MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: UN Secretary-General Outlines UN Priorities for 2019

Source: Small Island Developing States

16 January 2019: UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Member States to do their best to make September 2019 a defining moment for stopping runaway climate change, achieving the SDGs and building a fair globalization. Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in a briefing at the start of 2019, Guterres reflected on the UN’s achievements in 2018, and outlined priorities for the coming year.

The briefing was convened by UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés on 16 January 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It followed a briefing, on 15 January, on her own priorities for the remainder of the 73rd UNGA session.

Guterres told delegations that the UN had made a difference in 2018 in the areas of: the search for peace diplomacy in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia and Armenia; the adoption of the Paris Agreement Work Programme during the Katowice Climate Change Conference; and the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and of the Global Compact on Refugees in December 2018.

He noted that work intensified to reach the SDGs, with 102 States having presented Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) so far to assess national-level implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On humanitarian aid, he reported that approximately US$15 billion coming from country contributions helped reach about 100 million people in need. He also noted that for the first time in the history of the UN, it reached gender parity within the senior management and among the candidates for the position of resident coordinator.

Guterres also highlighted initiatives launched in 2018, including the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative endorsed by 151 countries and four major organizations, and the launch of Youth 2030, the UN’s strategy for working with and for young people. On the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General, he said: the repositioned UN Development System is now in place, including a new Resident Coordinator system and a new generation of Country Teams; the UN peace and security architecture has been fortified to strengthen prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding; and new management capacities, structures and practices, including new levels of transparency, simplification and accountability will underpin these changes and “deeply transform” the UN.

Countries welcomed the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General, and stressed the need for the high-level events of September 2019 to renew commitments to the 2030 Agenda and combatting climate change.

On the work ahead, Guterres stressed the need to accelerate the “surge in diplomacy,” and to strengthen partnerships. He said “there can be never room for hate speech, intolerance or xenophobia,” and called for investing in social cohesion, education, new skills for people to adapt, and safety nets for those that risk to be left behind. He announced that the UN will continue to strengthen its partnership with the African Union (AU) in order to consolidate gains towards peace, adding that lasting peace must be based on a broad consensus of society, “with women as full participants in all peace processes.”

Guterres asked to dramatically accelerate efforts on key 21st-century challenges, namely: the fight against climate change; achieving the SDGs; and stepping up new technologies that can “turbocharge” this work. Further on climate change, he remarked that by 2020, under the Paris Agreement, Member States are meant to assess progress and submit new pledges to meet the goals to which they agreed. In addition, by 2050, net zero global emissions should be reached. On technologies, he indicated that “later in 2019” his High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation will report on proposals for reducing digital inequality, building digital capacity and ensuring that new technologies are on “our side and are a force for good.”

In an interactive discussion, countries highlighted the need to protect and strengthen multilateralism, and welcomed the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General on development, management and peace and security. Many UN Member States also referred to the high-level events that will take place in September 2019 during the UNGA’s annual General Debate, including the UN Climate Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, and the ‘SDG Summit.’ They stressed the need to renew and reaffirm commitments towards the 2030 Agenda and combatting climate change.

Thailand for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said the theme of Thailand’s 2019 ASEAN chairmanship is ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability,’ and this reinforces the idea that multilateralism should be protected. The EU stressed the importance of universal values, respect for rule of law, promotion of human rights and human dignity, and for a UN that is tailored to new challenges, in line with the UN reforms.

Thanking other countries for their words of comfort and condolences following the terrorist attacks in Kenya on 15 January, Kenya stressed the importance of working closely together to tackle the “global phenomenon” of terrorism. South Africa reported that the relationship between the UN and Africa has strengthened, including through the Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security, and the AU-UN framework for the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Referring to challenges with the UN’s financial situation, the US suggested reforming its budget process and improve its ability to better manage resources to deliver on its mandates. Afghanistan stressed the need to find new ways to implement UNGA and UN Security Council resolutions, noting that their implementation “remains weak.”

On climate change, Fiji noted that climate action speaks to all areas of the UN reforms and, if not addressed could be an “extreme threat” to all the SDGs combined. Chile underscored the importance of addressing climate change, and noted that the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 25) will take place in Santiago.

On efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, Mexico said his president signed a decree through which all the country’s public and social policies will be inspired by and based on the 2030 Agenda. Colombia said the SDGs are a guide to “administrate globalization” and to ensure the effectiveness of multilateralism, adding that his country has incorporated the 17 SDGs into its domestic policy, and the Goals are considered permanent guidance for public policy in Colombia.

On migrants and refugees, Mexico said his country is the first or second largest corridor in the world for migration, and it will take the Global Compact on Migration as a basis for its legislation and policies. Jordan called on the UN to continue to support countries that host refugees. [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNGA President Letter Announcing the Briefing] [UN Secretary-General Website] [UN News on Secretary-General’s Briefing] [UN Webcast] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

MIL OSI Asia Pacific

MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: UNGA President Sets out Plans, Coordination Efforts for 2019

Source: Small Island Developing States

15 January 2019: UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces briefed Member States on plans for the remaining eight months of the 73rd UNGA session. She outlined several upcoming events and initiatives related to the 2030 Agenda, financing for development, synergies among UN bodies, gender equality, climate change, plastic pollution and the role of cities.

Espinosa said the 2030 Agenda is “a cornerstone of the success of multilateralism,” and more public understanding and support for the SDGs is needed. She highlighted several events related to the 2030 Agenda that will convene in 2019 and that require coordinated planning.

First, she reminded delegations that the HLPF will convene twice in 2019, once under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July, and in September 2019 under the UNGA as the ‘HLPF Summit.’ She said the two must be closely coordinated, and she is working closely with the ECOSOC President and the co-facilitators to ensure synergies between the meetings. According to a document circulated at the briefing titled, ‘Preliminary List of High-level Events and Key Meetings’ a Leaders’ Roundtable on SDG Targets will convene alongside the HLPF in July 2019.

Espinosa also highlighted two meetings on financing for development (FfD) taking place in 2019: the ECOSOC Forum on FfD Follow-up, which she said will feed into the outcome of the HLPF Summit, and the UNGA’s High-level Dialogue on FfD. The President said she is working with the co-facilitators of those events to ensure synergies, as well.

She also stressed the need for all of the high-level UNGA meetings scheduled for the opening week of the 74th Session to be handled in a coherent, synergetic way. In addition to the HLPF summit, these meetings include: a high-level meeting on universal health coverage; a high-level meeting on the elimination of nuclear weapons; and the mid-term review of the Samoa Pathway on small island developing States (SIDS).

Espinosa noted that she will convene a joint briefing with the ECOSOC President on 31 January to discuss coherence among the bodies, including with regard to the 2019 HLPF meetings. The briefing will address the ongoing process to enhance synergies and coherence and reduce overlap among bodies in light of the 2030 Agenda. It will also include updates on: the HLPF, youth, decent work and FfD.

Rather than negotiating long documents and resolutions, this is a time for ensuring capital flows “at scale and urgently” for climate change and the 2030 Agenda.

In remarks following the President’s briefing, El Salvador highlighted the “double HLPF” taking place in 2019, cautioning that the HLPF Summit should not be “drowned” out during the high-level week but be utilized as a true opportunity to examine the implementation of the 2030 Agenda four years after its adoption.

Canada, noting his role as a co-facilitator for the High-level Dialogue on FfD, along with Ghana, said the meeting needs to be planned in coordination with the other processes underway, such as the FfD Forum and the HLPF Summit. He called on everyone to think outside of the box on “how we’re going to do this.” He stressed that given the need for action on the 2030 Agenda, this is not a time for long documents or negotiations on reoslutions, but making sure the right actors are engaged so that “capital flows way more, at scale and urgently,” for climate change and the 2030 Agenda.

Tanzania and the UK said that they will present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during the HLPF in July, with the UK noting its intention to include a focus on financing the SDGs.

On gender equality and empowerment of women, Espinosa reported that she has established a Group of Gender Equality Leaders as an informal forum of eminent persons to accelerate gender equality. The Group’s first meeting will take place on 29 January, in collaboration with the UN Foundation. It is aimed at identifying barriers to women’s full participation and leadership in both the public and private sectors, and sharing best practices for accelerating women’s empowerment.

She also highlighted the Women in Power summit she is convening on 12 March 2019, on the margins of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Summit will promote women’s leadership, including by engaging young women leaders and fostering an intergenerational environment for dialogue.

On protection of environment, Espinosa said she expects 2019 to be “a decisive year, as we near the first milestones of 2030 agenda.” She highlighted upcoming events including:

  • On 14 February, a joint briefing with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Climate Summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba, to outline the roadmap for preparations for the event, which will take place on 23 September 2019; and
  • On 28 March, a high-level UNGA meeting to “build on the momentum from COP 24 and pave the way” for the Climate Summit.

On plastic pollution, the President highlighted efforts to reduce single-use plastics in UN Member States’ Permanent Missions and UN facilities. She will host a briefing on the action plan to integrate sustainable development practices into the Secretariat’s operations and facilities management, to ensure that these do not have a negative impact on the climate. The action plan was called for in UNGA resolution 71/228. In addition, she is organizing a festival with the governments of Norway and Antigua and Barbuda, on 27 April 2019 in Antigua and Barbuda, to encourage awareness and action on plastic pollution.

On the role of cities, Espinosa will hold a meeting with mayors and other stakeholders on 19 February in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to address the role of cities in sustainable development, food security, nutrition and climate change. Among other topics that Espinosa discussed, she said:

  • On the 75th anniversary of the UN, which takes place in 2020, she will appoint co-facilitators for discussions on the theme, date and modalities of the commemoration event;
  • On migration, co-facilitators have been appointed for consultations on the modalities of the International Migration Review Forum, which will be the intergovernmental platform for global discussions of progress on implementing the global compact on migration adopted in Marrakech in December 2018, and a high-level debate on international migration and development will take place on 27 February;
  • On decent work, Espinosa will convene a high-level event on 10 April. On 9 April, a town hall will focus on interlinkages between decent work and youth, peace and security, in the context of the ECOSOC Youth Forum, which convenes on 8-9 April. These events seek to build on the momentum created by the in-depth review of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) taking place during the July 2019 session of the HLPF, as well as the commemoration of the centenary of the International Labor Organisation (ILO);
  • On persons with disabilities, a Steering Committee on Accessibility at the UN was launched in late 2018, focusing on accessibility on UN premises, and on 10 June 2019 she will host a high-level event; and
  • On strengthening the multilateral rules-based system, the President will convene a meeting of former UNGA presidents, on 4 February, in order to craft a set of recommendations. In addition, a High-level Event will take place on the International Day of Multilateralism, on 24 April 2019.

The 73rd UNGA session will close on 16 September 2019, and Espinosa will be succeeded by the President of the 74th session on 17 September. The next President is to be selected from the Group of African States. The UNGA will hold interactive dialogues with the candidates in early May, and the election will take place in early June. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Statement of UNGA president] [UN press release] [Meeting webcast]

MIL OSI Asia Pacific