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High Level Political Forum

The second meeting of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) has finished and finished with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration. I say this because there was some doubt that one would be agreed to.

A little history on the HLPF and sustainable development governance might be useful for some readers.

The HLPF is the successor to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). The CSD has set up out of the 1992 Earth Summit as a functioning commission of the UN Economic Council to review the implementation of Agenda 21 and the financial support to help implementation of Agenda 21.

In 1992 countries were recovering from a financial crisis - sound familiar - but there was a clear commitment from developed countries that there would be increased funding to help developing countries to jump technologies and to help their industrialization to be greener. Financial flows fell in the 1990s rather than increasing and of course we are reaping the rewards of that now The second ten years were not good and as Rio+20 approached it was clear there was an agreement among governments and stakeholders that we needed something different and at a higher level.

I was at the time Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum and we had had a paper done by Richard Sherman which explored the idea of a Sustainable Development Council which would be similar to the Hugh Rights Council and would fulfill the Johannesburg Summit requirement that:

" 143. The General Assembly of the United Nations should adopt sustainable development as a key element of the overarching framework for United Nations activities, particularly for achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration, and should give overall political direction to the implementation of Agenda 21 and its review. "

As 2012 developed it became clear that the discussion around what became called the High Political Forum was going to be considered within the framework of broader EcoSoc reform. 

In the last meetings before Rio the focus became on what would the body do and not if it were to be a body. The functions agreed were I think a good reflection of what needed to be done by the HLPF. The mistake in Rio and I am not sure we were aware of it at the time, I know I wasn't, was what would this hybrid Forum be. Of course since then this mistake has not helped the HLPF take its right place in the intergovernmental landscape.

This blog isn't about that but its a continuing worry and a worry that gets larger as more and more of the people engaged in the agreement in Rio find themselves either rotated back to capitals or move to a new job and the impact is a lose in institutional memory. 

The first HLPF meeting was at Heads of State level (which is meant to happen every 4 years) was good in underlining political support. Now we have had the second meeting of the HLPF and the first Ministerial Declaration. A lot of credit should go to those governments who have manged to persuade some of their less than enthusiastic colleagues to agree the Declaration.

Looking at the Declaration I think they have done a good job there is some good very useful text in support of the SDG OWG process as it leads into the development of the synthases report by the Secretary General. Id underline these sections in particular:

11. Reaffirm the importance of promoting human rights, good governance, the rule of law, transparency and accountability at all levels.

15. Reaffirm all the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, including, inter alia, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as set out in principle 7 thereof.

16. Resolve that the post-2015 development agenda should reinforce the commitment of the international community to poverty eradication and sustainable development, and underline the central imperative of poverty eradication and are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency. Recognize the intrinsic interlinkage between poverty eradication and the promotion of sustainable development, we underline the need for a coherent approach that integrates in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development. This coherent approach involves working towards a single framework and set of goals, universal in nature and applicable to all countries, while taking account of differing national circumstances and respecting national policies and priorities. It should also promote peace and security,democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.
18. Recognize that poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are the overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development. We also reaffirm the need to achieve sustainable development by promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion, and promoting the integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems that supports, inter alia, economic, social and human development while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration and restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges.

19. Welcome the operationalization of the 10-year Framework of Programmes on SCP and look forward to the launch of all of its programmes.

20. Stress the importance of economic growth, and social, and economic inclusion, in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

21. Reiterate that in arriving at an inclusive and people-centred post-2015 development agenda, we look forward to a transparent intergovernmental process that will include inputs from all stakeholders, including civil society, scientific and knowledge institutions, parliaments, local authorities and the private sector.

The best explanation of what the HLPF will be in the future can be found here:

27. Reiterate that the high-level political forum under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, shall conduct regular reviews, starting in 2016, 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, and further reiterate that these reviews shall: be voluntary, while encouraging reporting, and shall include developed and developing countries, as well as relevant United Nations entities; be State-led, involving ministerial and other relevant high-level participants; provide a platform for partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders; replace the national voluntary presentations held in the context of the annual ministerial-level substantive reviews of the Council (AMR), building upon the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolution 61/16 of 20 November 2006, as well as experiences and lessons learned in this context.

This underlines the role that Major Groups and other stakeholders will continue to play in the HLPF as they did in the CSD. This year it was a little less inclusive than CSD meetings but this is something that can be developed with future Presidents of EcoSoc. 

What would be really good is if the HLPF were to be held jointly at HofS level next September to agree the new goals. This would underline it as the political home for the follow up and give HofS a real opportunity to show their support for the institution. 

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