TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Dec13/02)
11 December 2013
Third World Network  

SDGs: G77 and China elaborates on “means of implementation” and “global partnership”

New York, 10 December (Bhumika Muchhala and Chee Yoke Ling) – The sixth session of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is taking place this week on 9-13 December in New York. 

The thematic focus is on the crucial ‘how’ aspects for sustainable development, particularly the means of implementation.  The OWG is a key process for the follow-up of the outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (Rio+20). The Co-chairs of the OWG are Ambassadors Macharia Kamau of Kenya and Csaba Korosi of Hungary.

The range of themes this week include: means of implementation; global partnership for achieving sustainable development; needs of countries in special situations, African countries, Least Developed Countries, Least-developed and land-locked developing countries, and Small island developing states; as well as the specific challenges facing the middle-income countries.  The last day of the OWG will address human rights, the right to development and global governance. 

The issue of finance is not on the agenda. In his introductory remarks at the first session on 9 December, Co-chair Kamau said that Part VI of ‘The Future We Want’ (the Rio+20 outcome document) does cover finance, technology, capacity building and trade, and that there will be “a pretty specific conversation on issues of finance, pure finance to provide means to achieve the goals we all aspire to.” (He was referring to a briefing that same afternoon by the Co-chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing, Ambassador Patti Mayanen of Finland. This process is also an outcome of Rio+20 and the Committee had its second meeting on 2-6 December just before the OWG’s current session.) Kamau stressed that means of implementation is not just about money.

Co-chair Korosi said that “Rio (+20) gave us a broad licence but it can be simplified in a very easy manner we have to answer two questions – what to do after 2015 and how to do.” He said that what to do after 2015 will be our main task here, and how to do is to be split into 2 tracks, with Paragraphs 255 and 256 from Rio+20 (outcome document) establishing a financing committee to primarily identify the financial means for whatever the OWG comes to with the way forward.

Noting that the expert committee had its first substantive meeting last week, Korosi said that the Committee Co-chair Ambassador Pertti Mayanen (Finland) would address the OWG in the afternoon on challenges and solutions sought by the Committee. He added that the two tracks go hand in hand and the four co-chairs cooperate closely as you wish from us, pointing to the same direction of the two tracks that we are marching. We see very similar possibilities, similar challenges and necessities and also the same time frame. We all have to submit our reports by the end of this General Assembly session.

Co-chair Kamau made further remarks on this issue noting that there are new people from capitals at this OWG session. He said that “the report of the sustainable development financing committee will be brought together with the context of other reports being prepared and other processes that are ongoinginto a synthesis report of the Secretary-General to be presented to General Assembly at the end of September 2014 – the expectation is that this report and work together will form the basis around which the post-2015 work will then start.”

He further said there “a pretty long pipeline of work that looks to take place between now and 2015 when we hope to have the Summit for SDGs/post-2015 development agenda”, adding that “there are a number of reports that have to come together to get us there.”

Kamau also said that, “Our expectation is that we as a group will be focused very much on SDGs. In everything that we discuss we will thinking about issues of targets around which we shall mobilise much of the means of not just means of implementation but the means through which we will achieve the goals that we shall set for ourselves.”

In introducing the briefing by Ambassador Majanen, Co-chair Korosi said that “there are two major parts of means of implementation: the financial type and the non-financial parts. As it has been decided at Rio that there will be a committee to deal with the financial means of implementation and they have had their second meeting, (Mayanen) was asked to provide a snap shot of what the committee is doing, what might be the major questions they will be dealing with, and maybe what advice and reflection they may give us.”

In his briefing, Majanen said that the OWG Co-chairs attended the committee meeting last week and gave “inspiring statements”.

He said that when we have two sister processes going on – OWG on policy (SDGS) and the other on financing sustainable development, it would be waste of resources to miss the opportunity to bring the two processes together and try to synchronise them. He said that there have been teleconferences, and that the four co-chairs then decided on a joint meeting, maybe in March, and when writing of reports starts in the OWG in early March “there will be hugely increase in reciprocal presence and exchange of information.”

Majanen set out four strengths of the two processes that will enable the committee to be be fully aware of final report of the OWG when the Committee finalises its own report by August. First, they share the same Rio+20 background and the same legacy. Secondly, the same secretariat is behind the two processes and the Committee decided last Friday (6 December) that “the secretariat will also be very much accountable for producing our final report. So we will be sharing the same information base.” Thirdly, the Committee already know a lot about the OWG’s work and in reciprocal visits they are learning more, and there is already an ongoing process for reciprocal learning and exchange of information. Lastly, in March “we shall be even more together.”

On how to do it in practice, Majanen said they do not know yet how the final report will be organised but at least they will look at overall financing. He doubted that the Committee will pick up every recommendation and go into detail. He added that “Division of labour and line of demarcation between us is on the water and the water is running here and there.”

(Several developing country delegates informally expressed concerns over this approach to finance as a means of implementation.)

G77 and China statement

Ambassador Peter Thomson, the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN delivered the G77 and China statement on the means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building), and on a global partnership for achieving sustainable development on Monday 9 December.

The Group reminded that paragraph 248 of "The Future We Want" outcome document mandates the OWG to submit a report to the General Assembly at its 68th session (September 2014).  This report is to contain a proposal for SDGs for consideration and appropriate action.  The G77 stated that the conversation on how this report will be produced should commence with a few hours at the current session, and the final two sessions (January and February 2014) to discuss and agree on the way forward.

The G77 reinforced that the post-2015 development agenda should build on existing commitments and lessons learned from the implementation of the MDGs to ensure that new initiatives, both at international and national levels, reinforce previous successes while address important implementation gaps and systemic shortcomings.  A transformative global development agenda must fulfill five key policy objectives: rapid and sustained economic growth; industrialisation; full employment; greater distributional equity; and environmental sustainability.

While the primary responsibility for sustainable development lies with the countries concerned, for developing countries, success depends on two fronts.  At the national level, development success depends on effective design and implementation of industrial, macroeconomic and social policies.  At the international level, success depends on the support of the international community and the need to have adequate policy space and an enabling global environment that ensure an appropriate pace and pattern of integration into the global economy.  The international context therefore must take into account the different development status, priorities and circumstances of developing countries.  This calls for a genuine departure from the market-based policies of development fashioned on the so-called 'Washington Consensus'.

In the context of the SDGs, the G77 proposed that each SDG should be linked with the strengthened global partnership for development with an effective means of implementation.  The notion of 'means of implementation' consists of, among others, a mix of financial resources, technology development and transfer, as well as capacity-building. These means of implementation must be supported by actions from developed countries at the international level, such as time-bound financing targets; associated trade and economic policies; technology transfer and other resources to assist and enable developing countries efforts.

On financial resources, the G77 reiterated its position that the Monterrey and Doha conferences on financing for development are a strong foundation for a post-2015 development agenda financing strategy.  Sustainable development financing comes from external and domestic sources, and includes both public and private flows.  They should complement but not substitute for each other as each source of financing has its own role and objectives.

Public policies and sources of revenue are critical both to address market failures and to raise resources for financing long-term investments in infrastructure, high risk investment such as innovation and new technologies, global public goods, the development of small and medium enterprises and other important aspects of an inclusive society like social protection, basic education, decent sanitation and gender equality. 

Despite previous debt relief initiatives and recent efforts, many developing countries still have substantial amount of state resources tied up in debt repayments.  In this regard, it is imperative that a permanent and effective sovereign debt workout mechanism must be created to resolve the debt problem.  Moreover, concerted efforts are also required to address the illicit financial flows, which seriously undermine many developing countries' efforts to mobilise domestic resources.

Globally, official development assistance (ODA) remains an important source of public financing for developing countries, particularly those without sufficient access to other sources.  The G77 expressed grave concern that ODA has fallen for two consecutive years, by a total of 6% in real terms, to $125.6 billion in 2012.  We urge for prompt action to reverse this decline and call for progress towards the 0.7 per cent of GNI target, including the 0.15 per cent to 0.20 per cent target for least developed countries.

The G77 stated that the pivotal importance of science, technology and innovation (STI), knowledge-sharing and capacity building for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development has recently been confirmed at the Rio+20 Conference.  STI can be the “game changer” of the socio-economic situation of developing countries.  Development of STI capacities has been proven to be an important prerequisite for the social and economic transformations that enable sustainable economic growth, human development and poverty eradication.  Technology plays a key role in addressing development challenges across a wide scope of cross-cutting sustainability dimensions, including food and agriculture, water, energy, and industry development.  

Developing countries rely heavily on technology in order to shift to a more sustainable development path.  To help developing countries overcome obstacles to economic growth to achieve specific development goals, it is imperative to bridge the technological divide to promote sustainable industralisation and inclusive growth across the developing world.

Despite recent progress in access to technology, technological and innovation divides between countries and regions persist. Around 70% of R&D (research and development) spending worldwide, still takes place in developed countries. Disparities in scientific capacity and STI development levels between developed and developing countries remain significant.

Developing countries are still facing many obstacles, particularly with regard to access to finance, capacity building and training throughout different stages of the technology life cycle, from research to development, demonstration, market formation, and eventual diffusion in the market place.  An effective technology innovation system is one that excels in each stage and seamlessly bridges the gaps between them.  In such a system, capacity-building, finance and technology transfer can play an important role in all stages.

The G77 stressed that without a truly ‘transformational’ change in the framework of SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda, it is difficult to envisage how it could take place without a break-through in international cooperation in the field of technology transfer.  There is an urgent need for a technology mechanism that can accelerate technology transfer and diffusion on a global scale which commensurates with the sustainable development challenge.

The Rio+20 Outcome Document recognised technology as one of the key ‘means of implementation’ along with finance, capacity building and trade.  The Group called for exploring options for a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies, taking into account existing models.

The process to establish such a mechanism is an integral part of the Rio+20 package, a third stream that complements the other two streams on SDGs and finance.  For this purpose the Secretary General issued two reports, and four workshops held earlier in 2013 provided an opportunity for in-depth discussions. They validated the analysis contained in the first report by the Secretary General recommending the establishment of an open-ended intergovernmental working group to decide on the modalities and organisation of a UN global technology facilitation mechanism, and they emphasised the view that a comprehensive approach is needed.

The G77 group notes with satisfaction that it has been decided recently that efforts will continue to advance the initiative further by holding four structural dialogues during the current GA session, to focus on considering the possible arrangements, as well as the possible modalities and organisation for such a mechanism.  A summary of the discussions and recommendations will be submitted by the President of GA to the 68th session, for consideration and action at the 69ths session with the aim of reaching a conclusion in this regard.  To this end, we call on the General Assembly to develop the format and modalities for this technology facilitation mechanism.

The full potential of Science, technology and innovation, knowledge-sharing and capacity building for poverty eradication and sustainable development will be best harnessed by building coherent enabling legal, policy, financial and institutional frameworks at the national, regional and international levels.  In this regard, the G77 emphasized that in addition to linking the means of implementation to each SDG, STI must be an integral part of the over post-2015 development framework.  Such an inclusion is important in addressing efforts needed at all levels in order to increase innovation capacities, technology transfer and scientific capacity building in developing countries.

And finally, the G77 group underscored that capacity-building is a cross-cutting issue in the field of sustainable development.  A specific call was voiced to continue the implementation of the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-Building, as endorsed by the General Assembly.