A step forward in sustainable development

With the goal of reinvigorating sustainable development efforts, world leaders gathered at the UN Headquarters on 24 September for the inaugural session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The convening of this new Forum represents a major step forward in the follow-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).  The forum was born from the realization that there had been insufficient progress in implementing sustainable development — and in promoting prosperity and social well-being while protecting the environment — at a time when many global challenges threaten to roll back the successes achieved in fighting poverty.

In the outcome document of Rio+20, “The Future We Want”, Member States accordingly decided to create a high-level political forum to ensure that sustainable development tops the agenda at the highest levels of Government and is embraced by all actors.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “The Forum is a key platform for examining today’s challenges in a holistic and integrated manner. It can be the catalyst for a strengthened global partnership for sustainable development, providing political leadership grounded in solid science.” He announced the creation of a Scientific Advisory Board to strengthen the science-policy interface. Addressing the Major Groups, the Secretary-General said “We need your ideas, expertise and leadership.” He added that the forum would engage the full range of sustainable development actors.

General Assembly President John Ashe said that the meeting had confirmed world leaders’ readiness to put poverty eradication and sustainable development at the core of the post-2015 development agenda. He highlighted that the HLPF will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the elaboration and the implementation of this agenda. “It should be the home for concrete guidance in the review of the sustainable development goals, their implementation and monitoring, as well as integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development by all actors. It will, if properly used, become the tool for embedding or mainstreaming sustainable development at all levels”.

The GA President also emphasized that the Forum has been afforded the rare opportunity to get things right from the start, because a new institution is a clean slate. “The slate of the HLPF waits for us to write in its purpose and its future. We have the opportunity to set the tone, tenor, scope of action, level of engagement, achievement and productivity for which this Forum will become known. Through our efforts in this Forum we can and must offer our citizens new hope and new solutions,” he said.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo stressed the importance of grounding the work of the forum in science and scientific findings.   He presented the summary of the prototype Global Sustainable Development Report aimed at making this happen.  He called for a new initiative to improve the quality and quantity of data on sustainable development.

The Forum has a novel institutional structure, bringing Heads of State and Government together every four years, under the auspices of the General Assembly.  Their deliberations will translate into an inter-governmentally agreed declaration.  The Forum will also meet annually, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council at the ministerial level.  In both formats, the forum will aim to promote implementation of sustainable development and address new challenges.

Starting in 2016, the Forum will include reviews on the implementation of sustainable development by all countries and the United Nations system, which should allow greater accountability and focus on action on the ground.

The President of Brazil and the Prime Minister of Italy spoke at the opening of the forum. ECOSOC President Néstor Osorio, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and International Monetary Fund Chairperson Christine Lagarde were also among those addressing the Forum. The opening was followed by a series of “Leaders Dialogues” that explored the role of the forum in translating the vision of Rio+20 into action, the global partnerships that create jobs and improve sustainable lifestyles and mapping the way forward for poverty eradication.18 Heads of State or Government and 30 Ministers spoke. Representatives from civil society participated in all the discussions.

The Forum replaces the Commission on Sustainable Development, which concluded its work on 20 September after 20 years of promoting sustainable development.

More information:  http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1649