UNGA Second Committee Discusses Sustainable Development

UNGA Image5 November 2013: The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) debated issues under its agenda item on sustainable development, including climate change, disaster risk reduction (DRR), biological diversity, desertification, small island developing States (SIDS), and the role of a post-2015 development agenda.

Meeting at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 4-5 November 2013, the Second Committee received reports from leaders of the relevant Conventions and the UN system.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) in 2012, in Doha, Qatar, made significant progress in climate change negotiations, as a new agreement for 2015 continues to be designed. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), presented statistics showing a slow decline in overall rates of deforestation, and said some countries are showing increased public understanding of biodiversity issues.

Nikhil Seth, UN Division for Sustainable Development (DSD, DESA), presented reports on the mainstreaming of sustainable development within the UN, the special development situation of SIDS, and the needs of future generations.

UNGA President John Ashe delivered an address stressing the importance of the Second Committee's discussions to the ongoing process to determine a post-2015 development agenda. He spoke of progress on sustainable development issues through the establishment of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and the enthusiasm to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ashe said the Committee can offer important guidance and policy recommendations for the global sustainable development agenda, while discussing the format of the first HLPF meeting under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In Member States' discussion on the post-2015 development agenda, countries emphasized the need to eradicate poverty while better integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development. It was stressed that previous and future development commitments should be upheld. Several States proposed that the HLPF be responsible for follow-up on the new development agenda. Countries highlighted issue areas as important to include in new goals, including: women's empowerment, employment, youth, education, energy, food security and governance. Some also emphasized the universal nature of a new agenda.

On climate change, States welcomed the Secretary-General's plans to host a Climate Summit in September 2014 and progress on negotiations in the UNFCCC. States highlighted the need to keep global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius, emphasizing the negative impact of climate change on developing countries. Financing for adaptation and mitigation were discussed, with States calling for effective means of implementation and capacity building to be central in a new climate change agreement.

On biodiversity, speakers emphasized the need to live in harmony with nature and stay within planetary limits. National strategies for the protection of natural lands through parks and protected areas were discussed, and some countries emphasized that biodiversity should not be opened to private investment. Countries discussed the need for international coordination and financing for the protection of natural resources.

On islands, Member States stressed that development efforts for SIDS are becoming more challenging due to threats posed by climate change. Bold steps to help SIDS were encouraged, and countries looked forward to the Third International Conference on SIDS to be held in Samoa in 2014. Important issues emphasized for islands were oceans and seas, sustainable energy, and trade.

Other sustainable development issues discussed included: sustainable tourism; desertification and land degradation; DRR; and the representation of future generations. [UN Meeting Summary] [Statement of UNGA President]