The UN General Assembly's (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) held its discussion of sustainable development (agenda item 20) and several sub-items, including on climate change, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and small island developing States (SIDS).
UN Assistant Secretary-General, Lenni Montiel, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), who introduced several reports of the UN Secretary-General, said sustainable development is not confined to one item on the Committee's agenda; instead, the Committee should consider all issues before it through the lens of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
20 October 2015: The UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) held its discussion of sustainable development (agenda item 20) and several sub-items, including on climate change, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and small island developing States (SIDS). UN Assistant Secretary-General, Lenni Montiel, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), who introduced several reports of the UN Secretary-General, said sustainable development is not confined to one item on the Committee’s agenda; instead, the Committee should consider all issues before it through the lens of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The debate took place the 19-20 October 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York, US.
Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for DRR, introduced via videolink the Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) (A/70/282), noting that economic losses from disasters have reached an average of US$250-300 billion per year. Wahlström reported that the open-ended intergovernmental expert working group on terminology and indicators related to DRR recently met in Geneva, Switzerland and their work will continue until the end of 2016. The group is expected to finalize a set of indicators to measure progress achieved in implementing the Sendai Framework, and an intergovernmentally agreed terminology.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), via videolink, informed the Committee on the state of the negotiations leading to the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris in November-December 2015, noting increasing “political difficulties,” but deep commitment from countries to reach an outcome. Referring to the Bonn Climate Change Conference currently underway, she said Member States are discussing a nine-page negotiating text and a 12-page decision for COP 21. She also informed that: the UNFCCC Secretariat has received 153 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) so far, representing 86% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and 17 countries received support from the Green Climate Fund.
UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft described the 2030 Agenda as a guide for global sustainable development efforts, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “as the backbone and supported by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda” (AAAA). He said the Committee should consider: how macroeconomic policies can ensure “no one is left behind”; how to ensure synergies among sustainable developments’ three pillars and manage their trade-offs; and how to address the agenda’s universality. Greater clarity is needed, he said, on how exactly the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) will conduct its work, and noted two other bodies that will be part of follow-up and review: the Financing for Development (FfD) Forum and the multi-stakeholder forum for science, technology and innovation (STI). Lykketoft urged all States to deliver on the commitment to adopt a universal and meaningful climate change agreement at COP 21.
Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), introduced the Note by the UN Secretary-General transmitting the report submitted by the UNCCD Secretariat (A/70/230). Speaking via videolink from the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD in Ankara, Turkey, Barbut said COP 12 is paying a particular attention to SDG target 15.3 on achieving a “land degradation-neutral world.” The COP has to decide, she said, whether this objective will become the quantitative target of the UNCCD. She said meeting this target could lead to restoring 200 million hectares of land by 2030, and feeding the 9.7 billion people that the world will have in 2050, while also serving as a “fast track” to achieving many other targets.
Minoru Takada, Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, introduced the report on the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) 2014-2024 (A/70/422), and outlined initiatives put forward by the UN Secretary-General including the SE4All Advisory Board, co-chaired by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank Group. He said the SE4All initiative’s accountability arrangements will continue to be strengthened, and that the SE4All Global Tracking Framework provides a useful framework to take stock of progress toward SE4All’s objectives.
Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), highlighted outcomes from the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP 12), including the Gangwon Declaration on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, the Pyeongchang roadmap for the enhanced implementation of the Strategic Plan and achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and decisions on integrating biodiversity into the 2030 Agenda, poverty eradication and sustainable development.
During the debate that followed, Second Committee delegations unanimously called for a successful climate change agreement during COP 21 in Paris, with some proposing that the agreement: be legally binding; be ambitious, comprehensive and robust; address the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR); consider adaptation funding and technology in a balanced manner; include a loss and damage mechanism; and ensure equity and respective capabilities. Tuvalu stressed that “if we don’t create climate change as a universal agenda, many will lose their human rights and will be left behind under the sea level.”
Many delegations said the needs of countries in special situations should be given special attention in the Committee’s work. The EU expressed commitment to support SIDS and the implementation of SAMOA Pathway, adding that it looks forward to a platform for “partnerships among SIDS, with SIDS, and for SIDS.” Tonga, for the Pacific SIDS (P-SIDS), also said he looks forward to the launch of the SIDS Partnership Framework to follow up on partnerships initiated at Samoa and aid in creating new ones for meeting SIDS’ sustainable development needs. He said the framework should be comprised of an active committee of SIDS and their partners, as well as a multi-stakeholder partnership platform to follow up on the partnerships, highlight success stories and discuss lessons learned. He also stressed the need to implement the Samoa Pathway agreements on: adequate time devoted by the HLPF to SIDS’ sustainable development; and the report of the UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) on UN system support to SIDS to ensure effective delivery of services.
South Africa for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), Maldives for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and Barbados for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) stressed the need to ensure strong linkages between the implementation processes of the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, while many delegations, including Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Serbia voiced strong support for SIDS.
Zambia for the Landlocked Developed Countries (LLDCs) and several countries including Botswana and Kenya underscored the needs of the LLDCs and called for the synchronized implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA) for LLDCs. Belarus, Nicaragua and several other countries stressed the need to consider, also, the special needs of Middle Income Countries (MICs).
Regarding the financial means of implementation (MOI) for the 2030 Agenda, G-77/ China, Ecuador for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and several developing countries such as Brazil, China, Egypt and Nepal underlined that CBDR should be the foundation of global development efforts. G-77/ China called for the provision of adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources, with many developing countries calling for developed countries to fulfill their official development assistance (ODA) commitments. Canada, also for Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), said the AAAA is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda, and “critical for the realization of the SDGs and targets,” providing a framework through which trillions of dollars can be mobilized. Many developing countries including the LLDCs, Armenia and Gabon stressed the need for infrastructure investment, and welcomed the establishment of the global infrastructure forum stipulated by the AAAA. G-77/-China, the LLDCs, Sri Lanka, Tuvalu and several other countries called for capacity building and technology transfer for developing countries, with CELAC, Belarus and Brazil welcoming the creation of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) to support SDG implementation.
Many developing countries called for the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), with CELAC requesting guaranteeing its direct access for the world’s most vulnerable countries. The African Group called on developed countries to fulfill their commitment of mobilizing US$100 billion per year for the GCF by 2020.
On non-financial MOI, several delegations including Armenia, Ethiopia and Kyrgyzstan highlighted the need to create an enabling environment for effective domestic resources mobilization, with CANZ, the EU, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland stressing the importance of good governance and the rule of law in that regard. Many countries including Argentina, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Peru underscored gender equality and women’s empowerment as essential MOI, with G-77/ China, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Gabon, Iran, Israel, the Philippines and Qatar adding education as key enabler for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
On information and communication technologies (ICTs), CANZ called for an “agile UN,” capable of harnessing innovation and technological progress for sustainable development, complemented by technological advances in the use of satellite imagery and ICT capacity, to “tell us whether or not we are on track,” while Brazil also highlighted the need for a UN “fit for purpose” to help deliver the 2030 Agenda, including through a strengthened science interface. Israel announced that it will submit a resolution on agricultural technology for development.
The importance of DRR enjoyed general consensus, as many countries stressed the need to build resilience and strengthen coping capacities for DRR. Several delegations including the EU, CARICOM, Bangladesh for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique and the Philippines called for supporting the implementation of the Sendai Framework. The African Group underscored the need for the international community to support the development of early warning systems, and the LLDCs said international financial institutions should address early warning and provide protection from macroeconomic shocks. Ukraine welcomed the switch from “disaster management” to “disaster risk management” in the Secretary-General’s report. Japan announced that it will introduce a resolution to establish World Tsunami Day, which received support including from Monaco and Rwanda.
On the implementation process, the African Group called for a “seamless transition” between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the SDGs, while AOSIS stressed the need to accelerate progress on unfinished MDGs, including the still-unachieved goal of environmental sustainability. Many countries underlined the need for an integrative approach to implementing the 2030 Agenda. Norway said the SDGs represent a guide to what countries should aim for, but not a “one size fits all” solution regarding how to get there, as “context will always decide.” She stressed the need cooperate across sectors and with the private sector and other “new partners.” The importance of a multi-stakeholder approach both at the national and global levels also was highlighted by the African Group, Kenya, Mauritania, Tuvalu, the US and several others.
On follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda, countries widely highlighted the central role of the HLPF. CANZ said work needs to be done to ensure the HLPF “makes use of the myriad existing assessment processes relevant to sustainable development,” while CELAC stressed that the HLPF is “the key forum” for integrated implementation, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda, with Ethiopia and other several countries underlining the need for an integrated follow-up and review mechanism. The Russian Federation underscored that the follow-up and review is the prerogative of the HLPF and called for refraining from bringing in other bodies with no mandate in that area, such as the UN Security Council.
On SDG indicators, many delegations said they look forward to the proposal of the UN Statistical Commission in March 2016, with Brazil noting that the forthcoming report of the Secretary-General on follow-up and review could provide useful insights. He added that the open-ended working groups for indicators for the Sendai Framework for DRR should work with the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). Ukraine underlined that “it is high time the UN addressed the issue of environmental protection in conflict settings” and that it developed indicators related to DRR and conflict, while Egypt said he looked forward to the development of indicators on water, especially on water poverty and water stress.
Other issues discussed in the Second Committee included: food security; desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD), with the EU, Botswana, Iceland, Iraq and Niger stressing the need to support the UNCCD’s work on SDG target 15.3 (land degradation neutrality); loss of biodiversity; the sustainable management of forests; water scarcity; sustainable energy; sustainable tourism; migration; and youth empowerment.
Adjourning the meeting, Committee Vice-Chair Enrique Carrillo Gómez (Paraguay) noted that the deadline for submitting resolutions under Agenda Item 20 (Sustainable Development) is 22 October 2015 at 6pm. [Second Committee Webpage] [Second Committee Statements] [UNGA President Statement] [IISD RS Story on Poverty Eradication Discussion] [IISD RS Story on General Debate] [IISD RS Story on Working Methods Discussion] [IISD RS Story on Gender Equality Side Event] [IISD RS Sources]