15 August 2017
UNGA 72 Documents Reflect on Education, Environmental Conventions, Social Development
Photo by IISD/Mike Muzurakis
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In preparation for the 72nd session of the UNGA, the UN has released several documents related to sustainable development and SDG implementation.

Recent documents address progress on education for sustainable development, highlights from the UNFCCC, UNCCD and CBD, and reflections on social development, including special consideration of ageing populations in SDG implementation.

7 August 2017: In preparation for the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the UN has released a number of documents related to its agenda item on sustainable development, including documents on education for sustainable development (ESD), implementation of UN environmental conventions, and social development. The documents provide an overview of progress on the topic and make recommendations for the UNGA’s consideration, including specific recommendations on accelerating progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On ESD, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General has prepared a report, titled ‘Implementation of ESD (A/72/130),’ which provides an overview of the implementation of SDG 4 (quality education) and ESD in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Global Action Programme on ESD. The report highlights synergies between progress on SDG 4 and other SDGs, particularly on SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 13 (climate action), and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) but finds that mainstreaming ESD into curricula “remains a challenge.”

The report showcases national level progress on ESD in Costa Rica, Germany, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, and Viet Nam.

The report finds that the Global Action Programme on ESD has exceeded targets in five priority areas related to advancing policy, transforming learning and training environments, building capacities of educators and trainers, empowering and mobilizing youth, and accelerating sustainable solutions at the local level. National level progress includes: translation of ESD policies into action plans in Costa Rica; the adoption of a national action plan on ESD in Germany; the launch of an ESD policy in Kenya’s education sector following national consultations; implementation of an ESD whole-school approach in the Republic of Korea; and development of capacity-building tools and policy briefs on ESD in Viet Nam.

The report recommends a number of actions to ensure education systems contribute effectively to sustainable development: recognizing both formal and non-formal education and training as key to building capacity and tackling the SDGs; expanding marginalized groups’ access to good quality primary and secondary education, including to reduce income inequality and disparity; and improving equity in universal primary and secondary education, especially for girls. The report underscores the importance of sustained and increased commitment and action from Government and partners to implement and achieve ESD goals and the 2030 Agenda.

On environmental conventions, the report, titled ‘Implementation of UN environmental conventions (A/72/152),’ reviews progress related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). On the UNFCCC, the report highlights the outcomes of the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC and urges parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change to ratify, accept, approve, or accede to the Agreement as soon as possible. On the UNCCD, the report provides an update on preparation for the 13th session of the COP as well as on follow-up related to the 2030 Agenda, particularly on the land degradation neutrality target setting programme and SDG 15 (life on land).

The CBD report describes the 13th meeting of the COP and presents progress in implementation the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The report finds that progress to date on most Aichi Biodiversity Targets is “insufficient to ensure their achievement by 2020” and limited capacities and resources to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 represents “a major challenge.” The report recommends that UNGA 72 call on States to: accelerate efforts to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and achieve the Aichi Targets, which will also contribute to SDG achievement; and mainstream biodiversity in economic sectors, among other actions.

On social development, the report titled, ‘Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the 24th special session of the UNGA (A/72/158),’ highlights discussion from the 55th session of the Commission for Social Development (CSD) and underscores the need to address inequality to eradicate poverty and achieve the SDGs. The report recommends focusing on inequality within and among countries, including inequality in opportunities and access to quality education and health care, food and nutrition, safe drinking water and sanitation, productive assets such as land, credit and technology, and housing. The report further calls for addressing the special needs of least developed countries (LDCs) and Africa.

Also on social development, the UN Secretary-General released a report titled, ‘Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing (A/72/161).’ The report highlights how the interlinkages among the Goals has contributed to increased discussion and action on cross-cutting issues like ageing, emphasizing that ageing is one of the megatrends likely to shape prospects for achieving all the SDGs. The report recommends that Member States take into account the multi-dimensional nature of older persons’ vulnerability to poverty and economic security in SDG implementation; develop improved age-disaggregated data; and continue to support the integration of ageing and older persons in implementing the SDGs, among other actions.

The UNGA will also consider a number of other issues related to sustainable development, including follow-up to and implementation of the small island developing States (SIDS) Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway; disaster risk reduction (DRR); harmony with nature; affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; and sand and dust storms.

UNGA 71 will formally close on 11 September. UNGA 72 will open on 12 September. The General Debate will open on 19 September, with a focus on the theme, ‘Focusing on people: striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet.’ [A/72/130] [A/72/152] [A/72/158] [A/72/161] [UNGA 72 Draft Programme of Work]

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