27 January 2021
UN Member States Identify Preferences for 2021 HLPF Declaration
Photo Credit: Lynn Wagner
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Discussions lasted into December 2020 on the outcome document of the July 2020 HLPF session, with no agreement by UN Member States.

The Group of 77 and China has sent a letter noting the "flawed procedure" that caused the lack of agreement, and outlined its positions in advance of negotiations on the 2021 HLPF declaration.

With the UN membership unable to reach a consensus decision on the ministerial declaration of the July 2020 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and the high-level segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – despite discussions lasting into December 2020 – a group of governments has issued a letter calling for consideration of their concerns in the drafting of the 2021 declaration.

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 meeting of the HLPF, the Permanent Representatives of Bulgaria and Lebanon served as co-facilitators of intergovernmental consultations to prepare the ministerial declaration. The consultations took place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As explained later in a letter of the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), the co-facilitators prepared a draft on the basis of the consultations that “had attained near-consensus” and represented a fair balance of the positions expressed by delegations. However, they indicated that the draft subsequently circulated for agreement via the silence procedure had been “unilaterally amended.” The G-77/China describe this as a “flawed procedure” that violated the established practices and conventions that govern the HLPF’s negotiating processes. The Group raised objections to the circulated version of the draft on this procedural ground as well as several substantive issues.

Because the 2020 HLPF was held in a virtual format and online voting procedures were not in place, further consideration of the declaration was deferred until after the session. Subsequent negotiations did not yield agreement, however.

In September, the G-77/China tabled a proposal (E/2021/L.8) for a meeting of the HLPF and ECOSOC on an exceptional basis to reconsider the original draft, but the Council did not agree to proceed. Delegations raised procedural concerns about an exceptional session. Germany, for the EU, said the text proposed by the G-77/China did not match the document placed under silence procedure during the 2020 session. Canada cautioned against rushing negotiations on such an important text. Australia said the way forward would be to focus on the 2021 HLPF session. ECOSOC President Munir Akram agreed to pursue consultations with interested delegations and to seek advice from the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs.

On 11 December 2020, the G-77/China tabled a revised draft decision (E/2021/L.8/Rev.1) on reconsidering the draft declaration, proposing that a meeting convene by 31 December 2020 to reconsider the draft ministerial declaration. On 15 December, ECOSOC postponed the decision, and on 23 December 2020, Guyana as Chair of the G-77/China sent a letter to the ECOSOC President (E/2021/5). The Group called on the co-facilitators of the 2021 declaration, who have yet to be appointed, to be alert to the elements contained in the 2020 draft that had enjoyed consensus, as well as the issues on which the G-77/China broke silence, in order to avoid similar disagreements. As outlined in a letter of 21 July 2020, the Group had objected to the removal of a reference to “peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation,” and supported strong text on climate change and on “promoting a universal, rules-based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization, as well as meaningful trade liberalization.” The G-77/China indicated that it objects to the inclusion of the terms “building back greener” and “nature-based solutions”, and prefers referring to “ecosystem-based approaches”. 

The 2021 HLPF is scheduled to take place from 6-15 July. 

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