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Leaders Underscore Climate, Oceans Issues in 68th Debate

United Nations28 September 2013: Leaders speaking at the High-level Debate of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 28 September 2013, in New York, US, again focused on 'setting the stage' for the post-2015 development agenda. Heads of State and ministers underscored lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and proposed principles and issues for inclusion, such as cross-cutting issues, climate change and oceans.

While noting that the post-2015 agenda should complete the unfinished business of the MDGs, many, including Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius, and Rui Machete, Minister of State of Portugal, said the agenda should go further to ensure transformational change and address emerging challenges. Antoni Martí Petit, Head of the Government of Andorra, expressed hope that the agenda will be more ambitious. Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lichtenstein, stated that once the goals have been agreed, the world needs to achieve its commitments and apply a monitoring mechanism.

Several speakers recommended basing the agenda on the UN's ideals. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said respect for human rights and equality among all people is critical to achieve human development. Khil Raj Regmi, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Nepal, underlined that the framework should be based on universal human rights, equity and sustainability. Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, called for the agenda to recognize that development cannot be achieved without peace and security, democracy and human rights. Guido Westerwelle, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, emphasized good governance and human rights. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, supported addressing governance, human rights, peace and security.

Many supported a universal, comprehensive agenda that considers regional, national and sub-national circumstances and priorities, including Machete, Regmi, and Titus Corlătean, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania. Many also noted increasing interconnectedness among issues. Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, stressed that it is not possible to tackle migration without also addressing conflicts, environmental disaster and poverty. Portia Simpson Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica, said the agenda should balance robust economic growth, job creation, poverty eradication and environmental protection. Corlătean supported addressing cross-cutting issues, including human rights, peace and security, good governance, gender equality, rule of law and equity.

Many urged special consideration to least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), small island developing States (SIDS) and other vulnerable countries, including Thongloun Sisoulith, Vice Prime Minister of the Laos Peoples Democratic Republic (PDR), K. Shanmugam, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Miller and Tovichakchaikul. Erlan Abdyldayev, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, described the special needs of mountainous landlocked countries, including isolation and high transport costs, and called for reflecting these in post-2015 programmes and sustainable development documents. Regmi supported mainstreaming LDC concerns into the post-2015 agenda, noting they are the most off-track in MDG achievements.

Many SIDS speakers, including Perry Gladstone Christie, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, José Maria Pereira Neves, Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Ramgoolam, Leo Dion, Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, and Manasseh Maelanga, Deputy Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, underscored the challenges climate change poses to their survival and urged immediate action on a global, legally binding agreement. Vete Sakaio, Deputy Prime Minister, Tuvalu, said climate change is no longer an environmental or political issue but “a borderless humanity security issue." Noting developing countries that have contributed the least to climate change suffer the most from its effects, Eamon Gilmore, Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, supported an integrated approach to climate change with a focus on climate-sensitive agriculture. Abdyldayev said climate change affects Kyrgyzstan's water resources, noting its glaciers, the primary source of Central Asian rivers, have shrunk by 20%.

Several SIDS supported including oceans as a stand-alone SDG, including Dion and Maelanga. Ramgoolam called for defining a new ocean vision that would, inter alia, expand economic space for SIDS while ensuring sustainable use of living and non-living resources. Machete welcomed commitments to discuss the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ), and supported adoption of an international instrument within the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Leaders also proposed including disaster risk reduction (DRR), education, health care, migration, partnerships, road safety, social protection, sustainable mountain development, women and youth. Several speakers described their countries' pursuit of renewable energy, including Moana Carcasses Kalosil, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Christie, Maelanga and Sakaio. Shanmugam prioritized urban management and water and sanitation issues. Neves reported that Cape Verdeans ranked the issue of employment as the most important in achieving economic and human development. Singh supported well-defined means of implementation, including adequate resource flow and technology transfer. [Debate Statements]