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.

General Assembly adopts resolution on SDG report

On 10 September 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that paves the way for the incorporation of sustainable development goals into the post-2015 development agenda.

In adopting the “Report of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 66/288” the Assembly decided that the Open Working Group’s outcome document would be the main basis for integrating the SDGs into the future development agenda. The resolution states that other inputs would also be considered during the intergovernmental negotiation process at the upcoming General Assembly session.

At its thirteenth and final session in July 2014, the Open Working Group on SDGs had completed its report containing proposed SDGs. The proposal contains 17 goals with 169 targets covering a broad range of sustainable development issues.

At a stock-taking event on 11 September, during which UN Member States shared their views on the post 2015-development agenda, the President of the 68th session of the General Assembly, John Ashe, said that this agenda “must represent our collective commitment to end poverty and ensure that sustainable development becomes the norm for all nations, societies and economies…[it] must pick up where the MDGs left off, fill in its gaps and take us to the next level.

The SDGs build on the MDGs and incorporate economic and environmental dimensions. They break new ground by including issues such as energy, economic growth, inequality, cities, sustainable consumption and production, as well as peaceful societies,” he added.

At the opening of the 69th session of the General assembly on 16 September, the body’s new President, Kahamba Kutesa, declared the theme of this year's general debate “Delivering on and implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda” and said the framework must strive to eradicate poverty and hunger and promote sustained and inclusive economic growth.

Commenting on the Open Working Group’s report after its final session in July, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo had said that “the proposal of the Open Working Group brings together a breadth of economic, social and environmental issues in a single set of goals like never before. All those involved in crafting these 17 goals can be proud of themselves. Member States have shown a determination and willingness to work together for people and planet that bodes well for the General Assembly’s negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

Next steps

The post-2015 sustainable development agenda is expected to be adopted by UN Member States at a summit in September 2015. By the end of 2014, the Secretary-General will produce a synthesis report bringing together the results of all the different work streams on the post-2015 development agenda to facilitate the General Assembly’s further deliberations. The report of the Open Working Group on SDGs will be among the inputs to this synthesis report.

$1.9 billion pledged in sustainable development partnerships

Nearly 300 partnerships between governments, businesses and civil society organizations from all over the world have been registered to support small island developing states bringing the total value of these commitments to over USD $1.9 billion, the United Nations announced at the conclusion of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States.

The partnerships, which were registered in the lead up to and during the Conference in Apia, Samoa, seek to boost the capacity of these group of countries to achieve sustainable development.

Without a doubt, these partnerships leave a legacy with impact,” said the Secretary-General of the Conference, Wu Hongbo. “Many of the initiatives announced here are looking at the unique position of small island developing states as an opportunity to accelerate advancements on renewable energy, disaster preparedness and sustainable food systems, to name just a few key areas.

Representatives from 115 countries attended the meeting, which is the third global conference to tackle sustainable development of small island developing states, and the first to be held in the Pacific region. The Conference reaffirmed the need to consider the special circumstances faced by small island developing states in achieving sustainable development.

The meeting brought global attention to the issues that people on the islands are facing, and the solutions they have developed. It also provided a foundation for many of the issues that were addressed at the Climate Summit on 23 September in New York, where more than 100 Heads of State and Government announced actions on climate change.

With genuine and durable partnerships as its theme, the Conference brought representatives from governments, businesses and civil society together to concentrate on forging long-lasting joint initiatives.

The partnerships include 166 states and governments, 85 United Nations entities/inter-governmental organizations, and nearly 1,200 major groups and other stakeholders. The established partnerships are addressing a wide range of issues including climate change, disaster resilience, environmental protection, access to energy and social development, among others.

“These issues are a priority for small island developing states because of their unique circumstances, remote location and high vulnerability, but we must remember that some of these issues, such as climate change and disaster resilience, have global consequences, and we must all work together to ensure a sustainable future,” Mr. Wu said. “Never before have multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues been so integral to a UN Conference. The understanding that achieving sustainable development is a joint endeavour by all, is reflected in this approach. I believe it is the approach of the future,” he added.

New partnerships for sustainable development

Over one-third of the 300 partnerships registered were announced during the four-day Conference. These new initiatives have the potential to mobilize some USD $625 million, while existing partnerships made new commitments that will go beyond 2014, amounting to USD $1.28 billion.

One of the new partnerships, the Small Island Developing States Lighthouse Initiative, developed by the International Renewable Energy Agency, will seek to raise USD $500 million to assist small islands in increasing their share of renewable energy, enabling them to meet or exceed their renewable energy targets. This is of particular importance to this group of countries where fossil fuels can cost three times more than in mainland markets. The initiative will also provide training for policymakers to make them aware of what is needed in terms of legislation and outreach to the publics to transform their country’s energy sector.

Another new initiative, the Pacific Island Oceanic Fisheries Management Partnership, aims to mobilize over USD $94 million to help 15 small island developing states in the Pacific meet their international obligations regarding sustainable fishing. This partnership is supported by the UN Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Environment Fund, Forum Fisheries Agency and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Other initiatives include the South-South Technology Transfer Facility for SIDS, which will mobilize nearly US$5 million to provide small island developing states transfer technology in areas such as global health and agriculture, and The Programme for Strengthening the Resilience of our Islands and our Communities to Climate Change, budgeted at over US$5 million, which will strengthen the ability of the Cook Islands to manage the anticipated consequences of climate change.

For a list of all the existing and new partnerships, please visit the SIDS 2014 Partnerships Platform. All partnerships will be monitored by the United Nations, with the goal of increasing accountability.

We want these partnerships to last, and we will be creating opportunities for partners to update us on the status of their initiatives,” said Nikhil Seth, Director of UN DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development.

The SAMOA Pathway

UN Member States formally adopted the outcome document of the Conference, the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action - or SAMOA Pathway - in which countries recognize the need to support and invest in these nations so they can achieve sustainable development.

The motto of this Conference was ‘Island voices, global choices,” said Mr. Wu at the closing plenary. “The islands have made their case in a convincing way. Together, we have agreed on what needs to be done. It is now for the international community to take up these calls when the post-2015 development agenda is negotiated.

SIDS Pre-Conference Activities complemented discussions in Samoa

As part of the preparations for the SIDS Conference in Samoa, a series of Pre-Conference Forums were organised from 28 to 30 August 2014. The outcomes of the Forums fed into the Conference plenary discussions and Multi-stakeholder Partnership Dialogues.

Youth call for action in six key areas

On 27 and 28 August 2014, young people from across the SIDS regions came together at the SIDS T.A.L.A.V.O.U. Youth Forum in Apia, to identify priorities for accelerating the sustainable development of SIDS.

The Forum adopted an outcome statement that advanced practical recommendations for achieving concrete results and called for action in six key areas critical to the livelihoods of young people: Good Governance and Youth Participation; Health; Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Energy; Water and Oceans; Education, Entrepreneurship and Employment; and Science and Technology. The Forum also presented innovative and impactful partnerships created and led by young people.

Major Groups and other Stakeholders Forum discussed partnerships

A civil society coalition from across the three SIDS regions organized a forum for major groups and other stakeholders on 28 and 29 August, supported by the Government of Samoa, to examine the SAMOA Pathway and recommend concrete actions and next steps for its immediate implementation. The Forum marked a big step for strengthening and reviving inter-regional cooperation between major groups to tackle global challenges for SIDS.

Participants debated the role of partnerships and innovative ways of weaving new relationships between the private sector, civil society, and government. The Forum adopted an outcome document addressing pressing challenges such as climate change and disaster risk reduction; indigenous rights and gender equality; sustainable energy; and economic development.

Renewables recognized as key to sustainable development

The Renewable Energy Forum on 30 August 2014 discussed the role of renewable energy in the sustainable development of SIDS. The Forum started with a high-level dialogue with SIDS Leaders and Ministers outlining the opportunities and challenges for the deployment of renewable energy. They conveyed a unified and strong message of renewables being key to sustainable development of SIDS, and emphasised political commitment, the will to act, and the challenge of implementation. They stressed that the SIDS Conference and the SG’s Climate Summit present a unique opportunity to build momentum and accelerate action in renewable energy in SIDS.

The High-Level panel reiterated the three core principles of SE4ALL of universal access, increased renewable energy and energy efficiency as being relevant to SIDS. Participants welcomed the timeliness of IRENA’s SIDS Lighthouses initiative and emphasised the need for IRENA and other partners’ engagement and support.

By sharing experiences and project insights, participants acknowledged that renewable sources can provide sustainable energy solutions for SIDS and contribute to energy security, economic prosperity and sustainable development, as well as strengthen climate mitigation and resilience efforts. Forum participants agreed that, as the share of renewables in SIDS’ energy systems increase, a structured, holistic approach that takes into account medium and long-term requirements and impacts is required. Participants stressed that an essential underpinning of all efforts is human and institutional capacity, and access to financing.

Private Sector Partnerships Forum

The Private Sector Forum took place from 30 to 31 August and brought companies together to share information and best practices, and to network. Executives and officials participating in the Forum stressed that Small Island Developing States offer opportunities for genuine and sustainable business partnerships.

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