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The UNGA Establishes the New High- level Political Forum Following Rio +20 Summit

Tuesday, 30 July 2013
On 9 July 2013, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), at its 67th Session, adopted by consensus the Resolution 67/290 on the “Format and organizational aspects of the high-level political forum on sustainable development”*. Pursuant to this Resolution, the 193-member Assembly decided to establish a new universal intergovernmental High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). This new forum is to build on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), and subsequently replace the Commission*. This far-reaching reform effectively contributes to the enhancement of the international environmental governance within the context of the institutional framework for sustainable development, promoting a balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development as well as coordination within the UN system.

Following commitments by world leaders at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 to improve the institutional framework for sustainable development, the HLPF is geared to provide “a dynamic platform for regular dialogue and for stocktaking and agenda-setting to advance that process.” The new Forum, consistent with its universal intergovernmental character, is entrusted with the task of providing political leadership, guidance and recommendations for sustainable development. Also, it is explicitly mandated to follow up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments. Additionally, the new body undertakes to enhance the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development in a holistic and cross-sect oral manner. Moreover, the forum bears the responsibility to form a focused, dynamic and action-oriented agenda that ensures the appropriate consideration of new and emerging sustainable development challenges.

One of the most challenging issues was to define the position of the HLPF within the UN system and its institutional relations with other main UN bodies already mandated under the UN Charter to deal with economic, social and environmental matters, namely the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). After months of intensive informal consultations to outline draft resolution on format and organizational aspects of the high-level political forum on sustainable development ***, the delegates decided to follow the so-called “hybrid approach” as to avoid the duplication or overlap with other existing mandates and structures in a cost effective manner (§ 84 “Future We Want” Outcome Document).

According to the Resolution the meetings of the HLPF will be convened both under the auspices of the UNGA and the ECOSOC. In fact, the HLPF will be held under the auspices of the UNGA every four years at the level of Heads of State and Government for two days at the beginning of the Assembly session, resulting in “a concise negotiated political declaration” to be submitted to the Assembly for its consideration. The direct involvement of Heads of State and Government every four years will ensure that sustainable development continues to top the international agenda, bolstered by high-level strategic and visionary guidance for integrated and holistic policy-making.

On the other hand, the meetings  organized under the Economic and Social Council’s auspices are to -take place annually for a period of eight days, with a three-day ministerial segment in the ECOSOC substantive session, which will replace the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR).**** Starting in 2016, the forum, under the auspices of ECOSOC, will conduct regular reviews on the follow-up and implementation of sustainable development commitments and objectives, including those related to the means of implementation, within the context of the post-2015 development agenda. The annual result of the meetings is to be a negotiated ministerial declaration for inclusion in the report of ECOSOC to the UNGA.

Furthermore, the active participation of civil society is key to the transparent and effective function of the new-established forum. In this context, the Major Groups and other relevant stakeholders are encouraged to participate as observers in the HLPF, building on arrangements and practices followed by the CSD.

The Assembly finally recommended that ECOSOC abolish the Commission upon the conclusion of its 20th session – whose timing, agenda and duration was postponed from May, pending progress on the format and organizational modalities of the Forum. The first meeting of the new higher- profile forum under the auspices of the General Assembly will be convened by the President of the General Assembly at the beginning of the 68th session for one day. It will have an inaugural character.

As the Secretary-General of United Nations Ban Ki-moon stressed: “Establishing the Forum marks a major step forward in implementing 'The Future We Want'. The Forum can provide the political leadership and action-oriented recommendations we need to follow up on all the Rio recommendations and meet urgent global economic, social and environmental challenges. Countries must do their utmost to realize the Forum's potential.


Notes:
*Resolution 67/290 on the “Format and organizational aspects of the high-level political forum on sustainable development see: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2013/ga11393.doc.htm
**For further information on CSD see: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/csd.html
*** For further information on the draft resolution on format and organizational aspects of the high-level political forum on sustainable development see: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/67/L.72&Lang=E
**** For further information on Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) see: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/amr/index.shtml


Sources:
UN News Center, UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
For further information:
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45376&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1
http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1556
http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1650



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