Concluding Its Forum, Economic and Social Council Approves Declaration Recognizing 2030 Agenda as Key to Delivering on Sustainable Development, Leaving No One Behind
The high-level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, concluded today, approving a ministerial declaration, that recognizes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as the blueprint for an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development, leaving no one behind.
The declaration, which contains 142 paragraphs and is the outcome of six months of negotiations, was adopted without a vote after delegates voted to retain paragraph 131, by a recorded vote of 101 in favour to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States), with 42 abstentions.
In that paragraph, the text recognizes that sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security and that peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development. Further, it calls for effective measures and actions to be taken, to remove the obstacles to the full realization of the right to self-determination of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, which continue to adversely affect their economic and social development as well as their environment.
Speaking in explanation of position after vote, the representative of Israel expressed concern about attempts to politicize the forum and dissociated his country from that paragraph.
Other terms in the text reaffirm that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the current time and that its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development. Reaffirming that resource mobilization is crucial for the attainment of the 2030 Agenda, and welcoming the role of international development cooperation, the declaration also recommits to leaving no one behind and accelerating action to reduce inequalities, including, in particular, by strengthening international and national efforts for achieving gender equality.
While some delegates lauded the text, to be issued as document E/HLPF/2022/L.1, as a testament to multilateralism, many expressed their reservations about certain terms used in the 142-paragraph document, and yet others regretted the lack of language they would have preferred.
Pakistan’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noting that more time should have been allowed for full intergovernmental negotiations as well as in-depth internal consultations, expressed disappointment that the list of countries in paragraph 10, which relates to those in special situations, does not refer to States and people living under colonial occupation. He also regretted that that a proposal for a stand-alone paragraph on unilateral economic and trade measures as well as another on the right to development was not included in the declaration.
Speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, said the text does not reflect the reality of the global South. The declaration must reflect the needs of the most vulnerable, he said, underscoring that outcomes of such political standing must use the resolutions of the General Assembly as a reference, since they reflect the full membership of the United Nations.
Canada’s delegate, who spoke for a number of countries, described the negotiations on the text as unnecessarily challenging. Underscoring women’s rights to control all matters related to sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, he said that the 2030 Agenda is clear on the role of gender equality.
Australia’s delegate, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, stressed that Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) must include gender-diverse persons, persons facing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and survivors of intimate partner violence, also noting that the length of the text, which is more than the entire 2030 Agenda, can limit the engagement of small delegations.
However, Italy’s delegate, who, alongside the representative of Nauru, facilitated the six-month-long negotiations, said the declaration is a comprehensive, ambitious and action-oriented document that will help the international community deliver on its promises. The text proves that even at the most challenging times, the international community can come together and find common solutions, he said.
In closing remarks, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, said the strong ministerial declaration brings fresh hope and vision into the world. She praised the commitment demonstrated at the forum, noting the high number of participants, from ministers to multiple stakeholders. She called on the international community to embrace vaccine equity and renewable energy and overhaul the economic and financial systems that continue to serve rich countries and undermine poor ones.
Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), President of the Economic and Social Council, also highlighted the urgency and ambition demonstrated at the forum. Today’s complex and multiple challenges are a threat to the Goals, but they also offer an opportunity for renewed multilateral action and innovative solutions, he said, calling on delegates to “go back to our countries encouraged and reinvigorated.”
Also speaking today were the representatives of Colombia, United States, Hungary, Guatemala, Türkiye, Russian Federation, Nigeria, Mexico, China, Nicaragua, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Africa, Egypt, Venezuela, Yemen, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria as well as representatives of the European Union and the Holy See.
Further, Italy, Jamaica, Lesotho, Malawi, Liberia, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Botswana and Cameroon presented their voluntary national reviews of progress in attaining the 17 Goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Monday, 18 July, for the final day of its high-level segment.
Adoption of Ministerial Declaration
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), speaking also for Nauru, said the draft ministerial declaration reaffirms the importance of accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. After six months of negotiations, delegates have arrived at a comprehensive, ambitious and action-oriented document that will help the international community deliver on its promises. The declaration reaffirms the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the connected United Nations frameworks as a common blueprint to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a better future for all, he said. Thus, the text proves that even at the most challenging times, the international community can come together and find common solutions, he said.
The high-level political forum on sustainable development then voted to retain paragraph 131 of the draft declaration, by a recorded vote of 101 in favour to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States), with 42 abstentions.
Speaking in explanation of position after vote, the representative of Israel called the declaration a statement of solidarity but expressed concern about attempts to politicize the forum and dissociated himself from paragraph 131.
The forum then adopted the declaration without a vote.
Several countries made statements after adoption.
The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that it engaged constructively throughout the negotiations to reach a balanced and substantial outcome. The process could have been better, he said, adding that sufficient time should have been allowed for full intergovernmental negotiations as well as in-depth internal consultations. The timeline set for such a process must be realistic, he added, pointing to the disproportionate impact of the multiple crises on developing countries. Expressing disappointment that the list of countries in paragraph 10 does not refer to countries and people living under colonial occupation, he also rejected unilateral economic and trade measures and expressed regret that a proposal for a stand-alone paragraph on this issue, as well as another on the right to development, was not included in the declaration.
The representative of Canada, speaking on behalf of a number of countries, calling for full implementation of the 2030 Agenda, reiterated the importance of anchoring that commitment in human rights, diversity and inclusion and the principle of leaving no one behind. Women, girls and adolescents around the world continue to be denied the full realization of human rights, he said, highlighting women’s rights to control all matters related to sexuality and sexual and reproductive health. The 2030 Agenda is clear on the role of gender equality, he said, adding that it is crucial for progress across all Sustainable Development Goals. The negotiations on this were unnecessarily challenging, he said, adding that it is vital to ask what needs to be done, where are the gaps and why is this important.
A representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, underscored the importance of the forum as a venue for stocktaking and dialogue. Building back better while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda has proved challenging, he said, also noting the aggression against Ukraine. Stressing the importance of a human rights-based approach, he said the declaration will support and accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. While noting that the consensus reached proves that multilateralism is able to provide results, he expressed disappointment that the importance of full gender equality is not acknowledged in the declaration. Turning to nature-based solutions, he also expressed regret that the language from the United Nations Environmental Assembly ministerial declaration was not used. Further, the lengthy negotiations on climate language, specifically, on issues relating to temperature goals and climate emissions, resulted in a lengthy text that fails to provide a clear message, he added.
The representative of Colombia, speaking on behalf of Like-Minded Group of Countries Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, expressed reservations on paragraph 127, and said his group does not support the reference to vulnerable middle-income States, even though it chose not to break silence in order to contribute to a consensus. The term is extremely problematic because it creates an additional characterization of developing countries without a clear context or definition, he said.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said the text remains unbalanced and does not reflect the reality of the global South, particularly small island developing countries. Member States failed to put forward bold ideas, he said, adding that the ministerial declaration must uphold all the principles of the high-level political forum. The declaration must reflect the needs of the most vulnerable, he said, adding that in crafting outcomes of such political standing, the decisions and resolutions of the General Assembly, which reflect the full membership of the United Nations, should be used for reference.
The representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, stressed that, if the international community wishes to live up to its commitment to leave no one behind in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality), it must be clear regarding where support is required. This includes gender-diverse persons, persons facing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and survivors of intimate partner violence, and it is disappointing that Member States were unable to agree on language in this regard. She also expressed concern over the trend of undermining existing language and progress, stating that it is “disheartening” that some did not deem agreed conclusions from the Commission on the Status of Women as an agreeable source of language with which to review progress made towards Goal 5.
She went on to say that small island developing States and least-developed countries need the international community’s support, and that the same must expand its collective fight against climate change through mitigation and adaptation measures. While negotiating the ministerial declaration was challenging, consensus is welcome at this important moment. However, pointing out that the text is longer than that of the entire 2030 Agenda, she said that such length limited the engagement of small delegations and expressed hope that this will not set a precedent. Adding that the international community must “double-down on concrete implementation” in this decade of action, she underscored that it cannot achieve any Goal if it does not focus on all of them.
The forum then adopted the procedural report of the session (to be issued as document E/HLPF/2022/L.2).
AMINA MOHAMMED, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, pointing to the numerous pandemic-related and longstanding challenges facing the international community, highlighted poverty, the rise of a global food crisis and the backsliding on progress towards gender equality. The international community is running out of time to turn the tide on the triple planetary crisis of pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss, she said, adding “the COVID-19 pandemic is not done with us yet.” Yet despite all these challenges, the 2022 high-level political forum demonstrated that there is an unwavering commitment to realizing the 2030 Agenda, she stressed. “You demonstrated it by coming to this meeting in such high numbers,” she said, adding that the forum heard it from the highest levels of Government and from multiple stakeholders.
Applauding the 44 countries who presented their voluntary national reviews, she said they are pushing ahead to achieve a sustainable recovery, while the strong ministerial declaration just adopted by consensus brings fresh hope and vision into the world. Taking the decisive steps needed to make the 2030 Agenda a reality means ensuring vaccine equity and transforming social protection, she emphasized. Calling on the international community to fully embrace renewable energy and rethink old ways of living, she said it is vital to reduce greenhouse emissions and overhaul the economic and financial systems that continue to serve rich countries and undermine poor ones. The international community must live and breathe inclusive multilateralism grounded in global solidarity, she stressed.
Highlighting the Transforming Education Summit to be held in September, she said it will allow the international community to mobilize the political commitment and innovative solutions it needs. Future-proofing education is key for unlocking the progress across all 17 Goals, she said, pointing to various upcoming multilateral meetings. Calling on the international community to respond with conviction and resolve, she congratulated the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for keeping the torch of the Sustainable Development Goals shining brightly.
COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that a key message from the forum “is one of urgency and ambition” to work harder to reverse the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the Sustainable Development Goals; fundamentally transform socioeconomic and financial systems; address the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine on food security, energy, financing and the economy; and halt climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. “Yes, this is a tall order,” he pointed out, “but it cannot wait any longer”. Welcoming the ministerial declaration just adopted by consensus, he said the same “leaves no doubt about our unwavering commitment to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. While today’s complex and multiple challenges are a threat to the Goals, they also offer an opportunity for renewed multilateral action and innovative solutions that change “the old way of doing things”, he added.
He went on to point out that the pandemic exposed inequalities between and within countries, reminding the world that, without adequate, universal health care supported by proper systems, “there can be no sustainable development”. The fight against the pandemic requires a global response, and he noted that many speakers called for improved global health architecture, built around a stronger World Health Organization (WHO). Further, increased flows of public and private finance are needed to bridge the financing gap and deliver on the promise of the Goals, along with reforms in international finance, debt and taxation architecture. Underlining that “no country has achieved gender equality”, he said that, to build back better, the needs of women and girls must be addressed comprehensively, including through eradicating violence against them, implementing national gender budgeting and ensuring access to technology and decent jobs.
Sharing other main messages from the high-level political forum, he said that engaging local authorities is essential for inclusive implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda, and that ensuring vaccine equity and producing vaccines in developing countries is critical to economic recovery. Food security, digital transformation and building productive capacities must be pursued in least-developed States, and the international community must better understand the specific challenges faced by middle-income countries. Additionally, recalling the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference, he emphasized that ocean action should be informed and guided by science and better investment in ocean research, along with the deep engagement of local communities. Noting that preparations for the 2023 Sustainable Development Goals Summit were launched during this forum, he encouraged those present to “go back to our countries encouraged and reinvigorated to continue efforts to recover from this pandemic and build back better”.