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I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
At the outset, Madam President, let me express the Group's gratitude to the two co-facilitators of the process of negotiations on the Ministerial Declaration of the HLPF/High-Level Segment of the ECOSOC, Ambassadors Bird of Australia and Momen of Bangladesh, as well as their teams and the Secretariat colleagues engaged in this difficult exercise.
We would also like to thank you, Madam President, and your team for your support to the process.
The EU and its Member States very much regret that after all our efforts to reach compromise, we had to vote on the Declaration as a whole, and that votes were called for on paragraphs 12 and 16 that deal with cross-cutting issues, fundamental for the realization of the 2030 Agenda. We cannot envisage any Ministerial Declaration, be it the one in front of us, or any future ones, without strong language on human rights and gender equality.
As regards paragraph 12, we fully support its emphasis on human rights, rule of law and good governance at all levels as prerequisites for peaceful, just and inclusive societies. We strongly believe that sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security, we subscribe to the relevant provisions of the 2030 Agenda and we are committed to the achievement of SDG16 which deals, in detail, with some of the issues raised here.
On par. 16, we fully align ourselves with the dedicated Explanation of Vote delivered by Canada on behalf of a number of countries. We are appalled by the fact that language on gender equality contained in this paragraph is questioned. In fact, we would have envisaged stronger language in this paragraph, and we argued for it throughout negotiations.
Let me now, Madam President, raise several further concerns of our Group. First of all, in terms of process, we regret that this year’s negotiations started quite late in June which prevented delegations from thoroughly discussing the draft and clarifying sensitive issues. The lack of sufficient time for discussions surely made the co-facilitators’ work even more challenging and resulted in multiple requests for revisions of the final text and in breaking of silence procedure.
Moving on to substance, we would have wished to see a more action-oriented and ambitious text with a clear focus on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as a whole in an integrated and balanced manner, taking into account all three dimensions of sustainable development and highlighting to a larger extent interlinkages between all the Sustainable Development Goals and targets. In a year when the HLPF looks at several SDGs with a strong environmental focus, the Declaration lacks adequate reflection of environmental challenges, mainly in its introductory part. It is, therefore, regrettable that in a section meant to deal with cross-cutting issues, there is now a stand-alone paragraph 14 on economic growth and industrialization which offers a rather incomplete and outdated vision of growth.
We could not help but notice that a number of issues raised by the EU and Member States during negotiations did not make their way into the final text or, first included in a revised draft, disappeared form the final text. This despite, in our assessment, their unproblematic nature and the flexibility shown by our Group regarding specific formulations or placement. This is certainly true for our requests to insert references to all goals and targets in paragraph 6, to the political guidance to be provided by the HLPF under the auspices of the GA in 2019 in paragraph 7, to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in paragraph 17, to the SDG policy briefs in paragraph 24, to the Convention of Biological Diversity in paragraph 27, or to the AMR in paragraph 26.
We regret that in paragraph 19 on climate change, we do not see stronger language on the operationalization of the Paris Agreement and a reference to the Talanoa Dialogue. We are, nonetheless, glad to welcome the Paris Agreement and its early entry into force as well as to call on all its parties to fully implement it.
We also strongly believe that references to strengthening water governance, including at UN level, as well to action oriented recommendations of the High Level Panels and the potential detrimental impact of climate change on water resources should have been included in the text, preferably in paragraph 23.
As regards the section of the Declaration that deals with specific goals under review this year, we find that in many instances the language used in the text does not reflect the whole scope of the Goals and targets and, thus, falls short of our ambitious agreements reached in 2015.
Paragraph 24 on SDG7 can serve as an example. The challenges reflected in the various targets under this goal are not reflected correctly or in a balanced manner. References to renewable energy sources are weak and indirect. While no one denies the important role that fossil fuels play in the current global energy mix, it is essential to consider the energy technology innovation challenge in the context of our shared goal to reach zero net global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions at some point in the second half of this century. Merely encouraging progress towards cleaner fossil fuels does not help us respond to the full scale of this challenge. We welcome the fact that UN Member States remain committed, through the 2030 Agenda, to the goal of phasing-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, taking into account the specific needs and conditions of countries. Importantly, beyond what the text of the Ministerial Declaration says in paragraph 24, we greatly appreciate the progress that many countries are making in their transition towards a clean energy future, reaping associated benefits in terms of jobs and growth. Let us also underline here that the commitment to fossil fuel subsidies’ reforms is a necessary step to respect and realize a long-term objective of the Paris Agreement: we are all very much aware that 80% of remaining fossil fuels must remain under ground, if we are to stay in a world below +2°C of global warming.
Paragraph 25, on SDG11, in its current form contains hardly any language on environmental challenges faced by cities, and on means or opportunities to overcome them. We would have wanted to see in this paragraph references to ecosystems services and green spaces in an urban context.
Paragraph 26 is another example of a selective approach to targets. The EU and Member States consistently called for the inclusion of references to sustainable public procurement services, in line with target 12.7.
In paragraph 27 we are missing a reference to land tenure rights which, in our view, are critical for the delivery of this goal.
Paragraph 28, initially based in its entirety on the outcome of the Financing for Development Forum, the approach we supported in the context of informal consultations, now deviates from the text agreed three months ago. Even though we can go along with the current formulation, we are concerned by the fact that the HLPF becomes a place for re-negotiation of earlier and quite recent agreements reached by the same delegations.Moreover, the current version of the paragraph places a disproportionate emphasis on external cooperation rather than domestic action (this is also true for paragraph 29). The EU and its Member States would like to recall the primacy of domestic responsibility in this regard as well as the need to make use of all Means of Implementation, not just external cooperation.
Among other issues we would like to highlight in this section of the Declaration, is a footnote to paragraph 23 on SDG6 – we would question references to conferences that are not UN affiliated. Finally, we strongly believe that a reference to water governance should have been included in this paragraph.
Despite the reservations we have on the text of the Ministerial Declaration, Madam President, the EU and its Member States would like to underline the importance we attach to the High-Level Political Forum as an important venue for stock-taking in terms of progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as well as for dialogue, mutual learning and reinforcing the science-policy interface. We also highly value its Declaration as a means to show momentum and our collective willingness to support progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We are confident that, in spite of nuances among the delegations, it will be possible to move on together from this point.
Thank you, Madam President.