On the penultimate day of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly's (UNGA) annual general debate, countries continued to highlight implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Countries also described challenges related to graduation from least developed country (LDC) status and access to concessional financing.
The debate, which closes on 26 September, is focusing on the theme, 'The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a universal push to transform our world,' at UN Headquarters in New York, the US.
24 September 2016: On the penultimate day of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) annual general debate, countries continued to highlight implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Countries also described challenges related to graduation from least developed country (LDC) status and access to concessional financing. The debate, which closes on 26 September, is focusing on the theme, ‘The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a universal push to transform our world,’ at UN Headquarters in New York, the US.
Many countries described SDG implementation, including Barbados, Ireland, Maldives, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, San Marino, Somalia, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam. Bhutan urged moving past “the euphoria of landmark agreements” towards urgent, focused and comprehensive action, noting the 2030 Agenda principles and objectives are consistent with his country’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) framework.
Swaziland described actions to mainstream and popularize the SDGs through education, training and public awareness campaigns at all levels. Iceland informed that it hosts the UN University (UNU) programs on gender equality, sustainable geothermal energy, sustainable management of oceans and combating desertification, saying it will work to share ideas and knowledge from these programs to support other countries in implementing and achieving the SDGs.
On SDG financing, countries supported: disaggregating financing for development (FfD), particularly official development assistance (ODA), to the country level to, inter alia, provide predictability (Bhutan); overhauling ODA execution (Dominica); complimenting traditional aid with national contributions (Somalia); mobilizing domestic resources (Viet Nam); implementing financing commitments (Nepal); and mobilizing financial resources, including ODA, alongside revitalizing international trade and investments and transferring technologies (Tajikistan).
Bhutan shared its Bhutan for Life Project (BFL), expressing hope to expand this financial model with development partners to energy, education and infrastructure. Tonga suggested funds spent on weapons would be better spent on sustainable development initiatives and improving people’s lives. Viet Nam urged developed countries to assist developing countries through capacity building, technology transfer and trade facilitation.
Several identified partnerships as critical to achieving the SDGs, including Barbados, Dominica, the Philippines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Viet Nam. Countries called for partnerships to be: structured and effective (Dominica); and innovative in providing FfD for countries in special situations (Bhutan), among other qualities. Dominica highlighted the small island developing States (SIDS) Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway. Saint Kitts and Nevis described a number of model partnerships, including of South-South cooperation.
On follow up and review, countries: shared efforts to track progress through indicators in eight focal areas (Swaziland); supported the monitoring mechanism identified by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) (San Marino); and called for clear and transparent mechanisms (Tajikistan). Timor-Leste described its inter-ministerial Working Group, which mapped indicators for SDGs and selected 20 targets to monitor implementation. Countries also highlighted the importance of an ambitious outcome of the new Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) to ensure the UN Development System (UNDS) delivers integrated, coordinated policy support for the 2030 Agenda.
On oceans, countries expressed commitment to conserve and promote the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources (Dominica, Tonga), including through conserving 25% of the marine and coastal environment by 2020, a target that exceeds the SDG 14 target of 10% (Grenada). Dominica and the Maldives noted concern on the state of oceans, highlighting various threats. Countries supported: the UN Conference on SDG 14 (the Maldives, Timor-Leste, Tonga); the ‘We are the Oceans’ concept and other ocean initiatives (Dominica); and the Preparatory Committee process on the elements of a draft text for an international legal binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) (Tonga). Several countries also addressed the relationship between oceans and climate change, including Tonga.
Barbados described a Caribbean Sea Resolution designating the Caribbean Sea as a “special area in the context of sustainable development,” calling for support. Grenada underscored the role of SIDS as lead advocates on oceans and climate change, describing its role in the Blue Network and the Blue Guardian.
On water, Tajikistan said the 2030 Agenda treats water in a more comprehensive and integrated manner than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), cautioning that climate change, urbanization and population growth will exacerbate existing water inequalities and challenges. He recommended prioritizing water and coordinating efforts where water is shared among sectors or between communities and countries and urged support for the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development: 2018-2028.’
Also on biodiversity, Bhutan described its actions to protect forests.
On actions to achieve gender equality, countries highlighted: a 30% quota for women in Parliament (Somalia); efforts to ensure men and women have equal rights and status in all spheres of life and to end discrimination against women (Grenada); the rights of women to equal pay and rights through the Constitution (the Maldives); women’s guaranteed one-third representation in federal and provincial parliaments and 40% in the local government (Nepal); and membership of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) (Ireland).
On health, Timor-Leste informed it had achieved the most progress on health-related SDGs in 2015, as reported by the Lancet, through its efforts to broaden access to health care and peace and stability in the country. Several countries supported action on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including Swaziland and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
On SDG 16, Lichtenstein underscored the role of accountable institutions, access to justice for everyone and reduction of corruption as key in sustainable development.
On SDG priorities, countries identified: investing in strengthening institutions (the Maldives); enhancing the delivery and quality of basic social services (the Philippines); reducing poverty (Nepal); investing in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconciliation and empowering women (Ireland); empowering youth through job creation, skills enhancement, provision of social services and other actions (St. Kitts and Nevis); increasing incomes, focusing on inclusiveness and promoting sustainability (Malaysia); achieving access for all to quality secondary and higher education (Iceland); supporting industrialization and increasing access to energy (Republic of Congo); and achieving goals on poverty reduction, education, heath, economic growth and environmental protection (Kyrgyzstan). Observing that all 17 SDGs are of equal importance, Lichtenstein said it will treat them as such in its implementation.
With regard to climate change, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Iceland, the Maldives, and Tonga noted that they had ratified the Paris Agreement, with Bhutan, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam noting that they are in the process of ratifying. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, and Nepal called for the Agreement’s early entry into force, urging countries to ratify by the end of 2016. Cambodia called for the Agreement’s implementation without delay.
On climate financing, several countries urged support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), including the Republic of Congo, with Grenada calling for easier access to the GCF to support renewable energy projects in SIDS. St. Kitts and Nevis recommended a strategy to promote climate financing and ensuring transparent access mechanisms. Saint Lucia supported Jamaica’s call for an initiative for highly indebted middle-income countries that recognizes their structural vulnerabilities cannot be diversified.
On climate action, countries called for: climate justice and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) in implementing Paris Agreement obligations (Nepal, the Philippines); debt swaps for adaptation and mitigation actions (Antigua and Barbuda); and technology and technical capacity for SIDS to increase their ability to harness renewable energy opportunities and climate smart agriculture (CSA), among other actions (Grenada).
Many described their special vulnerability to climate change, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bhutan, Dominica, Grenada, the Maldives, the Philippines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Swaziland, Timor-Leste and Tonga. Barbados, Bhutan and Malaysia described climate change as an existential threat for SIDS. Dominica and Bhutan said climate change impacts undermine sustainable development efforts. Within this context, Dominica called for an International National Disaster Risk Fund to provide financial support to SIDS affected by natural disasters.
On countries in special situations, many countries urged support for LDCs, landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and SIDS. Bhutan said it faced immense challenges as an LDC and LLDC. Reminding participants of its transition away from conflict, Somalia underscored the challenges in transitioning from conflict to inclusive governance and development, saying that it realistically hopes to achieve some SDGs quickly and effectively and others over a longer-term.
Several addressed challenges related to graduation (from least developed country status) policies, access to concessional support and the use of gross domestic product (GDP) to measure development, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, the Maldives, and St. Kitts and Nevis. Barbados explained how these challenges affect its ability to implement the SDGs. Dominica and Barbados said graduation policies ignore SIDS’ vulnerabilities. St. Kitts and Nevis urged a formula for determining LDC status that includes vulnerability and resilience indices.
On peace and development, several countries underscored the relationship between peace and sustainable development, including the Maldives and Timor-Leste. Nepal urged nurturing the culture of peace.
Among other topics, countries discussed strengthening multilateralism and the UN system, migration and refugees, and trade issues. Several addressed correspondent bank relationships, with Antigua and Barbuda saying it will convene a high-level conference on the issue. [UNGA General Debate Website]