10 August 2017
Monthly Forecast: August 2017
Photo Credit: Lynn Wagner
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During August, Parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change will be preparing the submissions due under various agenda items of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), and UN Member States will be gearing up for the opening of the 72nd Regular Session of the UNGA, among other activities.

Deliberative processes will also be underway to follow up on the July meetings of the G20 and HLPF, and to prepare inputs for the 2018 G20 and HLPF meetings.

Following an extremely busy month of July, sustainable development policy making processes will be relatively limited during August.

In past years, July was the beginning of the mid-year lull in multilateral environmental meetings, but in an increasingly crowded calendar, many meetings are now taking place during the seventh month and July 2017 was no exception. The month began with the G20 Summit, followed quickly by the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) for review of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the last preparatory meeting on negotiating a legally binding treaty governing use of the high seas. And these were just the bigger events. August, by contrast, will host the annual World Water Week in Stockholm at the end of the month, among few other events.

The lack of meetings does not mean that sustainable development policy makers will be resting, however. During August, Parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change will be busy preparing the submissions due in September under various agenda items of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). UN Member States will be gearing up for the opening of the 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), which opens on 12 September, followed by the General Debate, which begins on 19 September. As in previous years, the 2017 General Debate is expected to offer countries an opportunity to highlight their priorities for the upcoming session, including on climate action and SDG implementation. Deliberations related to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction are also on the UNGA agenda, as noted below. Feeding into these reflections, the UNGA President will convene an informal meeting on the status of SDG implementation and on outcomes and conclusions of the President’s strategy at the beginning of September.

The first phase of the preparatory process for the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration is also underway, following the fourth thematic session, which convened in July with a focus on, ‘Contributions of migrants and diasporas to all dimensions of sustainable development, including remittances and portability of earned benefits.’ In August, the focus will shift to the regions, which will host regional preparatory meetings. The UN regional commissions are also expected to finalize a series of background papers aligned with the six themes of the global compact process: human rights; drivers of migration; migration governance; diasporas; human trafficking; and irregular migration.

August also offers an opportunity for reflecting on events during the first half of the year, particularly the busy agenda from July. For example, the HLFP, which convened from 10-19 July, under the theme, ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world,’ conducted the first review of specific Goals, with an in depth look at Goal 1 (no poverty), Goal 2 (zero hunger), Goal 3 (good health and well-being), Goal 5 (gender equality), Goal 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), and Goal 14 (life below water). Goal 17, on means of implementation and partnerships, is considered during each HLPF session. The SDG Knowledge Hub released a series of guest articles and policy briefs exploring the issues covered in this year’s busy agenda.

As the Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis of the HLPF session suggests, Member States, civil society and others should use the HLPF 2017 experience to “rethink, innovate and recalibrate,” and “redouble their efforts to ensure the Forum helps to bring the SDGs home.” Of particular interest for many, following the presentation of 43 voluntary national reviews (VNRs) in July, 31 countries have (to date) declared their intention to present their VNR in 2018. Governments and stakeholders in these countries will be mapping out the inputs that will be provided to the national planning processes that surround the development of a VNR, and gearing up for the deliberations and negotiations that will be necessary to complete these reviews.

Immediately prior to the HLPF, the G20 Summit under the German Presidency concluded on 8 July in Hamburg, Germany. The Summit adopted a declaration, sub-titled ‘Shaping an interconnected world,’ on major global economic challenges. Among other issues, the declaration addresses improving sustainable livelihoods by addressing energy and climate, implementing the 2030 Agenda and empowering women. The G20 leaders also declared their intent to tackle illegal wildlife trade, an issue covered under SDG 15 (life on land), in an annex to their declaration titled, ‘G20 High Level Principles on Combatting Corruption Related to Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products.’ And the ‘G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth’ reaffirmed leaders’ commitment to another SDG target (12.c), “to rationalise and phase out, over the medium-term, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, recognising the need to support the poor,” and pledged to “endeavour to make further progress in moving forward this commitment.”

As IISD’s Oshani Perera highlights, a key influence of the G20 process comes through the critical thinking and informed dialogue of the working groups that feed into the final G20 outcome. The 2018 host for the G20 – Argentina – soon will be announcing the agenda for the 2018 G20 meeting, and the topics on which the working groups will strive to ”find synergies, to create scale, and to determine the trade-offs” during the coming year.

Finally, on the heels of the June Ocean Conference, attention on oceans has remained high with the HLPF’s review of SDG 14 and the fourth session of the Preparatory Committee for the development of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Called BBNJ PrepCom 4, the meeting, which convened from 10-21 July 2017, was expected to finalize substantive recommendations on the elements of a draft text of an internationally legally binding instrument (ILBI), so that the UNGA could decide whether to convene an intergovernmental conference (IGC) to elaborate the text of the agreement. According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary from the meeting, “The outcome includes non-exclusive elements of a draft ILBI text that generated convergence among most delegations, a list of main issues on which there is divergence of views, with the indication that both do not reflect consensus; and a recommendation to the UN General Assembly to take a decision, as soon as possible, on the convening of an IGC.”

Over the coming months, we will continue to help you keep track of these deliberative processes to enable you to identify the areas where you might engage in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and to understand the opportunities for synergies, scale and trade-offs that decision makers are facing.

Alice Bisiaux, Lauren Anderson, Catherine Whalen, and Lynn Wagner *

*We would like to express our appreciation and best wishes to Alice Bisiaux, who has been the content editor for our climate change news since 2008. She is taking on a new challenge outside IISD as of September 2017.

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