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.
Weaving a single thread for people and planet
The sustainable development goals (SDGs) being devised by the General Assembly’s Open Working Group could mark an evolution in United Nations development thinking. The Group will come together for its fifth session from 25 to 27 November in New York, to discuss sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions, infrastructure development and industrialization, and energy.
“Properly conceived, the sustainable development goals offer a transformative moment,” said Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development. Past development efforts had often kept to thematic silos. “Discussions on the post-Rio+20 and post-2015 agendas made evident that a truly integrative vision is needed,” he explained. There are essentially two sets of challenges: achieving universal human development and ensuring humanity does not exceed critical ecological thresholds. “The sustainable development goals have the potential of weaving one strong, resilient thread out of these two very closely associated - but until now separate – strands,” said Mr Seth.
The good progress made during the Open Working Group’s first four sessions has been summarized in a Co-Chairs’ progress report. It emphasizes the wide support for a single post-2015 United Nations development framework containing a single set of goals – goals that are universally applicable to all countries but adaptable to different national realities and priorities.
The advancement and completion of the Millennium Development Goals is seen as the starting point of the SDGs. However, the latter will need to be more comprehensive, balanced, ambitious and transformative, also addressing the challenges ahead. The report also maintains that poverty eradication remains the overall objective of the international community, but that this can only be made irreversible if sustainable development is considered in a holistic manner. This means incorporating its social, economic and environmental dimensions.
Involving non-state actors in the Open Working Group process has been central from the beginning, and there are a number of ways for them to engage. Representatives from each of the nine Major Groups participate as official observers. Beginning with the third session, the Co-Chairs of the Open Working Group also held daily meetings with representatives of Major Groups and other stakeholders before the start of the official part of the meetings. Contributions to the sustainable development goals process can also be made online, through the Thematic Clusters on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
Dynamic dialogue between Stakeholders and Open Working Group
Major Groups and other stakeholders will have an intersessional meeting with members of the Open Working Group on sustainable development goals on 22 November 2013. They will be able to make suggestions on how the Open Working Group could address several cross-cutting issues regarding the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The meeting will be designed as a dynamic dialogue. It will help conceptualize a number of things, such as: practical approaches to rights-based SDGs that integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development; SDGs that are designed to eradicate poverty, mitigate inequalities and lead to inclusiveness; how to make good governance and multi-stakeholder partnerships the building blocks of the SDGs; how to design SDGs that foster human and economic development within planetary boundaries.
The Co-Chairs of the Open Working Group will co-chair the sessions with members of Major Groups and other stakeholders and have invited Open Working Group Member States to attend at the highest level. They will circulate a summary with highlights of the discussions at the Open Working Group’s fifth session.
Since not all stakeholders with an interest in contributing to the conversation will be able to attend the event, several measures to collect their inputs will be taken. Major Groups and other Stakeholders will be able to share their inputs in a pre-consultation ahead of 22 November, on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
The intersessional meeting will be live streamed on UN web tv and it will be possible to send comments and questions to the participants at the meeting via the Division for Sustainable Development’s twitter channel (@SustDev, #SustDev). More information on the various forms of engagement will be published on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform’s dedicated webpage closer to the meeting.
New learning network to help countries implement sustainable development
As a follow up to the Rio+20 Conference, the Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) organized a workshop and Expert Group Meeting to improve countries’ capacities to integrate sustainable development into their national development strategies. The event took place from 9 to 11 October in New York.
One of the main challenges that countries continue to face in realizing sustainable development is that of integrating its economic, social and environmental dimensions into national institutions, planning and programming. Too often policies and programmes remain fragmented into sectors. Countries need support in linking the three dimensions of sustainable development on the national level.
The event therefore brought together more than 80 participants, including government representatives, national and international experts, Major Groups and United Nations system representatives, to discuss how to build capacity in developing countries that advances the implementation of sustainable development and improves the integration of its three dimensions. The workshop also addressed issues such as multi-stakeholder engagement, reporting on national goals and targets, and learning and knowledge sharing.
The main results of the meeting include a consensus to launch a learning network that will provide tools, case evidence and best practice for the integration of sustainable development into national strategies. The network will also be used to share new ideas and innovations and will be supported by the three DSD overseas offices in the Republic of Korea (UNOSD), Japan (UNCRD) and Spain (“Water for Life” Decade’s Office). DSD will provide updates on the intergovernmental process through the learning network, so that these can be shared and promoted at the national level.
It was also decided that a number of pilot countries will be given support in integrating sustainable development into national development planning. More information on the workshop and expert group meeting can be found on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
Experts discuss Global Sustainable Development Report at regional level
An Expert Group Meeting on science-policy interface that took place from 21 to 22 October in Dubrovnik, Croatia, organized by the Division for Sustainable Development and hosted by the Government of Croatia, brought together around 30 scientists, policy analysts, planners and other experts involved in sustainable development at the national, regional and sub-regional levels.
Participants discussed how they could best contribute to the Global Sustainable Development Report, a report which was suggested in the Rio+20 outcome document as a means for the High-Level Political Forum to strengthen the science-policy interface. Specifically, the Rio+20 outcome document stipulates that the Forum could, as one of its functions, “strengthen the science-policy interface through review of documentation bringing together dispersed information and assessments, including in the form of a global sustainable development report, building on existing assessments.”
The participants at the Expert Group Meeting also discussed how to establish a network of scientific contributors that can cooperate and coordinate at the regional and sub-regional levels.
They adopted the Dubrovnik Declaration which calls on the national governments in the region to: facilitate science-policy dialogues and promote a stronger institutionalized science-policy interface at the national level; provide enhanced support to regional scientific networks working on common priorities; support and strengthen inter-ministerial policy coordination for sustainable development; and consult with Major Groups and other relevant stakeholders.
The Declaration also calls on regional and international institutions to: integrate regional and sub-regional perspectives in their analytical and policy work and in their technical assistance and capacity-building programmes; provide support to regional scientific networks; and provide support to interdisciplinary exchanges targeted at building integrated visions and sustainable development strategies at the national level, in order to facilitate intra-regional capacity building.
An Executive Summary of the prototype edition of the Global Sustainable Development Report was launched at the inaugural session of the High-Level Political Forum on 24 September 2013. It is available on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.