High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Convenes for the First Time
September 30, 2013  //  By:   //  Blog Post, Featured  //  No Comment

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development met for the first time on September 24th, 2013 under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the UN Headquarters in New York City. The Forum congregated heads of state and government, ministers, and representatives from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), among others. The theme of the meeting, “Building the Future We Want: from Rio+20 to the Post 2015 Development Agenda”, served as a basis for three different sections called ‘leader dialogues’: ‘from vision to action,’ ‘global partnerships for development to create jobs and improve sustainable lifestyles,’ and ‘mapping the way forward for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development.’

In his initial remarks, H.E. Ambassador John W. Ashe, President of the 68th Session of the UNGA, raised three questions to the members about how much ambition and leadership they are willing to commit to the Forum, how to translate the Forum into concrete action, and how to ensure a good fit between form and function. Although the Forum is a successor of the now defunct Commission on Sustainable Development (CDS), he noted: “Let us remember that we have been afforded a rare opportunity to get things right from the start because a new institution is a clean slate. It has no historical reference point, and at the same time, there are no negatives associated with it.”

Also during the opening session Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff stressed the role of poverty eradication in sustainable development, as well as the importance of the Forum in providing a space to review progress and discuss practices and solutions in how to achieve sustainable development. Other delegates stressed the importance of climate change leadership, global partnerships for jobs, oceans protection, financing, and strengthening the science-policy interface. Predominantly, they emphasized poverty eradication as a key objective in sustainable development efforts.

Regarding the post-2015 development process and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some delegates noted the need to merge the discussions into one single agenda. It is still unclear, however, how the two agendas will be coordinated, since the SDGs are currently being prepared by a 30-member Open Working Group, and the post-2015 development agenda is being coordinated by the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda, encompassing 60 UN agencies, bodies and international organizations.

Some hope that the Forum will afford more visibility and legitimacy to sustainable development policies than its predecessor, given the involvement of high-level officials and participation of all UN member states. Moreover, the presence of the ILO, the IMF and other institutions appear to address one of the critiques of the CDS as being an “environment commission,” thus allowing for a greater integration among the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

The next meeting will take place either in late June or early July 2014 at the ministerial level under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

For more information on the Forum, click here.

For meeting coverage, click here.

About the Author :

Gabriela Bueno is a PhD student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and a research associate at the Center for Governance and Sustainability.

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