8 August 2016
Monthly Forecast: August 2016
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
story highlights

The month of August will involve fewer face-to-face meetings than the first half of the year, as the UN transitions from one working session to the next.

The month of August will involve fewer face-to-face meetings than the first half of the year, as the UN transitions from one working session to the next. Preparations will be underway, however, for a number of key events that will take place during the final quarter of 2016.

The 2015-2016 session of the UN has been notable because it has marked the UN’s 70th anniversary as well as the first implementing year of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change concluded the 2015 “year of decision,” and the sustainable development community subsequently has focused on ratification requirements and implications, as well as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to addressing the climate change challenge.

The 2016-2017 session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) will include a focus on migrants and refugees and the positioning and delivery of the UN development system, as well as the first global summit to apply the 2015 agreements in a specific context – Habitat III, which is expected to produce the ‘New Urban Agenda.’ This monthly forecast reviews some of the recently-resolved decisions that will set the stage for these and other events during the coming UN session. We also highlight areas in which preparations during August will feed into key sustainable development decision points during the coming months.

Setting the Stage: 2030 Agenda Follow-up Framework and Other Recent Outcomes

The negotiations within the UNGA over follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda at the global level took many more weeks than expected. The silence procedure to adopt the final draft was broken in June, due to a disagreement over whether to include references to the principle of self-determination of countries and peoples living under colonialism and foreign occupation. The text was finally adopted by consensus without this language on 29 July. The agreed text sets out aspects of the review process for the 2030 Agenda, with a focus on the 2017, 2018 and 2019 sessions of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which is the UN body charged with follow up to the 2030 Agenda and SDGs.

Among the notable elements of this decision, the text identifies themes for each of the next three sessions of the HLPF, along with a list of SDGs to be reviewed in depth at these sessions. In 2017, the HLPF will focus on ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’ and will review Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 and 17. In 2018, the HLPF will focus on ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies,’ and will review Goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17. And in 2019, the HLPF will focus on ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality,’ and will review Goals 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17. [IISD RS Story on Adopted Resolution]

Also related to follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda, in the ministerial declaration of the 2016 session of the HLPF, Member States welcomed the UN Statistical Commission’s decision, at its 47th session in March 2016, to agree on the global indicator framework proposed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) as “a practical starting point.” The Ministers also looked forward to the indicators’ “implementation and continual improvement in an inclusive and transparent manner.” [IISD RS Story on Ministerial Declaration] Work on the indicator framework will continue in the coming months, and the IAEG will convene for its fourth meeting in October, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This meeting is expected to discuss, inter alia: policy for revision and refinement of indicators, including timeline; finalizing tiers of indicators; data disaggregation; interlinkages among indicators; standardization of reporting of data; and spatial information. [IISD RS Story Including IAEG Comments]

In preparation for the UNGA’s High-level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, which will take place on 19 September, Member States concluded negotiations on the declaration on 2 August. While some had hoped that governments would agree on a global compact on refugees and a global compact on migrants, annexes on each of these compacts in the outcome document indicate that they are works in progress. On a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, consultations would take place “over the coming two years” on its practical application, and scope for refinement and further development. The Framework is to comprise a basis for the eventual global compact, to be adopted in 2018. On the global compact on migration, the annex states that preparations for intergovernmental negotiations are to begin immediately, for negotiations to begin in early 2017 and culminate in an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018. [UNGA President’s Letter on Agreed Text]

Preparations for UNGA 71

The 71st session of the UNGA will open on 13 September, and the General Debate beginning on 20 September will address the theme, ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world.’

Among other things, during UNGA 71, governments will conduct the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the UN system (QCPR). In preparation for negotiations on the QCPR, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) organized a dialogue process on “the longer-term positioning of the UN development system (UNDS) in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which began in December 2014. During the dialogue, Member States identified the need to reform the UNDS by strengthening the UN Resident Coordinators (RCs) system, enhancing coordination within the UNDS, and reducing competition and overlaps. Governments also agreed that UNDS must become adept at working effectively with different stakeholders, and across the peace and security, development and humanitarian pillars of the UN, and that UNDS will need to strengthen the regional dimension in its work in the post-2015 era. During August, an updated advance, unedited version of the UN Secretary-General’s report on the QCPR is expected to be released. This document will reflect the ECOSOC dialogue (per ECOSOC Resolution 2014/14) and feed into the QCPR negotiations. [IISD RS Story on Dialogue Concluding] [IISD RS Story on Summary of Dialogue]

On urban sustainability, the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) held its third meeting in Indonesia at the end of July, and a revised draft of the outcome document, called the New Urban Agenda, has been issued. This text will the subject of further negotiations in New York at the end of August or early September. [IISD RS Story on PrepCom 3]

Climate Policy: Homework Ahead of COP 22

The main August event related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change will be the scoping meeting for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission pathways. At its 21st session, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC invited the IPCC to provide such a report in 2018. In April 2016, the IPCC accepted the invitation to provide such a report in the context of strengthening the global response to climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. The scoping meeting is expected to result in a draft scoping paper that will: describe the report’s objectives; include an annotated outline of the report; and lay out the process and timeline for its preparation.

Although the month will be relatively quiet in terms of intergovernmental meetings, UNFCCC Parties and observers will be busy preparing submissions that were called for during the May session of the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC held in Bonn, Germany. Several of these submissions are due by 29 August, as outlined in the June 2016 Monthly Forecast. In addition, Parties are to submit, by 30 September 2016, their views on most items on the agenda of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), namely on: further guidance on NDC features, information in NDCs and accounting for NDCs; further guidance for the adaptation communication, including as a component of NDCs; modalities, procedures and guidelines for the transparency framework for action and support; and matters relating to the global stocktake.. By 30 August, UNFCCC Parties will receive the set of guiding questions prepared by the APA Co-Chairs. These questions will aim to assist conceptual thinking on features and elements of the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance.

UNFCCC Parties will also be focused on the special event to be convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 21 September, titled ‘UN Paris Climate Agreement: Toward Entry into Force.’ Ban has asked world leaders to deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change during this event. The Paris Agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global GHG emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance.

Key Upcoming Events on Natural Resources

In August, a series of regional joint preparatory meetings will allow participants to discuss agenda items for both the upcoming 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The joint preparatory meetings will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, for Asian countries; in Apia, Samoa for Pacific and Oceania countries; in Antigua, Guatemala for Central and South American and Caribbean countries; and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for African countries.

Oceans issues will be in focus during the seventh meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process (Regular Process) for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects. The Regular Process produces the World Ocean Assessment. At the end of the month, the second meeting of the Preparatory Committee for an international legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) will convene to discuss substantive recommendations to the UNGA on the elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ.

Also during August, World Water Week will convene under the theme ‘Water for Sustainable Growth.’ The Week will involve over 140 events on subjects such as finance, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, integrity, gender issues, climate change, energy, sanitation, food, conflict resolution and water management. The event will also address implementation of water-related SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.


Lynn Wagner, Alice Bisiaux, Faye Leone and Lauren Anderson

We are pleased to bring you the Monthly Forecast. Please contact us with any comments or suggestions on this column. For more information on key sustainable development events in August 2016, please consult our calendar of upcoming events: http://sdg.iisd.org/events/. For information after these events conclude, visit our Policy & Practice knowledgebase: http://sdg.iisd.org/.

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