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The UNECE Renews its Strategic Framework Towards a Sustainable Future at its 65th Session

Wednesday, 22 May 2013
The 65th Regular Session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) was held from 9 to 11 April 2013 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Session was conducted in the form of a High-level segment on “Enabling the shift to a sustainable future” and a General segment, bringing together governmental officials and representatives from UN agencies, Major Groups and civil society organizations with the overall aim of renewing the strategic framework for UNECE’s work in its wider global context.

The High- level segment debates, organized in three panels, focused on two themes that are most pertinent to the current development debate and are at the core of UNECE’s activities and member States’ priorities: (i) follow-up to Rio+20 and post-2015 development agenda, and (ii) economic developments and challenges in the ECE region: the role of innovation in creating a dynamic and competitive economy.

During the Session, the UNECE addressed sustainable development challenges as a follow- up to Rio +20 and post- 2015 development agenda in the context of ECE. Two interactive panel discussions were held on “The Future of Sustainability: from transition to transformation”, and “Sustainable Development governance: regional implications and perspectives form the post-Rio+20 institutional set up”.

 Recognizing its responsibility to help bring the global development agenda and commitments in the European region, the UNECE hailed the “Future We Want” Rio+20 Outcome Document as a sound basis for further work on achieving sustainable development and suggested that creating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing the financing needs of developing countries as well as creating a range of new partnerships, should be the next steps towards universal sustainability. Envisioning more environmentally and socially sustainable economic systems in the region, the delegates  adequately stressed that the UNECE region’s diversity in terms of the level of development, the range of economic models, climatic conditions, natural resource endowments and the overall challenges facing each country, need to be integrated in any policy framework as there is no ‘one size fits all’. Furthermore, the need to eliminate or reduce fossil fuel subsidies was highlighted as a quick policy change that can have immediate impact by changing consumer behavior.

As to the sustainable development institutional set up, the Commission emphasized that the new high-level political forum (HLPF), currently under development,  should be build on Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and serve as a dynamic platform directly linked with ECOSOC. Another important issue discussed during the Session was the contribution of the European countries to the global debate on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, the Commission argued that Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) should take into account the lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)  Besides, it was proposed that the post- 2015 development goals should be  global in nature and universally applicable to all countries, limited in number, action-oriented and easy to communicate. Possible SDG themes were also outlined, encompassing green economy, sustainable energy, food security and nutrition, transport, water, role of cities, health, and sustainable consumption and production. It is also to be noted that the regional commissions are expected to play pivotal role in establishing a most efficient institutional set- up.

During the discussion on the “The role of innovation in creating a dynamic and competitive economy”, the delegates acknowledged that innovation has acquired heightened importance in current economic circumstances as a way to improve productivity and competitiveness, and overcome tight budgetary constraints. Achieving collaboration between the public and private sectors and between academia and industry was considered to be a prerequisite for fostering successful innovation in economy.  Additionally, the delegates concluded that greening the economy is a large-scale structural transformation that requires a regulatory and policy environment that encourages innovation in multiple sectors. The results of this panel discussion will serve as regional input to the 2013 ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review whose theme is “Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the MDGs”.

Within the General segment, the Commission adopted the outcome document of the review of the 2005 UNECE reform, which defines the strategic priorities for the UNECE’s work for the coming years.*

Undoubtedly, the two themes discussed at High-level Segment are of fundamental importance for the region. “The region’s success in addressing these two challenges will have an immense impact on the living standards of future generations”, said Mr. Sven Alkalaj United Nations Under-Secretary-General Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

* See:

Sources: UNECE, IISD Reporting Services
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