5 February 2019
UNGA-ECOSOC Briefing Discusses Coherence, HLPF, Financing for SDGs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés and ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King jointly convened a briefing with UN Member States to discuss coherence in their work.

Participants considered ways to strengthen coherence, and shared views on the HLPF and financing for development, youth and other issues.

31 January 2019: The Presidents of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) updated UN Member States on efforts to improve alignment between the work of the UNGA and ECOSOC, and on other common areas, including the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), financing for development (FfD) and youth. Delegations also shared their views and ideas on these processes.

The joint briefing took place in the context of UNGA resolution 72/313, which notes the need to enhance synergies and coherence and reduce overlap between the agendas of the UNGA and ECOSOC, and the work of the HLPF, as well as all other related forums, in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The resolution also requests the President of the 73rd session of the UNGA to identify proposals for addressing gaps and duplication in the agenda of the UNGA related to the 2030 Agenda.

Opening the meeting on 31 January 2019, in New York, US, UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés recalled that the Assembly discussed the alignment issue in its 70th, 72nd and 73rd sessions without progress. On 20 November 2018, Espinosa appointed Maria Helena Lopes de Jesus Pires, Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste, and Marie Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic, to facilitate intergovernmental consultations on the alignment of UN intergovernmental bodies with the 2030 Agenda. In the briefing, Espinosa stressed the need to achieve concrete outcomes by the end of UNGA 73, and called on delegates to be “audacious and creative,” including in order to improve the UNGA Committee’s working methods. She highlighted her monthly meetings with ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King as a step towards more coherence.

On the two meetings of the HLPF that will take place in 2019, Espinosa stressed the importance of early coordination, adding that the ministerial-level HLPF in July under ECOSOC will provide useful input for the meeting at the level of Heads of State and Government under the UNGA in September (also known as the SDG Summit). She noted that UNGA resolution 70/299 on ‘Follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level’ calls for only one negotiated political declaration for both meetings, and said the declaration should send a strong political message on the “urgent need to scale up action” for implementing the 2030 Agenda. In October 2018, Espinosa appointed the Permanent Representatives of Bahamas and Sweden as co-facilitators for the political declaration. King said she is working in coordination with Espinosa on the SDG Summit’s organization.

King called for convening “the best HLPF ever” in July 2019.

On the July 2019 HLPF session, King characterized it as a landmark event towards the SDG Summit, and underscored the need to “convene the best HLPF ever.” She said the ten countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) for the second time – among a total of 51 VNRs planned for the 2019 HLPF – will present jointly in groups. She noted that a preparatory meeting for VNR countries will take place in February, along with other efforts by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) to help countries prepare their reviews. She indicated that a substantive summary will be produced to reflect discussions at the July HLPF.

On FfD, Espinosa said the outcome of the FfD Forum in April 2019 will contribute to the HLPF political declaration to be adopted in September and to the UNGA’s high-level dialogue on FfD, convening on 26 September 2019. King outlined the importance of an inclusive process for the FfD Forum to ensure multi-stakeholder partnerships, and indicated that a consultation with stakeholders on sustainable financing took place in January 2019. On the high-level dialogue in September, Espinosa said it should be action-oriented and explore opportunities for engagement. Espinosa added that she and King will coordinate with the related sets of co-facilitators to ensure synergies and coherence: Zambia and Italy, for the ECOSOC FfD Forum; Canada and Ghana, for the UNGA high-level dialogue on FfD; and Bahamas and Sweden, for the HLPF political declaration and the format, modalities and scope of the SDG Summit. A meeting on this matter is planned for 5 February 2019, she noted.

On youth, King said the theme of the 2019 ECOSOC Youth Forum will be ‘Empowered, Included, Equal,’ in alignment with the theme of this year’s ECOSOC and HLPF. King described the ECOSOC Youth Forum as one of the most successful innovations for bringing youth to the UN, and expressed determination to open ECOSOC meetings to more young people, to ensure their participation is not limited to the Youth Forum. Espinosa said that ‘Youth, Peace and Security’ is one of the strategic priorities for her Presidency, and that she will address her strategy on the topic during an Interactive Dialogue at the ECOSOC Youth Forum.

On decent work, Espinosa noted that she will convene a high-level event on the future of work in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and ECOSOC, on 10 April 2019. The event will mark the ILO’s centennial, and facilitate a global conversation around the report on the future of work. Espinosa said the outcome should make a contribution to the HLPF’s review of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).

On other matters, Espinosa announced that she will “shortly” appoint co-facilitators on modalities for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the UN, which will occur in 2020. King said she has begun implementing decisions on strengthening ECOSOC, as outlined in UNGA resolution 72/305.

Taking the floor after the Presidents’ remarks, some countries called for linking the alignment process with broader UN reform processes. Some said the UNGA and ECOSOC have distinct but complementary roles, and that while overlaps should be eliminated, coordination between them should be enhanced. Croatia called for revisiting the work that has already been made on synergies and coherence, as this issue has been “thoroughly examined” in the past three years. Kenya remarked that the 2030 Agenda is the main “omnibus” agenda.

On UNGA’s work specifically, some called for: eliminating duplication between Committees’ agendas, in particular the Second (Economic and Financial) and Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Committees; eliminating references to outdated documents; and “bi- and triennializing” some agenda items. Participants also cautioned against reopening negotiated resolutions and agreed texts when considering new proposals. The EU called for transforming the Second Committee into a forum for meaningful discussions on achieving the SDGs. Liechtenstein said the UNGA President could convene with the chairs of the UNGA Main Committees to outline ways to contribute to SDG implementation.

Palestine, for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), asked to give equal attention to all SDG targets, to address the critical “gaps and targets” in the agendas of UNGA and ECOSOC, and to be careful when addressing overlaps, so as to avoid eliminating substantive items. Trinidad and Tobago noted that the high number of intergovernmental meetings under ECOSOC and the UNGA limits the ability of small island developing States (SIDS) to participate. The US called for a better allocation of scarce resources system-wide, and for reducing the time spent on negotiating resolutions that are outdated, that are characterized by limited changes or that have little effect. She also called for one negotiated outcome from ECOSOC’s 2019 FfD Forum and the UNGA’s high-level dialogue on FfD, and for UNGA and ECOSOC meetings to be more inclusive of stakeholders and more innovative.

On the HLPF, Japan said it is time to renew political will to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Belize, for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), called for more time to be allocated to the SIDS agenda in the HLPF, considering that a high-level review of progress on the SAMOA Pathway is underway, with the mid-term review meeting convening in September 2019. Palestine, for the G-77/China, called for the VNR presentations to be more efficient and to give sufficient time to each country’s presentation. Thailand, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the VNRs should be more effective and should focus on practical cases. Switzerland called for the 2019 meetings of the HLPF to make a strong case for strengthening reliable data, adding that the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) to be issued in “the coming months” will be an essential document and a main input in this regard. Sierra Leone warned against holding too many side events during the HLPF in September, to ensure that high-level delegations focus on “issues at hand.”

Colombia, which noted its election as chair of the 13th session of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), underlined the importance of ensuring synergies between the different bodies of the UN system, and between peace and the other SDGs. [UNGA President’s Remarks] [Meeting Summary] [Meeting Webcast] [Letter Announcing Joint Briefing] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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