Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement: United Nations 2nd Committee: Second Committee Revitalisation

New York, 14/02/2020 - 23:08, UNIQUE ID: 200214_53
Statements on behalf of the EU

14 February 2020, New York – European Union Statement delivered by H.E. Mr. Silvio Gonzato, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Second Committee: 2C Revitalization

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Dear Chairman,


I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States. The Candidate Countries Montenegro, Serbia, the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.

The European Union and its Member States welcome this opportunity to exchange views on the Revitalization of the Second Committee. We would like to see 2020 – which marks the 75th anniversary of the UN - as a year in which we see further improvements towards the revitalization of the 2C and further improvements on the alignment process. We are encouraged by your determination to achieve viable progress in the coming months.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has to permeate all of the UN’s activities. It should also become the anchor of the Second Committee, which needs to evolve and keep pace with the world as it continues to change rapidly. Last year's session demonstrated that we have reached a tipping point. A lack of progress on revitalization is no longer acceptable. It has become clear that we continue to discuss issues that are no longer relevant at the expense of effectively addressing today's pressing challenges. The Second Committee, if it is to achieve its full potential, must advance in tandem with the Secretary General's pursuit of the ambitious reform of the UN, including the one of its development system.

Mr. Chair, we welcome the set of guiding questions provided by you in the 2C Bureau Conference Room paper. We have studied the document carefully. First and foremost, we believe there is a variety of ways to achieve progress on 2C revitalisation. We would like to put forward our own initial thinking today and hope others will also put forward concrete proposals.


[First: Transformative pathways: focus on substance rather than process.]

At the outset let me state that we agree with you, Mr. Chair, that the 2030 Agenda does not only provide a set of goals, but also new opportunities and ways to advance development. Our focus in 2C should remain on the substance rather than on the process. The Committee’s agenda should reflect and be fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda and contribute to the implementation of the Decade of Action.


[Second: Gaps, overlaps, duplications and the question of periodicity]

Secondly, With regard to your question on gaps, overlaps, duplications and the periodicity of resolutions, we see a duplication of work in particular between the ECOSOC and the GA. The United Nations will only succeed in delivering the ambitious 2030 Agenda – what the SG has called a Decade of Action - through stronger collaboration and coordination between its main bodies. This, in turn, would allow for increased efficiency and a better sense of mission, distinct role played by each body.  The current division of labor between the ECOSOC and the GA is far from clear, and there is no better example than the adoption by both of resolutions dealing with similar, if not the same, issues. This matter requires our collective attention and careful consideration.

Furthermore, we strongly believe that improvements can be made by refocusing and merging resolutions. Allow me to give you some examples:

  • The Agenda 21 resolution should be modernized to reflect the commitments under the 2030 Agenda. We do not see the value of this resolution in its current form. We propose to follow through what we have started in the fall and focus the resolution on SDG12, Sustainable consumption and production.
  • We should avoid the proliferation of regional resolutions that duplicate existing ones.  If others feel strongly about maintaining a resolution on sustainable tourism, we would benefit from having one rather than separate ones for different regions in the world, notwithstanding that there is not enough data available to adequately update these resolutions.
  • The Education for sustainable development and the Human Resources Development resolutions could be merged into one resolution dealing with issues related to education and its role with regard to full and productive employment, combining SDGs 4 and 8.
  • The ICT and STI-resolutions could also easily be merged, as was proposed by the previous 2C chair. The sand and dust storms resolution could be easily integrated in the UNCCD resolution.
  • In the same vein, we would propose to merge the Eradication of poverty and rural poverty.
  • Lastly, we furthermore believe we could integrate the issue of commodities and unilateral economic measures in the trade resolution.
  • To make space in all resolutions for meaningful, facts-based, future-oriented, cross regional and true negotiations, we need to take a look at the periodicity of resolutions.  We fully acknowledge the right of every Member State to introduce resolutions. We are willing to have a proper discussion on the periodicity of each and every resolution. However, it might be easier to find common ground, if we all acknowledge that there is no imperative for any of the 2C resolutions to appear on the agenda on an annual basis. By tabling the same resolutions every year, we often fail to bring in adequate change or updates in the texts we negotiate. We would therefore propose to develop a scheme, where resolutions appear on the agenda on an alternating basis looking at the substance and clusters. All resolutions in 2C would become biennial at a minimum. This would provide us with the time and space needed to effectively address all pressing challenges and ensure none of our negotiations are rushed.
  • We could also consider introducing sunset clauses for existing and new resolutions. The introduction of a sunset clause is a commitment towards a specific clear goal combined with a commitment to discontinue the resolution at the end of a set period.
  • These are just a few examples amongst many and this transformative approach might very well expose gaps in the 2C agenda with regard to certain issues. We already mentioned SDG12 on Sustainable consumption and production. SDG6 on Clean Water and sanitation might deserve more attention as well.


[Third: Effectiveness: rationalization of outcomes and reports]

This brings me to my third point - taking into account your question on rationalization of outcomes and reports.

There seems to be a tendency in the 2C to mandate a report in every resolution. Reports should only be requested when they are likely to facilitate the implementation of the resolution or the continued examination of the question. Reports on the implementation of international days and years, for instance, bring no added value to our committee.

The merger of resolutions would inherently lead to the merger of their reports.

Joint reporting on other agenda items of a similar nature should be considered favorably as well.  A closer look at the macro-economic cluster demonstrates that we currently request double reporting. We would propose to embrace the Financing for Sustainable Development Report (FSDR) as the vehicle for reporting on the various 2C resolutions in the macroeconomic cluster rather than requesting separate SG reports on top of the FSDR report. The resolutions on Financial Inclusion and Sustainable Investment already use the FSDR report and are therefore great examples.    We would also welcome steps towards further joint reporting in the other clusters.

A step towards rationalization of outcomes could also be achieved by requesting a clearer focus in the mandated reports on the contribution to the 2030 Agenda implementation. Mandated SG reports should be more specific and contain evidence-based recommendations taking into account, the agreed SDG indicators. This would make the reports relevant for use in other forums, such as the HLPF, contributing to a broader evidence base for policy making while saving scarce resources.


[Fourth: Trust]

My fourth point is related to your question about trust building, Mr. Chair. The only way forward is together.  We should work hand in hand to achieve progress. We stand ready to contribute to building greater trust within the Committee. We believe we can achieve this by looking at the possibilities of co-authorship of zero draft resolutions in combination with co-facilitation of draft resolutions. We would also be willing to change our own working methods/positions and consider favourably co-sponsoring such resolutions if the result deserves our support.

Without prejudice to further discussions within our group, we would consider co-authorship and co-facilitation. To start with, we would be willing to co-author and co-facilitate the following resolutions: Biodiversity, Climate, Sustainable Investments, Women in Development and the Partnership resolution.


[Fifth: Working methods]

My fifth and last point relates to working methods. We appreciated the efforts of the 2C Bureau to respect the deadlines for introduction of resolutions last fall. We believe we would all benefit from even stricter adherence this year. We would also be in favor of a best practices overview containing simple efficiency measures.

For example, as Member States table zero-drafts, immediately providing the relevant sources and making the changes visible through the use of tracked changes would alleviate the work of negotiators.

Another best practice could be to share Word versions of the zero drafts rather than PDF files to facilitate processing and coordination.

Apart from the above, we feel that the general discussion on every single agenda item in the plenary does not add value to the Committee’s work. The time could be better used by starting substantive negotiations at an earlier stage.

Negotiation dynamics could be changed in a positive way, if negotiations started with an informal, smaller setting exchange on the relevant SG report and a clear identification of where the challenges lie, before delegations move on to working on specific drafts.

Mr. Chair, we are in your hands with regards to the next steps. We stand ready to elaborate on any of the proposals made today in greater detail during the following informal dialogue or on a bilateral basis. It goes without saying that we are also eager to discuss the proposals brought forward by others.

I thank you for your attention.

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