“I will draw upon my background in sustainable development”

Right before the opening of the 68th session of General Assembly, its President, John W. Ashe, gave a special interview to DESA News. He points out how his background may help him promote the building of Sustainable Development Goals among Member States. He also explains why he is the first PGA to extensively use social media and online communication.

On 18 September 2013, John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda took the gavel as the President of the 68th session of the General Assembly, the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Member States of the Organization, it provides the only forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter.

Setting the stage!

Following his election as Assembly President on 14 June, John W. Ashe and his team outlined their priorities for the session under a theme entitled, “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!”. Under it, he is encouraging Member States and other stakeholders to promote dialogue, reflection and commitment to the formulation of an effective new agenda to overcome poverty and insecurity and ensure sustainable development, to be launched during the 69th session following the 2015 deadline of the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Prior to his assumption of the Assembly Presidency, John W. Ashe served simultaneously as his country’s Permanent Representative to both the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, positions he held since 2004. He has served in a leadership capacity on many of the governing bodies of the major UN environmental agreements, including as the first Chairman of the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He holds a Doctorate in Bioengineering.

3 High-Level events and 3 thematic debates

During his year at the head of the General Assembly, the President will convey three High-level events and three thematic debates. The first High-level Event will discuss the role of Women, Youth and Civil Society in the post-2015 development agenda. The aim is to heighten dialogue and strengthen approaches intended to improve conditions and development prospects for women and youth, who have been further marginalised by the global crises in food, fuel and finance.

“My vision is of a world without poverty, the creation of the first generation of children to be born into a world where none of them will know hunger.”

John W. Ashe, PGA

A second High-level Event will explore the contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the post-2015 development agenda, particularly looking at the appropriate framework to ensure that human rights, the rule of law, and good governance practices anchor the evolving policy platforms in a manner that empowers people to contribute to sustainable development.

The third High-level Event will look at the contributions of South-South, Triangular Cooperation and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Development in the post-2015 development agenda. In the past two decades, dramatic global change and national and regional transformations have led to unprecedented and increasingly complex socio-economic and environmental threats, challenges and concerns. Responding to these new threats, as well as existing challenges, will require new forms of collaboration, innovation and partnership, which in turn can maximize the potential for ICT to contribute to reaching our development goals.

Increase spotlight on partnerships

In addition to the High-level Events, three thematic debates will provide an opportunity for in-depth exploration of key issues in the post-2015 development agenda. Partnerships are the eighth and much overlooked MDG, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has placed renewed emphasis on this area. John W. Ashe intends to increase that spotlight by exploring the role of partnership and its contribution to the post-2015 development agenda. Technology and knowledge transfer, financing and innovative means of implementation will be critical parts of the coming debate.

Another thematic debate will examine how to work towards and ensure Stable and Peaceful Societies in the post-2015 development framework, including by creating an enabling environment for development and progress, diminishing external stressors that contribute to conflicts, ensuring accessible institutions of justice, reducing violence, and enhancing the capacity and accountability of good governance mechanisms and practices that benefit peace and sustainable development.

The third thematic debate will focus on the roles of Water, Sanitation and Sustainable Energy in the post-2015 development agenda. With some 1.4 billion people without reliable electricity, 2.5 billion without decent cooking fuels, 900 million lacking access to clean water and 2.6 billion without adequate sanitation, action is urgently needed to address these persistent challenges. Many initiatives in these fields are now underway but there is a need to harness, share and scale up proven technologies and best practices in the areas of integrated water management, sustainable energy and sanitation services as part of any proposed post-2015 development agenda.