UN Member States discussed aligning the work of the UN General Assembly's (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, during a meeting on the Committee's methods of work.
Delegations are invited to submit further, written proposals on the Committee's work and the revitalization of its agenda by 23 October 2015.
9 October 2015: UN Member States discussed aligning the work of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, during a meeting on the Committee’s methods of work. Delegations are invited to submit further, written proposals on the Committee’s work and the revitalization of its agenda by 23 October 2015.
Opening the meeting on 9 October 2015, in New York, US, Andrej Logar (Slovenia), Second Committee Chair, recalled guidelines adopted in UNGA Decision 65/530, to make draft resolutions more concise, focused, and action-oriented, as well as a resolution calling for work toward biennialization, triennialization, clustering and elimination of items on the agenda of the UNGA itself. Logar also stressed the need to promote complementarity and ensure the Second Committee’s work is fully aligned with the “integrated vision of” the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA). He asked Member States whether the current structure of the Committee’s agenda supports the three pillars of sustainable development, whether it covers the main aspects of the 2030 Agenda, whether sustainable development could become the framework for the agenda, and how the Committee should conduct its work in relation with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), and the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
Delegates generally agreed: that the work of the Committee should be built on the priorities set by the 2030 Agenda, the AAAA, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) 2015-2030, and the programmes of actions of countries in vulnerable situations; not to amend the work of the Committee now, but to engage in an in-depth discussion; and to discuss how other Committees and the HLPF will complement the Second Committee’s work on implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Differences appeared with regard to the desired timeline for amending the Second Committee’s agenda, with developing countries – including the Group of 77/China (G-77/China) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – asking for “sufficient time, extensive consultations, and meticulous planning,” while the EU and others preferred to expedite discussions and implement an amended agenda at the Committee’s next session.
Differences appeared also in relation to the substantive aspects of the agenda, with the G-77/China, AOSIS and others cautioning against “sacrificing richness for efficiency,” while developed countries – including Australia, Canada, the EU and New Zealand – expressed preference for efficiency and for avoiding fragmentation and proliferation of repetitive resolutions.
The discussion with civil society organizations (CSOs) scheduled for 22 October 2015 was also subject to differences in views, with Japan noting that the work of the Committee should be conducted in a transparent manner and welcoming discussion with the CSOs, Brazil underlining it as “a step in the right direction,” and Mexico expressing hope that it will become “the customary practice,” while Cuba stressed that he is not in favor of replacing the Committee’s debates with interactive debates with stakeholders, which he said would hinder Member States’ ability to express themselves openly.
South Africa, for the G-77/China, underscored that the Group will give priority to ensuring systemic follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including the AAAA. He stressed, however, that this does not mean to “move beyond the past, as has been stated by some of our developed partners.” Instead, he said, the 2030 Agenda established that follow-up and review will build on existing platforms and processes, and the Second Committee should take a lead by aligning its resolutions to the priorities set by the 2030 Agenda and the AAAA, in order to inform and support the oversight of the HLPF over these processes. He underscored that the UNGA is the only intergovernmental body ensuring universal participation for follow-up and review “of an Agenda predicated to leave no one behind.” He also noted the importance of the ongoing ECOSOC dialogue on the long-term positioning of the UN Development System, and called to “interrogate further” the Secretariat’s fit-for-purpose “mantra” so all Member States have a common understanding.
The EU stressed the need to rethink the items on the Second Committee’s agenda so that the Committee can “embrace the future – the 2030 Agenda – and move beyond the past,” and called on the Committee’s Chair and Bureau to provide leadership on a specific proposal “as called for by the UNGA,” through a process that may run “in parallel to, and beyond” the negotiations of resolutions, a proposal to which Cuba opposed. In the meantime, said the EU, thematic resolutions should avoid language that would perpetuate current working arrangements and thereby pre-empt potential adjustments of the Second Committee’s agenda. The EU suggested using procedural text if negotiations deadlines pass without reaching an agreement.
Maldives, for AOSIS, said the forthcoming report of the UN Secretary-General on organizational arrangements for state-led reviews at the HLPF, mandated by the 2030 Agenda (paragraph 90), as well as the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), could provide insights for reforming the Committee’s work.
Australia, also for Canada and New Zealand (CANZ), noted ““significant differences” between the Committee’s programme of work and the 2030 Agenda, with important elements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the AAAA not considered at all. CANZ proposed rationalizing the Committee’s agenda (supported by Japan and Norway) by clustering items as: organizational and operational activities; thematic considerations; and follow-up to UN Conferences.
Mexico said that during its current session, the Committee should: reflect on how to align each of its resolutions and themes with the 2030 Agenda, the AAAA, and the three pillars of sustainable development; give priority to the cross-cutting themes that will be essential for the 2030 Agenda; identify clear and useful connections with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs on follow-up; helped by the UN Secretary General, draw a list of actions and activities of the UN system that require the Second Committee’s action and, once identified, replicate the work of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), whose technical group has only one annual report; encourage CSO’s participation in identifying lessons learned; and encourage substantive inputs from the scientific community.
Japan said the Committee’s agenda is not effective enough in supporting the three pillars of sustainable development. Observing that the Committee’s work is being shaped to promote sustainable development, she stressed, supported by CANZ, the need to transition to a new title for the Committee, which goes beyond ‘Economic and Financial’ to reflect its integrated nature. She also underscored the need to avoid duplication with the SDGs Progress Reports.
The US said the Committee should align its agenda with current global priorities, recognize that some items are no longer priorities, and remove them. Noting that the Committee’s current sustainable development cluster contains only environmental issues, while sustainable development has three pillars, he called for reorganizing the themes. He further questioned the necessity of both a general debate and specific debates, and proposed eliminating the former. Cuba opposed this proposal.
The Second Committee’s discussion of working methods took place following its General Debate for the 70th Session. [IISD RS Sources] [Statements] [IISD RS Story on General Debate Opening]