Ms. Shamshad Akhtar Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Department of Economic and Social Affairs
The emphasis of the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda with a focus on poverty eradication and sustainable development is to be developed under the guidance of UN member States. This guidance lays down specific characteristics for the design and implementation of the agenda: it has to define universal goals, promote the integration of economic, social and environmental concerns and has to recognize national differences and allow flexibility in frameworks to allow countries to operate according to their level of development. The task at hand is a formidable one and will have a significant bearing on how national governments, the international community and the multilateral system position and transform themselves.
The UN is now fully embarked on multiple tracks to facilitate the development of an all encompassing futuristic global development agenda. Broadly, the process can be grouped in two categories: (i) a consultation process for the preparation of the framework of the Post 2015 and Sustainable Development agenda and its components, and (ii) a process of developing and strengthening institutional frameworks for reaching consensus through an effective UN intergovernmental process. These processes have been launched at large and are now at different stages. Results coming from these processes will take time because, not only are the dynamics complex given the size and dimensions of the task, but care has also to be taken to ensure all players are on board on how the consultative institutional mechanisms, particularly at the intergovernmental level, are set in place to eventually offer a platform that can solicit UN membership views and buy-ins.
Development of the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda
Keeping aside the thematic and country consultation processes, which will be addressed by other speakers, I will touch on different tracks which have been launched in the thinking process about the conceptual and design framework of the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.
First, in line with the Rio+20 provisions one of the Open Working Groups has been set up on January 22 2013. Member States have agreed that the group’s 30 seats will be shared by 70 countries which have formed constituencies of 2-4 countries from the same region. After some rounds of informal consultations, co-facilitated by the Permanent Representatives of Kenya and Hungary, the OWG on Sustainable Development has adopted an agenda and the programme for its first meeting. It has been agreed that the OWG will be open and inclusive and steered by the co-chairs. The group is coming to closure regarding methods of work and on how the members will coordinate among them.
The first formal meeting of the OWG is on 14 March. The OWG would need to decide when it will submit its report and recommendations to the General Assembly during the 68th session. Depending on progress achieved, it may be useful if the group submits an interim report to the high-level event to be held in late September 2013. The Secretary-General will address the opening and the co-chair of the group will be elected. DESA will present the Secretary-General’s report (A/67/634) which synthesizes member States initial views on sustainable development goals.
Second, in line with Rio+20, agreement is now in process towards forming the 30 member expert group to prepare a report presenting options for a sustainable development financing strategy, to be presented to the General Assembly in 2014. The co-facilitators, Permanent Representatives of Norway and Kazakhstan, have met with the regional groups to decide on the regional allocation of seats in the committee. The co-facilitators are focusing on getting the nomination process for the experts completed and validated by a General Assembly resolution by the end of March, after which the committee could start its work.
Third, the United Nations Technical Task Team on the Post 2015 Development Agenda chaired by UNDESA and UNDP has produced a number of think pieces and formed a few groups to work through the issues of (i) the sustainable development agenda, (ii) monitoring and evaluation, (iii) global partnerships and (iv) the sustainable financing strategy. The 60 agencies consultation is underway to help the thinking process in these areas. The advantage of this group is the pooling of the policy, normative and implementation experience of UN bodies as well as BWIs.
Finally, a word on the external process set up by the Secretary General through the High Level Panel. It is well advanced and is now geared to take forward consultations on 24-25 March in Indonesia, Bali – this being the last meeting it will take forward the earlier two rounds of deliberations and, among others, will focus on global partnerships and the financing agenda – two critical means of implementations. Recent consultations conducted in Monrovia have articulated the vision of the High Level Panel to end poverty and put in place building blocs of sustained prosperity for all. It advocates for the global community to pursue economic and social transformations for inclusive growth with due emphasis to the protection and empowerment of people through enhancing peace and security and stronger domestic institutions. The transformational agenda should create jobs, develop infrastructure, raise productivity through improving competitiveness and tapping more into educated and skilled work force, new technologies and innovation, and promote sustainable production and consumption. Protecting the environment and creating wealth through sustainable and transparent management of natural resources benefitting the planet and the people will be at the centre of these debates. Economic transformation would require partnerships with many players in trade, finance, foreign direct investment, etc. These issues will remain at the core of the debates in the last round of consultations to be soon held in Bali.
Strengthening of the Institutional Frameworks to support the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda
High-level political forum. The two co-facilitators guiding the negotiations on the high-level political forum, the Permanent Representatives of Italy and Brazil, held open ended informal consultations in late January. Since then, they have also consulted representatives of Member States and Major Groups to seek their views on the format and modalities of the HLPF. Based on recent informal consultation, it appears that there is broad consensus that the HLPF must meet at a high-level to provide policy guidance. More clarity has to emerge on whether it is to be a distinct entity, though there seems to be little appetite to impose a structure or body within the UN governing framework. The emerging debates seem to hence revolve around how to juxtapose it in a way that it aligns with and is reinforced by the General Assembly and ECOSOC. The emerging consensus seems to be some kind of hybrid model where the HLPF would alternately alternatively in ECOSOC at the ministerial level, and in the GA at heads of state/government level. In that context, the GA meetings would be held only every two or four years. Should HLPF be a forum for adopting negotiated outcomes or whether a GA President;s summary of the discussion would be the way to proceed is open for discussion. Recognizing the urgency to conclude these debates, open informal consultations will continue to draft a resolution on the HLPF by end of May 2013 so that its meeting can be held by September 2013.
A report of the Secretary-General on the lessons learnt from the Commission for Sustainable Development was prepared by DESA to help inform negotiations. Egypt has asked to have a discussion on the basis of the report.
In Rio, Member States requested the Secretary-General to prepare a report to the GA 67th session to identify options for a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies. In a recent General Assembly resolution, Member States agreed to hold workshops on sustainable development and the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies. DESA will be supporting this process during the course of the year.
The Secretary General was requested to present a report to the 68th session of the General Assembly on the workshops, the way forward, and on additional inputs from Member States and the UN system. DESA will prepare this report. The Rio+20 outcome document outlines a number of functions of the HLPF such as the requirement to prepare a Global Sustainable Development Report that would strengthen the science-policy interface including a mapping of the scientific assessments for sustainable development and its future pathways. DESA has been tasked to produce this global report, for the first session of the HLPF, expected in September 2013. Expert group and consultation meetings will be held on the Global Sustainable Development Report in 2013, complemented and supported by online consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, especially the scientific community.
At Rio+20 it was decided to convene a Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2014. The Conference will be held in Apia, Samoa. Three regional preparatory meetings have been confirmed for July 2013. An inter-regional meeting will subsequently be held before the global preparatory process commences in September 2013. A guidance note jointly prepared by DESA and UNDP has been shared with Member States in order to facilitate national preparations for the Conference.
Rio+20 called forcefully for the UN system to mainstream the three dimensions of sustainable development throughout its work. It mandated the Secretary-General to prepare a report to the GA on progress in this regard through ECOSOC. It also invited the governing bodies of UN system organizations to take measures to this end.
Sustainable development implies significant changes in the way the UN system operates. Any policy or measure should be looked at from the perspective of sustainable development to avoid unintended effects in the economic, social or environmental areas. There should also be a much greater emphasis on coordination and cooperation among organizations dealing with the three dimensions of sustainable development, including with the Bretton Woods Institutions. The on-going strengthening of the cooperation between the UN and the World Bank is important in this regard.