Commission on Sustainable Development to Wind Up after 20 Years, Making Way for New High-level Political Forum

19 September 2013

Commission on Sustainable Development to Wind Up after 20 Years, Making Way for New High-level Political Forum

19 September 2013
Press Release
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Sustainable Development to Wind Up after 20 Years,

Making Way for New High-level Political Forum


The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development will conclude its two decades of efforts to promote sustainability at its twentieth and final session on Friday — coincidentally 20 September — just before countries hold the inaugural session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, on Tuesday, 24 September.

A bold and new idea that emerged from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or “Earth Summit”, held in Rio de Janeiro, the Commission was the first United Nations body established to promote sustainable development.  It broke new ground by including an array of participants from civil society in its deliberations.  It also served as the launching pad for a range of new initiatives, treaties and organizations aimed at addressing particular facets of sustainable development.  But, over time, participants expressed concern that progress on sustainable development was lagging and that the issue needed to be addressed at a higher level.

Bektas Mukhamedzhanov, Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister for Environment Protection and Chairperson of the Commission’s final session, said “the [Commission on Sustainable Development] played a critical role to maintain the momentum on sustainable development.  The [Commission on Sustainable Development] taught us many lessons on how the Forum can deliver on this responsibility.”

In the “The Future We Want”, the outcome document from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), also held in Rio, Member States called for the creation of the High-level Political Forum to ensure that sustainable development topped the agenda at the highest levels of Government and was embraced by all actors.  “ Rio+20 overhauled UN institutions for sustainable development,” said Mr. Mukhamedzhanov.  “We must effectively use the new High-level Political Forum to ensure that sustainable development continues to be implemented and is integrated into the heart of the post-2015 development agenda,” he added.

“The Forum must give strategic yet actionable directions for pursuing sustainable development,” he continued.  “We have learned a lot from the successes and shortcomings of the Commission on Sustainable Development over the years.  Now is the time to put this knowledge to good use,” he said.

“We are entering a new period in history,” declared Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  “There is a realization that sustainable development — the integration of policies and actions that promote economic and social well-being and that also protect the environment — have to have a prominent place on the international agenda at the highest levels,” he noted.  “The Commission on Sustainable Development has served us well, yet we have to recognize that we need to urgently accelerate action.  The High-level Political Forum will help us do just that.”

The Commission has been credited with helping countries share ideas and best practices, and many believe that it provided a platform for inspiring action.  Its work led to the establishment of the United Nations Forum on Forests, which has advanced progress on sustainable forestry through the adoption of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests in 2007.  A recommendation of the Commission led to the process that established the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, as well as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The Commission has also advanced progress in the areas of oceans, water and energy, in addition to promoting sustainable development in small island developing States.

According to a report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the lessons learned from the Commission, its contributions were accompanied by a number of shortcomings, including the failure fully to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.  The Commission, it found, was also weak on its review and impact on the implementation of sustainable development.

The concluding session will feature opening addresses by the Commission Chairperson, the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Wu and a representative from civil society.  The Commission will then discuss lessons learned and consider the “way forward”.

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