unga6924 September 2014: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) opened its 69th General Debate on 24 September 2014, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Many Heads of State and Government addressed the post-2015 development agenda, including its architecture and means of implementation (MOI). Many applauded UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UN Climate Summit the day before, with several calling for future actions, including a legally binding agreement on climate change. Speakers also addressed strengthening international security, reforming the UN and tackling Ebola.

On the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many highlighted achievements while noting uneven progress and calling for accelerated efforts to achieve remaining targets. UNGA President Sam Kutesa, Uganda, recommended efforts on sanitation and inequalities within and among countries. Several countries shared experiences in meeting the MDGs, including Jacob Zuma, President, South Africa, and Danilo Medina Sánchez, President, Dominican Republic. Dilma Roussef, President, Brazil, described how her country’s policies have addressed hunger and inequality and lifted 36 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty since 2003. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President, Indonesia, said smart governance, involving innovative leadership and active participation, is key to achieving results and can enable nations to go beyond their potential and “leap-frog” over others. Idriss Déby Itno, President, Chad, mentioned several challenges in achieving the MDGs, including their unsuitability for African priorities, and insufficient financing.

Many speakers recognized the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda as a unique occasion and a great opportunity to transform development, including Evo Morales Ayma, President, Bolivia, and Michelle Bachelet Jeria, President, Chile. Secretary-General Ban described an emerging consensus on a universal agenda, applicable to all countries, that aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and put all countries on a path towards sustainable development, with transformation as its goal. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, President, Costa Rica, Didier Burkhalter, President, Switzerland, and Bachelet emphasized the importance of measurable goals, with Rivera and Burkhalter also stressing the importance of action.

Uhuru Kenyatta, President, Kenya, said the post-2015 agenda must address a cross-section of economic, environmental and social challenges, underscoring the need for integrated approaches to address poverty, inequality, climate change, economic development, biodiversity loss and environmental protection. Filip Vujanović, President, Montenegro, said the post-2015 agenda must be based on human rights and respect.

Noting Africa “did not have a common vision” and its voice was “not reported as required” when the MDGs were adopted, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President, Mauritania, on behalf of African Union (AU), said Africa still sought to reach these objectives. Today, he said, “Africa speaks with one voice” and has agreed on its Vision 2063 and the Common African Position (CAP) for the post-2015 agenda, which focuses on human resource development, poverty eradication and eradication of disease. Zuma and Itno highlighted Vision 2063 as the foundation of Africa’s development agenda. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President, Nigeria, prioritized collective ownership, recommending that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect global goals and aspirations.

On next steps, Ban informed delegates he will “provide a synthesis report that will set the stage as Member States begin their negotiations,” and urged high ambitions. Several speakers expressed commitments to continue efforts to agree on a post-2015 agenda, including Serzh Sargsyan, President, Armenia, Park Geun-hye, President, Republic of Korea, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-thani, Amir, Qatar, and Vujanović.

On MOI, President Kutesa recommended adequate MOI, particularly financing, capacity building and technology development and transfer. He described infrastructure development and investment as critical, particularly for countries in special situations, such as Africa, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS).

Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President, Mongolia, said the special needs of LLDCs could have been better reflected in the proposed SDGs, and looked forward to redressing this situation in upcoming negotiations. Bachelet identified challenges specific to Middle Income Countries (MICs), especially inequality, social cohesion, sustainable development, quality of governance and security. She recommended including these challenges in the post-2015 agenda.

Zuma and Bachelet recommended renewed efforts on official development assistance (ODA). Roussef called for ambition on financing, national capacity building, cooperation and technology transfer, especially for LDCs.

King Don Felipe VI, Spain, said his country has created the first Fund for the SDGs, which is already running. Burkhalter said Switzerland will allocate 0.5% of its gross national income to international development and humanitarian cooperation, noting this amount represents “a little over one dollar every day” for the neediest inhabitants of the planet. Sauli Niinistö, President, Finland, supported mobilizing all resources and means to achieve the SDGs, including public funding for development, domestic resource mobilization, innovation, and trade and technology.

Jonathan applauded the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF) on domestic resource mobilization, international development assistance and private sector finance. He said the ICESDF’s report “provides a solid basis for intergovernmental negotiations” on the post-2015 agenda.

Several speakers supported prioritizing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 agenda, including Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President, Estonia, and Bachelet. Ban called for “opening doors and shattering ceilings for women and girls.” Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President, Equatorial Guinea, supported Kutesa’s planned high-level events on gender equality and MOI.

Rivera underscored the relationship between peace, poverty and sustainable development, saying “there will be no peace without sustainable development.” Ilves identified low corruption, good governance, human rights, the rule of law, transparent decision-making and accountable institutions as critical enablers of sustainable development.

Park stressed the importance of education in development, noting it will host the World Education Forum (WEF) in 2015, with the aim of reaching agreement on post-2015 education objectives. Burkhalter and Sánchez expressed appreciation for Ban’s Global Education First Initiative and shared national progress on education.

Morales recommended addressing human rights to water in the post-2015 agenda, noting that climate change will exacerbate water scarcity.

Many speakers described climate change as a defining challenge of our time, with several noting its disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable. Ban called for converting momentum from his Summit into a meaningful, universal climate agreement.

François Hollande, President, France, urged agreement on a binding global agreement in Paris in 2015, describing climate change as a security threat that displaces more people than wars. Rivera and Park also supported achieving a legally binding instrument on climate change by 2015. Roussef called for political courage, a sense of urgency and contributions based on equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR).

Noting that many Latin American countries, including Chile, have made voluntary commitments to reduce their emissions, Bachelet proposed that such commitments be subject to an accountability mechanism to facilitate compliance and set an example for lagging countries.

Park stated its commitment to strengthening developing countries’ mitigation and adaptation capacities. She said Korea will work for the full and early operationalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the expansion of the Green Growth Global Institute’s (GGGI) assistance to developing countries. Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President, Mongolia, also supported the GCF’s full operationalization. Paul Kagame, President, Rwanda, called on the public and private sectors to cooperate to address climate change. [Statements, 24 September] [UN Secretary-General Remarks] [UNGA President Remarks] [UN Press Release] [UN Press Release on Rwanda Statement] [UN Press Release on Mongolia Statement] [UN Press Release on Kenya Statement]