Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Informal consultations on High-Level Political Forum

Ambassador Viotti,
Ambassador Ragaglini,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, you are embarking on a process to define the format and the organizational modalities of the new High-level Political Forum.  This was one of the major outcomes of Rio+20, and at the heart of one of its main themes – the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development.

We all agree that progress on sustainable development has been too slow.  Rio+20 renewed political commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development as the overarching framework for development.  Rio+20 also took forward-looking decisions on institutions for sustainable development.

These are historic achievements.  But making this blueprint a reality is a big challenge. 

This is why, at Rio, Heads of State and Government decided to create the new high-level political forum. To elevate the priority attached to sustainable development, and to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development established twenty years ago. 

You have a unique occasion to design the kind of body that can best advance sustainable development.  This is a historic opportunity.  Let us seize it.

We very much look forward to what you, the Member States, will decide.

What is evident is that we all clearly need to do things differently.

We need a forum:

  • that is modern, innovative and attracts the right participation; 
  • that has the political weight to influence policies and actions at the country level where change happens; 
  • where science informs and underpins policies;
  • that looks to the long term, the well-being of future generations and the safeguard of the planet; and
  • we need a forum that enhances the participation of non-state actors, and captures the sense of engagement we had at Rio+20.

You have the opportunity to start from a clean slate. To build on what we have. To innovate in design, and put the entire machinery in the service of sustainable development.

We need to learn from the past, and also look to the future, the “future we want”.

Rio+20 decided that the forum should build on lessons learned from the Commission on Sustainable Development.  This should help to overcome the challenges that sustainable development – and the Commission as its dedicated body – have been facing for the past 20 years.

At your request, we are finalizing a report of the Secretary-General on lessons learned from the Commission on Sustainable Development.  It will reflect the contributions of Member States, and inputs from major groups and the UN system. We hope that it will be useful to you in your deliberations.

Many lessons emanate from these contributions, and from our own analysis.  They provide a basis for drawing up some of the characteristics of the high-level political forum. 

For example, it is generally felt that the Commission’s ability to respond to emerging issues and challenges was restrained by its rigid programme of work. Another weakness was that it became equated with an environmental body, which led to some duplication and confusion – and missed opportunities. 

On the other hand, CSD has had successes.  It produced important outcomes on major issues, such as forests, energy and oceans.  It set a powerful pattern for involving Major groups in the work of the United Nations, made evident by the huge involvement of non-state actors at Rio+20.  The intention of Rio+20 is that the high-level forum will enhance even further the engagement of Major Groups and civil society.

Beyond those specific lessons, our own UN history shows that, unless we have a dedicated follow-up body, issues tend to be forgotten over time. This is why Member States created the CSD at the Earth Summit. In fact, your responses to our questionnaire on CSD illustrate that CSD generally served the purpose of keeping sustainable development high on the agenda.

I am sure that the high-level political forum that you are going to bring into operation, will build on lessons learned of CSD, and will add real value. It will provide political guidance and bolster new advances in sustainable development.

Indeed, world leaders at Rio+20 laid down important parameters for the role and functions of the high-level political forum.

We, in the Secretariat, stand ready to support you in any way you see fit. We will support the institution both substantively and organizationally. We shall work together to deliver as one.

Thank you.

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