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General Assembly: High-level Stocktaking Event on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (11-12 September)

arton4570The 68th President of the General Assembly, Dr. John Ashe, convened a High-level Stocktaking Event on the Post-2015 Development Agenda from 11-12 September that sought to identify possible inputs to the synthesis report of the Secretary-General.

The High-level Stocktaking Event included an opening session and four panel discussions that focused on:

1) Outcomes and key messages of various post-2015 development-related processes that occurred during the 68th session of the General Assembly;

2) Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals;

3) Means of Implementation of the post-2015 development agenda;

4) Monitoring and Review Framework.

The two-day meeting sought to allow participants – including representatives of Member States and Observers, UN agencies, civil society and other stakeholders – to i) reflect on key messages from all the high-level events/thematic debates and interactive dialogues/briefing convened by the PGA; ii) discuss the outcomes of the various Rio+20 processes (Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing; Structured Dialogues on a Technology Facilitation Mechanism; and updates on the High-level Political Forum); iii) highlight other critical UN processes and events that have an impact on the design of the post-2015 development agenda; and iv) highlight critical processes and events external to the UN that have an impact on the design and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. The PGA’s Informal Summary (draft) of the event is availablehere.

Opening session

In hisopening remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon drew attention to three key priorities at hand: 1) making a final push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); 2) agreeing and launching a new development agenda that builds on the MDG legacy; and 3) delivering a meaningful universal climate change agreement. Mr. Ban turned his attention to the synthesis report that the General Assembly has requested him to produce that would bring together the results of the different work streams on the post-2015 development agenda. “As I craft this synthesis report, I will do my utmost to remain faithful to the key elements and the high level of ambition that Member States and all other stakeholders around the world have set,” he stressed, further noting that the stocktaking event was an opportunity for him to hear participants’ views, and to identify what remains to be done.

The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Martin Sajdik, focusedhis remarkson four key aspects: accountability; partnerships; implementation at the national level; and participation of future generations. In terms of accountability, Mr. Sajdik highlighted the importance of measuring and reporting in the new framework as the success of the entire agenda will depend on it. Also of key importance is fostering strong and stable partnerships between the business sector, civil society, academia, philanthropy, regional governments and parliaments. National implementation, he said, should be “front and centre of our minds,” and efforts should be matched by parliaments, national level institutions, including local government. Concluding, Mr. Sajdik called on the support of all participants in making youth the critical partners in the post-2015 development agenda.

Inher remarks, Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), reflected on achievements to date, ranging from the UN system-wide report “Realising the Future We Want for All” to theOutcome Documentof the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Looking ahead and “realizing the post-2015 opportunity,” she noted that agreement on the “what” of the agenda also has to consider the “how” – the means of implementation. She called on participants to reflect on the following questions about the new agenda as it emerges: Can it be implemented? Does it set clear priorities? How can countries with less capacity, more limited resources, and lower data capacity be supported? How to get global citizenry and the private sector behind it?

In herstatement, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, noted that the future post-2015 framework should have a strong grounding in human rights, and important dimensions of gender equality need to be strengthened, including ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights; recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid care work; and ensuring women’s equal rights to productive assets and resources. Capacity must be increased in the collection, use and analysis of gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data. “The new agenda must challenge the status quo and change the structures that perpetuate inequality, poverty, vulnerability and environmental degradation. We must ensure that the systems and root causes that are sustaining gender inequality are addressed adequately, with proportional intensity and determination,” she stressed. “Gender equality is a necessary condition for the success of the SDGs, and for ending poverty, inequality and building sustainable peace. To make the far-reaching changes needed, the post-2015 women’s agenda must be backed by the resources necessary for full implementation,” she concluded, drawing attention to the historic opportunity at hand: “Let us grasp it.”

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), noted that while Rio+20 might not have struck people that it made a difference, now – taking stock – it becomes clear that the Conference indeed yielded some remarkableoutcomes, one of which was the establishment of theUnited Nations Environment Assembly(UNEA) with open membership. He further stressed the need to take up the opportunities provided, instead of struggling with implementation after negotiations. The United Nations, he stressed, must rise to the challenge – or risk being marginalized. Mr. Steiner drew attention to a number of key issues that need urgent attention: addressing what pollution means to people on the ground (both indoors and outdoors), climate change, access to energy, including structural constraints that have been felt over the decades. He called attention to theMontreal Protocolon Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer as an extraordinary success story – which he suggested had delivered five times more than the Kyoto Protocol. Concluding, he stressed the need to link different agendas together and to progress together.

Ahmad Alhendawi, Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth, mentioned that theMy World 2015survey had garnered over 4.5 million votes globally – over 3.4 million of them from young people under the age of 30. Priorities that youth highlighted include education, employment, health, governance and participation, and peace and security. In addition, youth are engaging in the UN system and political process in historic numbers as volunteers, activists and vested stakeholders; and Mr. Alhendawi further noted that 150 Member States have developed national youth policies. Looking forward, he stressed that global momentum is needed on the development agenda; youth will be following the process and are “ready to carry the heavy lifting,” he concluded.

Speaking on behalf of the private sector, Karen Hamilton, Vice President of Unilever, advocated for the SDGs to “shoot high” – adding “Let’s not try to fix 5% of the problem, let’s aim for 100%.” She told the audience that philanthropy has a role to play in the SDGs, and business can also contribute to the SDGs. This could be achieved through transforming markets by supply chain, creating brands that connect with real social needs, and taking care of employees. In terms of implementation, she called for wide stakeholder engagement, including governments, civil society, the private sector and academia.

Speaking on behalf of civil society, Debora Souza Batista,Engajamundo Youth Associationand the Brazilian Youth Coalition,emphasizedthat young people and children in all their diversity are truly committed and need to be part of this process that will lead to a new era of sustainable development in harmony with nature. Although some progress has been made in the SDGs, “this progress is certainly far from what civil society expected and has fought for,” she stressed, adding “We witnessed decision makers in this room sticking to a development paradigm that obsesses over growth and ignores our planetary boundaries. A false paradigm that prevents our human development in a truly holistic way. The destruction of our natural environment, our diversity, and our indigenous cultures in the name of mass consumption, fueled by neoliberal oppression, is not ‘progress’.” Ms. Souza Batista urged participants to do much better in order to deliver on the greatest challenges of our time and to secure a safe world for present and future generations. Concluding, she appealed to the audience, “We stand at a moment of time of exceptional possibilities. A moment when goals long seemed unreachable, and a paradigm dismissed as mere imagination, are within our reach. And a moment, when dangers of unprecedented magnitude threaten the future of humankind. But at the same time we have it in our collective abilities, to solve these threats. We are here to show that young people are not just victims, but part of the solution.”

Panel discussion 1: Outcomes and key messages of various post-2015 development-related processes occurred during the 68th session of the General Assembly

This panel discussion, moderated by Collin Beck, Vice-President of the General Assembly, focused on the outcomes of the PGA’s High-level Events and Thematic Debates, the High-level Political Forum, the first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, the results of the MyWorld Survey, and the Global Youth Call.

In hisintroductory remarks, Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, referred to the wide array of work streams that will lead to the new development agenda, noting that the coming months would not be without problems and challenges: “We have a daunting and difficult, as well as inspiring and seminal task ahead of us,” which includes several months of negotiations. “If we approach them in a cooperative spirit, and with high ambitions and a sense of responsibility we can reach a successful and historically important end result a year from now. In this pursuit we must not fail,” he urged the audience. Looking ahead, attention needs to be focused on the country level: “Only if we have direct, profound and transformative impact in the lives of the people at country level will we have accomplished our mission.” Turning his attention to recentaccountability and monitoring consultationscarried out by the Regional Commissions, he noted that regional voices are essential to the success of the new agenda.

A number of key points emerged from the discussion that followed.

• The Secretary-General’s synthesis report must take into consideration all inputs available, providing a coherent picture that reflects the key priorities of developing countries;

• The new framework must be visionary, transformative, ambitious, achievable and monitorable, while reaching all in need, reducing inequality and providing a decent life for all;

• A human rights approach based on the rule of law, access to justice, gender equality and inclusion of the most vulnerable, as well as the promotion of peaceful societies, are essential elements of the new framework;

• Poverty eradication should remain at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda;

• Mobilization of financing from all sources, domestic and international, was emphasized, along with the importance of North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, particularly in technology transfer;

• The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities must be put into practice;

• The post-2015 framework should have strong accountability measures that include a framework for supervision, compliance and commitment;

• Youth are great assets and should be turned into a demographic dividend.

Panel discussion 2: Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals

This panel discussion, moderated by Simona Mirela Miculescu, Vice-President of the General Assembly, focused on the efforts and outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, and included introductory remarks by the two OWG Co-Chairs, Csaba Körösi (Hungary) and Macharia Kamau (Kenya).

In his remarks, Ambassador Körösi noted that the process of reaching the goals contained in the outcome document had been inclusive and participatory, requiring tremendous efforts by Member States, and had benefited from inputs provided by civil society and other stakeholders. A number of lessons could be drawn from the process, including the importance of evidence-based policy-making and the need not to see the forthcoming negotiations as a “zero-sum game.” Referring to the outcome document, he noted that action would be driven at the national and regional levels, and there is still a long way to go, particularly in terms of implementation. He called on participants to seize the current opportunity to make progress and move forward. Ambassador Kamau drew attention to the level of ambition underpinning the SDG process, noting that much divergence around world views and differing priorities had been merged into an outcome document that all could be proud of. This could put to rest the misconception that intergovernmental process could not achieve an ambitious result, he stressed.

In the discussion that followed, a number of key points emerged.

• Some speakers expressed concern that the package of 17 goals and 169 targets is too unwieldy;

• A number of speakers stated that the Open Working Group’s proposal on SDGs should not be reversed or re-opened, while others suggested that Member States should be open to refining the goals and targets;

• Goals and targets must be coupled with policies, programmes and projects;

• Poverty eradication was seen as a critical priority, along with other areas of focus, including food and nutrition, strengthening inclusive growth, gender equality, access to sustainable energy, climate change, and peaceful and just societies;

• The participation of civil society is essential in reaching the most vulnerable and isolated;

• Some speakers recommended that the Open Working Group’s proposal should be the basis for consideration of the post-2015 development agenda;

• For many, the area of “means of implementation” requires strengthening; the articulation of means of implementation for each goal and the strengthening of the global partnership was pointed to as critical to the success of the post-2015 development agenda.

Panel discussion 3: Means of implementation of the post-2015 development agenda

The third panel discussion centred on means of implementation of the new development agenda, with a particular focus on financing of the post-2015 development agenda and on theStructured Dialoguesthat had been held on a Technology Facilitation Mechanism. The discussion was moderated by Mohamed Khaled Khiari, Vice-President of the General Assembly and included introductory statements from the two Co-Chairs of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing(ICESDF), Pertti Majanen (Finland) and Mansur Muhtar (Nigeria), and the two Co-Facilitators of the GA Structured Dialogues, Paul Seger (Switzerland) and Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil).

During the discussion, it was noted that the main messages of thereport of the ICESDFwould be reflected in the Secretary-General’s synthesis report, and would also inform the post-2015 development negotiations as well as thethird International Conference on Financing for Development(FfD) taking place in Addis Ababa in July 2015. Some participants suggested that additional work was necessary in terms of reaching a fully integrated strategy for financing the SDGs. In this regard, preparations for the FfD Conference in Addis Ababa could make important contributions. Member States were not in agreement as to whether the Committee’s report had found the right balance in terms of the different sources of financing, including on official development assistance (ODA), both as a direct source of financing and as an enabler; private finance and the role it will occupy in the context of the new agenda was a point of debate; and the complementary nature of South-South cooperation in relation to North-South cooperation was emphasized.

Other points that emerged from the discussion included:

• In order for the post-2015 agenda to be achievable, developed countries need to meet their ODA commitments;

• Targets on financial governance should be considered, including on the reform of the international financial institutions;

• Developing countries must have adequate policy space;

• The issue of sovereign debt was referred to by many speakers.

In terms of technology, participants acknowledged that it is a key enabler for sustainable development, and yet, it was noted, the mandate on technology from Rio+20 and subsequent resolutions remains unfulfilled. An enabling environment for technology was seen as important, but private sector-led market approaches alone might not be sufficient to meet the ambition outlined in the SDGs, thus further efforts are needed. The Structured Dialoguesconvened by the PGA confirmed the need to improve the current fragmented system to support technology development, transfer and dissemination.

Member States drew attention to measures that could help address critical gaps: 1. develop an online platform to undertake a comprehensive mapping of existing technology facilitation mechanisms, frameworks and processes for clean and environmentally-sound technologies;

2. improve coordination with the UN system; and

3. undertake an analysis of technology needs and gaps in addressing them.

Going forward in the preparation of the post-2015 agenda, participants underscored the need to ensure coherence between intergovernmental processes concerned with financing and the means of implementation.

Panel discussion 4: Monitoring and Review Framework

The fourth panel discussion, moderated by Román Oyarzun Marchesi, Vice-President of the General Assembly, featured an introductory statement from Amina J. Mohammed, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, and remarks from Assistant Secretary-General at UN DESA Thomas Gass.

Ms. Mohammed emphasized the importance of the accountability framework for the post-2015 development agenda. A key challenge for the agenda is its non-legally binding nature, which will require strategies to ensure maximum commitment and participation. The new accountability mechanism will need to be multi-layered and involve bottom-up participation (from citizens and communities at the local level). This framework, she added, must implement changes at the national, regional and global levels. For this reason, incentives will play a major role in encouraging countries and stakeholders to participate. Ms. Mohammed drew attention to the crucial need for a “data revolution” to build upon the SDGs. Concluding, Ms. Mohammed stated, “We have a unique opportunity for a paradigm shift in international development, to put the world into a more sustainable path.” The SDGs, means of implementation, global partnership and an accountability framework were all pieces of the post-2015 process that, together, would lead to a new transformative agenda.

Emphasizing the importance of an adequate accountability framework as critical towards the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, Mr. Gass drew attention to the regional consultations that have already taken place, noting that they had also called for a bottom-up approach as well as incentives. Mr. Gass further highlighted the essential role of strong country ownership, in which accountability takes place foremost at the national level. Going further, he highlighted the need for mutual accountability between the State and its citizens, as well as the State and its development partners. Countries must work together to combat global challenges, and ensure that the post-2015 development agenda is built on trust and transparency, bolstered by accountability, he concluded.

In the discussion that followed, Member States emphasized that a core element in the new agenda should be a robust review mechanism, essential to achieving the SDGs, as highlighted in the Rio+20 outcome document. Such a mechanism, participants urged, should be an integral part of the design of the post-2015 agenda. The High-level Political Forum would be the main forum for review of progress in implementation that should aim at advancing integration of the three pillars of sustainable development. However, another perspective voiced was the need to hold the discussion on an accountability framework until after the agenda is adopted, an opinion that was also expressed during the PGA’sinteractive dialogueon the subject on 1 May.

Many speakers recommended that means of implementation should be an important focus of accountability, and highlighted the necessity of building on existing structures and review mechanisms. They also underscored the importance of reliable and relevant data collection which will strengthen the review mechanism. A number of delegations also asserted the need for disaggregation of data in order to accurately analyze worldwide trends and track progress.

Additional key messages that had emerged from the regional consultations held thus far include that monitoring and review in the post-2015 setting will need to be comprehensive, multilayered and multi-stakeholder; it should also advance policy coherence and national ownership, where accountability at the country level will be critical.

Closing session

In his concluding remarks, the President of the General Assembly highlighted some of the key messages from the discussions.

These included:

• All speakers recognized the importance of a visionary, transformative, ambitious, achievable, monitorable and accountable post‐2015 development agenda.

• Many delegations noted that the intergovernmental process should be inclusive and transparent in order to deliver an agenda that reaches those in need, including countries in special situations. It must help to reduce inequalities and provide a decent life for all.

• There was agreement that the success of the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs would depend critically on effective means of implementation.

• The role of private finance and its prominence in the context of the new agenda was a point of debate. The need to recognize the separate and complementary nature of South-South cooperation, in relation to North-South cooperation, was also emphasized.

• Many speakers saw technology as a key enabler for sustainable development. The Structured Dialogues on technology had confirmed the need to improve the current fragmented system to support technology development, transfer and dissemination.

• The discussion had reiterated that a renewed global partnership for development should reflect the paradigm of the new agenda, particularly its universal nature, and be supported by a strong accountability framework.

• Such an accountability framework should be inclusive and should engage the wide participation of citizens, at the community, local, national and global levels, in order to ensure broad‐based ownership and accountability. In this regard, monitoring and accountability should be based on sound data and evidence.

See pages 2-3 of the President of the General Assembly’sInformal Summaryfor the full list of key messages.

More information

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This article is also available in French.

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