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Congratulations to Nikhil Seth, update on indicators,Financing for Development and Urban Financing and Wales

Nikhil Seth
The UN Secretary General has announced that he has appointed Nikhil Seth as Executive Director of UNITAR.

For many of us Nikhil has played a critical role as Director of the Division on Sustainable Development overseeing both Rio+20 negotiations and the Sustainable Development Goals and Post 2015 Summit preparations.

I've known Nikhil from the 1992 when he represented India and the subsequently as thee Special Adviser to Under Secretary General Nitin Desai. Always a great supporter of stakeholder’s engagement in whatever post he had. In the mid-1990s Nitin somehow got a room in DC1 or 2 for what then was the CSD NGO Steering Committee. From 1997 to 2001 Nikhil was our wing-man when conference services came to try and take our room back....good times. Also good times for stakeholder engagement in the political process of sustainable development. I still believe that the stakeholder dialogues introduced for the 1997 Rio+5 Review and which ran until 2002 were the best engagement with stakeholders that member states have had. Twelve hours of interactive discussion - always chaired by the Chair of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, never more than 4 stakeholder groups engaged in each three hour discussion. In1999 to underline the importance of the discussion the chair the New Zealand Minister Simon Upton introduced the chairs summary as an official NZ government position into the negotiations - now countries had to take out stakeholder recommendations not put them in.

Nikhil when he took over the Division on Sustainable Development from Tariq Banuri continued and expanded the space for stakeholder engagement. For this we can be eternally grateful.

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a great body established in 1963 following a UN General Assembly resolution "for the the purpose of enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations in achieving the major objectives of the Organization through extensive training and research".

The Institute’s training targets two key sets of stakeholders, mainly from developing countries: the delegates to the UN and others who develop intergovernmental agreements establishing global norms, policies, and programmes, and the key national change agents who turn the global agreements into action.

It serves more than 36,000 beneficiaries per year, UNITAR conducts close to 500 training and research activities around the world.

The focus of its work is under five broad programme areas:
  • Strengthen Multilateralism; 
  • Promote Economic Development and Social Inclusion; 
  • Advance Environmental Sustainability and Green Development; 
  • Promote Sustainable Peace; and 
  • Research and Technology Applications.
Sounds like Nikhil will be at the center of helping implement the SDGs and Rio+20. I am sure I am not the only person who would like to thank you for the work you have been doing and hopeful the Secretary General ensures you cannot take up post until October ...well maybe November so you can enjoy a holiday after 4 years of some of the most intensive interrgovernmental negotiations.

Update on Indicators

As we move to adopt the SDGs and the associate targets this September focus has shifted to the issue of what will be the global indicators to back up the targets. A new body was established in March to do this the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) (28 countries).

It held its first meeting 1-2 June 2015 in New York its role is to develop an indicator framework for the monitoring of the goals and targets of the post-2015 development agenda at the global level, and to support its implementation. The two co-chairs were agreed to be Ms Fabiola Riccardini (Italy) and Ms Lisa Grace S. Bersales (Philippines)

The first meeting discussed the set up the process for the development of the indicator framework; develop a work plan and agree on the way forward; establish the methods of work of the group; and discuss technical issues, including the interlinkages across targets and data disaggregation.

It is working under the agreed political direction that member states have given but now we do need the expertise and power of the agencies, many with existing mandates, who have been collecting the data to make this work. Countries, obviously are experts in national data reporting and they have to now put their minds into global data reporting. This will be a huge undertaking but as I indicated in a previous blog the strength of this approach is that although we will have between 100-169 global indicators it is up to member states to decide how many beyond these that they want to collect. The compendium of regional, national, sub-national and citizen data will play a critical role over the years as this IAEG-SDG will continue its work until 2030. This allows a opportunity to learn what is working, change the indicators, add new ones due to the experience of implementing the SDGs. A report of the first meeting can be found here.

Financing for Development and Urban Financing

As many of you know I’ve been frustrated, to say the least, over the Financing for Development (FfD) process on many fronts. Originally as I have said in previous blogs FfD was a direct result of Rio+5 and the 2002 Monterrey Conference was original set up parallel to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to help fund the outcome from that conference. So the two have been linked from the beginning – perhaps they wandered different paths between 2002 and 2012 but were brought back together by the Rio+20 conference.

At Rrio+20 there was a call for an Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESD) to be established. The mandate of the Committee was to prepare “a report proposing options on an effective sustainable development financing strategy to facilitate the mobilization of resources and their effective use in achieving sustainable development objectives”. History will show I belive that thee mistakes taken by the members of this committee to hold their work in closed sessions is why the FfD process will not deliver what it should have done. Unlike the SDG process.

But my comments today though drawing on some I have made before are regarding the issue of municipal financing which I believe offers long-term opportunities to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals. But international negotiations, even in their final stages, have yet to recognize this – read more: in an article I have penned for Citiscope.


I am a huge fab of the work that Wales have done on sustainable development over the years. One of the founding members on the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4sd) and now having set up a Commissioner for Sustainable Futures what is there not to like about them.

But this isn’t what I wanted to talk about I was very amused by the story of the Belgium fans who put their trust in their gps-nav to find wales and found themselves in a village in Yorkshire. If course their mistake was that Wales isn’t a town or city but a country with a proud tradition. The match turned out to be a great one – for Wales defeating Belgium 1-0 and now on the verge of being at the European Championship in 2016 for the first time since 1958. Looking forward to celebrating this when it is confirmed they have 4 games to play and are 5 points ahead of third place with two games at home. This will give a great stage should it happen for Gareth Bale a wonderful player who unfortunately played for the less successful London side spurs. Maybe when he comes back to England he might consider Arsenal a more successful side.


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