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UNGA High-level Debate Emphasizes Implementation, Partnerships

United Nations30 September 2013: The 68th UN General Assembly (UNGA) High-level Debate entered its second week on 30 September 2013, with speakers addressing the architecture and priority issues for the post-2015 development agenda, with an emphasis on means of implementation and partnerships. Small island developing States (SIDS) highlighted debt as a major barrier to sustainable development.

On the post-2015 architecture, János Martonyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hungary, said the decisions made should still be relevant in 15 years. Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan, called for the agenda to be holistic, transformative and bring about shared prosperity and happiness. Albert del Rosario, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Philippines, stressed the need for the agenda to be anchored in four principles: human rights; equality, empowerment, social cohesion and justice; accountable governance; and inclusive development. Nickolas Steele, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Grenada, recommended going beyond gross domestic product (GDP) and recognizing natural capital. Gunnar Sveinsson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iceland, said goals should focus on eliminating poverty, achieving gender equality, improving health and providing education. Citing a long list of issues, Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Barbados, stated that this was not a “mere shopping list,” but underscored the interconnectedness of issues. Winston Lackin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suriname, and McClean recommended specific attention to vulnerable groups, including women, youth and people with disabilities.

Several speakers prioritized means of implementation. Dorje described implementation as critical in ensuring that developing and least developed countries (LDCs) achieve post-2015 priorities. Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bahrain, called for a monitoring mechanism to follow up on recommendations issued by sustainable development related conferences, under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Del Rosario proposed a ten-year duration for the post-2015 agenda with a major review in 2020.

Speakers supported strengthened partnerships, including Wunna Maung Lwin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar, and McClean. Stating developed countries' “abandoned” MDG Goal 8 on global partnerships for development, Wilfred Elrington, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Belize, recommended analyzing why MDG 8 was not met and devising a new partnership based on lessons learned. Lackin called for a reorientation of responsibilities, noting developed countries lagged behind in their commitments to MDG 8 and recommending increased South-South cooperation in the post-2015 agenda.

McClean proposed that the UN convene a meeting of SIDS' Economic and Finance Ministers to discuss the debt situation of SIDS and formulate recommendations for the Third International Conference on SIDS. Steele also proposed a UN debate on SIDS' debt, calling for a more holistic, comprehensive set of indicators to evaluate graduation to middle-income status. He suggested the debate outcomes serve as an input to both the SIDS Conference and the UN Secretary-General's climate change summit. Alva Romanus Baptiste, Minister of External Affairs, Saint Lucia, said high debt levels threaten SIDS' economic stability, security and solvency.

Caribbean SIDS speakers, including McClean, Elrington and Lackin, prioritized addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as part of the post-2015 health agenda. McClean and Steele noted their pursuit of green economy strategies to advance sustainable development.

Several speakers described the challenges their countries experience as a result of climate change, with many urging action and some calling for financial and technical assistance to LDCs and SIDS.

Sveinsson prioritized four topics: development of geothermal energy; sustainable fisheries management; restoration of fertile land; and promotion of gender equality. Martonyi prioritized an integrated approach to water and sanitation. Del Rosario and Lackin recommended addressing migration, with del Rosario noting it is a cross-cutting issue relevant to promoting human rights, reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development.

Leaders also supported addressing: sustainable agriculture and food security; land management; renewable energy; youth employment; and women's empowerment. On the MDGs, speakers called for accelerated efforts to achieve the MDGs, highlighted lessons learned and described their national progress. [Debate Statements]