UN to hold Development Summit in 2015

A Summit of political leaders will be held in September 2015 to adopt the United Nations' Post-2015 Development Agenda.

This was decided at a UN General Assembly special event to review the Millennium Development Goals held at the UN in New York on 25 September.

To prepare for the Summit and its outcome, an inter-governmental process will be launched in September 2014, at the beginning of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.

"The final phase of the intergovernmental work will culminate in a Summit at heads of states and governments level in September 2015 for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda," states an "outcome document" adopted during the special MDG event.

"We request the President of the General Assembly to convene, in a timely manner, intergovernmental consultations to achieve agreement on organisational modalities for the Summit."

The special event on the follow-up on efforts to achieve the MDGs was convened by the President of the General Assembly, Ambassador John Ashe, as part of the General Assembly events taking place in New York.

The 25 September event included speeches by political leaders of governments and states at the opening session and in four subsequent roundtables. Other speakers included ministers, business leaders and civil society representatives. The participants adopted the outcome document at the end of the event.

The timing of the start of the inter-governmental negotiations for the Development Agenda (i.e. only in September 2014, rather than straightaway) seems to have been decided on to take into account the present work of three other processes in the follow-up to the Rio+20 Summit of 2012.

The outcome document acknowledged the Rio+20 follow-up processes now underway at the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the inter-governmental committee of experts on Sustainable Development Financing, as well as the process to develop options for a technology facilitation mechanism.

"We urge that these processes should complete their work in a comprehensive, balanced and expeditious manner by September 2014," states the outcome document.

The sequencing implied is that these three processes (SDGs, financing and technology) complete their work in September 2014, and that the negotiations for the post-2015 Development Agenda would then begin its work also in September 2014.

The intention seems to be to avoid the overlap of the two processes (i.e. the post Rio+20 and the Development Agenda) in the coming year of October 2013 to September 2014.

Of course there is nothing to prevent governments and their groupings to hold their own preparatory and informal meetings on the Development Agenda already in the coming 12 months. However, the formal negotiating process for the Development Agenda is mandated to begin only in or after September 2014.

Several government delegates have voiced concern (and impatience) that whilst the UN secretariat and UN agencies, as well as many NGOs and research institutions have already embarked on a lot of work on the Post- 2015 Development Agenda, the governments have yet to begin work or negotiations on this at the multilateral UN level.

It seems they have to wait for another year, until September 2014, for the formal negotiating process to start.

A decision on even this did not come easily. According to diplomatic sources, the developing countries under the umbrella of the Group of 77 and China had to fight hard to have a negotiated and agreed outcome for the MDGs Special Event of 25 September.

Many developed countries reportedly only wanted a "Chairman's summary" which would carry much less weight in the UN and may not have mandated an inter-governmental process for the Development Agenda, nor a Summit.

Because an "outcome document" was agreed to for the 25 September event, the developing countries could then put forward their view that the post-2015 Development Agenda should have an inter-governmental negotiating process, which means there would be an outcome document to be agreed to by all UN member states.

Additionally and importantly, a Summit will now be convened in September 2015 for political leaders to discuss and adopt the outcome document of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This of course gives a high profile and a high political weight to the Development Agenda and the negotiating process leading to its adoption.

In terms of the substantive terms of reference or framework for the Post-2015 Development Agenda and its negotiations, the following elements were agreed to in the 25 September outcome document:

* It will be in parallel with intensification of efforts to accelerate achievement of the MDGs.

* It will build on the foundations laid by the MDGs, complete the unfinished business and respond to new challenges.

* Reaffirmation of commitment to the Millennium Declaration, the outcome document of Rio+20, the Monterrey Consensus, the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development and the outcomes of all the major UN conferences and summits in the economic, social, and environmental fields. "We will continue to be guided by the values and principles enshrined in these texts," says the outcome document.

* Reaffirmation of 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.

* It should reinforce the international community's commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development.

* The central imperative of poverty eradication, commitment to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency.

* It recognises the intrinsic inter-linkage between poverty eradication and promotion of sustainable development, and stresses the need for a coherent approach which integrates in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development.

* This 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.

In terms of the process towards the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the outcome document of 25 September contains these elements:

* Acknowledging the Rio+20 processes, especially the SDGs working group, the sustainable development financing experts committee and the options for technology facilitation mechanism.

* An inclusive and people-centred Post-2015 Development Agenda, through a transparent intergovernmental process which will include inputs from all stakeholders including civil society, scientific and knowledge institutions, parliaments, local authorities, and the private sector.

* Over the coming year, the President of the General Assembly will convene events under the theme "The Post-2015 Development Agenda - Setting the Stage".

* The support of the UN system and the Secretary General to synthesise the full range of inputs then available and to present a synthesis report before the end of 2014.

* The President of the General Assembly to convene intergovernmental consultations to achieve agreement on organisational modalities for the Summit.

* The process will culminate in a Summit at Heads of State and Government level in September 2015 for the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.