Delegates in Commission on Sustainable Development Hail Partnerships, but Call for Better Coordination to Harness Their Potential for Creating Change

11 May 2010

Delegates in Commission on Sustainable Development Hail Partnerships, but Call for Better Coordination to Harness Their Potential for Creating Change

11 May 2010
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

wantCommission on Sustainable Development

Eighteenth Session

14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)

Delegates in Commission on Sustainable Development Hail Partnerships, but Call

for Better Coordination to Harness their Potential for Creating Change

Partnerships had become integral to the “development landscape” -- perhaps the most popular medium for increasing involvement by non-traditional actors in decision-making -- but better coordination was needed to harness effectively their potential for creating change, experts told the Commission on Sustainable Development today as it held two multi-stakeholder dialogues aimed at advancing its work and, more broadly, the goals of the landmark Agenda 21.

Opening the first dialogue, titled “Partnerships for sustainable development”, Commission Vice-Chair Ulf Jaeckel ( Germany) said there were a range of multi-stakeholder partnerships that had harnessed skills and resources from across all sectors, with a view to improving the leverage and impact of sustainable development within the broader international development framework.

Local, regional and international in scope, some partnerships focused on advocacy through networking and knowledge generation, others on services delivery, and still others on developing tools and technological solutions, he said.  They all presented an opportunity for Governments, civil society and the private sector to bring their unique skills, resources and commitment to the table in addressing development challenges more effectively.

Following those remarks, panellist Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, recalled that the last decade had seen a surge in partnerships, thanks in part to a $1 billion commitment to the United Nations by media mogul Ted Turner.  About $550 of his $1 billion contribution to the Organization had been channelled to developing countries in the form of partnerships, he said, adding that, in that context, corporate social responsibility and “smart philanthropy” were key to any successful programme.  Aid promoted dependency; investment would lead to independence, he noted.

Highlighting successes in the transport sector, Heather Allen, a founding member of the Sustainable Low Carbon Transport Partnership, said that initiative aimed to develop better policies and catalyse their implementation.  It had registered more than 50 organizations, including United Nations entities, multilateral development banks, technical cooperation agencies, non-governmental organizations, research and other bodies.

She said the United Nations played an important role in that work because it was perceived as a neutral global organization, well-placed as an umbrella for multi-stakeholder engagement.  However, the Organization was hampered by its inability to provide actual assistance to partnerships due to resource constraints and complicated administrative processes, she said.

In the dialogue that followed, speakers from major civil society groups echoed those thoughts as they expressed their opinions about why many partnerships often did not succeed.  Many underscored the primary need for funding, while others focused on the necessity of improving Government coordination and of partnerships driven by demand rather than supply as key to efficiency.  Improved criteria for goals, timetables and provisions for reporting to, and monitoring by, the Commission were also needed.

Focusing on barriers to stakeholder participation, one speaker representing the indigenous peoples major group said her delegation’s attendance, even at the Commission’s annual sessions, was “almost like 0 per cent”, as she urged that more funding be made available for that purpose.  More broadly, she said, the Internet was a mere dream for indigenous peoples, and what little information was available simply was not enough.

In the afternoon, the Commission turned its attention to a panel on advancing the implementation of the Commission’s decisions, with some panellists pointing out the “flaws” that hampered their effectiveness.

Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said that, while the Commission ranked as the highest-level forum on sustainable development, it had been frustrated by weak interaction with the Organization’s operational apparatus.  Its deliberations yielded less concrete direction and more reaffirmation of general principles, he said, wondering the extent to which the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) took the sustainable development agenda, as decided by the Commission’s policy sessions, into account.

Offering one option for improving the situation, he said the Commission could better leverage the convening power of the three Rio conventions.  Their Executive Secretaries –- the custodians of those conventions -- had participated only minimally in the Commission, which had everything to gain from their involvement.

Along similar lines, panellist Thomas Forster, Co-Director of International Partners for Sustainable Agriculture, said there had been a “groundswell” of activity around many Agenda 21 issues at the local, national and global levels.  To achieve better policy coherence, the Commission’s decisions must better link to that groundswell.  He said some actors were more visible than others, and the ability to bring local or informal actors into the formal process of setting national and global policy priorities was important.  There were opportunities to do so, but what was needed was an understanding of how to reach the local level, he said.

Other panellists in the dialogue on partnerships for sustainable development were:  Maleye Diop, Global Task Manager with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Public Private Partnerships for Local Service Delivery for the Millennium Development Goals and Poverty Reduction; Mauricio Fernandes, Member of the Development Committee for the International Year of Planet Earth; Christian Brodhag, Professor at the School of Mines in Saint-Etienne, France, and Chairman of the International Taskforce on Sustainable Tourism; and Ronald Jumeau, Permanent Representative of the Seychelles to the United Nations.

Taking part in the interactive dialogue on that topic were representatives of the European Union, Egypt, France, United States, Senegal, Switzerland, India, Indonesia and Mauritania.

Also participating were representatives of the following civil society major groups:  women; children and youth; local authorities; non-governmental organizations; workers and trade unions; business and industry; farmers; and the scientific and technological community.

Panellists in the dialogue on “Advancing the implementation of Commission decisions” were Felix Dodds, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, and Kaire Mbuende, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations.

Participating in the afternoon dialogue were the representatives of Benin, Nigeria, Zambia, Senegal, United States, India and Brazil.

Representatives of the European Union and the World Health Organization (WHO) also participated in the discussion.

Also making interventions were representatives of the following civil society major groups:  farmers (on behalf of farmers and business and industry); women; indigenous peoples; non-governmental organizations; youth and children; local authorities; workers and trade unions; and the scientific and technological community.

Luis Ferraté Felice, Commission Chair and Minister for the Environment of Guatemala, introduced a draft summary that captured the essence of discussions held over the last week.

Commenting on the draft summary were the representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Argentina, Egypt, Chile, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Cuba, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, United States, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia and Cambodia.

A representative of the European Union also spoke, as did representatives of the following major groups:  indigenous peoples; farmers; workers and trade unions; and children and youth.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 12 May, for its high-level segment on obstacles and constraints to implementation of the agenda pertaining to themes of the current cycle.


Continuing its annual session, the Commission on Sustainable Development met this morning for a multi-stakeholder dialogue on “Partnerships for sustainable development”.  Delegates had before them the report of the Secretary-General on Partnerships for Sustainable Development (document E/CN.17/2010/13).

In the afternoon, the Commission was expected to hold a second multi-stakeholder dialogue under the theme “Advancing the implementation of decisions of the Commission on Sustainable Development”.

Multi-stakeholder Dialogue on Partnerships for Sustainable Development

ULF JAECKEL ( Germany), Vice-Chair of the Commission, opened the dialogue by recalling that the Johannesburg World Summit had given formal recognition to partnerships as an important tool for enhancing the implementation of sustainable development goals.  Partnerships had since become an integral part of the landscape of development in action, and perhaps the most popular medium for increasing the involvement of non-traditional actors in the range of development initiatives advanced and supported by the United Nations system.

He said there were now a range of multi-stakeholder partnerships that had facilitated the harnessing of skills and resources from across all sectors, with a view to improving the leverage and impact of sustainable development within the broader international development framework.  Local, regional and international in scope, some focused on advocacy through networking and knowledge generation; others on services delivery; and still others on developing tools and technological solutions.  They all presented an opportunity for Governments, civil society and the private sector to bring their unique skills, resources and commitment to the table in addressing development challenges more effectively, he said.

TARIQ BANURI, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presented the Secretary-General’s report (document E/CN.17/2010/13), saying that partnerships provided a major framework through which the sustainable development agenda could be pursued.  They involved collaboration across agencies, as well as among civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Saying it was time to think about the next phase of partnerships, he suggested linking the work of the present session to that of the next.  As for how implementation was being undertaken, he recalled that in 2009, for example, the Commission had taken extensive decisions on agriculture, land, desertification and drought, which provided a way to move forward.  Now was the time to think in terms of how to implement those decisions, he added.

He said the “CSD process” took pride in having sustained the broad participation of stakeholders, noting the introduction of expert briefings this year on some of the key themes.  Intellectual activities relating to sustainable development could also help countries take decisions, he said, adding that the “knowledge partnership”, for example, had brought various institutions together.  Participants should think ahead to the Rio + 20 conference, which could itself reflect what had happened in terms of partnerships and provide new impetus to the process.

The Commission then launched the dialogue on partnerships for sustainable development in which the following panellists made presentations:  Maleye Diop, Global Task Manager, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Public Private Partnerships for Local Service Delivery for the Millennium Development Goals and Poverty Reduction; Heather Allen, founding member, Sustainable Low Carbon Transport Partnership and Senior Manager for Sustainable Development, International Association of Public Transport; Mauricio Fernandes, Member, Development Committee of the International Year of Planet Earth; Christian Brodhag, Professor, School of Mines, Saint-Etienne, France, and Chairman, International Taskforce on Sustainable Tourism; Ronald Jumeau, Permanent Representative, Seychelles; and Amir Dossal, Executive Director, United Nations Office for Partnerships.

Mr. DIOP, launched the dialogue by saying that the objective of the Millennium Development Goals Public Private Partnership for Service Delivery was to complement Government efforts and use the comparative advantages of non-State actors to improve local service delivery and achieve the aims of the Millennium Development Goals as well as sustainable development targets in the long term.  The principal modes of delivery included advocacy and outreach, he said, adding that in terms of operational aspects, the Partnership provided project support, resource mobilization and service delivery to meet specific needs.

Also central in the partnership was the issue of capacity-building, including developing skills, institutional means and resource bases for problem-solving, he said.  Capacity assessment was necessary to frame capacity development responses in addressing skill gaps.  The Partnership’s normative aspects included the setting of norms and standards, while its regulatory aspects entailed bridging gaps in governance by encouraging voluntary compliance as well as promoting other instruments of compliance.

The Partnership also entailed exchanges of experiences and mutual learning, including the documentation of lessons learned and South-South exchanges, he said.  Among its partners were Governments, which enabled policies, regulation and oversight; and businesses, which were capable providers and financiers.  The involvement of community and Government participants was critically important, he said, adding that the roles of partners were defined by the parts that Governments wished them to play.  The Partnership represented the full range of stakeholders, he said.

Ms. ALLEN said the Sustainable Low Carbon Transport Partnership engaged in activities, aimed at enhancing knowledge about sustainable low carbon transport, helping to develop better policies and catalyse their implementation.  More than 50 organizations had signed up, including United Nations entities, multilateral development banks, technical cooperation agencies, non-governmental organizations, research and other bodies.

Stressing that effective climate action would be incomplete without addressing the overall performance of the transport sector, she said climate action in the transport sector should recognize co-benefits and more effective carbon finance mechanisms, and associated procedures should catalyse sustainable transport policies, programmes and projects.  Moreover, it was quite easy to determine the direct benefits of transport -- the connectivity between two places -- but when one drilled down to the way in which people lived today and their lifestyle choices, the impact of urban transport was really becoming quite big.

With members from Latin America, India, Europe, the United States and China, the Partnership’s council tried to take geographical balance into account, she said, adding that it also tried to have a gender balance, with two women in the group.  Recognizing the complexity of transport, the Partnership looked mainly at passenger- and land-based transfers.  It was also a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative, and its guiding principles were non-legal and non-binding.  It had a decentralized structure and its members were responsible for implementing its activities.

She said the Partnership’s geographical focus was developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, while the thematic focus was land transport -- passengers and freight.  Its objectives included contributing to sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals, especially by providing lower-income groups with access to goods and services.  Examples of its activities included data surveys in Latin America and Asia, strengthening institutional structures, and supporting the collection analysis and dissemination of transport data.

The United Nations played an important role in the Partnership, because it was perceived as a neutral global organization well-placed to serve as an umbrella for multi-stakeholder partnerships, she continued.  However, the Organization was hampered by its inability to provide actual assistance to partnerships due to resource constraints and complicated administrative processes.  Sustainable development was all about the partnership that humans had with each other, she said in conclusion.  “We’re in fact all the same; we’re only people.”

Mr. FERNANDES, recalling that 2008 had been declared the International Year of Planet Earth, said his organization had established committees in 80 countries, with outreach programmes covering 5.5 million people.  The earth was unique in the solar system and the universe.  Humans increasingly moved materials around the earth’s surface, depleting food and water resources, producing greenhouse gases and disturbing the earth’s natural equilibrium, he said, stressing that solutions based on innovation, science and technology must be found.

He said that if resources were applied more effectively, they would raise living standards, among other things.  That could only be realized by finding smart solutions.  “We need to rethink our way of life,” he said, pointing out that, since the global population was estimated to grow 30 per cent by 2050, a more balanced view of the planet must be developed.  Solutions must work for the sustainable development of societies and involve all groups, he said, adding that some 500,000 professionals were ready to share their expertise and implement the “planet earth mission”, notably through television, cultural and artistic expression, among other media.

Noting that international partners provided his organization’s financial backbone, he said it was impossible for programmes to reach countries that lacked well-established Government support, though the private sector supported staff and budget resources, through international partnerships.  “I don’t see any other way for the sustainable development process” without the involvement of the private sector, he said, adding that such arrangements were no longer an option, but a necessity.

Mr. DOSSAL pointed out that the Commission’s work was entirely about partnerships, built on a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform.  The last decade in particular had seen a surge in partnerships.  In 1997 then Secretary-General Kofi Annan had been approached by media businessman Ted Turner, who wished to commit $1 billion to the United Nations.  A foundation and office of partnerships had been created, a commitment that had seen $550 million flow to the developing world in the form of partnerships.  The Commission was the optimal platform for delivering those funds.  “It is the kind of thing we want to encourage,” he said, adding that partnerships provided a way towards speedier attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

Describing changes over the last 10 years, he recalled that when Mr. Turner had arrived on the scene, there had been apprehension about what he wanted.  Today, “we want more Ted Turners in the development field”, he said, noting that in the intervening period the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had been created and civil society’s role had grown.  In that context, he highlighted the importance of corporate social responsibility and “smart philanthropy”, both of which were of key importance to the success of any programme.

Aid promoted dependency; investment would lead to independence –- that was the goal, he said, reinforcing the point by saying that 90 per cent of the 400 projects under his the Office for Partnerships had been undertaken with at least two other sectors.  Children’s health, for example, often involved a UNICEF “save the children element”, as well as a Government and, sometimes, the private sector.  In 2009, the Office for Partnerships had received 1,400 inquiries about its involvement and that number was expected to exceed 2,000 this year.

He described as a successful partnership the multi-million dollar “Haiti Hopes” project involving Coca-Cola, TechnoServe and the Haitian Government.  It had been launched to train 25,000 mango farmers in better crop production, making mango juice and exporting various products abroad.  Such initiatives would not always succeed, he cautioned.  “There is never a silver bullet formula.”  However, an understanding of culture -- of a people and a company –- was vital.  The time for achieving the Millennium Goals was now, and building coalitions and networks offered the best hope for that, he said, adding that his Office was creating a database of successful partnerships so that experiences could be shared.

Mr. BRODHAG said there was a multilevel approach to sustainable consumption and production, which included a ground floor allowing for informal exchanges among individuals, families and neighbours; a second floor, which was the market economy; and a third floor, which was the global economy.  With the processes at work on those levels differing from floor to floor, the issue was one of coherence among the different levels, and partnerships could be a way to help ensure it.

Using tourism as an example, he emphasized that the exploitation of resources must guarantee the survival and authenticity of local cultures.  Sustainability was applicable to all forms of tourism in all types of destinations.  It required the establishment of a suitable balance between the environmental, social and economic dimensions to guarantee the long-term sustainability of tourism development.  In order to manage those aspects of tourism, it was necessary to have a coherent national policy and a national sustainable-development strategy, he said.

He said the Partnership on Sustainable Tourism had emanated from a working group on the sustainable development of tourism.  It had been established under the Marrakech Process, which had a total of seven working groups.  The working group on the sustainable development of tourism involved 18 different countries, with the United Nations system deeply involved and a key to its success.  The partnership aimed to transform tourism worldwide by following certain thematic action lines, covering policy frameworks, climate change, poverty, heritage, and the private sector, among others.

It was necessary to make room for global partnerships as opposed to sector-based partnerships that were more limited in scope, he said.  Global partnerships should be implemented across the sustainable consumption and production domain, and be geographically wide-ranging.  They should also be the subject of international discussion, whereby there should be a balance of membership and a balance between countries.  All issues should be covered in the area of tourism, creating synergy, he said, adding that such partnerships could be integrated into a more global vision of sustainable development.

Mr. JUMEAU said the Global Island Partnership sought to integrate the development agenda into the conservation agenda, and vice versa, especially by linking the conservation of island biodiversity with sustainable livelihoods on islands through the sustainable use of natural resources.  The Partnership itself was quite young, having arisen out of the January 2005 Mauritius meeting in order to create bridges between islands regardless of their size or political status.  As such, the Partnership had been born of the realization that, while many of the threats confronting islands were global in nature and origin, unfortunately it had fallen to the islands to develop solutions to their own problems.  The islands had realized that they could not do it on their own, and thought they should call for a partnership not only of island States, but of all countries that had islands.

The Partnership was thus a tangible outcome of the Mauritius meeting, just like the Mauritius Strategy, he said.  Another link to the Strategy was that the Partnership was also a mechanism for implementing the island biodiversity programme of work incorporated into the Mauritius Strategy.  The link between the conservation of island biodiversity and the sustainable development of islands could be shown in that millions of islanders derived their livelihoods from the islands around them.  It was estimated that 40 per cent of the world economy was based on biodiversity, a figure that was arguably much higher in small island developing States.  If the biodiversity of those States was destroyed, their economies would be destroyed as well, he said.

The Global Island Partnership was not just a public-private partnership, but a public, private and civil society partnership, a South-South partnership, and a North-South one, he said.  It was also a gathering of partners with a common interest under one umbrella.  It was an open and voluntary partnership without a formal structure, and employed only one staff member, a coordinator.  Its steering committee met through teleconferences, and since its inception in 2005, it had brought together more than 60 Governments and raised more than $100 million for island conservation and sustainable livelihoods.  When people were focused on a common agenda and aim, and came to it not necessarily with a political agenda, they were able to come together and set up projects which helped sustainable livelihoods and small islands, he said.

Representatives of major groups and Governments were then invited to report on their activities relating to the thematic cluster under review.  Speakers representing major civil society groups highlighted success stories and voiced concerns about why many partnerships often did not succeed, highlighting barriers to participation by some stakeholders, and calling for more coordination at the Government level in order to improve outcomes.

A representative of the women’s major group underscored the need to improve their participation in decisions affecting them, rather than having them be seen by decision-makers as merely a “target group” for attention.  She also noted that most attention seemed to be directed towards public-private partnerships, which were supply-driven rather than demand-driven.  The biggest hurdle to overcome was the lack of funding for capacity-building, she said.  “We need not just pay lip service to gender mainstreaming.  We need political will and resources to allow women to participate.”

A delegate representing indigenous peoples emphasized the importance of reaching out to indigenous communities, noting that their participation thus far in the Commission’s work was “almost like 0 per cent”.  Six people at most attended annual sessions, she said, calling for more funding to enable greater participation.  More broadly, Internet was a dream for most indigenous people, and what little information they received was not enough.  Positive partnership must be collective and participatory otherwise the Millennium Goals could not be reached.

Speakers for other major groups called attention to the need for improved partnership criteria for reporting on and monitoring goals, timetables and provisions by the Commission, noting that some risked being used to leverage individual interests, rather than providing benefits for the greater good.  To change that, a speaker for non-governmental organizations suggested that the Commission’s biennial report should demonstrate how partnerships were in compliance with “all win” strategies.  They should also show how they would preserve and replenish the “global commons”.  Partnerships should be required to hold national and regional sessions throughout the year, and the Commission’s report should take the resulting synergies into account.

A representative of business and industry said successful partnerships involved appropriate Government support and clear objectives in areas of shared interest.  In that connection, she cited a joint initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dow Chemical and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection as a model for others to follow.

For their part, Government representatives focused on the importance of partnerships for achieving common development objectives.  Many underscored the need to strike a balance between consumption and production patterns, and expressed support for projects under the Marrakech Process, with speakers noting the links between chemicals and waste management policies, for example.  They highlighted the need to examine the synergies between various global processes, particularly those related to chemicals, and underscored the importance of the life-cycle approach.

Highlighting a success story, the representative of the United States said the Government’s “Methane to Markets” initiative, launched in 2004, promoted methane recovery and use in sustainable development, in part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The initiative had grown from 14 to 33 partner Governments and supported 170 projects around the world trying to reduce methane.  The initiative’s benefits included better water quality and reduced ground-level ozone.

The representative of Senegal said partnerships provided a framework for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and underpinned new relationships established among African countries through structural projects in agriculture, energy, transport and mining, among other sectors.

A representative of the scientific and technological community said that research partnerships and information exchanges on chemical risk and waste management were vital for overcoming major obstacles to sustainable development.  A 10-year programme on sustainable consumption and production would have to be built on a wide range of partnerships, and must include the involvement of the scientific and technological community.

A representative of farmers recommended that, in the area of sustainable consumption and production, there should be access to improved tools; the building of local storage to help reduce post-harvest crop losses; improved supply-chain efficiency and delivery systems; an increased level of education on agricultural waste; and the building of storage facilities.  In the area of chemical management, she stressed the need to improve and promote access to best practices, better access to appropriately packaged inputs and the supply-chain management of chemicals.  In the area of transport, there should be investment in building up infrastructure and transportation facilities in developing regions.

The representative of Indonesia called for a proper framework for public-private partnerships, including clear criteria and a screening process, while the representative of Mauritania said it was necessary to encourage other programmes that seemed neglected.  States needed to revisit programmes aimed at promoting education and domestic energy, so that they would not be marginalized, she stressed.

Taking the floor for a second time, a representative of non-governmental organizations said incredible steps had been made, but there was room for further forward movement.  It was necessary to broaden the common vision of what was wanted in order to encompass everyone.  Values were also necessary at every stage.  Everyone present had their own responsibility towards a group or country; at the same time, they had much expertise as people in addition to the ability to share more directly.

Mr. DIOP, responding, emphasized that partnerships must be seen from the perspective of policy and the capacity of groups to play a positive role, adding that they should not be viewed as two sides talking, but as being very broad and inclusive.  Whatever solutions emerged, it was necessary to include all partners with a particular interest in that development.

Ms. ALLEN said that a missing link was the rather weak feedback loop in terms of the information being brought back to Governments.  It was necessary to bring such experiences back to policy development.  There was also a lack of awareness of about the issues.

Mr. FERNANDES said partnerships were clearly making an important contribution to the mobilization of new actors, expressing hope that his intervention had offered an opportunity to examine the structure and characteristics of his partnership.

Mr. BRODHAG said it was necessary to ensure that partnerships’ objectives were coherent with sustainable development objectives in general, and with the objectives of the Commission as well.  There was also a need to be careful about certain ambiguities, and to avoid confusion over the different types of partnerships.  The involvement of all major groups would be a good guarantee that a partnership would be working in favour of sustainable development, he said.

Mr. JUMEAU said that if everyone was focused on clear, common and shared goals and objectives, and knew exactly what they wanted –- as opposed to working on a Government or donor agenda -- they would be able to achieve whatever they wanted.

Mr. JAECKEL, Vice-Chair, summarizing the discussion, said in closing remarks that he had sensed general support for the instrument of partnerships.  However, he had also heard some scepticism about the potential of partnerships to replace Government actions.  He said he had also heard that partnerships were in particular successful if they are global in scale, with a crucial role for the United Nations.  In addition, the visibility of partnerships was often not good enough, and the lack of funding was a crucial problem, which had to be addressed as well.

He said there had also been much mention of the need to bring the work from the global to the national and local levels.  Partnerships needed clear targets and objectives, and should not look only at what donors were saying.  They should reach common ground on targets and objectives.  He said another theme that had emerged was that partnerships should respect general principles, such as those of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Dialogue on Advancing Implementation Commission Decisions

TANIA RAGUŽ ( Croatia), Commission Vice-Chair, said the slow rate of implementation of the sustainable development agenda, including the Commission’s decisions, remained a source of concern at all levels.  Many stakeholders had expressed the view that the Commission must become more forward-looking and action-oriented.  In part, that meant taking a new attitude in which the Commission’s decisions were implemented in their true spirit by all stakeholders.  For example, Governments in developing countries continued to struggle with access to sufficient resources and acquiring the capacities and technologies to implement decisions, leading to slow progress in meeting internationally agreed goals.

The dialogue was an effort to reverse that trend, she said, noting that the scope of the meeting was broad and related to all of the Commission’s themes.  In order to have a useful dialogue, she recommended that participants focus on how to raise awareness about innovative means, methods, networks and tools for speeding implementation, diffusing and replicating best practices, and sharing knowledge and experiences among policymakers, particularly in developing countries.  She asked members, given their experiences to date as implementation actors, what innovative means they would propose to catalyse a new “groundswell” of activity in implementation of Commission decisions relating to sustainable development.  She also asked them to consider how to better engage United Nations entities and strengthen the means of implementation that had, in many ways, failed to yield the results hoped for at Rio and Johannesburg.

Delegates then began the multi-stakeholder dialogue on advancing the implementation of Commission decisions, in which the following panellists made presentations:  Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; Thomas Forster, Co-Director of International Partners for Sustainable Agriculture; Felix Dodds, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future; and Kaire Mbuende, Permanent Representative of Namibia.

Mr. GNACADJA said the Commission was the highest-level forum for sustainable development, but it had been frustrated by various flaws, notably in decision-making and implementation.  At its inception as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council almost two decades ago, the Commission had been responsible for reviewing progress on Agenda 21.  Ten years later, it had been mandated to follow up on the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation at the local, regional and global levels.

However, flaws had hampered the effectiveness of its decisions, he said, pointing to weak interaction between the Commission and the operational United Nations apparatus, he said.  Its deliberations yielded less concrete direction and more reaffirmation of general principles, while United Nations entities had their own work programmes.  Every effort should be made to ensure that the Commission’s decisions were reflected in the work of United Nations bodies, he stressed.

Pointing out that participants tended to be Government representatives from the environmental sector, he said ministers in charge of finance and planning should also attend the Commission’s meetings, otherwise it would be difficult to mainstream its ideas into national policies.  To what extent did the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) take into account the sustainable development agenda, as decided by Commission policy sessions? he asked, underscoring the importance of finding a way to ensure that its decisions were taken into account.

He underlined the need for improved coherence between the “CSD process” and the three Rio conventions, which should be considered the legally binding cornerstone of that process.  The CSD process had been slow to operate a paradigm shift in convening the powers of the Rio conventions in the international arena, he said, citing the role of bureaucratic hurdles in that regard.  Executive Secretaries, custodians of the conventions, had participated only minimally in CSD processes, yet they had everything to gain from being involved, he said.

In closing, he said the eighth conference of parties meeting, held in Madrid in 2007, had adopted a blueprint for advancing the sustainable development agenda, which involved a 10-year strategy to improve the living conditions of affected populations; improve the condition of affected ecosystems; and generate global benefits while mobilizing resources through partnerships.  “There is no way to win” when attention was paid to only one of the three pillars of the sustainable development agenda, he said.

Mr. FORSTER said there was a groundswell of activity around many issues contained in Agenda 21 at the local, national and global levels.  To achieve policy coherence at those levels a paradigm shift was needed, and to do that, the Commission’s decisions must better link with the groundswell.  The challenge of effective partnerships and implementation were closely related, and that should be part of new thinking on implementation in coming years.

Noting that some actors were more visible than others, he said there were community-based organizations at the local level, Government ministries at the national level, and international civil society at the global level.  The ability to bring local or informal actors into the formal process of national and global policy priorities was important, and there were opportunities to engage them, he said.  What was needed was an understanding of how to reach the local level.

There was complexity in the analysis and action needed to move from current to best practices in the sustainable development field, he said, citing a complex sustainable pastoral livestock management programme in Kenya.  In the area of food and agriculture, it was necessary to change food consumption and production patterns in order to “get out ahead” of intergovernmental decision-making and eventually link with it.

He said partnerships could be better developed by looking at invisible actors and taking advantage of preparatory planning for the next Rio conference so as to incorporate them into the agenda.  For resource-strapped institutions, there were ways to bring in research institutions to assist.  The value chain for goods and services must also serve as focal points for implementation.  “We have to target those capable of bringing the public along,” he said.  Along the road to coherent implementation, there must be improved support for decisions and accountability measures; restored collaborative dialogue processes within the Commission; a plan for a collaborative implementation agenda; and a linking of CSD implementation to partnerships for sustainable development.

Mr. DODDS said it was time to be honest “about where we are”, pointing out that the Commission had declined in importance compared with the period 1993-2001.  The failure of the energy cycle in 2007 had had deep repercussions, but some of the problems had previously been raised by stakeholders and some Governments.  In the areas of national preparations for the Commission’s session prior to 2003, a reasonable number of countries had worked with stakeholders through national round tables, adding substance to Government reports to the Commission.  Most countries had now reverted to pre-Rio forms of “consultation” -- inviting stakeholders to a meeting or two prior to the Commission’ session and informing them of the Government’s position and perhaps seeking to organize a joint side event or two.  Some Governments did not even do that now, and that was not “consultation”, he said.

The first global network on sustainable development for regional Government had been created in Johannesburg, he said.  Known as NRG4SD, it had been trying to engage in building awareness and speeding up implementation, but as yet, it had no role in the Commission since it was not one of the major groups. In addition, parliamentarians, who had been an active presence at Rio in 1992, had somehow been lost over the last 18 years as a force to support implementation.

However, parliaments played a critical role in helping Governments implement the agenda agreed at the Commission, through that link had been dropped over the years, he said.  There were, therefore, problems in raising awareness, speeding up implementation, promoting best practices, and sharing knowledge and experience among policymakers at all levels.  Perhaps what was needed was a re-packaging of Commission decisions into “advice notes” for decision-makers at different levels and for all relevant stakeholders.

He said that, in order to help coordination within the United Nations system, the Inter Agency Committee on Sustainable Development had been set up in 1993.  It had done excellent work until 1998, when it had been closed down, he said, suggesting that perhaps it should be re-established.  The High Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development, which advised the Commission and the Secretary-General, had also been closed down as part of the 1998 United Nations reforms, he said.  Perhaps the time had come to re-evaluate that, and consider the creation of a new set of champions for sustainable development.  There was no overarching interagency committee on sustainable development that could feed into the Secretary-General’s Chief Executive Board, he said, adding that it was equally important that adequate funding be the “glue” in the process.

Mr. MBUENDE asked whether a global crisis was necessary in order to open up the path for sustainable development.  There was a great understanding of sustainable development issues, which had become a way of thinking.  The United Nations had a greater leadership role to play, and not only in terms of the relationship between its different agencies.  Only when there was a holistic approach could the challenges be effectively addressed, he said.

There were many players in the sustainable development field who were dealing with the issues, he said.  It was necessary to discuss how their activities could be tracked, and to demand accountability, so their work would have an impact on the development process.  The United Nations was well-positioned to do that.  There were common vulnerabilities today, but with the issues of the environment and climate change, everyone seemed to face similar challenges, and because they did, solutions developed in one country could actually be transferred to another, he said, adding that the United Nations could facilitate that process.

It was also necessary to address the question of institutional capacity because many institutions were doing good work on sustainable development, he said.  But how did one bring those activities into the mainstream of society, or empower those institutions and communities engaged in sustainable development to be more effective?  The question of resources was also critical, he said, emphasizing the need to look not only at the question of increasing the quantity of resources, but also the gap between pledges and commitments, and disbursements.  There was a vast gap that needed to be addressed, he said.

Calling for a paradigm shift, he said people looked to the developed countries for solutions when, in fact, dynamic developments were occurring in the developing countries.  India, China and Brazil were all very interested in addressing some of the sustainable development issues, he said, asking how the United Nations would facilitate South-South cooperation to get those experiences into other countries.

He cited capacity-building and the transfer of technology as other issues of key importance to the means of implementation.  The shared experiences of countries made technology and knowledge readily available, and all that was needed was a means to share it.  Development was ultimately a process with many players, he stressed, adding that the world’s ability to mobilize the resources to address serious crises gave hope and faith that sustainable development could be addressed.  However, it was necessary to move away from responding to crises, he said, adding that it was important to prevent, rather than cure.

In the ensuing discussion, several speakers cited the lack of political will, clear leadership, funding, information sharing and sense of urgency as major challenges to the complete and effective implementation of sustainable development strategies, noting that sustainable development remained a low priority for many stakeholders, including national Governments and civil society organizations.  Speakers strongly underlined the need for broad consensus on implementation.

Enhanced international cooperation and coordination were critical in addressing those challenges, many speakers said, emphasizing the need to engage civil society in driving sustainable development.  One speaker added that in order to promote community-led implementation involving children and indigenous peoples, a review of the quality of the Commission’s decisions was needed as they did not sufficiently inspire members of civil society to take actions to push for governmental action on sustainable development.

Many speakers also highlighted the importance of resource mobilization, with one noting that strong resource management should be the basis of efforts to develop green, sustainable, equitable and fair economies.  It was agreed that more must be done to achieve implementation, including the development of timelines to ensure real action.  Ahead of the Commission’s next session, one speaker stressed, it would be important to prepare for “ambitious but realistic results”.

Lastly, several speakers cited the eradication of poverty and hunger, in line with the Millennium Development Goals, as central priorities, stressing that further discussion as well as action were required to achieve the targets.

Mr. DODDS, responding to a question about mainstreaming sustainable development, said the issue needed to be upgraded as a priority.  One deterrent to the Commission’s ability to address emerging crises was an inflexibility that did not allow the addition of relevant issues to the agenda.  As for the length of the policy cycles, he said 10 years was far too long, adding that a review of the impact of any changes should happen much sooner.

Mr. GNACADJA added that there was a strong need for more effective cooperation to ensure the consistency and enhanced relevance of the Commission’s work.

Mr. MBUENDE noted that both the Commission and the Rio conventions should be seen as catalysts for mainstreaming sustainable development, adding that it was important to consider how the Commission’s processes related to the current state of affairs.  Additionally, he agreed with one speaker on the importance of balance between the three pillars of sustainable development since an emphasis on one pillar often came at the expense of the others.

Mr. FORSTER added that there should be more structure and commitment behind the Commission’s ability to address emerging crises.  In order to improve its flexibility, the Commission must work to capture urgency, he said, highlighting the need for a better understanding of sustainable development “hot zones” of opportunity and danger.

TANIA RAGUŽ ( Croatia), Commission Vice-Chair, said in closing remarks that participants had witnessed a very fruitful and wide-ranging discussion during the afternoon dialogue.  There were a number of ideas on how to better engage United Nations entities, and, as highlighted by several speakers, it was necessary to consider establishing a high-level group to help guide the Commission in the future.  Delegates had also mentioned the importance of securing adequate financial resources for sustainable development.  Moreover, the Commission’s agenda must become more relevant to finance and development ministers to ensure its decisions were adequately funded.

She said the Commission might consider establishing national councils to build the necessary momentum for sustainable development.  Apart from policy coherence, it was also necessary to ensure implementation coherence at the local level.  Members had also highlighted the need to improve accountability measures for all actors, including Governments and civil society.  Speakers had also highlighted the important role of public-private partnerships in implementing sustainable development.

LUIS FERRATÉ FELICE, Commission Chairman and Minister for the Environment of Guatemala, said at the conclusion of the dialogue that the session was a “review session” and not a “negotiating session”.  The Chairman’s draft summary, circulated yesterday, was divided into three sections:  the opening session; regional debates; and dialogues on thematic issues.  Focusing on discussions that had taken took place from 3-7 May, he said an average of 32 representatives had taken the floor during that period, which had seen a total of about 160 countries and major groups participating.  That showed the Commission’s unwavering commitment to achieving sustainable development and the importance it placed on the five themes of the present cycle.

There had been five sessions dedicated to the regions, he continued.  They highlighted the main challenges and obstacles faced by regions and countries in implementing the five themes, including the strengths and weaknesses of current development models.  The inter-regional session was an innovation introduced during the current eighteenth session, which provided an opportunity to share best practices on sustainable development, and how some of them could be applied at all levels.

Delegations had also raised important questions during the experts’ presentations on the five themes, he said.  The Chairman’s draft summary divided the discussions into four sections -- introduction, challenges and constraints, best practices adopted and lessons learned, and the way forward.  The draft did not include a section on the special vulnerabilities of small island developing States, he noted, saying that since “SIDS Day” had been celebrated on 10 May, a decision had been made to consolidate all relevant discussions in a specific section of the second part of the summary.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.