the world were given a chance to live lives in dignity on a safe planet?  “Our legacy to our children and grandchildren will depend in no small part on whether the agenda we adopt at the September Summit is ambitious and transformative and whether we live up to it,” he said.

The proposed goals aimed high.  They recognized the importance of peace and the crucial role of institutions, he said.  Its litmus test would be implementation, he said, adding that the new agenda had a strong basis to build upon in the Millennium Development Goals.  The international community could not work in silos.  Focusing on one goal, without considering its link to others, was not optimal.  An integrated vision of implementation was therefore needed.  “We need more than a toolbox of policy measures,” he said, stressing the need to rethink the way policies were made and implemented.  

It was critical to institutionalize the participatory, cross-cutting approaches that had characterized work on the post-2015 development agenda, he said.  That agenda would also require building national capacities and mobilizing finance and technology on a new, larger scale.  The Forum was a platform to promote and review implementation of the new agenda, he said, adding that it must be able to track progress and accelerate changes in people’s lives.  But change must not be confined to that new forum.  Positioned under the Economic and Social Council and the Assembly, the Forum could help renew the United Nations system instil new ways of working and building on the work of each platform.  To do all that, the international community must be both visionary and practical.  “We should utilize the evident enthusiasm and resolute commitment we see around us to make change happen,” he said in that regard.

VLADIMIR CUK, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance, said the increasing contributions of persons with disabilities to the Forum had been ground-breaking.  The post-2015 framework must include their interests and must include ways to monitor progress made.  The Forum must ensure the implementation of the new agenda, strengthening existing commitments, including the Convention on Persons with Disabilities.  He recommended several steps over the next 15 years, including that one Forum session would be dedicated to persons with disabilities.  The new framework must be people-centred, with persons with disabilities recognized as both participants and partners.  “We, the people of the United Nations, are ready to build a better world,” he said.

Launch of the Millennium Development Goals Report

United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, speaking via videoconference, said the year 2015 was a landmark for humanity with the Millennium Development Goals deadline and the new agenda to be adopted.  Providing an overview of the latest Millennium Goals, he said millions of lives had been saved and millions more had seen their lives improve, with 1 billion people having been lifted out of extreme poverty and 2.6 billion having gained improved access to clean drinking water.  Child and maternal deaths had been averted.

Progress, however, had not reached everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged.  Too many women and children continued to die from preventable causes, conflicts had forced more than 6 million people from their homes and climate change had triggered deep negative impacts, mostly on the most vulnerable.  Setting goals worked, both as a guide and a benchmark.  Bringing together key actors could significantly accelerate action, as the Every Women, Every Child campaign had demonstrated.  Looking ahead, more must be done to reach those who were most vulnerable.  “We cannot allow hard won gains to be reversed,” he said.  “I am confident we can deliver on our shared responsibility” to eliminate poverty, create a better world and leave no one behind.

ERNA SOLBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, said the world should take stock of the lessons learned during the Millennium Development Goal campaign.  As co-Chair of the Millennium Development Goal Advocacy Group, she had seen that it was crucial that the targets were communicated in a way that was easy to grasp for people all over the world.  The sustainable development goals must be framed in a way that ensured that resources were mobilized all over the world.  “We must move beyond a sector mind set” she stressed.  Simply establishing goals would not lift people out of poverty unless there was political resolve to meet the targets.  Goals must be accompanied by coherent strategies and political will.  The normative aspects of the new sustainable development goals would be even more important in the post-2015 era.  Perhaps most importantly, she stressed that areas of crisis and conflict still lagged behind.  “Crisis and conflict is our common global enemy,” she said, urging States to unite to combat that enemy.

PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said today’s report demonstrated that the Millennium Development Goals had helped to improve the quality of life for people in developing countries.  Progress had been made towards all eight targets; however, not all of them would be met in all countries, especially those emerging from or embroiled in conflict.  “We have already learned what is possible,” he said, stressing that achieving development goals required the mobilization of resources and the support of both world leaders and citizens.  Partnerships between Governments and the private sector must be further strengthened.  Developing countries needed to create wealth that was inclusive and sustainable.  The international community must continue to work together, driven by the fact that millions were still under threat from poverty, disease, conflict and ignorance.  The Millennium Development Goals had been a springboard to achieve even greater ambitions.

Delivering a statement as a respondent was JEFFREY SACHS, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York.  Enormous progress had been made, with a focus on the world’s poorest people, he said.  When the Millennium Goals had been launched, no one in developing countries with the HIV virus had received antiretroviral treatment, with zero help in that regard.  As time had passed, millions were now receiving such treatment.  More broadly, the Millennium Goals had accomplished extraordinary gains in many areas, even in the face of pervasive cynicism in the world.

“There’s nothing we can’t do if we try,” he said, pointing to examples of getting antiretroviral drugs and bed nets to people who needed them.  Fundamentally, the Millennium Goals challenge had always been of a moral nature, not an economic one.  Heading into a new era with more complex issues, including a possible environmental catastrophe, the problems were still solvable, but the question now was whether the world would care enough to solve them.  “This is only about our attention and our capacity to be willing, cooperative and caring with each other,” he concluded.

Messages from the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), presenting a summary on what was needed to implement the post-2015 development agenda, said that communication was critical.  “To use a social media term, implementation is when post-2015 goes viral,” he said.  When the sustainable development goals were adopted, everyone must feel like a stakeholder.  Communication would be needed in all countries and at all levels, down to the grass-roots where implementation happened on the ground.  There needed to be national ownership, “even as we implement a universal and inclusive agenda that seeks to address inequalities between and within countries”.

There also needed to be transparency and accountability, which was an area in which the Forum could play an important role, she said.  On the matter of the institutional framework, there needed to be system-wide coherence and complementary between the Forum and other existing bodies and institutions.  A multi-level architecture that could support implementation was necessary, as were multiple stakeholders — including innovative partnerships with business, public enterprise, civil society organizations and academia.  Engaging such stakeholders should be initiated from the start of implementation, thereby continuing their engagement throughout the development of the agenda.

Local government and parliaments also had an important role to play as relays of communication and education for sustainable development, she said.  Public-private partnerships could serve as useful tools for implementation.  They could work well if they were negotiated and if there was a balance of gains and risks both for the public and private sector.  Partnerships must be built on mutual trust and continuous dialogue.  Finally, he said, the new development agenda must “leave no one behind”.  That principle should guide implementation, and Governments must respond to that commitment with policies that supported individuals throughout their life-course, with non-discrimination and inclusivity serving as a guideline during implementation.

PAUL SEGER (Switzerland), sharing the main messages of the Forum discussions on follow-up and review, said that the Summit in September was expected to provide guidance on the follow-up and review process.  Reviews should be voluntary and State-led; address progress on all sustainable development goals and policy guidance; support countries in making informed policy choices; be open and inclusive of all stakeholders; build on existing platforms; and support developing countries through capacity-building.  The review mechanism must refrain from shaming and should aim to create a culture of openness.

Follow-up and review should happen at multiple levels, starting from the country level.  Peer review mechanisms should be integrated into the process and there must be coherence across all levels, he said.  On the regional level, follow-up and review mechanisms could share lessons learned and regional trends, as well as other information.  Different regions should create their own follow-up and review processes.  The Forum would play a decisive role in follow-up and review, and should become a place of dialogue for all stakeholders.  Thematic reviews at the Forum should draw on those taking place in the Economic and Social Council and other existing bodies.

On the Global Sustainable Development Report, he said that participants had welcomed the inclusive approach of the 2015 version of the Report.  The document should inform intergovernmental discussions, provide key recommendations and be a communication tool for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.  It should be linked to the implementation, follow-up and review of the sustainable development goals, and should focus on the interlinkages of those goals.  Some Member States had expressed a preference for a report every four years under the auspices of the Assembly.  The Forum should also provide a platform for dialogue on science and policy, and contribute to agenda setting.  The interface function would include communication between policymakers, science communities and civil society.  Lastly, data was critical for the implementation, follow-up and review of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.  Data disaggregated by income, age, migratory status, disability, gender and other criteria would be needed.

RIMA KHALAF, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and Rapporteur for the ministerial segment, said national ownership was and should always be the starting point and foundation for action.  Member States had pointed out that the regional dimension was the vital link between the national and global levels.  Focusing on different dimensions of integration, she summarized last week’s session, noting the importance of creating an adequate interface between local, national, regional and global levels.

The Forum had heard from the Mayor of Santiago and former Mayor of Kigali, who had underlined that adequate funding and capacity-building would be indispensable to achieving the new sustainable development goals in those cities, he said.  Implementation, follow-up and review could not be considered separately.  Leveraging and deploying adequate means, including financial resources and technology transfer, would ensure progress, and inclusive approaches would mean no one would be left behind.  Follow-up and review would take place through adequate institutional mechanisms.

Throughout the sessions, participants emphasized the role of data collection and analysis and underlined the importance of the regional dimension.  Reports from regional commissions on sustainable development clearly pointed to how that dimension would bring countries and people together for coordinated action.  Member States had stressed the need to build on existing mechanism and platforms, such as those the United Nations provided.  Given their multidisciplinary expertise and capacity for cross-sectoral analysis, the regional commissions could suggest ways of adopting an integrated approach to sustainable development issues and provide policy advice to adapt the new goals to national plans, as well as help to leverage the means of implementation and support follow-up and review of the agenda.

Panel I

The Council then held a panel discussion entitled “A transformative integrated agenda: How can Governments, societies and the United Nations rise to the challenge?”  It was moderated by Scott Vaughan, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Sustainable Development, and former Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The panel featured:  Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission; Salifou Dembélé, Minister for Youth, Professional Training and Employment of Burkina Faso; and Lisel Alamilla, Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Belize.  The lead discussant was Joseph Severe, Union des Amis Socio Culturels d’Action en Développement in Haiti.

Opening the discussion, Mr. VELLA said 2015 offered a “true hope to change the world”.  In under a few months, there would be three conferences, on financing for sustainable development, the sustainable development goals and climate change.  The concept of sustainability was based on economic, social and environmental pillars.  “This is not about the separate three pillars of sustainability, but about the interconnectivity between them,” he said.  Better results would not be achieved by repeating the same actions again and again; a transformative agenda would be needed.  All countries would have the responsibility to achieve the sustainable development goals domestically and contribute to achieving them globally.  The best solutions to addressing climate change were nature-based.

“We need to work with nature rather than against us,” he said, adding that the European Union was ready to take on that task.  It was moving towards more sustainable consumption and production and more efficient use of materials.  It was also working to improve ocean governance in the European Union and globally.  The sustainable development goals should be viewed as an integrated package, he said, warning against “cherry picking” one goal over another.  Finally, he said that the High-level Political Forum’s role was to bring the three elements of sustainable development together and to keep progress on track.

Mr. DEMBÉLÉ said his was an agricultural country with a young population.  Burkina Faso’s youth, which represented more than 60 per cent of the population, increasingly found themselves unemployed.  The question of youth employment was urgent to the sustainable development of the nation.  The Government had therefore taken several steps, including implementing a strategy for vocational training; a policy to identify professions for those trained; and the promotion of entrepreneurship of young men and women through the provision of financing.  Finally, the Government had bolstered the education and health sectors by building schools and medical centres.  The transformation programme required a new dynamic, taking into account those major strategies.

“We have to cut away the past, when we did not attain our goals,” he said.  Sustainable development must be implemented in tangent with other countries in the region and throughout the world.  For the transformation to be successful, family planning policies must be emphasized in order to reduce population growth.  Terrorist groups were threatening young people, he added, stressing the need to improve living conditions and provide employment in order to reduce that threat.

Ms. ALAMILLA summarized how her country was working to integrate the plans for sustainable development.  Belize had done a lot in a short time and showed what was possible if one was committed to moving forward under a sustainable development agenda.  The country was a peaceful and resourceful one, she said, adding that it put an emphasis on the health of people and the environment.  Belize had implemented several pilot United Nations programmes, including a growth and poverty reduction strategy; at the same time, the country was working on a climate change strategy.  Those various processes had led to the adoption of a national Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy.  It incorporated a strong natural asset component, social cohesion and resilience, equity, food security, water security, protection of biodiversity, and other important areas aligned with the country’s Vision 2030 plan.

“We have to look at how we can sustainably use our resources,” she said, adding that strong Governance would be critical in that respect.  Lessons learned from the process included the need to recognize the limitations of small nations such as Belize.

Mr. SEVERE said the world was seeking a sustainable development agenda that was suitable for the next 15 years.  On the basis of a transformative and well-integrated agenda, he asked how Governments and the United Nations could show themselves to be “up to the task”, and urged stakeholders to spare no effort in ensuring that the present debate was truly a surprising one.  “We position ourselves here as the ferocious defenders of 7 billion people on earth, who expect ambitious outcomes,” he said in that respect.  If things were done well today, a more prosperous and sustainable future could be achieved, he stressed.

Taking the floor, Mr. VAUGHAN asked the panellists if the sustainable development goals made their jobs easier or harder.

Mr. VELLA agreed that setting targets was important, but said that implementing them was more important.  “We want to eradicate poverty, we want to upgrade livelihoods and we want to go for sustainable development,” he said, adding that to achieve those goals, implementation tools would be needed.  A monitoring framework to push countries forward was also critical.

Ms. ALAMILLA responded that the people who carried out the day-to-day activities of government were those who ensured that planning was geared towards the sustainable development goals.  That was why it was critical for people to be familiar with those goals.  

Mr. DEMBÉLÉ said there was a problem in the budgetary processes of States, who lacked an overarching strategy and sufficient resources.  “We cannot continue as we have done in the past,” he said in that respect.  That concern must be taken into account at the national and global level.

Raising another question for the panellists, Mr. VAUGHAN asked how important communication and engagement were in the context of the sustainable development goals.

Ms. ALAMILLA responded that commitment to the sustainable development goals must exist at the ministerial level, as well as at the heads-of-department level.  Communication to those officials was therefore critical.

Ms. VELLA said that it was the private sector that could deliver jobs, investment and growth.  Governments should act as facilitators for those investments.  Youth should be trained, educated and prepared for those changes.  All stakeholders must be engaged.

Also responding, Mr. DEMBÉLÉ said the issue of coordination must be revisited.  The creation of Cabinet Councils to focus on the sustainable development goals could be an interesting idea.  Governments must create an atmosphere that was conducive to investment, he added.

Mr. VAUGHAN stressed the difficulty of policy coherence, which he said was one of the “great hopes” of the sustainable development goals.

As the floor was opened for questions and comments, a number of delegates described success in meeting the Millennium Development Goal targets and expressed commitment to move forward with the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Several speakers, including the representative of Bangladesh, stressed the need for full and effective national engagement in implementing the goals, as well as for political will.  Sustainable development must dovetail appropriately with existing policies and all partnerships must be built on mutual trust and respect.

A number of delegates stressed the need for adequate and practicable financing for sustainable development.  In that vein, the representative of Uganda said a point of connection was needed between development aid, foreign direct investment and remittances from residents living in other countries.

Speakers also raised questions for the panellists.  Brazil’s delegate asked Ms. Alamilla what preparations were in place in Belize for articulating the national implementation of the goals; he asked Mr. Dembélé if he saw a stronger role for official development assistance in mobilizing resources for sustainable development; and he asked Mr. Vella what the “universality” of the sustainable development goals meant in the context of the European Union.

Responding, Mr. VELLA said that one example of implementation was the creation of a “circular economy” for sustainable production and consumption.  The European Union had also made headway in protecting natural resources and in improving the Governance of the oceans.

Mr. DEMBÉLÉ said that collecting tax revenue in developing countries was a challenge.  Discussions were under way in Burkina Faso to levy income taxes on all individuals in order to finance sustainable development and other targets.  Strong social protection programmes were also needed.

Ms. ALAMILLA said Government management in Belize was necessarily centralized due to the country’s small size.  Chief administrative officers had the responsibility to review strategies for sustainable development; however, their overall coordination fell under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

Also taking part in that discussion were the representatives of Azerbaijan, Côte d’Ivoire, Palau, Nigeria, Bahrain, Burkina Faso and Israel.  Representatives of the International Telecommunications Union and the major groups for women and children and youth also participated.

Panel II

The panel on “Thinking ahead: Emerging issues that will matter in the future” featured keynote speaker Kazuyuki Nakane, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Moderated by Irene Khan, Director-General, International Development Law Organization, the panel featured: Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany; Abdul Hamid Zakri, Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and Member of the United Nations Secretary General's Scientific Advisory Board; and Alfred Kammer, Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Lead discussants were Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Risnawati Utami of the Christian Blind Mission in Indonesia.

Mr. NAKANE said the world faced a range of challenges to sustainable development, among them climate change.  Natural disasters were enormous threats that could wipe out years of hard-won achievements in national development in an instant.  At the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Japan in March 2015, the Sendai Framework was adopted with a view that recognized, among other things, the concept of building back better and the importance of involving various stakeholders to construct a system where the central Government and other actors, including private companies, civil society, women and persons with disabilities, would cooperate to address disaster-related issues.  For its part, Japan had taken steps incorporating those and related themes, including a proposal to designated 5 November as World Tsunami Day.

The global process for sustainable development had begun at the Sendai Conference.  As the post-2015 agenda was in its final stages of negotiation, the implementation of the new set of goals would include a global partnership.  The Forum would be at the centre of the follow-up and review of the agenda, he said, expressing hope that the body would be the place where countries could not only share experiences and lessons learned, but also discuss emerging issues and common challenges and provide political leadership for sustainable development.  “Involvement of the entire UN system and wide participation of stakeholders will be indispensable,” he said.

Ms. SCHWARZELÜHR-SUTTER said scientific findings had demonstrated that climate change had wreaked havoc on communities around the world.  Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other studies released by the scientific community had shown that four planetary boundaries had already been crossed by human activities.  Clean technologies must be developed, the “right” prices needed to be set and conscious decisions must ensure sustainability in a way that respected those boundaries.  She hoped the Forum would have the power to “shake things up”, providing political leadership and strengthening science policies.  Global challenges must be addressed at the highest political levels to ensure action on the ground, she said, adding that all States would benefit from new technologies.

Mr. ZAKRI said among the emerging challenges were to better detect natural disasters, reduce carbon emissions and to improve methods to address outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as Ebola.  The science behind explaining those and other challenges must be made available in decision-making circles.  Drawing on such knowledge was essential to finding solutions to development challenges, he continued, pointing out that the Secretary-General had proposed the creation of a seat for science at the Forum.  Future reports on progress should include the creation of a consortium to focus on that and related reviews of efforts being made towards achieving the new sustainable development goals.

Mr. KAMMER provided a shopping list of emerging issues, among them a shift in global economic and political strength, an increasingly interconnected world and challenges faced by countries with ageing populations.  In addition, natural resources and the environment were facing increased competition and income inequality was growing in many countries.  Other trends had seen the growing involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some corporations had annual revenues that topped the gross domestic product (GDP) of some countries.  As such, more complex decision-making was making global governance harder to conduct.

Trade in goods and services had also changed, he continued.  At the same time, rapid improvements in communications had seen more people than ever before using mobile technology.  The future prospects for enhanced policy coordination included region-based activities and a commitment to a new multilateralism that required an updated global governance structure to give more room to the emerging market and developing countries.

Mr. THIAW said urban populations were growing, with more than half of the world living in cities.  Emerging issues included poor air and water quality and increasing incidents of violence and crime.  Environmental challenges were also of great concern.  Turning to Africa, he said the prospects were good and the continent should be a model test case for sustainable development.  The technology was there, but there was a gap between science and policymaking, with the average lag time being 30 years from the development of a new technology until it was implemented on a broad scale.  That gap must be shortened, he said.

Ms. UTAMI highlighted issues related to persons with disabilities, as disasters and their aftermath deeply affected them.  The inclusion in the new development agenda of the most marginalized in the world was essential.  In the global South, many persons with disabilities and ageing populations lived in extreme poverty.  All stakeholders at the Forum must recognize that those groups, indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities were left out of the new goals.  As the Forum played a critical role in protecting the notion of “no one left behind”, she recommended that the principle of inclusion of marginalized communities, including persons with disabilities, must be built into the process of creating the new agenda and reviewing it.  She also recommended that the Forum must be a truly inclusive monitoring platform.

When the floor opened for questions and comments, Ireland’s Minister for the Environment said among the most valuable aspects of the Forum was providing a platform for looking forward towards a more sustainable world.  Ireland had had a national strategy in place for years, yet much remained to be done across the world.  Food security was a great concern and the development of more climate-smart strategies in agriculture was essential.

Italy’s representative said a strengthened dialogue with the scientific community was crucial in finding solutions to emerging challenges.  The Forum should structure and facilitate such dialogues with all stakeholders as silo thinking was no longer an option.  Global crises in food, water, unemployment and climate change shared the same roots as they belonged to the same tree.  Despite progress achieved, much remained to be done in the face of environmental degradation and resource scarcity.  The current crises and emerging challenges existed because issues had not been addressed swiftly and effectively.  The new goals must be seen as the best answers to those crises and the Forum must fulfil its mandate to ensure progress in that regard.

Ms. KHAN asked the panellists how more scientists could be included in Forum dialogues.

As the only scientist on the panel, Mr. ZAKRI said scientists’ main interest was research and excelling in their respective efforts.  Increasingly, the voice of science was needed more than ever before.  A lot of science could help in disaster mitigation and response.  Governments must know that they needed to encourage the scientific community to contribute to finding solutions.  Bridges needed to be built between scientists and the policymakers, he said, “and the time to do that is now”.

From a political perspective, Ms. SCHWARZELÜHR-SUTTER said the dialogue with scientists must be strengthened.  It was also important that their voices were heard.  When dealing with civil society, scientists must convince them while supporting Governments in making the right decisions.

Mr. ZAKRI said scientists should interact with politicians with a view to providing information on creating jobs, wealth and well-being.

A representative major group on child and youth said migration would become one of the most influential issues in the century, and she expressed lament that the issue was absent from the new goals.  She suggested reviewing and adjusting, as necessary, the goals over the next 15 years to enable adapting to a changing reality.  As global citizens, there was unprecedented ability to communicate online and all meetings should be available on the Internet.

The speaker from Azerbaijan said new technologies were essential with regard to issues including intellectual property rights.  He also highlighted concerns and barriers that landlocked countries faced in their development efforts.

Ms. SCHWARZELÜHR-SUTTER said with regard to migration that while the issue had not been explicitly mentioned, there were, however, goals covering human rights and justice.  Refugees were not just coming from climate change-related roots, but also from conflict situations.  Justice was important, she said, adding that the current package of goals was a good base for sustainable development for all people.

Ms. UTAMI spotlighted the importance of people-centred goals that focused on marginalized communities that had, to date, been left behind in development agendas.  Social inclusion must be part of the sustainable development goals and all stakeholders should address the challenge of truly implementing the new development agenda on the ground.

Nigeria’s delegate said that many conflict- and war-affected countries could not even speak of sustainable development because they were in complete disarray.  Such conflicts often brought about mass migration.  He asked the panellists how that issue would be included in the sustainable development agenda.

For information media. Not an official record.