Volume 19, No.03 - August 2015

Global dialogue on development

Ensuring indigenous peoples’ health and well-being

IndigenousThe observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples will take place on Monday 10 August in the ECOSOC Chamber, from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

As part of the commemoration, the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Department of Public Information and the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples are organizing an event that will bring together indigenous peoples organizations, UN agencies, Member States and the general public.

This year the theme will be on “Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples health and well-being”.

To register for this event please send an email to Mr. Nicolas Magnien at and Mr. Arturo Requesens at indicating full name and organization affiliation. You will receive an email confirming your registration. The deadline to register to attend the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is Tuesday 4 August 2015.

For more information: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples


Reflections on the Global Sustainable Development Report

Following the launch of the Global Sustainable Development Report 2015 Edition in June, Member State representatives, scientists and UN officials reflect on its findings and usefulness for policymakers in a newly released video.

The need for scientific understanding of key issues, reliable data in the poorest countries, and effective means to convey scientific findings to decision-makers present major challenges to the implementation of the sustainable development agenda that countries are expected to adopt this September, according to the 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR).

The GSDR, an intergovernmentally-mandated report on the science-policy interface for sustainable development, was presented to UN Member States at the High Level Political Forum on 30 June. The Forum is a new body expected to be tasked with monitoring the implementation of the new sustainable development agenda, anchored by 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The successful implementation of the new sustainable development agenda requires a strong scientific foundation that is understood by policymakers,” said Wu Hongbo, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General. “This report shows us how we must sharpen our collective scientific understanding […] and presentation so that we can make informed decisions that improve people’s lives.”

The 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report provides a survey of scientific findings on a range of pressing sustainable development issues that includes oceans and livelihoods, disaster risk reduction, industrialization, and use of “big data” in Africa.

A number of Member State representatives, members of the scientific community and UN officials shared their views on the Global Sustainable Development Report with UN DESA.

Lucilla Spini, Head of Science Programmes, International Council for Science (ICSU), noted the diversity of views reflected in the report. “What I think is really important is […] the great amount of contributors, in terms of organizations and individuals, that have contributed to this report from all over the world.”

Annika Lindblom, Director for International Sustainable Development in the Ministry of Environment of Finland, highlighted the importance of the nexus approach featured in the GSDR. “What we thought was particularly valuable was this integrated approach, this nexus thinking […] creating linkages between different thematic areas and challenges like water and human development.”

Andalib Elias, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to United Nations, said that the “GSDR is very important for the policy makers, particularly for countries like Bangladesh, because the areas that were touched upon in the report — the science-policy interface, the critical importance of disaster risk reduction, and the relationships between economic growth and sustainable consumption and production — all these will help the policy makers in all countries to take learned and educated decisions.”

Maria Ivanova of the UN Secretary General’s Scientific Advisory Board commended the report for focusing on certain groups of countries whose situations need to be addressed in a special way, such as Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries.

For more information: Global Sustainable Development Report, 2015 edition


Financing sustainable transport

sustdev_transportOn the occasion of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport issued a Position Paper on Financing Sustainable Transport.

The paper highlights that transport plays “an essential role in countries´ economic growth, competitiveness, balanced and livable spatial development, access to water and energy, and food security”, and that it is also critical for social inclusion and improved quality of life. Ensuring adequate and better targeted funding and innovative financing for sustainable transport will be critical to deliver on this potential.

The High-level Advisory Group welcomes the Addis Ababa outcome and its call for enhanced action in the least developed countries, land-locked developing countries, small island developing States, and countries in conflict and post-conflict countries, as well as on the specific challenges facing middle-income countries.

The advisory group recognizes that mobility solutions to support sustainable development exist in both developed and developing countries, and that they “require a shift towards a mobility paradigm focused on people, environment and climate rather than individual vehicle use”. Fossil fuel consumption and dependency in transport systems should be reduced and subsidies eventually eliminated, the paper advises. This is seen as a prerequisite to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the scale required to meet the 2°C scenario. Sustainable transport systems would also enable us to meet adaptation and pollution targets.

The group points out that while global transport investments are estimated at 1-2 trillion US dollars per year, less than 40 percent is invested in developing countries, “where both connectivity needs and opportunities to avoid locking into an unsustainable development path are the greatest”. Investments in sustainable transport will need to be fostered by the public sector. Investments in improving the energy efficiency of urban transportation could ultimately lead to a savings of up to 70 trillion US dollars.

Private financing is crucial as well. There is substantial capital and liquidity and yet the world is facing a growing mismatch between financing needs—particularly for long-term infrastructure—and available financing, a gap particularly acute in lower-income countries. The paper suggests transparent enabling frameworks, incentives and adequate risk-sharing mechanisms to tap into available global liquidity.

The ongoing efforts of the world’s eight largest Multilateral Development Banks to fund more safe and sustainable transport is commended, as are the pledges made to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and the GCF’s efforts to begin financing projects as soon as possible, though transport financing from climate funds has thus far been extremely limited.

Other dedicated financing mechanisms will be needed to ensure rapid action at scale on road safety. More than 1.5 million people lose their lives every year due to traffic accidents and transport-induced air pollution, of which 92 percent are in developing countries. Road safety has emerged as a global public cause.

For more information: Secretary-General’s High-level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport


Official opening of ECOSOC’s 2016 session

ECOSOC_PresidentsThe Economic and Social Council’s 2015 Organizational Session was held on 24 July at UN Headquarters in New York, officially opening the 2016 session of ECOSOC.

The event included the handover of the Council Presidency from H.E. Martin Sajdik (Austria), who led ECOSOC during an extended 18-month presidency, to the newly elected President, H.E. Oh Joon (Republic of Korea). In his parting statement, Ambassador Sajdik spoke of the importance of ensuring that ECOSOC’s discussions and decisions on global development resonate to the communities and stakeholders who will be central to the successful implementation of the new development agenda.

The new President, Ambassador Oh Joon, welcomed the newly elected ECOSOC Bureau Members: H.E. Maria Cristina Perceval (Argentina), H.E. Vladimir Drobnjak (Croatia), H.E. Paul Seger (Switzerland), and H.E. Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe). He also outlined priorities for the 2016 session, which will have as the main theme, “Implementing the post-2015 development agenda: Moving from commitments to results”.

He expressed his desire to continue to enhance the Council’s relevance during this historic time of transition from the MDGs to the post-2015 development agenda, including through focusing special attention on the issue of inequality.

Another priority is support to the implementation of the new development agenda and the establishment of an effective follow-up and review mechanism through the High-level Political Forum alongside the coordinating role of ECOSOC. This will be complemented by further harmonization of the ECOSOC system, particularly its subsidiary bodies and related work programmes. The Council will also build on its successes in mobilizing partnerships to support a renewed global partnership for the post-2015 agenda.

For more information: United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC)


HLPF adopts declaration of commitment to ambitious people-centred post-2015 agenda

HLPFThe High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development closed its eight-day annual session on 8 July with the adoption of a declaration that committed ministers from around the world to establishing a “strong, universal, ambitious, inclusive and people-centred” post-2015 development agenda that completes the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals and responds to new challenges.

Through the text, Forum ministers welcomed what had been achieved through the Millennium Development Goals, which had set out a common vision and contributed to “significant and substantial advances” in several areas.

They requested the President of the Economic and Social Council to issue summaries of discussions in the Forum and in the Council’s high-level segment, running until 10 July, to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which convened from 13 to 16 July in Addis Ababa.

“Our meeting was convened under a heightened mindfulness of the forthcoming post-2015 development agenda,” said Council Vice-President Mohamed Khaled Khiari (Tunisia) in closing remarks, the most ambitious one yet at the United Nations. Delegates had covered much ground, with substantive and practical deliberations on how to make the Forum fit for supporting implementation of the new agenda.

Throughout the session, he said, debates had shown that the Forum could be what Heads of State and Government attending the 2012 Rio+20 Conference had envisioned: one that provided leadership and political guidance, brought enhanced coherence to the institutional framework for sustainable development, served as the apex of follow-up and review of the new agenda, and offered a strengthened science-policy interface.

“We will need to continue these discussions so we can hit the ground running,” he said, noting that several participants had suggested elaborating a road map to prepare the Forum for delivering on its role as soon as the agenda was adopted.

Managing the transition from MDGs to SDGs

The declaration capped a day that featured the Forum’s adoption of its 2015 report, as well as two panel discussions. In the first — on “Reviewing and monitoring progress: What have we learned and how can it advance implementation?” — delegates weighed how national reviews to be conducted by the Forum starting in 2016 could best advance implementation of the sustainable development goals, with many advocating that existing review mechanisms be used to maximize impact.

The second, on “Realizing the sustainable development goals: Matching ambitions with commensurate means of implementation — resources, technology and capacities”, focused on financing, trade, debt sustainability and capacity-building as ways to advance the new agenda.

The Forum’s programme dovetailed with that of the Council’s high-level segment, which was held in parallel meetings under the main theme of “Managing the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the sustainable development goals: what it will take”. The segment featured continued general debate on how to prepare the Forum for peak performance in 2016 and the start of two-day deliberations in the Annual Ministerial Review, the Council body established in 2007 to assess the Millennium Development Goals.

During the Council’s general debate, speakers highlighted steps to make a successful transition to the new agenda, with some advocating a “fresh look” at the Forum’s sessions. It should focus, they said, on its key mandates, such as identifying best practices, new trends and challenges, and strengthening the science-policy interface. Conversations must be broad in scope, engaging the civil society, business and scientific communities.

Several delegations welcomed the 2015 edition of the Global Sustainable Development Report as a way to drive substantive discussion, with Egypt’s delegate cautioning that it should not be used as a monitoring tool.

ThomasGass_TWchatTwitter chat puts spotlight on new sustainable development agenda

Just following the HLPF, UN DESA’s Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Thomas Gass, invited the online community to join him in a Twitter chat on 10 July, focusing on the new proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how we can turn our vision for 2030 into reality.

The event saw great engagement from the online audience, which used #SDGsChat to engage with Mr. Gass on a number of topics related to the SDGs. Mr. Gass enjoyed receiving some 150 questions and comments on a number of issues including on youth involvement, food security, industrialization, inequality and the role of governments, civil society, the private sector and ordinary citizens in this joint global effort for an inclusive and sustainable future that leaves no one behind.

“I want to make sure that people know why their leaders are coming to New York in September,” said Thomas Gass. “It is not for the photo-op, but to promise to the people that the SDGs vision is for them.”

For more information:

High-level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF)

Storify on Twitter chat with Thomas Gass on the SDGs


Exploring what it will take to transition to new development agenda

ECOSOC_hlsThe Economic and Social Council High-level Segment (HLS) was convened on 6 to 10 July at UN Headquarters in New York. The event included the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) Ministerial Segment (6-8 July) and the final ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) and other HLS events (8-10 July).

The 2015 ECOSOC main theme, which was also the theme of the AMR, was “Managing the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the sustainable development goals (SDGs): What it will take”.

The Council adopted a joint ministerial declaration of the HLS and HLPF that looked forward to the new agenda and requested the President of ECOSOC to prepare summaries of the discussions as a contribution to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the on-going inter-governmental negotiations on the post-2015 UN development agenda.

The event featured four AMR National Voluntary Presentations by Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines and Zambia, which emphasized the imperative of mutually reinforcing actions at the national, regional and global levels for successfully transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs.

Dialogues took place with representatives of the international financial and trade institutions (IMF, UNCTAD, World Bank Group, WTO), as well as with the Executive Secretaries of the UN regional commissions. The importance of inclusive growth for the achievement of the SDGs was underscored, with some concerns about the implications of the low rate of both global growth and international trade for realizing the new agenda. The widening divergence in growth rates between various regions highlights the need for greater policy coordination at all levels.

Progress in the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (2011-2020) (IPoA) was reviewed, introduced by a keynote address by H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia. The unfinished MDG agenda for LDCs should be integrated into the post-2015 development agenda, complementing the IPoA, with greater emphasis on aid-for-trade, trade facilitation, capacity and institution building and technology for development.

UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon delivered a closing statement, stating that the occasion marked “the end of the review of the MDGs in ECOSOC. But it also lays the foundation for the transition to the SDGs — an ambitious and universal agenda” for which the Council will need to promote policy integration and mobilize a wide range of actors.

For more information: ECOSOC High-level Segment