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Member States Discuss Next Steps on Global Follow-up and Review

unga705 February 2016: At an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), UN officials presented the advance report of the UN Secretary-General on the global follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Government delegations provided preliminary reactions to the report and views on the way forward. Many described the report as a “good basis” for further discussions on the follow-up and review framework.

Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, presented highlights of the report, titled ‘Critical Milestones Towards Coherent, Efficient and Inclusive Follow-Up and Review at the Global Level,' which was released on 21 January 2016. He noted that the report seeks to "stimulate debate and provide options," rather than providing definitive answers. He said the report indicates how the HLPF could best work to "deliver on its role as central review platform." It also outlines two options regarding the focus of the thematic reviews of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the HLPF: reviewing “all Goals at the same time through the prism of a single transversal theme;” or “looking at all the Goals through one transversal theme, and then to review a small number of Goals, Goal by Goal.” Wu also noted the importance of: science and data, the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) and the SDG Progress Report to inform discussions at the HLPF; and inclusiveness of the reviews and partnerships.

Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, said the report identifies four factors will determine the success of the 2030 Agenda: leadership of governments and other development actors; ownership; partnership (including public, public-private and private sector and civil society partnerships); and collaboration between the UN System and Member States.

Many governments urged transparency and inclusiveness in the review process. They also called for protecting the "indivisible nature" of the SDGs by avoiding siloed approaches.

Many delegations, such as the EU, Liechtenstein, Kenya, Japan and Norway, said the report does not adequately articulate the link between the follow-up of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing for development. Some said the AAAA is an integral part of the Agenda, and an integrated follow-up and review of the of 2030 Agenda and the AAAA is therefore necessary. Canada, Australia, Liechtenstein and others favored holding the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up (FfD Forum) back-to-back with the HLPF. The EU called for a clear division of labor between the FfD Forum and the HLPF.

South Africa highlighted the importance of “proper indicators” for follow-up and review, and for openness, transparency and inclusiveness. Along with Kenya, he noted the need for capacity building at the national level to speed up implementation. The US lamented that the GSDR is not covered fully in the report. He called for clarifying ways to restructure the UN Secretariat to better support the follow-up and review process, suggesting, inter alia, that the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs' (DESA) Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination (OESC) could be merged with the Division for Sustainable Development (DSD).

On small island developing States (SIDS), Belize for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Bangladesh for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) noted that SIDS-related matters should be discussed as part of the HLPF, rather than in a separate forum held prior to the HLPF as outlined in the report. The Maldives for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) called for a dedicated space for the SIDS at the HLPF, under a format to be decided in close consultation with SIDS.

AOSIS also cautioned against mentioning “peer reviews,” which is a sensitive issue and already debated during negotiations on the 2030 Agenda. Argentina said the peer review is not to be confused with "peer learning."

On themes, some delegations highlighted the need for consistency between the themes of the HLPF and the other ECOSOC fora, with Canada, Australia and others proposing to use the same theme across key events. The US said the HLPF theme should not be overly broad or vague, and should be “cross-cutting.” Liechtenstein said a four-year work plan on the HLPF would be useful, and Switzerland noted the need to have the reviews' themes decided for the four years that follow the meetings of the HLPF under the auspices of the UNGA.

On selecting the Goals for review each year, Switzerland said selecting a number of Goals to be reviewed every year would allow for integrated reviews, as linkages can been made between any of the 17 Goals. She cautioned against considering all 17 SDGs every year, as it would inhibit focus and make it difficult to attract national officials. Liechtenstein and others said 2016 is not yet the time to consider “clustering" of SDGs for review. Peru expressed a preference for comprehensively reviewing progress on all 17 SDGs.

Norway said 2016 is too early for a “full and meaningful review” of the Agenda and of the SDGs, but she highlighted the need to make the 2016 HLPF a success and attractive to officials. The US said speakers at the HLPF should be selected based on their expertise and their ability to convey clear messages, and come from a range of backgrounds including government, academia, civil society and the private sector.

On next steps, Thailand for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China) proposed to establish an intergovernmental process to discuss the operationalization of follow-up and review “at the earliest opportunity." The EU cautioned against lengthy negotiations and prolonging discussions unnecessarily. Pakistan said the “big picture” on follow-up and review remains unclear, noting a need for significant work before agreeing on a coherent framework. Argentina expressed hope that intergovernmental negotiations on follow-up and review will begin as soon as possible. Japan suggested starting with a discussion of "urgently needed" priorities.

Many delegations also welcomed the appointment of David Nabarro, Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, who succeeds Amina Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for Post-2015 Development Planning.

UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft said clarity is needed on: how the HLPF theme relates to the ECOSOC themes; how national reviews will be conducted at the global level; how to best give attention to countries in special situations at the HLPF; and the possibility of holding a “short set of negotiations” focusing on key issues “well in advance of the HLPF.” He stressed the need to avoid duplication between consultations related to the HLPF, including the ones on the FfD Forum, and on the GSDR. He announced that the General Committee of the UNGA will discuss points raised during the meeting, and that he will provide more information on next steps "in the next few weeks."

The UN Secretary-General's report on follow-up and review was mandated by the 2030 Agenda (para 90), which called for it to serve as an input to the UNGA's consideration of the global follow-up and review of the Agenda. [IISD RS Story on Report of Secretary-General] [HLPF 2016 Website] [Eliasson Remarks] [Wu Briefing] [Nabarro Appointment] [Lykketoft Opening Remarks]