10 October 2016
Second Committee Debates SDGs, Climate Action
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The UN General Assembly's (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) concluded its general debate for the 71st session, with many speakers highlighting the Committee's role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Countries emphasized the importance of enhancing international cooperation and financing for development (FfD) to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and urged action to tackle climate change and address the needs of the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), middle-income countries (MICs) and other countries in special situations.

ga-71-logo5 October 2016: The UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) concluded its general debate for the 71st session, with many speakers highlighting the Committee’s role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Countries emphasized the importance of enhancing international cooperation and financing for development (FfD) to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and urged action to tackle climate change and address the needs of the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), middle-income countries (MICs) and other countries in special situations.

The general debate took place from 3-4 October 2016, in New York, US. Several speakers reflected that the world’s low-growth environment could hamper efforts to create economic growth, improve living standards and achieve the SDGs. Within this context, several called for economic and financial reforms, non-discriminatory trade regimes and tackling climate change and natural hazards. Antigua and Barbuda, for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), urged reforming the global financial and economic architecture. Venezuela advocated reforming the international financial architecture, saying it is unjust towards the poorest. Indonesia recommended departing from business as usual to achieve transformations.

On SDG implementation, countries shared national implementation actions and plans, including: Argentina, Bhutan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Georgia, Guyana, India, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Liberia, Mauritania, Myanmar, Panama, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Republic of Congo, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Philippines, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the ASEAN-UN Plan of Action for 2016-2020 aims to strengthen coordination and implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the ASEAN Community Vision 2023, including through the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), exchange of best practices, technical cooperation and capacity building in SDG monitoring and reporting.

Morocco said it has dedicated over 54% of its budget to social sector financing to improve living conditions and eliminate social inequalities. Governments called for building capable, effective national institutions to coordinate within and across ministries (Kenya), and building ownership through reviews of sustainable development progress (Tanzania).

On partnerships, several called for strengthened international cooperation and partnerships to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Niger, for the Group of African States, and Lebanon stressed the need to ensure adequate means of implementation (MOI). Nepal called for national commitments, ownership, leadership, people-centric and accountable governance systems complemented by robust international partnerships. CARICOM called for full implementation of the SAMOA Pathway.

Many addressed FfD’s role in achieving the SDGs and implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change, including: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh for the LDCs, Bhutan, Brazil, CARICOM, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Fiji, Georgia, Jordan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Peru, Qatar, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Viet Nam. South Africa expressed concern that the 2030 Agenda and FfD “remain on different tracks.”

Several highlighted the continued need for official development assistance (ODA), including Thailand for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), and Jordan. The LDCs, China, Niger, South Africa and Viet Nam called on countries to meet ODA commitments. Canada said it has refocused its international assistance to benefit the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly in fragile States. The Republic of Korea said it will expand its support for developing countries through the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Countries also highlighted the importance of: innovative financing, domestic resource mobilization, foreign direct investment (FDI) (Georgia); domestic resource mobilization and FDI (Kenya); fully operationalizing the GCF (the LDCs); capacity building and technology transfer (Iran, Sudan, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe); the Technology Bank for LDCs (Tanzania); trade facilitation (Algeria, Iran, Viet Nam); South-South and North-South cooperation (Malaysia); and recognition of different country capacities and development levels and respecting national policies (Qatar).

Also on technology, the African States identified information and communication technologies (ICTs) as enablers for development, but stressed access challenges for developing countries. ASEAN said its ICT Masterplan 2020 aims to support knowledge exchange and capacity building for sustainable development. Colombia supported eliminating technological disparity to progress towards the SDGs, stressing the importance of technology transfer to developing countries. The UAE identified ICT as essential in efforts to achieve the SDGs.

Countries called for addressing illicit financial flows and promoting cooperation on tax matters, including Guyana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Nigeria said illicit financial flows hinder developing States from implementing development agendas. Ecuador stressed the need to eliminate tax evasion, illicit monetary flows and tax havens, noting that the US$30 billion held in Ecuador’s tax havens would contribute substantially to sustainable development. Ecuador suggested creating a world government body to discuss tax issues within the context of such havens. South Africa supported upgrading the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into a universal and intergovernmental body.

On follow-up and review, South Africa stressed meaningful follow-up and review architecture as critical in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Pakistan identified monitoring and follow-up as the most significant aspect of the Committee’s work for this session.

On the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR), a number of countries welcomed the QCPR process, and highlighted it as an opportunity to set direction, make the UN fit for purpose, and ensure alignment with the 2030 Agenda, including Australia, the EU, Mexico, Myanmar, Republic of Korea, and US. Countries also said the QCPR should: result in a reform plan that includes a broader perspective (Japan); help ensure the UN development system performs effectively (Georgia); improve synergies, especially given limited financial resources (Switzerland); and take into account countries in special situations (Afghanistan), particularly LLDCs (Paraguay). The US identified the QCPR as the most significant resolution to be negotiated in 2016, describing the review as an opportunity to retool and reform the development system to be more timely, effective and efficient.

On climate change, several urged the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, including El Salvador, Fiji, Guyana, PNG and Tanzania. Others indicated their intention to ratify by the end of 2016: DRC, the EU, India, Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea. Costa Rica said it plans to ratify in the coming days. Viet Nam stated that it has taken steps towards ratification. Afghanistan indicated that it plans to ratify. The African States called for accelerating efforts to curb negative climate impacts, including at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Many speakers highlighted climate change as a threat to development, with DRC saying it jeopardizes the very future of humanity. The African States, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania described climate impacts, including increased glacial melting, increased natural hazards, and increased land degradation and desertification. Botswana described increased food security, drought and water stress. Mongolia also stressed desertification. Countries shared national actions, including on sustainable forest management (SFM), afforestation efforts (India), and combating deforestation (Panama). Speakers stressed the importance of: considering both mitigation and adaptation (Chile); focusing on disaster risk reduction (DRR) (the Philippines); implementing the Sendai Framework on DRR (Switzerland, Afghanistan); and recognizing common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) (Cuba, Kuwait, the Philippines, Yemen).

On countries in special situations, Bhutan recommended viewing LDC graduation in the larger context of achieving the SDGs, noting its eligibility for graduation out of the LDC category. Nauru, for the Pacific small island developing States (PSIDS), highlighted SIDS’ unique vulnerabilities. Maldives highlighted challenges faced by small countries, such as access to finance, including for large-scale infrastructure projects. Nepal highlighted programmes of action on LDCs and LLDCs, stressing the international community’s obligation to help graduate LDCs and ease LLDCs structural deficiencies. The EU welcomed the mid-term review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs (IPOA).

Also on LLDCs, Bhutan, Botswana, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi and Paraguay described challenges faced by LLDCs and highlighted their vulnerabilities. Countries recommended: enhancing market access and eliminating trade barriers and unilateral border closures to help LLDCs achieve the SDGs (Kyrgyzstan); increasing infrastructure development (Zambia), particularly on access to electricity (Malawi); and promoting industrialization (Zambia).

Several countries highlighted special challenges faced by MICs, and recommended measurements that take into account their special vulnerabilities and special support to help them achieve the SDGs, including Viet Nam. El Salvador, Mexico and others called for rethinking the graduation criteria for MICs. Jamaica called for creating a “highly indebted MIC” category. Chile and Costa Rica observed that the majority of UN Member States are or will become MICs, and recommending strengthened support to these countries.

On countries in conflict or post-conflict countries, Afghanistan highlighted their unique challenges in achieving sustainable development, stressing the connection between peace and security and development. Kuwait observed that conflict interferes with development and called for ending conflict and addressing immediate humanitarian needs.

On the New Urban Agenda, several expressed support for its adoption, including India and Japan. Republic of Congo expressed hope that the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will open up development opportunities for the world’s cities and eradicate poverty. Mongolia described rapid urbanization in its capital, which it said has contributed to congested traffic, pollution and unemployment.

On biodiversity-related topics, countries highlighted: the Global Alliance for Drylands to fight desertification and preserve the environment (Qatar); commitments to sustainable use of land and forests (Liberia); and new commitments from the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) to the 2030 Agenda (the EU). The PSIDS highlighted SDG 14 on oceans, and looked forward to the UN Conference on SDG 14.

On water, Tajikistan said it will put forward a draft resolution to the Committee on an International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028.’ Peru and Turkey highlighted the importance of achieving SDG targets on water and sanitation, with Peru supporting innovative initiatives and collective action to increase access to water and sanitation. Switzerland observed that global water governance is highly fragmented and does not reflect the 2030 Agenda’s integrated vision.

Countries also addressed SDGs on: food security and agricultural development (Guyana, Myanmar, South Africa); education (Guyana, Malawi, Mongolia); gender equality (EU, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Rwanda, UAE); health (Myanmar); and energy (the LDCs, Guyana, Rwanda, UAE). Kazakhstan called for a focus on women, girls, youth and marginalized populations. The UAE called for resolutions on universal access to drinking water, education and health care. Countries further highlighted: promoting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and achieving food security (Myanmar); reducing income inequality and achieving ecological balance (Mongolia); and respecting the independent right to development of all Member States in SDG implementation (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).

On refugees and migration, several observed that implementing the SDGs could help address migration challenges, including the EU and Turkey. Jordan said migration could jeopardize development gains. Lebanon called for improving coordination and coherence between development and humanitarian activities to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Several governments addressed the Committee’s work and organization of work. Countries recommended that the Committee: adhere to deadlines (Australia, Japan, US); ensure sufficient time for consultations and debate to build consensus (Australia); strengthen its work to ensure impact and added value (Norway); and provide guidance on UN follow-up to international conferences that lack their own follow-up processes (Switzerland). A few countries expressed caution on items with budget implications, with Australia requesting early warning of resolutions with possible budget implications and Japan saying any programme budget implications (PBI) that are not urgent or based on clear mandates should not be raised in negotiations.

The Second Committee also heard statements from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Atomic and Energy Agency (IAEA), International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and UN Women.[UN Press Release on Debate Opening] [IISD RS Story on Second Committee Opening] [UN Press Release on Debate] [Statements During Debate] [UN Press Release on Debate Closing]

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