STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA BY H.E. AMBASSADOR BOUBACAR DIALLO FROM THE PERMANENT MISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF GUINEA TO THE UNITED NATIONS AT THE VIRTUAL INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE ECOSOC/HLPF REVIEW PROCESS (New York, 5 February 2021)
1. I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. At the outset, allow me to reiterate the Group's appreciation to both co-facilitators for convening today's informal meeting and for preparing the comprehensive questions that will help guide our consultations and share the views and ideas of States on issues relevant to the reviews.
2. The G77 and China reiterates its position that the current review of ECOSOC and the HLPF should ensure that the current intergovernmental structures can most effectively fulfil their roles in accelerating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and achieve our common development aspirations. Therefore, the reviews should not be used to renegotiate substantive agreements on the SDGs, but rather to strengthen the basis for their implementation.
3. The G77 and China stresses that while the review processes for the HLPF and ECOSOC are similar and complement each other, they are not the same. Each responds to different mandates and has different objectives and should therefore be treated separately, with due attention to their interconnectedness. Thus, the two reviews should not be merged but should be treated as separate processes.
4. I would like in this regard, to express the Group's position, while providing answers to the questions that you have shared with us:
A- With regards to the HLPF Review:
5. Concerning the HLPF cycle, its cross-cutting themes and SDGs in 2022 and 2023, the Group believes that the SDGs reviews model needs to consider the interlinkages across all Goals, their synergies and trade-offs, so as to ensure that the international community can review the 17 SDGs in one cycle, "leaving no SDG behind", taking into account the holistic nature of the 2030 Agenda. The Group is of the view that the HLPF should allow the technical participation of line Ministries and other agencies, fostering peer learning and networking to effectively address global, regional and national development challenges.
6. Moreover, the synergies and interlinkages among the SDGs should also be strengthened, because sustainable development is about the interconnectedness between SDGs. In this vein, the Group believes that the thematic reviews would gain in pertinence if they discuss synergies among the SDGs both in their implementation and follow up.
7. On your question on how to improve the VNRs, the Group would like to make several proposals on improving the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The VNRs conducted by the HLPF have proved highly effective in bringing together a cross-section of national actors to review commitments and assess national progress in SDG implementation. However, some improvements to the current VNR process are necessary. The Group emphasises that:
- VNRs are an important means for developed and developing countries to report globally on their progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the SDGs. They should remain voluntary and be country led, allowing each country to present its specific context and address national particularities.
- The Secretary General's voluntary common reporting guidelines and handbook for VNRs is a useful resource for preparing VNRs. However, the handbook should not be used to standardize country reports.
- VNR presenting countries are encouraged to share concrete actions they have taken to implement the 2030 Agenda and the challenges they faced and how they have addressed them.
- The time allotted to present VNRs and engage in the interactive session that follows is inadequate and should be increased. This will allow VNR presenting countries to receive meaningful proposals from participants on how to address the challenges they have faced in their implementation of the SDGs. This will further improve the utility of the VNRs in devising targeted recommendations and interventions.
- During VNR presentations, parallel HLPF-related meetings should be avoided, as much as possible.
- The provision of technical support and feedback to VNR presenting countries, upon their request, can be considered as a follow-up to the VNRs, in order to help them address their challenges and implement the 2030 Agenda, taking into account ongoing work by UN-DESA.
8. The Secretary General's voluntary common reporting guidelines and handbook for VNRs is a useful resource for preparing VNRs. However, the handbook should not be used to standardize country reports. VNR presenting countries are encouraged to share concrete actions they have taken to implement the 2030 Agenda and most importantly, focus on the challenges they faced and how they have addressed them, in order to learn from effective ways in addressing the difficulties of SDGs implementation.
9. Concerning your question on improving SDG progress through the regional forums on sustainable development, the Group believes that the regional platforms should be better used as both a feedback and follow-up mechanism, particularly with respect to issues arising from the VNR presentations at the HLPF.
10. In this regard, the HLPF should provide a dedicated space to address matters emerging from the regional reviews, including with inputs from the United Nations regional economic commissions.
11. The group asserts that the tenets of inclusivity should be embraced throughout the HLPF and therefore notes that the participation of Non-Governmental Organisations should be continued on the basis of the non-objection principle. The group also commends and encourages VNR presenting countries to increase inclusivity and include national civil society organizations, private sector representatives, Youth and local authorities, as appropriate, as part of their VNR presentations.
B. With regard to the ECOSOC Review:
12. On your question on the potential for improving the ECOSOC calendar and the sequencing of ECOSOC segments, forums and events, The Group stresses that the mandate of the Council as a Charter-organ for deliberations, dialogue on development. Its role in policy guidance, oversight and coordination must be reaffirmed and strengthened. The progress achieved in previous efforts for strengthening ECOSOC should be preserved and built upon, allowing full scope for the Council to address the three dimensions of sustainable development. And we reaffirm the need to further strengthen the space for discussion, exchange of experiences, knowledge and ideas, through allowing more time for the interactive sessions of the different segments of the Council.
13. With regard to the role of the subsidiary bodies, we believe that their inputs and recommendations remain valuable and crucial for enriching the discussions and policy guidance within the Council. However, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Subsidiary bodies are requested to enhance coordination and coherence within and among themselves and to review their agenda and improve their working methods in the context of the Decade of Action.
14. During our deliberation, we can look at the documents containing their mandates and work plans and provide more focused and clear guidance to each subsidiary body.
15. The ECOSOC President and Bureau should take concrete steps towards "harmonization and coordination" of subsidiary bodies' agendas and work programmes, as called for by resolution 72/305. Regarding policy guidance and dialogue, we stress that ECOSOC is the central platform for policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on major economic, social and related issues. In order to strengthen its role as a central body, we propose the following:
- First, the High-level Segment could be repositioned as the culmination of the ECOSOC cycle and link the work of the HLPF with its various segments and forums. It should be re-established as a pre-eminent platform for Ministers, senior government officials and Executive Heads of UN system entities, particularly the specialized agencies, to examine current economic trends in the context of sustainable development, including their potential long-term impacts on the SDGs.
- Second, the Council should take full advantage of its current mechanisms to enhance its role in discussing trends and issues of a global nature within the ECOSOC mandates, such as the fourth industrial revolution and artificial intelligence and their impacts on developing countries, through Special Meetings.
- Third, ECOSOC should be responsible for providing integrated policy guidance and operationalization of the findings and outcomes of the HLPF reviews. ECOSOC could, for example, discuss the lessons learned from the thematic reviews and Voluntary National Reviews conducted at the HLPF. It could also discuss in greater depth the policy implications of these reviews.
- Fourth, ECOSOC should strengthen its support to the thematic reviews of the HLPF. The substantive analysis emanating from the ECOSOC subsidiary bodies, including the regional economic commissions, should be critical inputs for the thematic reviews. The ECOSOC system should also commit to follow-up on the technical findings of the thematic reviews.
- Fifth, the Council could contribute to the follow-up to the VNRs by providing technical support and feedback to the VNRs, upon request of VNR presenting countries, and by helping to mobilize the support or partnerships that are needed based on the VNRs. It could thus discuss the support required for countries in special situations and those facing specific challenges.
- Sixth, it is crucial that all segments and fora under ECOSOC be directed towards addressing gaps and challenges, as well as providing solution-oriented outcomes. To that end, the agenda, work programme, and discussions in the segments and fora should be formulated to reflect the Sustainable Development Goals.
- • Seventh, the diverse needs and specific challenges and needs facing developing countries, especially countries in special situations, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States as well as specific challenges faced by many middle-income countries, conflict and post-conflict countries and countries and peoples living under foreign occupation, should be adequately captured in the reports to ECOSOC and its work programme and outcomes.
16. On ECOSOC's role in the coordination of the UN development system, the Group underscores that in resolution 72/305, the General Assembly decided to strengthen the Operational Activities for the Development segment of the Council to "serve as a platform to ensure accountability for, and acceleration of system-wide performance and results in relation to the 2030 Agenda…". The Operational Activities for Development segment should thus continue to contribute to the preparations for the General Assembly quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development. Notwithstanding ECOSOC's role in providing technical guidance, support and accountability, we reiterate the central role of the General Assembly in discussing and deciding on matters pertaining to the QCPR and Operational Activities for Development. We view the General Assembly as important for developing key system-wide strategic policy orientations and operational modalities for the UN Development System, as well as for the formulation and approval of policy matters.
17. The G77 and China believe that the contribution of major groups, civil society, academia, the private sector and other stakeholders is crucial for the deliberation of the Council and its HLPF. We should continue to work with the current mandates and arrangements and explore ways to enhance the wider participation of developing countries in our deliberations. ECOSOC should build on its engagement with relevant stakeholders, and take full advantage of their added value, to mobilize and enhance their support for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs.
18. With regards to the narrative around ECOSOC and how to make ECOSOC more understandable to outsiders and thereby increase its visibility, impact and relevance, the Group encourages more simple and comprehensive communication about the mandate of the council, its role and its activities that reaches the normal citizen on the ground.
19. We would like to thank you for sharing the dates of the upcoming informal consultations and please be assured of our Group's commitment to work constructively with the co-facilitators and our Partners towards a successful outcome. We urge the co-facilitators to take into account the continued challenges of virtual negotiations, as you plan for our work in the upcoming months.
I Thank you.