General News

High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Overwhelmingly Adopts Ministerial Declaration by 164 Votes in Favour, 2 Against

Adopting its Ministerial Declaration by a vote of 164 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development reaffirmed today its commitment to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for all people, everywhere.

Held under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council under the theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”, the Forum, in adopting the Declaration (document E/HLPF/2018/L.2), stressed that the 2030 Agenda is people-centred, universal and transformative.

Ministers and high representatives also reaffirmed their commitment to eradicating poverty, expressing concern that poverty remains a principle cause of hunger, and stressed the importance of taking collective measures to make an impact, among other goals.  They further reaffirmed their commitment to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, stressing that much work remains to achieve the ambitious 2030 Agenda three years into its implementation.  They also commended the 46 countries that delivered voluntary national reviews.

They committed to embracing diversity in cities and other human settlements, and to strengthening social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and tolerance.  They noted with concern that 844 million people lack basic water services, 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, 4.5 billion people have no access to safely managed sanitation, and 892 million still practise open defecation.  They also acknowledged that owing to rapid urbanization, many cities and local authorities face challenges in providing access to adequate housing and that migration and forced displacement further exacerbates these challenges.  They called on all stakeholders to adopt a sustainable-food systems approach and develop effective strategies to reduce food waste.  They underlined the challenges related to plastic waste, especially in the oceans, stressed the critical role of science, technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and endeavoured to take immediate steps to strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships.

The Forum recognized that sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security and that peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development.  “We call for further effective measures and actions to be taken, in conformity with international law, to remove the obstacles to the full realization of the right to self-determination of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation,” the Declaration reads.

It also reaffirms the Forum’s commitment to gender equality, the empowerment of all women and girls and full realization of the human rights of all women and girls.  “To achieve inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies, we call for the leadership and full, effective and equal participation of women in decision-making in the design, budgeting, implementation and monitoring of policies and programmes that affect their livelihoods, well-being and resilience,” the document reads.  We reiterate the urgency to ensure women’s equal access to, and control over, land and nature resources, it adds.

Voting on an amendment submitted by the United States (document E/HLPF/2018/L.3), proposing to replace the words “mutually beneficial” in paragraph 28 with “international cooperation”, the Forum rejected that proposal by a vote of 107 against to 50 in favour, with 3 abstentions (Norway, Republic of Moldova, Seychelles).  It rejected another amendment proposed by the United States — by 155 votes against to 2 in favour (Israel, United States), with 3 abstentions (Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Korea) — to replace the sentence “will continue to promote a universal, rules-based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization, as well as meaningful trade liberalization”, in paragraph 28, with the following sentence:  “We reaffirm that trade can contribute to the promotion of sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty, as recognized in the 2030 Agenda.”

The Forum also voted to retain paragraph 12 of the Declaration, rejecting Israel’s proposal to delete it, by 109 votes in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Honduras, Israel, United States), with 46 abstentions.  It further voted to retain paragraph 16 of the Declaration — by 133 in favour to 11 against, with 10 abstentions (Algeria, Bahrain, China, Egypt, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Zimbabwe) after the Russian Federation requested a recorded vote seeking the paragraph’s deletion.

Speaking in the voting portion were representatives of the United States, Israel, Russian Federation, Canada (on behalf of several Member States), Turkey, Egypt (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Austria (on behalf of the European Union), China, Venezuela, Morocco and Azerbaijan.  An observer for the Holy See also delivered a statement.

Addressing the Forum, Secretary-General António Guterres said that while much progress has been made, the world has also backtracked in areas that are fundamental to the shared pledge to leave no one behind.  For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased, gender inequality continues to deprive women of basic rights, and investment in sustainable infrastructure remains “entirely inadequate” — all amid runaway climate change, eroding human rights and persistent pockets of poverty.  Greenhouse gas emissions must be brought under control, countries must do everything to mobilize internal resources, and drivers of conflict must be addressed.  “Let us leave this Forum with a fresh commitment to work together, to share innovative solutions and live up to the Agenda we set for ourselves.”

Marie Chatardová (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council, noted that a record 46 countries presented their voluntary national reviews over the past eight days, reporting “great strides” in incorporating the Goals into national development plans.  “We are only at the beginning of the journey,” she said, noting that many people still face obstacles preventing them from realizing their basic rights.  Data to help understand who are the poorest and what is holding them back is still elusive, and significant resources must be devoted to building statistical capacity for the production of high-quality disaggregated statistics.  She said that among the recommendations that emerged were proposals for establishing a “blue fund” to support the design and implementation of transboundary water management; tripling investments in clean and renewable energies; enhancing partnerships at the local, regional and national levels; scaling up pilot projects for sustainable consumption and production; capturing the true value of ecosystems and biodiversity; and leveraging new technologies while protecting the most vulnerable.

Also this afternoon, the Council continued its high-level segment under the theme “From global to local: supporting sustainable and resilient societies in urban and rural communities”.  Representatives of the following countries delivered statements:  Slovenia, Lesotho, Niger, Tajikistan, Ireland, Armenia, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Egypt, Uruguay, Turkmenistan, Nepal, Panama, Fiji, Russian Federation, Liberia, Spain, and Viet Nam.

The Economic and Social Council will continue that debate at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 19 July.


ALENKA SMERKOLJ, Minister without portfolio responsible for Development, Strategic Projects and Cohesion of Slovenia, said the voluntary national reviews submitted by Member States so far showed that implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is falling behind in most of the areas that require wider partnerships.  Having adopted a new national development strategy in December 2017, Slovenia is taking the first steps to integrate the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development into its budgetary process while developing partnerships with businesses and local communities.  It has also revamped its international development cooperation programme to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.  “Development is not a project.  It is a continuous process that never stops,” she said, adding that the pace of change requires Governments to learn faster and govern smarter.

TLOHELANG AUMANE, Minister for Development Planning of Lesotho, associating himself with the African Group and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and describing his small mountainous country as “a water tower for southern Africa”, reviewed the substantial progress it has made in terms of access to water.  The Government has also launched an extensive programme for rural electrification and promoting the use of energy-efficient technology for cooking and heating.  He called on Lesotho’s development partners to provide the necessary financial and technical support, encourage private investment and further integrate least-developed countries and other developing States into global value chains and to enable the realization of the 2030 Agenda.

AÏCHATOU BOULAMA KANÉ, Minister for Planning of Niger, said that the rural world should be viewed as a critical pillar in the transition to vibrant societies.  Development of human capital is a key priority for Niger, she said, noting the important role of high-quality teachers.  Private sector growth must be promoted, particularly at the national level.  Security impacts all development operations, she added, emphasizing how insecurity, on the other hand, undermines all efforts.  “There is no development without security,” she underscored.  Niger has committed itself to transforming its society in its national growth plans.  “Let us base our efforts on robust partnerships to achieve noble goals,” she added.

SULTON RAHIMZODA, First Deputy Minister for Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that despite many achievements, approximately 40 per cent of his country’s population still does not have access to safe drinking water.  To address such issues, the Government has spent around $1 billion to resolve challenges facing access to water and sanitation.  In 2015, the Government adopted a water sector reform programme.  To successfully achieve the objective of the 2030 Agenda water goal, Tajikistan has established an international water decade centre.  Ensuring energy independence is a major goal of the Government.  Tajikistan is also focusing on positive developments in Central Asia, he said, which he hopes will provide an opportunity to supply electricity to Tajikistan’s neighbours and beyond.

DENIS NAUGHTEN, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment of Ireland, said a whole-of-society effort is needed to achieve the Goals.  Highlighting the contributions of Irish civil society, he conveyed his Government’s strong support for stakeholder participation in the 2030 Agenda process at all levels.  Being honest about challenges can galvanize efforts to overcome them, he added.  He touched on several initiatives being taken by his Government, including the creation of the world’s biggest climate action fund in per capita terms and financial support to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for its capacity-building programme.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said his Government was setting up an institutional framework to ensure the compatibility of national priorities and strategies with the Goals, complemented by partnership with the United Nations country team.  Noting also the contribution of Armenia’s vibrant civil society, he emphasized the efforts being made to put into place a national disaster risk reduction strategy, adding that it stood ready to offer a platform for regional dialogue and better integration of such strategies into national policies.  He went on to recall that Armenia will host the next summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie, which will include an economic forum dealing with major international and regional challenges.

ISIDORO SANTANA, Minister for Economy, Planning and Development of the Dominican Republic, said his country, a small island economy located in the Caribbean, has sustained high economic growth for the past two decades.  It has also maintained democracy and social peace.  His Government has undertaken a formal commitment to meet the 2030 Agenda by establishing a proper institutional framework.  All sectors are working together with the Dominican Government towards sustainable development, he said.  With support from the United Nations system, the Dominican Republic has prioritized several goals.  They include lowering levels of poverty, ensuring competition, providing employment opportunity and promoting resilience to climate change.

ADEJOKE ORELOPE-ADEFULIRE, Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Sustainable Development Goals, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, detailed efforts to transform utilities into financially viable entities that will revitalize urban and rural water supply and sanitation services.  Nigeria also recently approved a water, sanitation and hygiene action plan.  On land degradation, she described the shrinking of Lake Chad by 95 per cent since 1963, amid predictions it could dry up within 20 years, events which had led Nigeria, along with countries in the Lake Chad Basin Commission, to advocate for navigable channels from River Ubangi in the Congo Basin.  Another project sought to stabilize at risk areas by creating new jobs for vulnerable populations.  Stressing the importance of domestic resource mobilization, she said it is also vital to address illicit financial flows and that Nigeria is pursuing the recovery and return of social assets.

HALA ELSAID, Minister for Planning, Follow-up and Administrative Reform of Egypt, said her country’s many positive achievements have exceeded the expectations of observers and international institutions.  She noted the efforts Egypt is making to improve the competitiveness of its economy and to attract more direct foreign investment that will in turn create jobs.  Emphasizing that “investment in human beings is the most important thing”, she noted that the Middle East and Africa are facing daunting economic and political challenges.  The path to sustainable development will not be easy, but Egypt is counting on programmes of action and ambitious national plans in partnership with international institutions such as the United Nations and South-South cooperation.

ÁLVARO GARCÍA, Director of the Office of Planning and Budget of Uruguay, associating himself with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Group for Children’s Rights, said the 2030 Agenda is an opportunity to build a more inclusive, economic viable and environmentally sustainable society.  His Government is striving to raise awareness of the Goals through, among other things, a #UruguayLetsBeBetter hashtag campaign.  Noting that 10 per cent of Uruguay’s population is living below the poverty line, he touched upon several national initiatives, including the adoption of a climate change policy and, with Sweden, an alliance to address the issue of chemical residual waste.

SERDAR BERDIMUHAMEDOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, said his country’s close collaboration with the United Nations had led to a five-year framework partnership programme for development, covering 2016 to 2020.  Integration of the Goals into national development strategies that took local priorities into account is essential for successful implementation of the Agenda, he said, noting that related activities are also included in the national social and economic development programme for 2018-2024, and that an educational and methodological centre for the Goals is raising awareness of the 2030 Agenda throughout the country.  Turkmenistan organized a “Partnership for Financing the Development in the Heart of the Great Silk Road” conference with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in June, which sought, among other things, to define financial needs and methods of mobilizing resources for sustainable development, he said, noting that his country would describe such progress in its voluntary national review in 2019.

PUSPA RAJ KADEL, Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission of Nepal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that during its voluntary national review last year, Nepal highlighted its status as a land-locked, mountainous and least developed country emerging from conflict and earthquakes.  Today, the Government is making “all-out” efforts to implement the inclusive and rights-based Constitution promulgated in 2015.  Seeking to increase basic water supply and improve sanitation coverage to 95 per cent by 2030, the Government established a Ministry for Water Supply, he said, citing other programmes for reducing inequalities, ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns and maintaining 45 per cent of its total land under forest cover.  At the same time, Nepal has an annual net $4.5 billion shortfall for implementation of the Goals — meaning that all means of implementation for development, including official development assistance (ODA), trade, technology and capacity-building must be employed.  Nepal is committed to forging partnerships among public, private and social sectors at home, and looks forward to greater cooperation with international partners in that regard.

YAMIL DANEL SANCHEZ, Vice-Minister for Environment of Panama, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Group of Middle Income Countries and the Group of Friends of Children and the Sustainable Development Goals, said his country still faces some development challenges despite having made progress in vital sectors.  Panama sought to involve as many people as possible in the Government’s plan to achieve sustainable development.  Panama has also adopted new national tools which will enable it to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  Panama is focusing specifically on water security while remaining committed to achieving 2030 Agenda goals relating to water and sanitation.  Panama is also promoting the sustainable use of all its resources, particularly in its rural economy.  He underscored that Panama remains committed to achieving a cleaner, more dignified and fairer world.

JIKO LUVENI, Speaker of Parliament of Fiji, said his country had used the Sustainable Development Goals as the framework for defining its vision.  “Fiji is making sustained progress across all the Goals but faced problems of accessing grant and concessionary financing.  Describing the financing gap as a growing “fault-line”, he said domestic resources and concessionary loans would not suffice.  Fiji issued its first green bond to support its commitments, but beyond finances, the United Nations must work urgently to reduce risks, among them the existential threat of climate change to island States, marked by severe weather and frequent flooding that destroys agriculture and livelihoods.  Further, ocean acidification, overfishing, illegal fishing, warming waters and rising sea levels are other challenges, notably in which parliaments could play a pivotal role.  Most of all, the Goals must work for women and girls, who are at the heart of interventions and solutions.

ANDREY CHIBIS, Vice Minister of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation, said that Russian foreign assistance surpassed $1.2 billion in 2017.  The Russian Federation is financing projects in health care, environment and socioeconomic development with an overall emphasis on poverty eradication.  Nationally, it is implementing measures to enhance living conditions of the Russian people, both in urban and rural areas.  Human capital is a major priority for the Government as well.  The Russian Federation is implementing a project to renovate apartment buildings in which the apartment owners are key investors and stakeholders.  There has also been significant improvement over the past five years in providing people with heating services.  A key priority for the Russian Federation is the creation of a common urban environment.  The country has transformed in just a few years.  On the heels of the World Cup, which was held in the Russian Federation, he expressed hope that the same cooperative spirit can be mirrored at the United Nations in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

AUGUSTUS J. FLOMO, Deputy Minister for Economic Management, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning of Liberia, described progress to ensure implementation of the Goals, notably through his country’s “Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development”, which seeks over the next five years to draw all Liberians into the national development process by focusing on income security, access to basic services and opportunities for self-improvement in an enabling environment.  Its four pillars centre on reducing inequalities, creating jobs and economic stability, promoting a cohesive society and establishing an accountable public sector for shared prosperity.  In this context, he underscored the need for partnerships that support the removal of implementation challenges and foster results-driven cooperation.

JUAN PABLO DE LAIGLESIA, Vice-Minister for International Cooperation (Ibero-America and the Caribbean) of Spain, said the 2030 Agenda has mobilized his country as never before, generating broad consensus and establishing a common ground for dialogue.  With its first voluntary national review, submitted today, Spain has redoubled its commitment to the 2030 Agenda.  Spain’s new Government has put the 2030 Agenda at the heart of its work, adopting a plan of action, creating the post of a high commissioner for combating child poverty, assigning a majority of ministerial portfolios, and moving away from previous conservative positions regarding the Paris climate agreement.  Spain is determined to advance the 2030 Agenda alongside the European Union and the international community, he said, expressing his country’s support for the Secretary-General’s proposed reforms to the United Nations development system.

THE PHUONG NGUYEN, Vice-Minister for Planning and Investment of Viet Nam, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said poverty, discrimination, humanitarian crises, epidemics and climate change threaten the livelihoods of billions of people as well as the existence of many countries.  Inward-looking policies risk undermining sustainable development and efficient use of resources, while rapid urbanization is putting a burden on many societies.  Lingering armed conflicts and violent extremism are threatening peace and stability — prerequisites for sustainable development — in many parts of the world.  He went on to call on developed countries to assume their responsibility and take the lead in helping developing countries, including Viet Nam, to achieve the Goals.

Address by United Nations Secretary-General

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the eight days of the Forum have been a time to recommit to the transformative vision of the 2030 Agenda and assess where we are.  The discussions, along with the voluntary national reviews of 47 countries, have demonstrated the commitment of local and regional authorities; reflected the growing efforts of civil society, the private sector and academia; and outlined progress in reducing maternal and child mortality, expanding basic education and improving access to electricity.

They have also made clear that the world is backtracking in other areas which are fundamental to the shared pledge of leaving no one behind, he said.  For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased, gender inequality continues to deprive women of basic rights, and investment in sustainable infrastructure remains “entirely inadequate” — all amid runaway climate change, eroding human rights and persistent pockets of poverty. 

He said the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals are a recognition of the need to address the gaps in the extraordinary expansion of the global economy.  Embedding them into everything first requires mobilizing young people, and in September the United Nations will launch a strategy to engage them.  Second, greenhouse gas emissions must be brought under control, as there has been insufficient political will to meet commitments.  “The foundation for climate action is the Paris Agreement on climate change,” he said, noting that he will convene a Climate Summit in September 2019 to galvanize greater ambition.

Funding gaps for investing in the Goals are vast and urgent, he said, urging that the large levels of financing necessary to implement the 2030 Agenda be unlocked.  Countries must do everything to mobilize internal resources, while the global community must support them by fighting illicit capital flows, money laundering and tax evasion, he said, adding that a High-level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda would be held in September.  Further, technology has great potential to realize the Goals and its benefits must be harnessed for all, while institutions must be further strengthened through the principles of justice, effectiveness, transparency, accountability and participation.

The drivers of conflict must be addressed, he said.  The long-term capacities and institutions required for sustaining peace and sustainable development must also be supported.  He welcomed the recent conclusion of consultations on the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees, which address issues that are central to realizing the Goals.  Comprehensive and robust cooperation is essential.  He also welcomed that Member States have embraced reform of the United Nations development system, noting that operationalizing the resident coordinator system is an essential next step.  “Let us leave this Forum with a fresh commitment to work together, to share innovative solutions and live up to the Agenda we set for ourselves,” he said.


The Forum then took action on the draft Ministerial Declaration for 2018 on the theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” (document E/HLPF/2018/L.2).

It first considered a draft amendment submitted by the United States (document E/HLPF/2018/L.3).

In an explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said the proposed amendment to paragraph 28 would protect fundamental principles of sustainable development by replacing “mutually beneficial cooperation” with “international cooperation”.  The mutually beneficial model of development is contrary to best practices and leads to unsustainable debt levels, corruption and forfeiture of national assets which should contribute to the growth of a developing country, she said.  Moreover, a certain Member State has tried to promote such a development model since the 2030 Agenda’s adoption, mainly for domestic political purposes.  The Forum was not a place for promoting the thoughts of that country’s leader, she said, urging colleagues to support the amendment.

She went on to ask which delegation had requested the recorded vote.

MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the vote was requested by Egypt as Chair of the Group of 77 and China.

The Forum then rejected the proposed amendment by a vote of 107 against to 50 in favour, with 3 abstentions (Norway, Republic of Moldova, Seychelles).

It then considered a second draft amendment, also submitted by the United States (also contained in document E/HLPF/2018/L.3).

The representative of the United States, referring again to paragraph 28, said the proposed amendment would bring the Ministerial Declaration in line with the outcome document of the Forum on Financing for Development.  She emphasized that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a different international body with its own set of rules, and that the United Nations must respect its independence.

The Forum then voted to reject the proposed amendment by a vote of 155 against to 2 in favour (Israel, United States), with three abstentions (Japan, Niger, Republic of Korea).

It then proceeded to vote on paragraph 12 of the draft Ministerial Declaration.

The representative of Israel said his delegation had called for the vote due to the politicized language contained in paragraph 12.  Such language did not belong in Council or Forum discussions, he said, adding that the Ministerial Declaration should focus on conveying a unifying actionable message, not on divisive issues.  Israel will continue to oppose attempts to use the Forum as a platform for political wrangling, he added.

The Forum then voted to retain paragraph 12 by a vote of 109 in favour to 5 against (Australia, Canada, Honduras, Israel, United States), with 46 abstentions.

It then proceeded to vote on paragraph 16.

The representative of the Russian Federation, emphasizing his country’s commitment to the gender perspective, said the 2030 Agenda is a comprehensive document with clear benchmarks that did not require fine-tuning.  Expressing regret that consensus could not be achieved during negotiations on the text, he questioned the use of the phrase “unequal gender roles” in the text and the need to consider passages regarding gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment.

The representative of Canada, speaking also on behalf of several Member States, said gender equality did not exist in a vacuum.  Rather, it had an impact on the ability to achieve sustainable development in its entirety.  The 2030 Agenda recognized the crucial role of women and girls and called on all to push the momentum forward to real and transformative change.  The standalone paragraph on women and girls is in line with the 2030 Agenda, he said, urging all Member States to vote in favour of paragraph 16.

The Forum then voted to retain paragraph 16 by a vote of 133 in favour to 11 against, with 10 abstentions (Algeria, Bahrain, China, Egypt, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Zimbabwe).

The representative of the United States requested a recorded vote on the Ministerial Declaration.

The representative of Turkey said her country disassociates from the fifth sentence of paragraph 23, as it goes beyond agreed language.  She conveyed her suggestions to the Council President to replace “at all levels” with “appropriate” levels; however, they were not taken on board.

The Council then adopted the Ministerial Declaration by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 0 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Egypt, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said his delegation engaged in good faith in negotiating the Declaration, with a view to reaching a balanced, substantive outcome encompassing all relevant issues.  It presented comprehensive proposals during informal consultations, many of them focused on achieving balance among the three sustainable development pillars.  It also stressed that poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge, while ending hunger and food security is fundamental for sustainable development.

He said the ambition of 2030 Agenda requires strengthening the means of implementation, as well as creating an enabling global environment for development.  Reaffirming the need to address the diverse challenges of countries in special situations, he expressed regret that some of its proposals had not been incorporated into the Declaration.  He reaffirmed the principles of international law, as well as that of common but differentiated responsibilities and respect for States’ territorial integrity.  He had accepted the text because of the need for ensuring consensus in supporting the Agenda.  He expressed disappointment that amendments were introduced at a late stage and that a vote was requested on certain paragraphs, which communicated negative political messages.  “This is a first” since the High-level Political Forum’s creation and adoption of the 2030 Agenda, he said, expressing alarm at that development.

The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret that the Declaration could not be adopted without a vote, and that votes were called on paragraphs 12 and 16.  He could not envisage any declaration without strong language on human rights and gender equality.  The European Union supports human rights, the rule of law and good governance as prerequisites for peaceful, just and inclusive societies, and was committed to Goal 16, which dealt with some issues.  Concerning paragraph 16, the European Union aligned with Canada’s statement on behalf of many countries, he said, noting his delegation is appalled that language on gender equality was questioned.  His delegation had argued for stronger language during negotiations.  In terms of process, he voiced regret that negotiations started late, in June.  The lack of time had no doubt made the co-Facilitators’ work more challenging. 

On substance, he said the European Union wanted an action-oriented text with a clear focus on implementation of the 2030 Agenda in an integrated and balanced manner, highlighting the linkages among all the Goals and targets.  Instead, the final text lacked adequate reflection of environment challenges.  In the section on cross-cutting issues, one paragraph outlines an outdated vision of growth, while on paragraph 19, he expressed regret about the lack of stronger language on the operationalization of the Paris Agreement.  References to enhancing water governance, including at the United Nations level, should have been included in the text, preferably in paragraph 23.

He went on to say that in many instances, language did not capture the scope of the Goals and targets.  Paragraph 24 of Goal 7 can serve as an example.  The challenges related are not reflected in a balanced manner

While welcoming progress that countries are making towards a clean energy future, he underlined that the commitment to fossil fuel subsidy reform is a goal of the Paris Agreement, as 80 per cent of the remaining fossil fuels must remain underground if the world is to stay below 2°C of global warming.  The European Union sought references to ecosystem services in the urban context.  On paragraph 26, his delegation called for references to public procurement services in line with target 12.7, and on paragraph 28, the approach the bloc supported now deviated from the text agreed just three months ago.  He expressed concern that the Forum was becoming a place for renegotiation of recent agreements reached by the same delegations.  The current version disproportionately emphasized external cooperation and he recalled the primacy of domestic responsibility in that context.  Among other things, he cited the footnote to paragraph 23, questioning references to conferences that are not United Nations-affiliated.  A reference to water governance should have also been included in that paragraph.

The representative of Israel disassociated his delegation from paragraph 12, saying that, like other Member States, it could not accept language that singled out one country.

The representative of the United States said her country is committed to its role as a leading promoter of sustainable development, but regrettably was unable to join consensus.  During negotiations, her delegation offered numerous constructive amendments, but regrettably it voted against the declaration due to inappropriate language on foreign occupation and trade as well as the elevation of an inappropriate development model.  Member States and groups that insist on divisive language should reflect on the damage they are causing to sustainable development, she said, adding that Member States should ask themselves whether the resources devoted to the declaration might not have been better spent on promoting implementation of the Goals on the ground.  She emphasized that the Unites States’ commitment to development is enshrined in President Trump’s foreign policy.  It remains the world’s largest provider of ODA and it will continue to be a global leader in sustainable development.

Elaborating on her country’s positions, she said the United States joined Israel in voting against paragraph 12 which contains unacceptable reference to foreign occupation.  Once again, certain Member States sought to politicize development issues.  Concerning the right to development, referenced in paragraph 12, she said the United States’ position is well-known and that it is a term with no agreed international meaning.  All development, including sustainable development, must be undertaken in a manner consistent with human rights, she said, stressing that no circumstances enable countries to deviate from their human rights obligations, regardless of their level of development.  She went on to note the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change as well as its opposition to language that it believes undermined intellectual property rights.  On trade language in paragraph 28, she said her country did not support references to World Trade Organization (WTO) issues in United Nations documents.  The 2030 Agenda is not a commitment to provide new market access or to alter any WTO agreement or decision.  She also reiterated her country’s position on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which she said is a non-binding document that did not give rise to obligations or financial commitments.

The representative of China, associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed regret that a vote was called on the Ministerial Declaration and references to the 2030 Agenda.  The World Trade Organization and trade liberalization are in line with all States’ interests, a pledge made in the 2030 Agenda.  Trade was part-and-parcel of implementing it and the Goals.  Any issues that emerged must be resolved by moving globalization forward, producing win-win outcomes.  All countries should take a mutually beneficial approach, safeguarding the multilateral trading system and free trade.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that, except for paragraph 16, his delegation joined consensus.  On paragraph 17, children’s participation in the follow up and review of 2030 Agenda, he said their participation prior to their coming of age should be limited to families and schools.  He expressed regret that a vote was requested on the Declaration, which suggested inefficient work by the Forum on the intergovernmental negotiations track and insufficient time allocated for reaching consensus.  Calling the noble expectations of the Forum’s supporters “significantly too high”, he pressed States to consider the alarming and growing trend in its work, recalling that the aspiration of the United Nations is to achieve consensus, rather than impose group-based priorities.  The Russian Federation would spare no effort to achieve such results.

The representative of Venezuela, associating herself with the Group of 77, expressed regret that one Member State had called for a vote on the Ministerial Declaration.  National resource management promoted economic and social development, notably when it involved the fair distribution of benefits.  However, unilateral coercive measures hampered development and contravened international law.  Venezuela, which suffered from such measures, called for ending policies that fell outside international law, she said, expressing her delegation’s reservation on target 12 (c), as a reference to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies interfered in State public policies.  Venezuela did not accept that link with any of the Goals.

The representative of Morocco said wording suggested for a certain paragraph was not included in the Declaration, as it reaffirmed the obligation to uphold States’ territorial integrity and independence.  Such principles are reaffirmed in other United Nations documents, notably the “The Future We Want”, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  While the text did not meet Morocco’s expectations, it nonetheless voted in favour of it.

The representative of Azerbaijan said his country presented its voluntary national review in 2017 and would conduct its second next year.  On paragraph 10, he did not commend one Member State whose review contained misinformation.

An observer of the Holy See said the Forum and its outcome are essential to helping Governments to ensure that every resource reached those needing it most.  Pope Francis in 2015 referred to the 2030 Agenda as a sign of hope as it united the United Nations family.  The Forum’s success hinged on a return to the principle of consensus, which is the only way to achieve its noble objectives.  She expressed reservations, noting that references to gender and gender equality are based on biological identity of male and female.  On the concept of gender roles, she said the Holy See did not recognize that gender is socially reconstructed.  On paragraph 17, she expressed concern over the absence of references to parents, as the protection and care of children must be ensured considering the rights and duties of parents or legal guardians.

The Forum then, without a vote, adopted the report of its 2018 session (document E/HLPF/2018/L.1) and entrusted the President of the Council with finalizing it by reflecting all its proceedings.

Closing Remarks

Ms. CHATARDOVÁ (Czechia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that over the past eight days, a record 46 countries had presented their voluntary national reviews, reporting “great strides” in incorporating the Goals into national development plans, engaging civil society and establishing partnerships among various sectors and levels of Government to achieve the Agenda.  “We are only at the beginning of the journey,” she said, noting that many people still face obstacles preventing them from realizing their basic rights. 

Data to understand who are the poorest and what is holding them back is still elusive, she said, and significant resources must be devoted to building statistical capacity to produce high-quality disaggregated data.  Over the last week, extensive discussions were held on Goal 6 (water), Goal 7 (energy), Goal 11 (cities), Goal 12 (sustainable consumption and production), Goal 15 (life on land) and Goal 17 (partnerships). 

She said the recommendations that emerged included those for establishing a “blue fund” to support the design and implementation of transboundary water management; tripling investments in clean and renewable energies; enhancing partnerships among local, regional and national levels; scaling up pilot projects for sustainable consumption and production; capturing the true value of ecosystems and biodiversity; and leveraging new technologies while protecting the most vulnerable.

She went on to say the High-Level Political Forum has also been about the vibrant special events, the record number of side events, the corridor exhibit, the film festival, and the multiple bilateral meetings that never would have happened otherwise.  Moreover, the first-ever Voluntary National Review Lab allowed countries to discuss what they have accomplished, what is holding them back and how the reviews can help.  “We cannot afford to lose this momentum,” she said, urging delegates to implement the recommendations made, make stronger commitments and to scale up best practices.