By IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub

16 May 2018: A ‘food for thought’ paper outlines possible areas of action on enhancing synergies and coherence, addressing gaps, and reducing duplication and overlaps between the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The co-facilitators for intergovernmental consultations on this issue circulated the paper as a basis for discussion with Member States.

The consultations are taking place in the context of UNGA resolution 71/323 on ‘Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly’ of September 2017, in which the Assembly requests the UNGA 72 president to identify proposals aimed at addressing gaps and duplication in the agenda of the UNGA as they relate to the 2030 Agenda. The second round of consultations with UN Member States on this issue is scheduled for 31 May 2018.

The food for thought paper, issued by co-facilitators Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Permanent Representative of Belgium, notes that it draws from UNGA 70 and UNGA 71 discussions on this topic. During UNGA 71, former co-facilitators Gillian Bird, Permanent Representative of Australia, and Martin Garcia Moritan, Permanent Representative of Argentina, prepared a report containing recommendations on enhancing synergies and coherence and reducing overlaps in the agendas of the UNGA, ECOSOC and their subsidiary bodies, in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. During UNGA 70, facilitator Maria Emma Mejia Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia, with support from four members of the UNGA General Committee (the Permanent Representatives of Morocco, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the Republic of Korea) released a “mapping assessment” for reducing overlap between the UNGA agenda and the 2030 Agenda, and enhancing their synergy and coherence. The food for thought paper also states that it considers discussions that took place during the first round of consultations with Member States, held on 3 May 2018, and during informal consultations between the co-facilitators and the Bureaus of ECOSOC and the UNGA Second (Economic and Financial), Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) and Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committees.

The paper suggests discussing whether all SDG targets should be covered by the UNGA and ECOSOC, since some are dealt with in other fora.

On enhancing synergies and coherence, the paper notes that “the success of the 2030 Agenda requires the UN to operate horizontally, connecting issues across the breadth of its work,” and that the SDGs and their targets should “cut across” the work of the UNGA and ECOSOC and its functional commissions. On addressing gaps, the paper indicates that the majority of SDGs contain targets that are covered in the UNGA and/or ECOSOC agendas. It also notes the need to discuss whether all SDG targets should be covered by the UNGA and ECOSOC, considering that some issues are dealt with in other fora, such as SDG 13 (climate action) discussed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and SDG 15 (life on land) discussed at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA).

On reducing duplication and overlap, the paper highlights that the UNGA committees and the ECOSOC system have different mandates: the UNGA gives political guidance, while the ECOSOC system provides technical and normative guidance to UN Member States and the UN system, and is more focused on policy recommendations. It suggests to: “go beyond the titles of agenda items” and examine the content of resolutions adopted by the UNGA and ECOSOC; and continually review the agendas of the UNGA, ECOSOC and the HLPF “in order to streamline them.”

The paper suggests that the UNGA and the ECOSOC Presidents could enhance synergies and coherence by convening an annual briefing to UN Member States, at the beginning of the UNGA session, outlining the connection between the work of the UNGA on the 2030 Agenda, its link to the ECOSOC annual cycle and discussions to take place at the HLPF under the auspices of ECOSOC. The paper also suggests that: UNGA committees and bureaus could hold joint meetings to discuss “how their work relates to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda;” UNGA committees could have more dialogue between each other to highlight inter-linkages between their work; and the UN Secretary-General could be invited to consider consolidating or combining reports on issues addressed by several bodies.

Finally, the paper notes that this process is separate from ongoing discussions on the review of reforms to ECOSOC: each process “has its own focus” and its respective mandates. The ECOSOC review process is under discussion in informal consultations co-facilitated by the permanent representatives of Iceland and Qatar. [Food for Thought paper] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on co-facilitators’ appointment] [UNGA Resolution 71/323 on ‘Revitalization of the World of the General Assembly’] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on ECOSOC review process]

Source:: IISD – International Negotiations

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