4 March 2013
UNSG Releases Advance Report on Lessons Learned from CSD
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, fulfilling a mandate from the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in resolution 67/203, has released an advance unedited version of a report on "Lessons Learned from the Commission on Sustainable Development" (CSD).

21 February 2013: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, fulfilling a mandate from the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in resolution 67/203, has released an advance unedited version of a report titled “Lessons Learned from the Commission on Sustainable Development” (CSD).

Prepared in consultation with UN Member States, Major Groups, and other stakeholders, the report identifies specific successes and shortcomings of the Commission, and is intended to inform the ongoing intergovernmental negotiations on the format and organizational aspects of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), which was created at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).

Highlighting the importance of the CSD’s establishment at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, or Rio Earth Summit) as the first UN body on sustainable development, the report finds that many States and stakeholders feel that the CSD has “progressively lost its lustre and its effectiveness” following its first few years of work. It outlines the CSD’s evolution over 20 years, focusing on its progress in fulfillment of its original mandate and its role in sustainable development following the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).

The report identifies lessons learned under three headings: reviewing and monitoring the implementation of Agenda 21, the JPOI, and related outcomes; agenda-setting and developing policy recommendations; and the engagement and participation of Major Groups. On the first topic, many States expressed the belief that the CSD was not effective in reviewing progress or commitments toward sustainable development, nor in identifying gaps in implementation of these commitments or its own decisions. On agenda-setting, the report recognizes the CSD as the main forum for discussing issues of small island developing States (SIDS), but identifies a lack of action-oriented decisions, in-depth discussions, a science-policy interface, and valuable negotiations and outcomes. The report also reveals many States’ opinion that the CSD failed to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social, and environmental), undermining its outcomes and image.

A defining feature of the CSD is its openness and design for the participation of Major Groups and other stakeholders, according to the report respondents. The ability of Major Groups to produce official papers, intervene in discussions, and comment on the negotiated text are identified as giving CSD the potential to be a “platform for dialogue and exchange of best practices between stakeholders of all types.” However, the lack of stakeholder engagement in implementation is shown to be a concern of some Member States.

These lessons learned from the CSD’s 20 years “should be the starting point for giving final shape to its replacement,” the HLPF, the report notes, and to this end it offers recommendations for consideration in creating the HLPF. These include: developing mechanisms to monitor and review progress at the country, regional, and global levels; promoting discussion of cross-cutting issues, cluster themes, SIDS, and follow-up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); engaging non-state actors in the strengthening of partnerships and voluntary commitments for sustainable development; and increasing funding for broader participation and better preparation. [Publication: Lessons Learned from the Commission on Sustainable Development: Report of the Secretary-General] [IISD RS Story on Consultations on CSD 20]

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