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Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB)

Volume 32 Number 25 | Saturday, 23 April 2016


Briefing Note on the High-level Thematic Debate
on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

21 April 2016 | UN Headquarters, New York


Languages: EN (HTML/PDF)
Visit our IISD/ENB Meeting Coverage from UN Headquarters, New York at: http://enb.iisd.org/sdgs/hltd/

The High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place on Thursday, 21 April 2016, at UN Headquarters in New York. Following opening keynote speeches, plenary convened throughout the day for national statements on the theme “Action at All Levels: National Implementation.” In the morning, two panels took place on the theme “Financing poverty eradication and sustainable development,” addressing successful frameworks and strategies for financing SDGs and the paradigm shift towards low carbon societies, and enhancing international cooperation in tax and financial matters.

A high-level lunch discussed partnerships for SDG implementation. In the afternoon, two panels took place under the theme “Technology and data for SDGs,” on enhancing technology development and cooperation for SDGs and harnessing the data revolution for SDGs. In the evening, a high-level reception addressed climate action in the context of sustainable development.

OPENING CEREMONY

Moderator Ghida Fakhry, international broadcast journalist, opened the session following a performance by drummers from Mamaroneck High School.

During opening remarks, President of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change provide the international community with a framework to solve the root causes of migrant and humanitarian crises.

During keynote speeches, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson called it an “important signal” that this event is taking place on the eve of the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, noting that neither the development nor climate agenda can be achieved without the other. He said achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require breaking down barriers “across borders, across sectors, and across functions.”

A short film presented the history of the sustainable development and climate agendas, and the need to account for the next seven generations. “We are standing in front of an opportunity to change the course of the world,” said the narrator, concluding, “to leave no one behind, we must all lead.”

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Barrett, Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), said that the negotiations for the SDGs and the climate agreement were negotiations for the future world that youth will grow into, and in order to realize their results, a movement of young people is needed. She stressed that the SDGs are “goals for all of us, and by all of us,” requiring action and engagement by all actors, including youth.

Forest Whitaker, SDG advocate and actor, said the work of his foundation has led him to believe that behind every conflict is a fundamental need not being met, such as access to food or security, so implementing the SDGs could help prevent conflicts. He stressed that all 17 goals complement and reinforce each other, and must be implemented together. He said realizing them will require building a true social movement, and urged attendees to help get average citizens involved, “to inspire others to aspire to something transformative.”

Sunny George Verghese, Co-Founder and CEO, Olam International, said attitudes have changed both in the UN and the private sector with regards to partnerships as the SDGs highlight that how we do business is as important as what we do as business.

Leymah Gbowee, SDG advocate and Liberian peace activist, underscored the importance of democracy for achieving the SDGs and especially for translating democracy into goods for ordinary people.

Moderated Dialogue: In a dialogue moderated by Fakhry, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director General, International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), said the science and engineering communities should build the scientific infrastructure and human capacity to develop road maps and plans for implementing the SDGs.

Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute, Columbia University, and Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said every government must make a plan for achieving the SDGs, and emphasized the need to invest in children, education, and low-carbon energy. He also called for mobilizing resources from rich countries, which have “let the rich people off the hook.”

Nakicenovic echoed the need to change the direction of investment. He also: announced a science and engineering project, “World in 2050;” encouraged governments to send input to the upcoming Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Forum on 6-7 June; and highlighted that three billion people lack access to clean cooking fuels.

Sachs said all countries have agreed to achieve the SDGs. He noted that the US government spends US$900 billion per year on military, and only US$30 billion on development assistance, calling this a “bad investment.”

Nakicenovic concluded that the planet “has been very kind to us” until now, and it is time to be kind to both the planet and ourselves. Sachs said the leaders gathered today will implement their agreement because no country is safe if it continues business as usual. He concluded, this is not a debate, it is implementation.

INTERACTIVE DIALOGUES

Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development: The Way Forward—Successful Frameworks and Strategies for Financing the SDGs and the Paradigm Shift towards Low Carbon Societies: Moderator Maggie Lake, Anchor and Correspondent, CNN International, introduced the panel.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and Chair, G20 Financial Stability Board, stressed that the SDGs are an economic imperative and could pull economies out of secular stagnation. He emphasized that implementation will require an investment step change, including on climate change, to shift investment from high- to low-carbon intensity. He also said that while only governments can solve the “tragedy of the horizon” and generate a shift towards low-carbon societies, it is possible to generate a virtuous cycle in which countries implement their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and companies pull forward to meet climate challenges.

Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Environment, Brazil, called for a new way of facing international cooperation, which overcomes fragmentation, and for a new type of multilateralism, which mobilizes all stakeholders and is based on results.

Torben Möger Pedersen, CEO, Pension Denmark, noted that infrastructure is increasingly seen as an important asset class. He stressed the need for risk-adjusted returns on infrastructure projects.

Namita Vikas, Group President and Country Head, Responsible Banking and Chief Sustainability Officer, YES Bank, underscored the need for integrated reporting for standardizing all environment and social risks, and policies that create a level regulatory playing field.

Barbara Adams, Senior Policy Advisor, Global Policy Forum, noted the need to talk about risk to ensure that the public sector, women and the vulnerable are not getting the short end of the stick on risk. She observed that governments talk about the SDGs while pursing bilateral investment treaties that are direct obstacles to them, and called for standards and frameworks.

Carney stressed that pragmatic objectives are important and risk can be reduced through the development of green bonds.

Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, Director General, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany, said that providing the right incentives to engage the private sector is critical. She stressed mobilizing domestic resources and shifting the trillions, in the private sector, while using official development assistance (ODA) to leverage private money. She finished saying there is a tendency to perceive implementation of the Paris Agreement and SDGs as separate, emphasizing that they must be brought together and integrated into national policies and financial processes.

Stefano Prato, Managing Director, Society for International Development, questioned the blurring of lines between public and private, observing conversations seem to focus on investors’ rights over the rights of all, and focus on issues that ossify existing financial structures rather than transforming them. He stressed that in seducing the private sector, it is critical that states not abdicate their responsibilities.

Héla Cheikhrouhou, Executive Director, Green Climate Fund, called for: looking at the climate impacts of investments; project proposals that are economically viable to enable the move from piloting to scaling up; and more affordable technological solutions.

Enrique García Rodríguez, Executive President and CEO, Development Bank of Latin America, stressed the need for pre-feasibility studies to include from the beginning social and environmental impact assessments, to enable finding more sustainable project alternatives at an early stage.

During an interview of UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft by Ghida Fakhry, Mogens said the quality of the state is measured by the ability of the state to collect taxes. He noted that tax evasion has increased over the past twenty years. He highlighted that the release of the Panama Papers adds impetus to international efforts to address issues related to tax evasion.

Enhancing International Cooperation in Tax and Finance Matters: Moderator Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the panel, noting the need to mobilize national resources, which implies increased revenue collection.

José Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University, noted that international cooperation is essential. He highlighted, inter alia: combating illicit financial flows; identifying harmful tax competition; identifying how to avoid negative externalities; and negotiating a UN convention on tax abuses.

Min Zhu, Deputy Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, identified two key pillars for countries to produce and retain the necessary financial resources for their economies: private sector investment, which needs appropriate regulations; and public sector revenues, which require capacity building for tax administration.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, welcomed the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Base Erosion Profit Shifting (BEPS) project as a “good step forward” but noted that the process was limited because it was dominated by: OECD countries; some rich developing countries; and corporate interests. Noting that two-thirds of world’s governments were not at the table and thus the BEPS agenda is very limited, she called for a second round of negotiations, more inclusive and legitimate.

Tom Butler, President and CEO, International Council on Mining and Metals, welcomed BEPS as a way to build trust and reduce uncertainty. He highlighted the need for: making timely assessments of companies; advancing pricing agreements; consistency; equitable treatment; and timeliness.

Marcos Bonturi, Director, Global Relations Secretariat, OECD, spoke about OECD’s two different work streams on tax: the automatic exchange of tax information, which will make it impossible for tax evaders to hide; and the BEPS project, which, by reducing tax evasion, will provide countries with a revenue stream of around US$100-200 billion annually.

Tove Maria Ryding, Policy and Advocacy Manager - Tax Justice, European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), stressed the tax system is failing because developing countries have not been included in decision-making processes. She said that BEPS maintains many parts of the current system that do not work.

During discussions, the Netherlands called for working on a BEPS+ system, stressing that implementing BEPS is an important first step. He also stressed capacity building. Ghana and Grenada noted that UNCTAD is an important and inclusive forum for including developing countries in decision making. Ghana called for moving away from the attitude that governments should pay companies for the privilege of investing in their countries. Finland stressed a comprehensive approach to resource mobilization. The World Bank underscored that public spending and accountability are imperative, and called for attention to financial flows at sub-national levels.

TECHNOLOGY AND DATA FOR SDGS: Enhancing Technology Development and Cooperation for SDGs: The dialogue began with a short video on the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM), with experts noting that technology must respond to communities’ needs and address development problems, and calling for increased commitments to support STI.

Moderator Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute, said technological change is essential to delivering the SDGs, but while it has been a “blessing to humanity” it also poses challenges.

In his opening remarks, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner outlined the difficult “political economy” of technology. However, it is crucial to the “systems change” the world needs. He said the UN’s TFM could provide regulatory signals to allow technology to take its rightful place in implementing the SDGs, adding that technology development requires public policy and the right investment environment.

Sirodjidin Aslov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tajikistan, said each SDG has a strong technology-related component, which sets the SDGs apart from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He highlighted the challenge of leveraging the benefits of technology and innovation when owned by the private sector.

Esben Lunde Larsen, Minister for Environment and Food, Denmark, outlined his country’s approach of setting high standards to challenge businesses, and interacting between authorities and businesses to develop technology. He warned against being too tough on businesses, however, because “that can kill them” on the way to green solutions and technology transfer.

Rachel Kyte, CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, said technological advances in energy make it possible to “reach the furthest first,” such as through low-cost solar. The question is whether policy and finance can catch up with what technology offers. She highlighted transport and energy end-users as two areas in need of progress, and called for public-private partnerships to push forward the policy and finance to encourage momentum.

Steer underlined the need to identify “areas of neglect” where technological change has not come as far, such as agriculture.

Li Yong, Director-General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), discussed UNIDO’s challenge in promoting technology development for sustainable industrialization under SDG 9, noting UNIDO’s role in setting up clean production centers, promoting low-carbon, low-emission energy technologies, and promoting private-public partnerships. He also noted the model of promoting technology development and innovation through incubator centers.

Barbara Birungi, Director, Women in Technology Uganda, discussed her organization’s efforts to “create a generation of young women who do not face the challenges we as women faced growing up.” She stressed the need not only to provide quality technology training, but also social training to ensure innovations are created that solve long-term challenges faced by developing societies every day.

Thomas Videbaek, Chief Operating Officer, Novozymes, noting his company’s enzymes help farmers by doing such things as increasing nutrient uptake, suggested often the problem is not technology availability, but rather its uptake, which may be solved by tailoring applications more to local needs, educating farmers, getting society over its fear of technology, and improving regulatory frameworks.

Birungi called for more policies that promote equality and gender perspectives, in technology development, and getting women’s needs considered at the decision-making table. Kyte agreed, noting that in the energy sector the engineering departments and board rooms are among the least diverse in the corporate world, and it shows in energy technology development.

Peter Singer, CEO, Grand Challenges Canada, discussed the need for social innovations to match technical innovation, and noted one of the biggest barriers to technology utilization is identifying which of the many emerging innovations are most promising to aid SDG implementation.

Birungi noted little government support for, or engagement with, innovators in her country, and few incentives to innovate.

Larsen said Denmark supports innovation in several ways, including research money and setting high standards that require innovation. He also discussed efforts within the Global Green Growth Forum to make national projects available at the global level, and urged more countries to participate in the Forum. He also suggested that more thought needs to be put into how to harness social media and other forms of interaction at the global level to promote innovation.

Videbaek stressed the importance of a level playing field and of enabling all parts of the supply chain to profit and to be transparent.

Aslov said Tajikistan created a Ministry of Energy and Environment in 2013, which coordinates activities with the private sector, academia and other actors. He highlighted technologies for water resources and disaster risk reduction as priorities for his country, a landlocked developing country.

Xiaolan Fu, Director of the Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD), Oxford University, and part of a 10-member group advising the TFM, said international technology transfer will be one of the most effective mechanisms to allow developing countries and others to upgrade their capabilities to achieve the SDGs. She called for an emphasis on knowledge sharing and co-production, saying trade and investment policies could facilitate these processes.

Elmer William Colglazier, Senior Scholar, American Association for Advancement of Science, Co-Chair, UN 10-Member Group to Support the TFM, explained the TFM’s components, including the multi-stakeholder forum for STI. Colglazier drew attention to the role of science and innovation, not only technology: “we forget that the technological advantages in this century come from fundamental research in the last century.” He said the STI Forum aims to build STI capacity in each country, and predicted that a key legacy of the 2030 Agenda may be to create knowledge economies and unleash creativity in every country.

Robynne Anderson, CEO, Emerging Ag Inc., said agriculture is thought of as a sleepy sector, in which farmers need no more than a plow. In reality, though, farmers regularly deploy technologies to increase yield, reduce fossil fuel use, and other advances, when empowered to do so. But she observed that building the ability to test technologies while living on less than US$1/day poses risk management issues. She flagged agricultural extension systems as a gap.

Steer affirmed that public money has not kept pace with private.

Kyte cited the challenges of disseminating knowledge “up and down the supply chain” with enough speed, and accessing knowledge that is “trapped under intellectual property in the private sector” to get it into farmers’ hands.

Colglazier summarized the themes of the conversation as including: acceleration of technological change; the desire in all countries to create knowledge-based societies; a wide recognition that the private sector has a leading role to play; the need for an enabling environment at all levels; and quality in data and scientific evidence. He said road maps are needed to achieve each SDG, and science must contribute to this process.

Harnessing the Data Revolution for SDGs—Opportunities and Challenges: Moderator Amina Mohammed, Minister of Environment, Nigeria, said that after being part of the process to develop the 2030 Agenda, working at the country level is both exciting and challenging, bringing to mind the UN’s slogan “are you fit for purpose?”

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo said the data demands of the 2030 Agenda are vast and unprecedented, challenging developing and developed countries alike. He recalled the UN Statistical Commission’s recent agreement on a global indicator framework to follow-up and review progress towards the SDGs at the global level, and said additional regional and other indicators will be required. He said big data and other new and non-traditional data sources are becoming more rapidly available.

Belgium stressed the need not just for “new and exotic” data, but also very basic data, such as registering all births, especially girls. He said basic data should be a precondition for any bilateral agreement.

Lisa Grace Bersales, Co-Chair, Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), said countries can use the indicators agreed for the global framework “as a reference” when they decide on indicators to monitor country-level implementation. She noted that the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for statistics will provide the “road map” to support statistical systems in producing data. On the sources of data for the indicators, she noted agreement that data for country-level monitoring should come from countries’ National Statistical Offices (NSOs).

Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the Fund is the UN system’s largest contributor of data, and the 2020 Census will be the benchmark for measuring the SDGs. He also highlighted the importance of educating the general public about data, not only NSOs, so data can be utilized.

Lara Birkes, Chief Sustainability Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), highlighted HPE’s Living Progress program, which is formulating a vision of technology as an enabler of sustainability, including the SDGs, through an economic inclusiveness framework. The Living Progress Challenge matches policy challenges posted by anyone, with technology- and data-driven solutions.

Atefeh Riazi, Assistant Secretary-General and UN Chief Information Technology Officer, discussed difficulties in obtaining good measuring data and existing significant data gaps, such as those regarding children under five years old, or poverty trends in Sub-Saharan Africa. She stressed the importance of filling data gaps is critical “if we are to ever connect the dots and provide predictive tools.” She also raised the issue of ensuring data privacy and security.

Christian Friis Bach, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and Chair of the UN Regional Commissions, discussed how the regional commissions are trying to help member states both improve their collection of data, find new ways to present them, and address the right of public access to the data. On the last point, he mentioned Europe’s Aarhus Convention and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) work on a regional instrument on Rio Principle 10, and stressed the importance of civil society use of data streams to promote accountability.

Erica Hagen, Founder, Map Kibera, cautioned that the SDGs cannot be achieved just from the top-down, and that average people must be involved, even in data collection. She discussed her organization’s work in mapping communities, often providing more complete data on issues such as education in poor communities than the government. She urged more thinking about how best to tap these latent data gathering capacities.

Robert Chen, Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Columbia University, said that there is no simple answer to the issue of rights and control over data and accountability for its use. He cautioned that many data sets being mixed together have different protection policies, some of which may be violated when using the combined set.

In an interactive exchange with participants, one said data has enabled the modeling of SDG 7.1 on universal energy access, and has shown that providing basic access for 1.3 billion people will raise emissions by less than 1%.

Turning to a discussion of accountability and vulnerable groups, Mohammed said these can be the most difficult to identify, and that even people who are stigmatized can leave other people behind.

Osotimehin said to have your rights, you must have a legal status. Governments must not exclude people from being counted based on ethnicity or other identity, saying they are “not part of us.” Otherwise investments cannot be directed as needed. “How many girls are married at nine, give birth or die trying to, at twelve, and are never counted?” he asked.

Hagen said that with an open data policy, a government is obliged to release what they know, the information they are using for decision making, to the general public. Bersales added that the Open Data Watch initiative has already begun scoring countries on open data.

Mohammed noted that governments’ exclusion of groups from being counted is a particular problem in light of the recent issues of migration, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and their situations could last for decades. “There should be no invisibility when we talk about achieving the SDGs.”

Mosharraf Hossain, Director of Policy and Influencing, ADD International, said persons with disabilities are the largest minority in the world, but are left out over and over again. He recommended: a UN resolution on participation of marginalized people in the SDGs; using mobile technology to reduce the information gap; and a bottom-up approach to let the vulnerable be part of the data revolution. “Let the grassroots speak, so that everybody is counted,” he added.

Mohammed recalled the launch of the Global Partnership for Data in 2015, and said leaving people behind creates fodder for disillusionment.

In response to Mohammed’s question about addressing mistrust of public-private partnerships (PPPs), Hagen said companies should be working through a corporate social responsibility perspective, providing donations and grantmaking or supporting technology transfer, not just trying to sell a product.

Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, UN Global Pulse, explained “data philanthropy,” or working with the private sector to unlock data relevant to the SDGs, in ways that don’t threaten their business or sovereignty. He described a shift to regarding data as a source in itself, not something that “lives in sectors.” He said public trust around big data has been badly broken and will need rebuilding from scratch, to explain how data are being put to work in beneficial ways. He concluded that it should become possible for “everything that happens to be knowable,” and for the “new natural resource” of data to drive empowerment for the poor and marginalized.

John McArthur, Brookings Institution, outlined some of the gaps highlighted in the conversation, including: birth registrations; measuring violence against women; national data ecosystems; and skills to make the most of data. He added that indicator development needs to be bottom-up, and uneducated adolescent girls are the most likely to be left out. McArthur said “pearls of wisdom” from the discussion included: “we are moving from homo sapiens to connected sapiens,” with technology as an enabler of development and the SDGs; the need to structure governance for “data justice;” that too many are invisible, and too many persons with disabilities are invisible; and the 2030 Agenda should not just leave no one behind, but allow everyone to move forward. He concluded by calling for the World Data Forum in 2017 to be treated as a deadline to see “how far we can push issues of inclusion, governance and different forms of data” to make sure the SDGs are achieved.

ACTION AT ALL LEVELS: NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION

In the morning, Ribulik Naoero, President, Nauru, on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), said Pacific SIDS take very seriously the SDG commitment to leave no one behind. He highlighted two SDG implementation issues of particular concern to Pacific SIDS, namely mobilization of financial resources to ensure implementation at both national and regional levels, and investment in domestic institution building, including data collection.

János Áder, President, Hungary, characterized the SDGs as a vision of what we have to do to leave a livable planet for our children. He highlighted one SDG issue that affects all others: water. He stressed that water crises are already arising, so “it is not an issue of tomorrow, it is already here.” He said Hungary would like to play an important role in the implementation of the water SDG and, in this vein, will host the second Budapest Water Summit to discuss solutions.

Ollanta Humala, President, Peru, noted that Peru had implemented all the MDGs. He said while some consider the SDGs so ambitious as to be utopian, Peru felt they were achievable as long as it was realized that problems such as access to water, food and education are not so much issues of available resources, but rather political problems regarding how the resources are used and allocated. He urged quantifiable, verifiable targets to measure whether SDG tasks are fulfilled.

Hage Geingob, President, Namibia, called sustainable development a “fine balancing act” between needs and limitations, highlighting lack of resources as a limitation to be overcome through public, private, international, concessional and non-concessional resources. He highlighted the launch of Namibia’s Harambee Prosperity Plan on 5 April.

Colombia was the first country to incorporate the SDGs into its national development plan, said President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon. He noted that Colombia has also: established a high-level commission for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; taken action towards 86% of the SDG targets, and plans to report on national indicators this year; and ensures that all territorial development plans contain at least one action directed towards the SDGs. He noted that Colombia’s education budget is greater than its military budget, for the first time, and it is pursuing a peace agreement with an emphasis on sustainable development.

Rosen Plevneliev, President, Bulgaria, said his country is elaborating a national programme for development through 2030, engaging civil society, business, young people, academia and the media, with a focus on high-tech innovation to build an “ever-greener, energy-efficient economy,” and on educating children about sustainability. In addition to domestic implementation, he said ODA for the most vulnerable people and nations is needed. Plevneliev also noted “invaluable contributions” made by the High-level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, and outlined the Sofia Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021), launched in April, for all members of the Council of Europe.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President, Croatia, said that the UN can only meet its Charter responsibility to collective action to ensure peace and security by addressing the underlying causes of conflict, and the SDGs provide the tools to do so. She stressed that it must be accompanied and fortified by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA). She urged UN system reform to strengthen linkages and coordination among key bodies. She said realizing the SDGs will require common sense, honest dialogue and hard work.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, President, Gabon, emphasized that achieving the SDGs will require stepped up mobilization of financial and human resources, and establishing mechanisms to address the shortcomings identified during the MDGs’ implementation. He also stressed the role of active participation by civil society and the private sector. Recalling the joint African position on the need for SDGs indicators that reflect the real ability of countries to access resources needed to implement the goals, he stressed respecting the AAAA.

Robert Mugabe, President, Zimbabwe, expressed hope that the critical lessons of the MDGs will instruct us in implementing the 2030 Agenda, particularly with regard to moving from commitments to action. He outlined Zimbabwe’s multi-stakeholder consultations on the SDGs, and progress made in establishing the necessary structures to implement the 2030 Agenda and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change. He stressed the importance of adequate and assured financial resources to succeed in realizing the Agenda.

Andrej Kiska, President, Slovakia, said each country should focus on its weak points, while using its strengths to benefit others. Slovakia faces challenges with regard to inclusive and quality education, and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, he said. He also noted that the current refugee crisis in Europe exemplifies the need for solidarity and shared responsibility in solving problems outside our borders.

The Marshall Islands is turning the SDGs into an “island-tailored strategy” to address its capacity gaps, said President Hilde Heine, who cited gathering data as a major hurdle. Heine called for support through partnerships on the SDGs, including through expanded participation of the country’s trust fund and working with the government to explore innovative finance. She urged, in particular, follow-through on the SDG commitments on oceans, and to operationalize them in the context of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. Finally, as the first woman leader of an independent Pacific SIDS, she highlighted SDG 5 and called for gender parity in public decision making.

Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, Vice President, Costa Rica, said her country is coordinating at a high level with various government ministries to publicize the SDGs, and to promote policies that have a human perspective and incorporate human rights.

Noting that the 2030 Agenda emphasizes people, planet, peace, prosperity and partnership, Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister, Barbados, suggested that partnership is the most important of these if the SDGs are to be realized at global and national levels. He suggested that a tripartite development dialogue undertaken in Barbados since the 1990s might be a useful model to share with other countries. Noting that SDGs data and statistics is a major implementation challenge for Barbados, he called for creating a Global Platform in Support for SDGs Data and Statistics.

Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister, Samoa, said the SDGs can only be achieved by unlocking the potential of all stakeholders. He noted Samoa is developing an SDG profile, the SDGs are integrated into its 2016-2020 development strategy, work is underway to tailor the SDGs to the Samoan context, and the national statistics office is looking into data and statistics needs for tracking SDGs implementation. He noted that Samoa will be among the countries presenting voluntary national review reports at the July 2016 meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Miro Cerar, Prime Minister, Slovenia, said everyone must act to contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda vision of eradicating extreme poverty, leaving no one behind, and putting the planet on a more sustainable path. He described Slovenia’s efforts to implement the Agenda, noting a national strategy to 2030 to be completed by the end of 2016. He said Slovenia is also working on a new policy document on international development assistance aligned with the SDGs.

While noting that the impact of a small country on the global economy is modest, Antoni Martí, Head of Government, Andorra, said all countries must do their part to achieve the SDGs and Andorra will contribute. He noted efforts to open his country’s economy and increase transparency, and its contribution to the Global Education First Initiative.

Monaco’s priority SDGs include Goals 1, 2 and 3, noted Serge Telle, Head of Government, with Goals 13 and 14 as “corollaries,” since there can be no sustainable development without a decisive commitment to combating climate change. He noted Monaco’s particular focus on biodiversity in its waters.

Perry Gladstone Christie, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Bahamas, said the government is seeking to align its new national development plan, “Vision for 2040,” with the SDGs. He also noted the need for a global environment that facilitates SDG implementation, including through financing, technology transfer and capacity building. Christie highlighted government efforts for equality for women and girls under law and to care for youth.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister, Fiji, said his country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda is “absolute and a cornerstone of our national policies,” including a new constitutional mandate to ensure the social and economic rights of all Fijians. However, climate change is impeding the country’s ability to develop a strong economy. Unless this threat can be overcome, “there is little hope” of a country like Fiji meeting the SDGs, he said, and urged changes in the funding arrangements for adaptation, to ensure access to concessional financing.

Charlot Salwai, Prime Minister, Vanuatu, said his country is incorporating the SDGs into the national sustainable development plan. He urged the UN to find a simpler approach for governments to provide national implementation reports. Saying that the SDGs cannot be implemented without implementing the Paris Agreement, he urged the latter be implemented without delay. He also called for a strong global partnership, since UN member states cannot fulfill the 2030 Agenda on their own.

Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister, Ethiopia, said Ethiopia is mainstreaming the SDGs in its five-year growth and transformation plan, has conducted a series of consultations across the country on the role of stakeholders in monitoring and implementing the SDGs, and has developed a matrix for tracking SDG implementation. He stressed that fulfilling the AAAA commitments is critical.

Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister, Tuvalu, underscored three points critical to Tuvalu’s SDG implementation: taking into account the unique vulnerability of the SIDS; the domestication and contextualization of SDGs and the 2030 Agenda into national development strategies; and fully addressing the impacts of climate change. He urged annual reviews and appraisals of the SDGs and their implementation, and urged other countries to ratify the Paris Agreement early so that it can enter into force quickly.

Pakalitha Mosisili, Prime Minister, Lesotho, said that fulfilling the 2030 Agenda will require a global partnership of all countries, big and small, as well as civil society. He expressed Lesotho’s determination to implement as much as it can through domestic resources, but it needs the help of others, too. He cited an old saying, if you want to go fast, walk alone, but if you want to go far, walk with others.

Mike Eman, Prime Minister, Aruba, cited as key focus areas: empowering women and girls; sustainable and decent jobs; and fostering trade and investments including in post-conflict areas and fragile states. He announced: the Data Coalition now has nine country members; Aruba/Netherlands and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have established a Centre for Excellence for the Sustainable Development of SIDS; a joint project by Netherlands and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for SIDS’ water management and coping with climate change; and a UN-World Bank high-level panel on water. Eman stressed that governments, societies and the private sector must change the way they use water. 

In a special briefing on the G20 and implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Li Baodong, China’s Vice Foreign Minister and G20 Sherpa, called for “win-win cooperation” to create an enabling international environment for implementing the 2030 Agenda. He said countries must be allowed to act in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities and formulate their own development strategies. Countries also should “seek early harvest” where they enjoy development advantages and strengthen points of weakness. He said the public and private sectors, among other stakeholders, should take part in implementation, and called for improved partnership to find more resources and means of implementation for the Agenda. In addition, developed countries should deliver their ODA commitments and increase financial, technological and capacity building assistance to least developed countries (LDCs).

Li said China has: embedded the Agenda’s implementation in its mid- to long-term development programme; set up an interagency mechanism to coordinate implementation of the Agenda; and issued a position paper on Implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It will also formulate an action plan on development cooperation to implement the 2030 Agenda. He also highlighted that China issued the first G20 Presidency Statement on climate change, committing to sign the Paris Agreement.

Li concluded that China will take the Hangzhou Summit in September 2016 as an opportunity to work with all countries to implement the sustainable development agenda, highlighting development as the defining theme of our time, and making joint progress towards realizing sustainable development by 2030.

Montenegro called to unlock the potential of the private sector, civil society and academia to deliver on the SDGs. On Montenegro’s nationalization of the SDGs, he said an overarching development document is being finalized that incorporates most of the SDG targets. He noted that Montenegro will be in the first group of governments to present their SDG and AAAA implementation activities, at the 2016 meeting of the HLPF. Finally, he called for a more proactive UN response to create an enabling environment for the SDGs, coordinated with relevant international organizations and international financial institutions.

Saying all nations need to assume their share of responsibility for implementing the Agenda, Sweden noted its commitment to maintain ODA levels and UN contributions. She stressed the need to maintain momentum toward achieving the SDGs, and to provide for a more effective UN that can be ready to help meet all the challenges of the SDGs. She recognized the continued need to support countries that do not possess the resources to implement the goals.

Tonga noted the linkages between the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. He discussed UNDP’s assistance to Tonga to set up a framework for the localization of the 2030 Agenda to ensure alignment with Tongan development planning, budgeting process, and implementation monitoring.

Albania said what sustainability means to his country is reinforcing the rule of law, increasing economic performance and the wellbeing of its people, and deepening social harmony. He said Albania needs to further define its domestic economic agenda, promoting growth while respecting the environment. He emphasized the importance of empowerment of women and girls, as well as education. He noted a project started on governance targets and indicators under SDG 16.

Nepal said his country has prepared a report on the implementation of each SDG. He noted that Nepal’s national efforts to combat climate change are framed to support implementation of the SDGs. He said Nepal aspires to graduate from LDC status by 2020, and suggested that the UN needs to address the LDC issue, since most LDCs have had that status for far too long.

Algeria said his country has established an intersectoral coordination structure to evaluate national-level measures and ensure follow-up and review of the SDGs in various sectors. He added that civil society is a major actor in national development. Implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 will contribute to achieving the SDGs, he added, and encouraged contributions from international partners to that agenda.

The Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Malaysia, said advances in women’s and children’s health have been essential for national development in her region, and that they have been driven by domestic resources. She said gender inequality is prevalent and persistent, but legislation can change social norms, such as by ending early and forced marriages and ensuring labor force participation.

For the European Union, “implementation starts at home,” said Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. One priority for 2016 is to conduct a comprehensive mapping of policies supporting sustainable development, both internally and externally. It will also continue promoting implementation of SDGs worldwide, he added.

Thailand, for the Group of 77 and China, stressed promoting early action in SDG implementation, giving priority to eradicating poverty in all forms, respecting the sovereign right of every country to decide its own development and the need for flexibility in implementation. He stressed the importance of providing promised means of implementation, and called on all actors, especially developed countries, to fulfill their global commitments, especially in the Financing for Development Forum and the HLPF.

Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group, listed many challenges for his group in implementing the SDGs, including poverty eradication, application of human rights to all segments of society, delivery of development in occupied territories, terrorism, climate change impacts, and impacts on host countries of the long-term displacement of people due to conflicts in the region. He stressed the importance of SDG 17, saying none of these challenges can be overcome without help with the means of implementation.

Maldives, for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that meeting the challenges of the SDGs will go a long way toward achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement. He recognized that the old way of doing development will no longer suffice. He said SIDS have outlined their development goals in the Samoa Pathway, which focuses on integrated and coordinated approaches.

Luxembourg called for action at all levels, but particularly the national level. She said Luxembourg will be working towards implementation through development of a national action plan, defining national goals and aligning them through sectoral goals in a process piloted by the government. She stressed it would involve the private sector, academia and civil society. She highlighted their action on climate change, which engages action by local authorities through a pact with the national government.

Denmark said it is time to act in accordance with our agreements. He called for continued momentum, stressing the huge responsibility to spur new action in each country. He outlined development of Denmark’s national action plan, which includes national and global components, including finance, technology transfer and partnerships.

France announced that, by 2020, it will increase its ODA by US$4 billion, US$2 billion of which will be earmarked for climate. He further highlighted the importance of the gender dimension for SDGs implementation.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said the SDGs can be achieved with strong national ownership and leadership, backed by international solidarity. She noted that 95 UNDP country teams have been approached by national governments for support with SDG implementation.

Cuba noted that her country has a national mechanism for coordinating the work of ministries, civil society organizations and academia for SDG implementation.

Iran noted that his country has undertaken a major shift in order to achieve sustainable development, even under significant economic sanctions. He prioritized a joint global and regional effort to fight extremist conflict in the region and addressing the issue of dust storms.

Tajikistan said it is developing its national action plan to achieve Agenda 2030, noting goals including energy independence and food security. He stressed efficient use of water resources is key to achieving the SDGs and called for supporting Tajikistan’s proposal for a decade on “Water for Sustainable Development.”

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo said the 2030 Agenda requires all to rethink development, saying all SDGs must be pursued together by building synergies. He stressed the responsibility for implementation will largely lie with national governments, emphasizing that piecemeal solutions will not suffice. He called for national institutions to avoid working in silos and development of follow-up and review processes.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said we have arrived at a moment to celebrate the emergence of a sustainable development agenda. He called for looking at the SDGs in the context of environmental change, saying it is both a signal of problems and an opportunity, such as the ability to provide sustainable energy for all through renewable energy.

In the afternoon, Belarus said his country is considering establishing an institution for SDGs’ national coordination. He called for a UN SDG center to coordinate all the assistance for SDG implementation existent in the system and to serve as a “one-stop shop” with resources and advice for implementation.

Belgium highlighted three initiatives for SDG implementation: Queen Mathilde, in her capacity as SDG Advocate, will support the UN Secretary-General in garnering international support for achieving the SDGs; an SDG partnership involving all the levels of the government, from national to federal and local authorities; and an “SDG Charter” for the Belgian companies that want to engage in SDGs implementation.

Panama said her country is working on aligning its national development targets and indicators with the SDGs targets and indicators. Noting that, as a middle income country, Panama is facing many pockets of inequality, she announced that the government adopted a multi-dimensional poverty index.

Jordan noted the large number of Syrian refugees has led to direct and indirect repercussions on sustainable development. He said efforts to mainstream the SDGs into national policies and planning, includes: awareness raising; coordinating the SDGs at the local level; integrated programming for capacity building; and providing support for data collection. He said the national strategy has been prepared in coordination with UNEP and Germany.

Senegal stressed that despite progress made, the challenges are immense, noting the need for a paradigm shift to simplify and rationalize procedures to increase country ownership in aid received. He emphasized protecting investors and local populations, particularly in extractive industries.

Georgia said success can only be achieved through joint action, including participation of the private sector and all other sectors. He called for holistic approaches that mobilize all for delivering change. He said that Georgia has launched an intensive process to develop national goals, saying a key element is a partnership between the government and all stakeholders, as well as an ambitious plan for economic reform.

Evo Morales, President, Bolivia, stressed that states’ administrations need to keep in mind that national natural resources are first and foremost for their people and thus should protect them. He called for collective action against the private interests that want to control the international oil and energy markets. He added that states have the responsibility to provide basic services as those are human rights.

Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister, Italy, spoke about the migration crisis and said “this is the time” to increase ODA commitments and for international organizations to prioritize migration issues.

The Philippines noted that the Ministry of National Planning is making efforts to institutionalize the SDGs and localize them in the Philippines’ plans and budgets. He announced that his ministry will: formulate an SDG roadmap to guide government and other stakeholders in implementation; and develop a national strategic communication plan to raise awareness on the SDGs.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said sustainable development is proceeding under the “most dire of circumstances,” adding they have tried to eliminate the US nuclear threat through dialogue, and that the last remaining option was to respond in kind. He stressed that “the UN Security Council has engaged in wanton violation of the UN Charter” by imposing sanctions. He underscored the US would never understand the “Juche” philosophy, which allows citizens to rise up under increasingly stringent sanctions, saying that they will “see who laughs last.”

Chile said consolidation of the global sustainable development alliance is required, noting also the need for regional cooperation. He stressed national reforms to reduce inequality and establishment of a broad programme of South-South cooperation.

Niger emphasized that seeking sustainable development has been at the heart of its national programmes, noting the country faces the impacts of climate change as well as security challenges. He highlighted a food security programme, “Niger Supporting Niger,” complemented by the Sahel development strategy.

Iceland stressed the need for gender equality and women’s empowerment and said Iceland set a national framework for SDG implementation to be led by the Prime Minister, in collaboration with all stakeholders.

The United Arab Emirates stressed the need for multi-stakeholder engagement in SDG implementation and expressed its support for renewable energy projects.

Mexico announced that it has achieved gender parity at all levels of education and noted that the government is preparing a national roadmap for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Czech Republic stressed that beyond development cooperation or sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda is first and foremost about people and their lives.

Brazil said that the goals cannot be addressed in isolation. She underscored that Brazil aims to reliably track progress towards the SDGs, welcoming progress towards development of SDG indicators.

Estonia underscored the importance of sustainable consumption and production, stressing the importance of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in this manner. He said ICT is most useful in countries that have put into place legal frameworks that support digital media.

Saint Lucia said its national development strategy aims towards a step change, departing from a one-dimensional towards an integrated approach to development. He emphasized a national visioning process will bring economic, environmental and social pillars into balance.

Cameroon noted implementation of Agenda 2030 will have to be inspired by eradication of poverty. He called for priority to be given to economic transformation of countries in the South. He emphasized strengthening the coherence of the UN development system, balancing ordinary resources and pre-allocated resources.

Argentina said implementation must take into account the circumstances of each individual state. She stressed Argentina’s primary objective is zero poverty, saying appropriate national policies will achieve the internationally agreed upon goals. She said the Argentinian process to follow-up on the goals has brought together ministries, and highlighted the critical role of South-South cooperation.

New Zealand noted “significant” alignment between the SDGs and New Zealand’s national development plans. She said New Zealand is increasingly focusing its international aid on ensuring increased access to renewable energy for the Pacific states.

Côte d’Ivoire said his country has established a national SDG follow-up committee. He announced that an advisory group on the SDGs will be established together with the World Bank, for which a meeting will take place on 17 May 2016 in Paris.

Nicaragua stressed that achieving SDG 13 on climate change will require policy coherence. He lamented that the Paris Agreement on climate change fails to address the impacts of climate change, as no financial compensations for loss and damage are stipulated.

Venezuela said it is impossible to speak about sustainable development without looking at the unequal international power relations that contribute to both systemic economic inequality and climate change. She stressed that the capitalist model is seriously compromising the sustainable development model.

Germany noted that the German energy transition serves as an example of how to shift sectors towards sustainability, while noting challenges remain such as in sustainable consumption and production.

The US said it is now time to turn to implementation, calling for harnessing the global data revolution to increase action, measuring in real time and reporting data publicly. She said to meet the goals requires new financing models, using public funds to unlock domestic resources, and private sector investment.

Finland said his country is in the process of developing an inclusive national implementation plan, saying it will offer a roadmap for allocating resources.

Tunisia said it is hoped that the international community will be able to help. He noted that illicit financial flows must be stopped and called for assistance to help stop tax evasion.

India emphasized that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the underlining principle of the 2030 Agenda. He said India has already started implementing 26 initiatives for SDG implementation. He observed that both developed and developing countries will be tested: developed countries if they transition to sustainable consumption and production, and developing countries if they “thoroughly” plan SDG implementation at the national level.

Poland highlighted his country’s efforts to ensure environmental sustainability and its engagement in the international negotiations on climate change.

Burkina Faso announced that his country aims to create a conducive environment for companies and will organize roundtables with potential donors until the end of 2016. He underlined that security and peace are indispensable for SDG implementation, and called for developed countries to respect their ODA commitments.

Turkey noted that ODA is still the most important source for the development of the most vulnerable countries and called for reversing the trend of ODA decline to LDCs. She stressed the need to promote the better integration of small and medium enterprises in global value chains and increase their access to finance.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines stressed that development is a right and sustainable development is an obligation. He said the government’s goal is to make Saint Vincent and the Grenadines “not only a CO2 neutral but a CO2 negative” country.

Paraguay said the government has a clear commitment to inclusive sustainable development, noting the need to harmonize national systems with international goals.

The Republic of Korea said the concept of sustainable development should be mainstreamed across all policy dimensions and across all sectors of society. He underscored that harnessing grassroots participation has been key to harnessing sustainable development in his country.

Statements continued into the evening, including high-level speakers from Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Latvia, Sudan, Congo, Solomon Islands, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Liberia, Nigeria, Timor-Leste, Austria, Russian Federation, Guatemala, South Africa, Spain, Greece, Bahrain, Cyprus, Bangladesh, Canada, Qatar, Portugal, Uganda, Dominican Republic, Arab Forum for Environment and Development, World YWCA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Holy See, and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. For summaries of these speeches, see http://www.un.org/press/en/2016/ga11776.doc.htm