States Hold Second Meeting on Format, Organizational Aspects of HLPF

1 March 2013: UN Member States and Permanent Observers discussed further the format and organizational aspects of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), in the second open-ended informal meeting convened by the two co-facilitators for the process, Cesare Maria Ragaglini, Permanent Representative of Italy, and Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Permanent Representative of Brazil. The meeting took place at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 1 March 2013. 

Viotti explained that, since the first open-ended informal UNGA meeting on establishing the HLPF, on 30 January 2013, the co-facilitators had organized separate informal consultations with groups and individual States to deepen their preliminary views, and with Major Groups to collect their opinions and suggestions.

Noting that delegations are at different points in formulating their positions, she highlighted that most of them had agreed to be consistent with the deadline of the end of May 2013 to conclude the negotiations, in order to hold the first meeting of the Forum at the beginning of the UNGA's 68th session, in September 2013. Viotti outlined points from the consultations that could be useful for identifying a possible consensual avenue and for subsequently defining the main elements of a draft resolution, including little appetite for creating a new structured institution “with its own layer of bureaucracy,” and the need to preserve the positive legacy of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) and to effectively follow up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments. She added that different opinions had been expressed on the institutional positioning of the HLPF, namely: holding the Forum in the framework of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); positioning it in the framework of the UNGA; and establishing links to both the ECOSOC and the UNGA, with ECOSOC providing relevance and coherence in the integration of the three sustainable development dimensions and the UNGA providing universality and convening power (known as the “hybrid” option). She said the preference was to link participation of UN agencies, funds, programs and other relevant multilateral institutions and treaty bodies to the agenda of Forum's meetings, and for ensuring participation at the highest level possible. She also highlighted some agreement that modalities of participation of Major Groups and other stakeholders should be “no less than what is provided in the framework of the CSD and possibly more."

The positioning of the Forum was one of the main points of discussion, with delegates expressing thoughts on holding the HLPF as: a special session of ECOSOC; a UNGA working group; or a forum with links between these two intergovernmental bodies. This latter “hybrid” option garnered much support by the conclusion of the meeting, with delegates expressing interest in learning more details about its design. Some suggested having regional political forums in addition to the main HLPF, and establishing a Joint Secretariat and Bureau similar to the CSD. Attention also was paid to creating different levels of HLPF meetings (high-level, ministerial, and expert), and to ECOSOC's potential role in facilitating meetings of ministers and experts. 

Some delegates expressed hope that the HLPF will: follow up on all major international commitments including those in the Mauritius Strategy (MSI) and the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA); support the voluntary sharing of best practices; and review progress on implementation, including the effective implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a focus at country level. Others suggested having cross-cutting themes as part of the agenda, noting that the agenda setting should be innovative and attract political attention.

Delegates outlined various options regarding timing and periodicity of the Forum's meetings with many reiterating that high-level meetings of the HLPF should happen back-to-back with the UNGA, but not necessarily every year, and on periods ranging from one day to two weeks. It was suggested holding the first HLPF meeting after the Special Event to follow up efforts made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2013. Many speakers also proposed to have more regular meetings at ministerial and “expert” levels, in addition to high-level meetings, each year.

On participation, speakers highlighted the need to: build on existing inclusive stakeholder engagement, using “what was in the CSD” as a starting point; open meetings to include other stakeholders such as Bretton Woods and other financial institutions; ensure attendance from economic, development, environmental, and social ministers; and attract the “highest level of participation” from Heads of States. It was noted that all States should be universally represented in the Forum.

On the nature of the outcome document, some delegates requested a negotiated outcome between countries, at least for the HLPF high-level meetings, while others said a non-negotiated outcome, such as a Chair's summary, would be more appropriate for open discussion. The need for a specific and action-oriented outcome was also highlighted.

Delegates discussed how the Forum would fill the position of the CSD, which will hold its final session in 2013. Many speakers referred to a need to learn from lessons of the CSD, as an advance, unedited version of the UN Secretary-General's report on this topic has been released for consideration. Some speakers highlighted the CSD's ineffective review process as an important area of reform within the HLPF, while others called for elevating the level of the Forum in comparison to the CSD. Delegates stressed that the HLPF should not lose achievements made in the CSD, specifically its place as a discussion venue for issues of small island developing States (SIDS).

The negotiations to create the HLPF are happening in parallel to other processes to implement decisions made at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), including a process to reform and strengthen the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and many delegates asked to integrate all of these discussions. The co-facilitators reiterated that they are in frequent contact with the co-facilitators of the ECOSOC reform process, and many delegates referred a need for consistency with statements made in that venue. Additionally, the processes to devise Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a post-2015 development agenda were highlighted as important to the eventual work of the HLPF, and some called for coherence with an upcoming agreement on climate change in 2015.

The co-facilitators expressed awareness that delegates feel “over-stretched” by these multiple, simultaneous processes, and committed to collecting information on the many proposed options for the HLPF. Many delegates showed interest in a written summary reflecting the outcome of the consultations so far, and for seeing a draft of a resolution as soon as possible. One speaker asked if the Secretariat could prepare a diagram of the hybrid option, and others asked specific delegations for their ideas in written form.

Closing the meeting, Ragaglini said the Secretariat will provide support in presenting elements for a draft resolution as soon as possible, based on the views expressed so far, and that another informal meeting will be organized. In the meantime, he expressed openness to meet with group and individual Member States if needed.

Consultations on the HLPF follow from the Rio+20 decision to establish a universal, intergovernmental, high-level political forum building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the CSD, and subsequently replacing the Commission. [Letter of Co-facilitators to Convene Consultations] [HLPF Webpage] [Advance unedited copy: Lessons Learned from the Commission on Sustainable Development: Report of the Secretary-General] [IISD Story on First Informal Consultation] [IISD RS Sources] [Co-facilitators' Talking Points]