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UNGA Informals Consider “Hybrid Option” for HLPF

11 April 2013: The fourth informal meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to define the format and organizational aspects of the high-level political forum (HLPF) took place at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 11 April 2013.

Opening the meeting, Co-facilitator Cesare Maria Ragaglini, Permanent Representative of Italy, recalled that during the previous informal, held on 21 March 2013, delegations had registered preliminary views on a list of proposed non-exhaustive elements on the format and organizational modalities of the HLPF. He said the current meeting would seek to: further respond to points raised by delegations; allow delegations to further articulate their positions on the proposed elements; and seek their views on how to make the consultation process advance further.

He said contentious issues include: the annual configuration of the forum under the framework of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); the Secretariat of the forum; the bureau of the HLPF Preparatory Committee; and the Preparatory Committee itself. According to the proposal, the Preparatory Committee should have universal membership, be convened every year in May for up to ten working days, and should submit its report to a ministerial meeting of the Forum to be held during the high-level segment of ECOSOC.

Ragaglini stated that the Committee could be named differently, and that its establishment had been suggested in order to respond to requests from Member States to preserve a robust preparatory process at the expert level, and to establish a place where universal decision-making and universal membership can be achieved. He also said the forum's activities would be funded from the regular budget, with the remaining funds from the CSD Trust Fund to be used as a complement to and not as a replacement of the regular budget.

To support further thinking on financial aspects of the HLPF, Nikhil Seth, Director, UN Division for Sustainable Development (DSD), outlined the financial resources available to support the participation of delegates, Major Groups representatives and panelists to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) meetings in 2008-2009 and 2010-2011.

Delegates then shared their views on the HLPF format and organizational aspects. On the institutional format, the "hybrid option" was again supported by many, while it was observed that additional work is needed to refine the proposal. The need to avoid political incoherence within the Forum and between HLPF and other bodies was highlighted, as well as the importance of clarity on the ECOSOC strengthening process. One delegate suggested using the “space of ECOSOC” and “strengthen it” to make it universal. It was also suggested for the HLPF to have a specific place in the ECOSOC calendar, and to have a common review mechanism with ECOSOC. On this matter, a delegation highlighted the need to develop a joint chart in order to take into account the ECOSOC review process modalities.

On the proposed Preparatory Committee, some said they could not see its added value, and cautioned against creating “heavy bureaucratic processes.” Others supported its establishment, stressing the need for ten days of thematic discussion on sustainable development, but suggested to revise the name of the body, and one preferred to consider alternatives to the Committee. On the HLPF Bureau, one requested clarification on the role of the ECOSOC president, while others underlined their objection to new bodies such as a Bureau. One suggested the existing ECOSOC Bureau could play an important role in the HLPF. A delegation highlighted the importance of the Secretariat, calling for retaining and enhancing all resources in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and DSD.

On the forum's functions, it was suggested to reach an agreement on functions before determining the number of days of HLPF meetings and other HLPF modalities. Some called for respecting the functions listed in paragraph 85 of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) Outcome Document, with one calling for a focus on implementation, a regular review processes and an implementation segment that would result in recommendations to Heads of State.

It was also noted that the ability to attract Ministers and Heads of State and Government would depend on an attractive agenda. Some called for the adequate representation of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at all levels of the HLPF, for a “full session” on LDCs and for reviewing the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) in 2015. It was also suggested that small island developing States (SIDS) should “drive” the proposed SIDS Day process, including developing the related agenda, and that the SIDS Day should contribute to the overall HLPF discussions.

One delegate said meetings of Heads of State and Government should be organized more frequently than every four years, and stressed the importance of launching the HLPF this year, for example in the form of a one-day meeting as its first session.

Some participants called for more frequent meetings and informal-informal meetings on the format and organizational aspects, in order to reach the May 2013 deadline to finalize an agreement on the HLPF format and organizational aspects, in order to have its first meeting in September.

Concluding the meeting, Co-facilitator Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Permanent Representative of Brazil, expressed appreciation for a “good and substantive debate,” and recognized the need to work further on some details of the hybrid option. She said informal-informal, inclusive meetings would be organized in order to move the discussion forward and come to a revised proposal. Ragaglini outlined that the hybrid option called for by Member States, created a problem of reconciling universal participation with universal decision-making, and that ECOSOC was composed of 54 countries elected by the UNGA. He advised Member States to introduce suggestions that are viable in juridical terms during the following meetings. [Letter of Co-facilitators to Convene Fourth Informal Consultation[IISD RS Story on Third Informal Consultation] [DSD Webpage on HLPF] [IISD RS Sources]