The UNGA's Second Committee began work for the 73rd session.
Chair Jorge Skinner-Klee said the Committee’s deliberations take on particular importance this year as Member States forge ahead with implementing the 2030 Agenda, AAAA and the repositioning of the UN development system.
Keynote speaker Homi Kharas, Brookings Institution, stressed that SDG progress is being made in almost every country, but not fast enough, and if we don’t accelerate quickly, it will become harder and harder to meet the Goals.
8 October 2018: The UN General Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial) began work for the 73rd session, approving its programme of work, hearing a keynote address from Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institution, and starting its general debate.
The Second Committee met on 4 October 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, to discuss plans for the session. Chair Jorge Skinner-Klee, Permanent Representative of Guatemala, said the Committee’s deliberations take on particular importance this year as Member States forge ahead with implementing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and the repositioning of the UN development system.
In addition to negotiating resolutions on 12 substantive agenda items, the Committee will hold a general debate, a dialogue with the executive secretaries of the UN regional commissions, a joint meeting with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the topic of ‘circular economy in practice,’ and side events on making infrastructure investments work for women and girls, and debt vulnerabilities in emerging markets.
Considering the Second Committee’s mandate to improve its working methods, Skinner-Klee said: resolutions should be concise, focused and action-oriented, with minimal preambular paragraphs; delegations should provide the sources for their language in drafts; and informal-informal consultations will be convened using a “coordinated approach.” He said the Committee must complete its work by 29 November. The Committee approved the programme of work including oral revisions announced during the meeting.
The Chair also noted the ongoing process to enhance synergies and coherence and reduce overlap in the agendas of the UNGA’s Second Committee and Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), ECOSOC and its substantive bodies, and the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. Efforts to enhance such synergies have been underway since 2015. Per UNGA resolution A/RES/72/313 on ‘Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly’ adopted on 17 September 2018, those efforts will continue during UNGA 73. The UNGA president is requested to identify proposals to address gaps and duplications in the agenda of the UNGA as it relates to the 2030 Agenda, through consultations with all Member States and the president of ECOSOC. These proposals are expected to be considered during UNGA 73.
On 8 October the Committee began its general debate. Liu Zhenmin, head of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said the focus of the Second Committee in the 73rd session is on translating the vision of the 2030 Agenda into reality, and he stressed that global progress must be accelerated. Threats to progress include the impacts of trade uncertainty on investment behavior, climate risks especially in the small island developing States (SIDS), and rising hunger and conflict. He said that “interlinked solutions” to these challenges entail strengthening resilience through inclusive and sustainable development.
Liu said the “HLPF Summit” in September 2019 should be used to reaffirm commitments to realizing the SDGs and to pledge additional efforts where needed.
Liu noted that in 2019 the HLPF will meet under ECOSOC auspices in July, as it does each year, as well as at “Summit level” in September, as heads of state and government gather under UNGA auspices for the first time since the SDGs were adopted to review progress towards realizing the SDGs and discuss actions for accelerating implementation. He said the HLPF summit should be used to reaffirm the shared commitment to realize the SDGs by 2030 and to pledge additional efforts in areas that are lagging behind. He also noted the need to “decide the process of the next cycle of the HLPF,” review progress towards the 17 SDGs in the first four years, and confront gaps and challenges in achieving the 2030 Agenda.
Liu also highlighted the launch of the Secretary-General’s strategy for financing the 2030 Agenda, which outlines actions the UN will take to accelerate resource mobilization for the SDGs and implement the UNGA’s 2018 resolution on repositioning of the UN development system.
Homi Kharas, Brookings Institution, gave a keynote address on the topic of ‘Counting who gets left behind.’ A Brookings research project traces the expected trajectories of 21 SDG targets, which Kharas said were selected for: a focus on impacts on individuals and households; a focus on outcomes rather than means of implementation; being measurable and currently quantified; and the ability to be examined as a trend. Kharas reported that the findings show that over 40 million lives will be saved if the SDGs are met, with the vast bulk of those saved by action against non-communicable diseases (NCDs), where “we are not close to achieving” the target. As for basic needs at stake, the findings underscore the difficulty of making progress against air pollution and other issues, showing that “we are actually going backwards” in fighting both child obesity and air pollution.
Kharas stressed that progress on the selected SDG targets is being made in almost every country, but not fast enough. He said all countries need acceleration, which underlines the universal nature of the SDGs. If we don’t start the acceleration quickly, he noted, it will become harder and harder over time to meet the Goals.
The majority of people who would be left behind in these scenarios are concentrated in a few countries that constitute most of the world’s population: China, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo for many indicators, and Brazil and the US on some (gender equality and child obesity, in the case of the US). This means that efforts must concentrate in these countries in order to achieve the desired global totals and make big changes in the current trajectories.
The Committee continued its general debate with statements from Member States on 8, 9 and 10 October. [Second Committee meeting webcasts] [Second Committee meeting summaries] [Biographical note on Chair] [Documentation for Second Committee in 73rd session]