The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, was an action-oriented conference focusing on implementation of sustainable development.
This newsletter aims to highlight the work carried out by Member States, United Nations system, Major Groups and other relevant stakeholders in implementing sustainable development and leading the way to the Future We Want.
Genuine and durable partnerships for Small Island Developing States
2014 will be a big year for small island developing States (SIDS). Both the United Nations Conference on SIDS taking place in Apia, Samoa, from 1 to 4 September, and the International Year of SIDS, to be launched on 24 February, will draw the World’s attention to these States and promote actions aimed at achieving their sustainable development.
The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa will seek a renewed political commitment to address the special needs and vulnerabilities of SIDS by focusing on practical actions. Building on assessments of previous commitments (such as the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation), the Conference will aim to identify and address new and emerging challenges and opportunities for sustainable development of SIDS, particularly through the strengthening of partnerships between these islands and the international community. Many issues that will be addressed at the Conference are also central to the post-2015 development agenda.
Why focus on small island developing States?
“We need to bring more attention to the problems that small island developing States face,” UN Secretary‐General Ban Ki-moon said while addressing SIDS leaders at an event in September last year. “Many of your countries are isolated. Your markets are too small to realize economies of scale. All small island developing sates are exposed to high risks from environmental threats, especially climate change,” said the Secretary-General. He added that the world had not paid enough attention to the issues that the people of small island States, often on the frontlines, have had to face alone.
Rio+20 had acknowledged that SIDS remained a special case for sustainable development. This is a consequence of their unique and particular vulnerabilities, including their small size, remoteness, narrow resource and export base, and exposure to global environmental challenges and external economic shocks, including potentially more frequent and intense natural disasters. Countries also felt that small island developing States have made less progress than most other groupings, or even regressed, in economic terms, especially in terms of poverty reduction and debt sustainability.
Partnerships at the heart of the Conference
Partnerships will be at the heart of the Conference, as highlighted by the Conference theme: ‘Sustainable development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships’. In recent years, small island developing States have identified areas where they can take leadership, work together, and bring other partners on board for concrete actions on sustainable development. Five thematic areas for partnerships to benefit SIDS have emerged for special attention: climate change and energy, oceans and seas, waste management, sustainable tourism and natural disaster resilience. Partnerships in the area of health, especially addressing non-communicable diseases, are also being explored.
As the Conference is expected to see the launch of new innovative partnerships to advance the sustainable development of SIDS, a Platform has been set up to allow all Stakeholders to announce new partnerships, or ideas for partnerships, and to track implementation. This Partnership Platform on the SIDS website is to encourage everyone to share ideas for the improvement of SIDS communities.
Global preparations start this month
After meetings on the national, regional and inter-regional levels were held in 2013, the global preparations for the Conference begin this month, with the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to take place from 24 to 27 February. An informal intersessional meeting will be held from 21 to 25 April 2014, and the final meeting of the PrepCom will take place from 23 to 27 June 2014.
2014 has been declared International Year of Small Island Developing States, the first Year ever dedicated to a group of countries. The Year and the preparations for the UN Conference on SIDS will be mutually reinforcing, raising the profile of the SIDS and calling attention to their challenges but also to their unique cultural heritage and their contributions in the arts, culture, innovation and natural resource management among many other areas. The global launch of the Year will take place on 24 February at UN headquarters in New York and will be webcasted worldwide.
Social inclusion is integral to sustainable urbanization, says Open Working Group
New York – “The world is rapidly urbanizing, and so cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost” said Ambassador Korosi, Co-Chair of the Open Working Group on sustainable development goals, as he summarized one of the key messages that had come out of the Group's seventh session. Deliberations of the session, which lasted from 6 to 10 January, had focused on sustainable cities and human settlements, sustainable transport, sustainable consumption and production, and climate change and disaster risk reduction.
The Ambassador presented the Co-Chairs' draft summary, which outlines some of the main arguments made during the five days of discussion. Cities were acknowledged to be large consumers of energy and materials. While they can achieve agglomeration of economies, making available more jobs and affordable network infrastructure services - such as water, transport, and ICT - they also concentrate pollution and waste. Social inclusion was emphasized as an integral part of sustainable urbanization. The importance of sustainable transport was also underlined, with many calling for future SDGs to ensure access to safe, affordable and environmentally friendly transport for all.
Sustainable Consumption and Production
The cross-cutting nature of sustainable consumption and production was well recognised during the discussions on this issue, and there were proposals for targets to decouple economic growth from resource use. It was acknowledged that a mix of policies will be needed to promote sustainable consumption and production, including fiscal instruments, education and awareness raising, voluntary certification schemes, and regulations, standards and legislation. Some Delegates argued for a life-style approach, which would involve different styles of inhabiting the planet, in harmony with nature.
Climate change and disaster risk reduction
Stressing the urgency of action on climate change that had been highlighted in the course of the session, Ambassador Korosi said that “climate change poses a real and immediate threat to sustainable development, putting at risk development gains of recent decades.” There was support for addressing climate change as a cross-cutting issue in the SDGs framework, while respecting the negotiating role of the UNFCCC and not prejudging its process.
Members of the Open Working Group also suggested that strong action on climate change mitigation and adaptation are among the most effective means of reducing disasters. Without such actions the frequency, intensity, and vulnerability to disasters would only increase through decades. Read the Co-Chairs summary and find more information on the below link.
Open Working Group on SDGs to hold final stocktaking session
The eighth and final session of the stocktaking phase of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals will take place from 3 to 7 February 2014.
The first two days will be dedicated to the themes oceans and seas, forests, and biodiversity. The following one and a half days will focus on promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and a further one and a half days will be devoted to conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance.
Briefs on these issues by the United Nations Technical Support Team, as well as a draft programme, can be found on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. The session can be followed live via UN Web TV and @SustDev, which will be live-tweeting using #OWG8. The Open Working Group will start the second, so called consolidation phase of its work, with a meeting from 3 to 5 March.
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