Volume 18, No.07 - July 2014

Feature articles

Partnering with islands for a sustainable world

The global community is now only two months away from the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which offers a once in a decade opportunity to focus the world’s attention on a group of countries that remain a special case for sustainable development. Final preparations are now being completed and on 24 July, Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo will engage in a live Google+ Hangout on how to empower youth for sustainable islands.

Exploring ways to build high-impact and sustainable partnerships with small island developing States was one of the main focus points for countries gathered at UN Headquarters on 23-26 June for the Preparatory Committee meeting held ahead of the conference in September.

“We have an opportunity to establish genuine and durable partnerships that will create innovative solutions that can bring us closer to a sustainable future,” said the Conference’s Secretary-General, Wu Hongbo, who is also UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General. “These partnerships can serve as a model to address pressing issues that affect not just small islands developing states, but many of which are already having an impact all over the world.”

While small island nations face unique circumstances and vulnerabilities such as extreme weather conditions and isolation, they are also at the forefront of finding innovative solutions to global challenges like climate change, access to energy and environmental degradation.

“We have an opportunity to establish genuine and durable partnerships that will create innovative solutions that can bring us closer to a sustainable future”

Wu Hongbo
Conference Secretary-General

The conference, which will be held on 1-4 September in Apia, Samoa, seeks to galvanize partnerships in the following six clusters:  Sustainable Economic Development; Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management; Social Development in SIDS, Health and Non-Communicable Diseases, Youth and Women; Sustainable Energy; Oceans, Seas and Biodiversity; and Water and Sanitation, Food Security and Waste Management.

Accelerating preparations

During the Preparatory Committee meeting, Member States also worked to complete the conference’s draft outcome document, which outlines the main challenges and priorities for small island developing states. Countries had sent government experts from their capitals to take part in the negotiations and to ensure that the document represents the diversity of national perspectives.

The Preparatory Committee meeting was the final opportunity for Member States and other stakeholders to gather before the conference, where they will negotiate the final elements of the outcome document.

“The international conference in Samoa will be a major milestone for small island developing states, but it will also be an important part of the post-2015 development agenda,” Mr. Wu said. “I am confident that this last part of the preparatory process will lead us to a successful conference where new and concrete partnerships will be created, that will lead the way to a more sustainable future for all.”

The Conference in September will provide world leaders a first-hand opportunity to experience the climate and poverty challenges of small islands and will result in the announcement of over 200 concrete partnerships for lifting islanders out of poverty and braving challenges such as rising sea levels, overfishing, and typhoons and tsunamis.

Together from here to Samoa

The event is meant to give countries an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity and partnership with small island developing nations said Mr. Wu at the press conference that was held on 23 June together with the Permanent Representative of Samoa to the UN, Mr. Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia.

Mr. Elisaia said that his Government, as well as those of other similar island nations, are looking for partnerships that are specific to their contexts, able to be implemented within a timeframe, and reportable. “No partnership is insignificant,” Mr. Elisaia told the press, pointing to the relevance of all partnerships.

partnering_with_islands_flippedFollowing the press conference, the Permanent Mission of Samoa to the United Nations and UN DESA, hosted a special briefing event “Together from here to Samoa: SIDS 2014 in Partnership.” This was a well-attended joint event, which provided UN member States with further updates on the work preparing for the conference, including practical travel and accommodation details.

“No partnership is insignificant”

Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia
Permanent Representative of Samoa to the UN

“I am deeply appreciative of the leadership of Samoa in advancing the spirit and concrete progress of partnerships.  I am also grateful to various partners, developed and developing alike, along with major groups and other stakeholders, for supporting partnerships through concrete actions,” Mr. Wu said at this briefing event.

Google+ Hangout focusing on the role of youth

In the run up to the major event in September, Mr. Wu will host a live Google+ Hangout event on 24 July, engaging with youth representatives from this group of countries on the topic of ‘Samoa 2014: Empowering Youth for Sustainable Islands.’ The event will highlight successful youth activities already happening and it will also demonstrate the potential of these efforts.

The hangout will also be an opportunity for youth to voice their views on what is needed to achieve sustainable development for Small Island Developing States and how young people and youth organizations can contribute to partnerships. More information on the Google+ Hangout event will become available soon on the SIDS Conference website (please see the link provided below).

At UN Headquarters and all around the world, nations, government leaders, civil society organizations and UN System agencies are now getting ready and counting down to this milestone event, taking place in just two months’ time in the beautiful location of Apia, Samoa.

And what happens there will have global effects. Something that Mr. Wu also referred to in his concluding remarks before the Preparatory Committee on 23 June. “Small island developing States are at the frontline of global sustainable development. Their mission is our mission,” Mr. Wu said.

For more information:

Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States

International Year of Small Island Developing States

The final PrepCom meeting of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – Press Conference (UN Web TV)

Blog of Conference Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo

New Sina Weibo page of Mr. Wu Hongbo


Building the future we want at ECOSOC


From 30 June to 11 July, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will connect the many related efforts to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and consider how to set the stage for success of the global development agenda that will follow the Goals after 2015.

The MDGs have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. With a number of sub-targets covering a range of poverty, hunger, health, gender equality, education and environmental indicators, the MDGs were embraced by all UN Member States.

Major progress at the global, regional, national and local level shows that millions of people’s lives have improved due to concerted, targeted efforts by many different groups and individuals. Several targets have already been met, such as halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. It is expected that more targets will be reached by the end of 2015 when most MDGs are set to be achieved.

Final push to achieve MDGs and create sustainable post-2015 development agenda

World leaders have called for an ambitious long-term sustainability agenda to succeed the MDGs. Building on the successes of the MDGs, this post-2015 development agenda will address any unfinished business of the MDGs and new challenges and complexities facing the world with sustainable development at its core and poverty eradication as its highest priority. World leaders will meet at a Summit in September 2015 to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, including the sustainable development goals.

“With so many lives already changed because of the focused efforts by so many partners and stakeholders, we must persist and make a common final push to achieve the MDGs,” H.E. Mr. Martin Sajdik, President of ECOSOC, said. “We must reflect on the lessons learnt through the MDGs and weave them into our thinking and actions going forward to determine a brighter future for all.”

High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development kicks off two-week event

More than 500 delegates will attend three high-level meetings in the coming two weeks. There will be many high-profile speakers, among them, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson; the President of the General Assembly John Ashe; and more than 50 Ministers. The meetings will also bring together a diverse group of participants, including: ministerial-level and senior representatives from Member States; mayors; parliamentarians; UN system officials; civil society representatives; and key figures from the private sector and foundations.

“With so many lives already changed because of the focused efforts by so many partners and stakeholders, we must persist and make a common final push to achieve the MDGs”

Martin Sajdik
ECOSOC President

From 30 June to 9 July, the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) will meet under the auspices of ECOSOC, and provide political leadership and guidance on sustainable development. The forum will be an occasion to pause and reflect on how far we have advanced in shaping the post 2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). It will discuss how to chart the way for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. In the coming years, the HLPF will guide the implementation of the sustainable development goals after they are likely adopted in September 2015.

On 1 July, the Prototype of a Global Sustainable Development Report will be launched at the HLPF to illustrate possibilities for strengthening the scientific foundation of sustainable development policies. This will be important as we move to the implementation of the post 2015 development agenda. The report illustrates a range of alternative approaches and various ways of engaging the scientific community with policy makers, as well as scenarios for the future and ways to address new and emerging sustainable development challenges.

MDG Report 2014 launch and ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review

On 7 July, the Secretary-General will present The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 at the opening of the High-level segment of ECOSOC. The report is an annual assessment of global and regional progress towards the Goals, and reflects the most comprehensive, up-to-date data compiled by over 28 UN and international agencies.

Ministers and high-level officials will measure the progress and identify the obstacles remaining in the final year to achieve the MDGs, and deliver policy messages to define a path that sustains development gains into the future at the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) from 8-9 July. As part of the national dimension of the AMR, ten presenters – Bolivia, Gambia, Georgia, Kuwait, Mexico, Qatar, Sudan, Thailand, United Kingdom and the State of Palestine– will make National Voluntary Presentations. They will share experiences on progress made and remaining obstacles to achieving the MDGs and other international agreed goals.

For the AMR, a Report of the Secretary-General addresses ongoing and emerging challenges for meeting the MDGs in their final year and future goals. For example, the report notes that at least one-fifth of the world’s population lives in countries experiencing significant violence, political conflict, and insecurity. The report says such conditions are major obstacles to development, and that the prevention and reduction of all forms of violence should be at the heart of sustaining future development gains.

The report recommends sound national development strategies, strong public institutions, as well as supportive environments that include peace, stability and respect for human rights. The report also suggests actions necessary for achieving development gains that are more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum

Following the AMR, the Council will hold the fourth biennial Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) on 10-11 July to advance global dialogue on the future of development cooperation in the post-2015 era. The broad range of development cooperation actors will examine how development cooperation will need to change to support implementation of a post-2015 development agenda. Through candid and frank discussions, the Forum will call for the delivery on promises made in support of better development results. It will cover a range of issues, including the changing role of Official Development Assistance (ODA), the implications of the changing development cooperation landscape, South-South cooperation, the functioning of a renewed global partnership for development and global monitoring and accountability for development cooperation.

The 2014 DCF will inject key messages and make concrete proposals on the future of development cooperation into the preparations of the post-2015 development agenda.

The Secretary-General’s report on Trends and progress in international development cooperation will serve as the basis for discussion in several interactive and multi-stakeholder sessions during the DCF. The report reviews recent trends in international development cooperation, focusing on progress in and allocation of Official Development Assistance (ODA), plus trends in other sources of development cooperation – public and private, international and domestic resources – that will be needed to support implementation of an ambitious post-2015 development agenda.

The report says that while ODA will remain crucial, its use will have to be adapted to meet new demands. Developing countries will need continued support in efforts to eradicate poverty and transition to sustainable development. The type of support should be flexible and country-specific. A transformative post-2015 development agenda must be matched by a different scale and scope of international support. The report concludes that current discussions on the future of development cooperation reveal a readiness among stakeholders to look anew at the fundamentals of development cooperation, suggesting that space is opening up for mobilizing international support that matches the ambition of a transformative post-2015 development agenda.

The two weeks of ECOSOC meetings, including the HLPF, AMR and DCF will touch on various topics, including: science policy, climate change, data availability, financing development, development cooperation, partnerships, sustainable urbanization, youth, decarbonization, sustainable transport, education, health, gender equality, disaster risk reduction, conflict, among others.

After assessing progress on the implementation of development policies and engaging in high-level interactive dialogues, ministers and international institutions will adopt a formal Ministerial Declaration outcome document.

For more information: ECOSOC High-level segment


Revealing urbanization trends worldwide


The world’s urban population has grown rapidly since 1950 and the coming decades will bring further profound changes to its size and distribution. On 10 July, UN DESA’s Population Division will release the latest urbanization trends, providing data that are critical for assessing current and future needs with respect to urban growth.

“Virtually all of the world’s population growth for the foreseeable future will occur in urban areas, and this fact will have enormous implications for the success of the post 2015 development agenda,” said John Wilmoth, Director of UN DESA’s Population Division, ahead of the publication release this month.

Scheduled for launch on 10 July, just one day before World Population Day, the latest version of the World Urbanization Prospects will provide new and updated information on global urbanization trends and city growth, which are vital for setting policy priorities to promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for urban and rural areas alike.

“Virtually all of the world’s population growth for the foreseeable future will occur in urban areas, and this fact will have enormous implications for the success of the post 2015 development agenda”

John Wilmoth
UN DESA’s Population Division

Database covers expanded number of cities

The 2014 revision of World Urbanization Prospects will provide a wide array of statistics on levels and trends of urbanization for all countries of the world. Recognizing the importance of smaller cities and towns, this latest revision will expand the number of cities and provide, for the first time, population estimates and projections for all of the world’s urban settlements with 300,000 inhabitants or more in 2014.

“We are very excited that we were able to expand the database in this revision so that now it includes information on approximately 1,700 cities covering roughly 60 percent of the world’s urban population,” said John Wilmoth.

Major patterns for societal transformation

The new study confirms three major elements of emerging patterns of urbanization and city growth. First, more than half of the world’s population resides in urban settlements, and by 2050 it is projected that about two-thirds of all humans will live in urban areas. This unique societal transformation will affect many aspects of our lives.

Second, most of the anticipated urban growth by 2050 will occur in Asia and Africa. Since many countries, particularly in Africa, are urbanizing at lower levels of economic development than most of today’s highly urbanized countries, they will face important challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, especially with regard to housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and health care.

Third, in many discussions of sustainable development, there is a tendency to focus on the growth of very large cities, including megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants. However, as the new revision of the World Urbanization Prospects makes clear, in 2014 roughly half of all urban dwellers live in settlements with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants.

Looking at megacities around the world today, there are twenty-eight worldwide, with sixteen located in Asia, four in Latin America, three each in Africa and Europe and two in Northern America. In 1970, Tokyo, New York-Newark and Osaka were the only megacities. Tokyo still remains the world’s largest city with an agglomeration of 38 million inhabitants, followed by New Delhi with 25 million, Shanghai with 23 million, and Mexico City, Mumbai and São Paulo, each with around 21 million inhabitants.

“We need to raise a generation of global citizens who use science and technology to develop green technologies that will further sustainable urbanization”

UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon

Sustainable urbanization beyond 2015

As the world continues to urbanize, sustainable development challenges will be increasingly concentrated in cities, particularly in lower-middle-income countries, where the pace of urbanization is the fastest. At the same time, cities offer opportunities to expand access to services, such as health care and education, for large numbers of people in an economically efficient manner.

Providing public transportation, as well as housing, electricity, water and sanitation for a densely settled urban population is typically cheaper and less environmentally damaging than providing a similar level of services to a dispersed rural population. Urban dwellers also have access to larger and more diversified labour markets, and enjoy healthier lives overall.

At the recent Integration Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) focusing on sustainable urbanization, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted some of the challenges facing cities today. “Climate change is increasing risks in all cities, where the poorest people are hit the hardest,” he said. But he also pointed to opportunities and how people are at the core of every success story.

“In all our urban policies, we should think of the people they affect,” the Secretary-General said highlighting what is important when considering for example urban transport policies and encouraging businesses activities. “Education is essential. We need to raise a generation of global citizens who use science and technology to develop green technologies that will further sustainable urbanization,” he added.

The 2014 revision of World Urbanization Prospects will provide critical new information on trends in urbanization and city growth, which will inform policymakers throughout the world on the scale of urban challenges in the foreseeable future.

Photo credit: Asst. Prof. Chen Siyuan

For more information:

World Urbanization Prospects