United Nations4 May 2015: UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Sam Kutesa convened a high-level thematic debate focusing on strengthening cooperation between the UN, regional and sub-regional organizations. Delegates discussed how to strengthen strategic partnerships, as well as how regional and sub-regional organizations can be engaged and mobilized to play an effective role in the implementation of a transformative post-2015 development agenda. The event resulted in a negotiated declaration on strengthening cooperation between the UN, regional and sub-regional organizations, which was negotiated ahead of the debate and was expected to be adopted by the Assembly on 5 May 2015.

Opening the debate on 4 May 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, Kutesa said strengthening cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations has been one his key priorities for the 69th UNGA session, and noted that over 25 regional and sub-regional organizations have established formal “cooperative relationships” with the UN. He called for: building on lessons learned to create even more innovative and flexible partnership arrangements that draw on respective strengths; and to find ways of ensuring predictable and sustainable financing for regional and sub-regional organizations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted a retreat he held during the previous weekend with leaders of a number of regional and sub-regional organizations to look at challenges and strengthen cooperation on peace and security. He remarked that collaboration between the UN and regional partners is richer and more diverse than ever before, as lines of communications have been set up, common strategies have been developed, and joint programmes have been launched. He observed that regional organizations are helping to shape the post-2015 development agenda, and called for their support in “helping the world” reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In a keynote address, Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, stressed the need to reform the UN in general and the Security Council in particular, noting that out of the current global population of 7 billion people, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council represent only about 1.9 billion people and “monopolize the responsibility for global security.” He also remarked that regional and sub-regional organizations provide useful fora for policy coordination and harmonization on various ongoing important multilateral processes, such as the post-2015 development agenda and climate change, and are central in coordinating implementation of these processes’ outcomes at their appropriate levels.

Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration of the Bahamas, representing the Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), opened a session on how to further enhance the cooperation and strategic partnership between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations. Referring to the post-2015 negotiations, he called for broader measures of progress to complement gross domestic product (GDP) and for technical capacity and support. He also noted that UNGA resolution 69/265 on cooperation between the UN and CARICOM will be critical for the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

Georges Rebelo Chikoti, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Angola and Chair of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGRL), outlined the importance of, inter alia: promoting more systematic reporting; conducting joint assessments; predictable and sustainable financing mechanisms; training and capacity building to enhance regional policies, legislations and institutions; and recognizing that lack of economic opportunities is a recipe for political instability.

Annika Soder, Vice Minister and State Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said cooperation is more effective when it is based on burden sharing and complementarity. She added that regional mechanisms and frameworks should be recognized in the follow-up framework of the post-2015 development agenda, and noted that reviews should be done at the regional level.

Dieudonné Nzengue, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francophony and regional Integration of Gabon, noted the need for local knowledge and stronger cooperation for the post-2015 development agenda. Lamberto Zannier, Ambassador of Italy and Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), provided examples of OSCE cooperation with the UN, and remarked that sustainable development and security should have the importance they deserve in the post-2015.

Albert Ramdin, Ambassador and Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), highlighted the need for: building institutional capacities; strengthening communication between OAS regional offices and UN regional offices; and agreeing on a monitoring framework for the post-2015.

Alain Le Roy, Secretary-General, European External Action Service, said cooperation should go beyond preventing immediate crisis, and sustainable peace is not possible without sustainable development and respect of human rights. Highlighting the importance of the ongoing intergovernmental discussions related to financing for development, the post-2015 development agenda and climate change, he expressed hope that emerging countries will also join the force in fighting climate change.

A second panel, moderated by Jeffrey Feltman, Under Secretary-General, UN Department of Political Affairs, addressed strengthening UN, regional, and sub-regional cooperation on peace and security, human rights, and development. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy-Chairperson, African Union Commission, said that many of the tools for preventing conflict in the UN Charter are state-based, and so not always effective. He called for tools and mechanisms that are bottom-up, closer to the people that need them, and allow for a more flexible approach.

Molefi Kete Asante, Temple University, discussed how the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia in Europe had introduced the concept of the nation-state, which still governs much of international affairs. He stressed the need for non-European forms of organization to be given more importance in the UN, including sub-regional groups, informal networks of NGOs, and regional organizations. “We must focus on repairing and restoring the acceptability of the local societies,” he concluded.

Peter Van Tuijl, Executive Director, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), discussed existing mechanisms for creating space for regular consultations with regional and civil society organizations, while Danile Yifru, Director, Peace and Security and Senior Advisor, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, discussed their need to be supported by the international community. Lyazzat Kaltayeva, Association of Women with Disabilities, discussed her work in helping women with disabilities through existing legal structures at the regional and sub-regional level.

The final panel was moderated by Vuk Jeremić, President, Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development, and addressed how to galvanize support of regionals and sub-regionals for the post-2015 development agenda. Alicia Barcena Ibarra, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC), and Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), discussed the importance of national and regional ownership of the agenda, and for it to reflect the priorities of all regions.

David Steven, Senior Fellow and Associate Director, Center on International Cooperation, commented on the “practicalities” of implementation, stressing that making progress on the goals and targets will require truly innovative policies and resources. He emphasized that much progress will need to be made in the first few years to achieve the goals, and underlined the regional dimension of post-2015 action in building political support for the agenda’s implementation.

Ali Shahbaz, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, called for the redefinition of the term “organization” to include all individuals and grassroots movements. The SDGs are more than a set of targets, he explained, but “more of a mass consciousness, a movement, and a paradigm shift that is going to be carried on with the momentum of all the people engaged.” Shahbaz also stressed the need for credible, rather than tokenistic, participation of stakeholders.

Throughout the debate, many participants referred to Chapter VIII of the UN Charter on regional arrangements. During a session dedicated to statements and interventions by Member States and stakeholders, states noted the importance of: eliminating extreme poverty; protecting the environment; arms trafficking; combatting trans-national crimes; the role of the UN; the role of the UN Regional Commissions in financing for development; the inclusion of excluded groups; strategies for resource mobilization; partnerships with the private sector; civil society participation; structural transformation; funding for technology transfer; and a global partnership for implementation of the SDGs and targets.

Kutesa gave closing remarks, saying that collective efforts and action are needed to address the world’s challenges, and that regional and sub-regional organizations can promote complementarity, burden-sharing, and comparative advantage. He referred to panelists and UN Member States who had called for better communication and coordination between the UN and regional partners.

Finally, Kutesa presented the Political Declaration on Strengthening Cooperation between the UN and Regional and Sub-regional Organizations, which he described as an important step in advancing strategic partnerships in this area. [Programme Webpage] [Event Webpage] [Draft Political Declaration and General Assembly President Letter] [UNGA President Opening Remarks] [UNGA President Closing Remarks] [Remarks of UN Secretary-General] [UN Press Release] [IISD RS Sources] [Adoption of Political Declaration on 5 May]