Member States Discuss How to Reduce Overlaps in UN Agendas
UN Photo/Cia Pak
story highlights

UN Member States held an informal meeting to exchange views on aligning the work of the UNGA and other bodies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The next meeting is scheduled for 11 April, and the co-facilitators welcomed input to determine the topics for discussion.

6 March 2017: UN Member States held an informal meeting to exchange views on aligning the work of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and other bodies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Chaired by the co-facilitators for the process, Martin Garcia Moritan, Permanent Representative of Argentina, and Gillian Bird, Permanent Representative of Australia, the discussion elicited proposals on reducing overlap and duplication among efforts.

Opening the meeting, Bird said the consultation process builds on the mapping exercise conducted during the 70th UNGA session. It does not aim to reduce the UN’s work, she stressed, but to facilitate interaction and joint work, and enhance synergies to “ensure the UN system delivers as one.” She also said the process is not meant to result in negotiated outcomes, but rather a summary of findings and possibly recommendations for next steps.

On the outcome of the alignment process, the EU and Switzerland endorsed the intention to produce a series of recommendations, rather than a negotiated outcome. The EU said the process should: provide a road map of actions to better align work on the 2030 Agenda; serve implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the country level, but avoid micromanaging on the ground, since UNGA and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) “are not implementing agencies”; and result in a common understanding on the division of labor among bodies, so as to eliminate duplication. The EU also cautioned against duplicating the ECOSOC review process, the UNGA revitalization process, and the set of reports that have been mandated by the 2016 resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR). He cautioned that the UN “cannot afford to have the same conversation twice in different places.”

Also on the outcome of the consultation process, Indonesia called to create indicators for each target of the UNGA revitalization process, and a road map for future efforts to coordinate UNGA committees, segments of ECOSOC and functional commissions. Colombia suggested identifying loopholes in the UNGA’s agenda, such as on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 (responsible production and consumption), and noted the need for clarity on the different functions and specialties of the UNGA (political guidance) and ECOSOC (technical, specialized mandate).

Echoing the EU’s emphasis on reducing “duplication and competition” among UN system entities, the US suggested clarifying the roles of each entity in helping Member States to implement the SDGs, as follows: the UNGA’s role is to express the political will and guidance of Member States on priority issues; ECOSOC’s role is to follow up on specific conferences, oversee subsidiary bodies, and integrate the major dimensions of sustainable development; the role of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is to hold the preeminent discussion on follow-up and review of the SDGs; and the UN development system supports countries in implementation under the guidance of QCPR and funds’ and programmes’ strategic plans.

Singapore outlined several “practical suggestions” to avoid embarking on a complete overhaul of agenda items, while still ensuring that any overlap is not duplicative, and makes the UNGA agenda more “fit for purpose for our challenges.” His suggestions included: the UNGA President could convene a meeting with chairs of the five main committees at the close of each year, during which the outgoing chairs share their perspectives on overlaps and gaps in relation to the 2030 Agenda; the UNGA President could meet with the incoming committee chairs at the start of each session, to ensure that their programmes of work are in alignment with the 2030 Agenda; and when an issue appears on the agenda of more than one Committee, a joint meeting would be held. Singapore also suggested that if a Member State wishes to introduce a new resolution or agenda item, it must submit a written explanation of how the item will address a gap, avoid overlap, and support implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The US, Canada and Indonesia expressed support for Singapore’s proposal to have committee chairs share their experiences. Indonesia added that regular meetings could take place among the chairs of each review process. Colombia expressed support for joint meetings between the Second and Third Committees. Switzerland agreed with the need for better coordination between the UN Secretary-General, UNGA President, President of ECOSOC and chairs of the committees, to improve coherence and avoid duplicative or uncoordinated agendas and events. She supported the EU’s call for a common understanding on the division of labor among different bodies.

Ecuador for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China) said implementing the 2030 Agenda is the most relevant issue for developing countries, and placed particular priority on poverty eradication. Supported by Bangladesh for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), he said working on the same issue at different levels or by different entities does not necessarily amount to overlap or duplication. Cuba urged safeguarding “the essence” of existing mandates and functions.

The next meeting is scheduled for 11 April, and the co-facilitators welcomed input to determine the topics for discussion. [IISD Sources] [Letter of Co-Facilitators] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Strategic Alignment Process]


related events


related posts