22 September 2016
UNGA Continues Addressing SDG Priorities, Ratification of Paris Agreement
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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On its second day, the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) continued its annual general debate under the theme, ‘The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a universal push to transform our world,' at UN Headquarters in New York, the US.

Countries focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, among other topics, sharing national progress and urging further action on a range of issues from financing to the relationship between peace and development.

ga-71-logo21 September 2016: On its second day, the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) continued its annual general debate under the theme, ‘The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a universal push to transform our world,’ at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Countries focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, among other topics, sharing national progress and urging further action on a range of issues from financing to the relationship between peace and development.

On SDG implementation, many shared efforts to integrate the 2030 Agenda into national policies and programmes, including Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Japan, Montenegro, Myanmar, Pakistan Romania, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Ukraine. Finland shared its inclusive approach that encourages involvement of all citizens and establishes multi-sectoral partnerships. Zimbabwe welcomed the convening of the Global Infrastructure Forum and the Multi-Stakeholder Science, Technology and Innovation Forum and the launch of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) as key implementation steps. Mozambique described its National Reference Group that is tasked with monitoring progress towards SDG indicators and ensuring an inclusive, transparent SDG implementation process, among other roles. Thailand stressed international cooperation, shared responsibility and collective efforts as critical in efforts to achieve the SDGs.

On the SDGs, several prioritized inclusive economic growth and job creation, calling for: integrating economic growth, social justice and environmental stewardship and ensuring inclusive growth and job creation (Namibia); achieving sustained economic growth, societal transformation and equitable wealth distribution (Kenya); enhancing infrastructure investment, agriculture, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), job creation and opportunity creation (Myanmar); promoting inclusive and interconnected development approaches (China); and economic and social programs focused on empowering and including youth in the job market (Montenegro). Thailand shared its Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP), which promotes a people-centered approach, moderation, inclusiveness and resilience, and its initiation of the ‘SEP for SDGs Partnership Programme’ to exchange good practices.

On financing, the European Union (EU) and its Member States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and China drew attention to their financial commitments to development and humanitarian assistance. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mozambique stressed a revised and improved global partnership for sustainable development as critical to support national implementation. Mozambique informed it has created a National Fund for Sustainable Development as part of its commitment to increasing domestic resource mobilization (DRM) and is conducting an evaluation of the development results of financial flows in its country.

Countries also called for: access to transformative technologies and predictable resource flows through the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (Bangladesh); alignment of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) (Guinea-Bissau); enhanced partnerships (Australia); and long-term, in-country engagement of international and regional agencies to build durable domestic institutions, to address the difficulty faced by small island developing States (SIDS) in accessing financing to achieve the SDGs and other goals (Nauru).

On countries in special situations, several African countries supported structural reforms and infrastructure development. Ghana supported a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), saying Africa needs a fair chance to trade amongst itself and with the rest of the world rather than official development assistance (ODA). The Dominican Republic urged attention to fragile and vulnerable groups, recommending strengthening safety nets and social support systems to keep vulnerable people from falling back into poverty. China called for redoubling efforts to support Africa and LDCs, including through meeting ODA commitments.

On gender equality, countries supported: a gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda (Croatia); political, economic and social empowerment of girls and women to drive sustainable development and combat climate change (Finland); mainstreaming gender and youth (Kenya); and addressing gender-based violence, unlocking women’s economic potential and ensuring equal societies (Estonia). Others stressed men’s roles in achieving gender equality, with Finland supporting the UN Women’s HeForShe movement and Croatia underscoring men’s roles in empowering and supporting women to succeed, such as through the ‘Equal Futures Partnership.’

Also on the SDGs, countries prioritized: fighting corruption and ensuring a sustainable energy supply (Ukraine); building peaceful and inclusive societies and promoting accountable, transparent governance and institutions (Georgia); considering statistics for countries with populations of less than 100,000 (Federated States of Micronesia, FSM); inclusive development and open governance (Romania); and inclusive, empowered, digital and knowledge-based societies (Bangladesh).

On climate change, many urged entry into force of the Paris Agreement. Several highlighted ratification of the Paris Agreement, including Namibia, Ukraine, Honduras, and Thailand. Colombia reported that they are in the process of ratification. Others described intentions to ratify the Agreement, including Saudi Arabia, Latvia, and Ethiopia. Observing that current commitments fall short of reaching the two degree goal, FSM urged greater mitigation and finance ambition to implement the Agreement.

On climate action, countries highlighted: the urgency of agreeing on a phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (FSM); the ‘Citizens Climate Pledge’ (Finland); domestic adaptation and mitigation actions to combat desertification (Namibia); improvements in energy efficiency to reduce emissions (Saudi Arabia); a green economy and circular economy approach (Romania); and development of an integrated policy on land, forest and waters as part of efforts to address climate change (Honduras). FSM reiterated the Pacific SIDS group’s call for the UN Security Council to address climate and security and, supported by Nauru, for a Special Representative in the UN system dedicated to the issue of climate and security.

On climate financing, FSM observed that the slow flow of funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) had contributed to “painful delays” in implementing adaptation and mitigation projects. Japan reiterated its commitment to provide 1.3 trillion yen to developing countries in 2020 to accelerate climate action. Namibia offered to host the Africa Regional Hub of the GCF.

Also on climate, countries underscored the importance of: common but differentiated responsibilities (Namibia, Saudi Arabia); renewable energy in meeting climate goals (Namibia); understanding and addressing the relationship between climate change and food security, freshwater resources and other challenges (Nauru); ensuring climate change does not reverse development gains (Bangladesh); and clarifying climate accounts (Honduras).

On biodiversity, countries urged: conservation and protection of wildlife, oceans, lakes and land ecosystems, including forests and trees outside forests (Kenya); and clean water and sanitation for all (Bangladesh). Colombia described how its peace agreement will end deforestation from planting coca and halt pollution of its rivers and oceans, emphasizing it will be better placed to play a role in biodiversity preservation.

On oceans, FSM, supported by Nauru, highlighted PSIDS commitments to the sustainable management and use of oceans, including through the Micronesia Challenge; welcomed the UN Conference on Oceans; called for ending illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and urged a conclusion of the preparatory process to establish an international, legal binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdictions (ABNJ). Nauru also called for ensuring that a disproportionate burden of fisheries and marine conservation measures are not borne by SIDS, but are shared equitably. Chile said it will create the largest marine reserve in Latin America and help Caribbean countries combat marine pollution. Chile also highlighted the ‘Because the Ocean’ declaration. Guinea-Bissau observed the relationship between climate and ocean issues and supported the UN Conference on Oceans. Bangladesh reaffirmed the potential of a blue economy. Sri Lanka said it plans to develop its fisheries industry.

On sustainable urban development, Kenya looked forward to the Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), emphasizing implementation of a New Urban Agenda and a strengthened UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).

On the relationship between peace and development, countries addressed the importance of: internal peace and stability in economic development (Pakistan); respect and protection of human rights as a perquisite for sustainable peace and development (Croatia, Thailand); strengthening the development and security nexus (Latvia); and the need for increased integration of climate change, development, food security, and peacebuilding strategies (Romania), among other remarks.

On refugees, many addressed the challenges facing refugees and reflected on possible actions. Several welcomed the New York Declaration for Refugees, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kenya, among others.

Among other topics, several countries called for ensuring fairer trade systems and ending agricultural subsidies, with some observing that current trade systems hinder development. Speakers also called for changes in the UN governance structure, including in the UN Security Council, and addressed the upcoming UN Secretary-General elections. The debate runs until 26 September. [UNGA General Debate Website] [IISD RS Story on Paris Agreement Entry into Force]

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