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Sustainability key to post-2015 development era

[By Shin Hyon-hee ( ]

With negotiations kicking into high gear for a new development agenda, sustainability and monitoring remain at the center stage to enhance the implementation of upcoming measures and the effectiveness of assistance, senior diplomats said.   

In an interview with The Korea Herald, three senior officials engaged in the U.N.-led process explored the significance of the new framework, which will be hammered out at a summit in September to fight poverty and achieve more environmentally friendly growth for the next 15 years.   

The diplomats include Shin Dong-ik, deputy minister for multilateral and global affairs at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry; Wu Hongbo, a Chinese representative who serves as undersecretary-general for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the U.N. and secretary-general for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development; and Martin Sajdik, president of the Economic and Social Council at the U.N. and permanent representative of Austria to the U.N. in New York.  

Korea, for its part, is seeking to beef up its contribution to the global efforts as it gradually expands official development assistant outlays as an emerging donor.   

While stressing the need for future monitoring and execution on the ground, the diplomats pinned high hope on Seoul’s support, such as through the incoming leadership of the U.N.’s ECOSOC tasked with overseeing its implementation of the “historic” agenda for all 193 member states.  

The following are excerpts from the interview with the three officials on the sidelines of the U.N. Development Cooperation Forum in Songdo, Incheon on Thursday.   

1. The Korea Herald: What are the key questions to be tackled in today’s forum, and what is your expectation for the results and deliverables of the event?  

1) Wu Hongbo: The international community, through the United Nations, has massively advanced to embrace sustainability in future development. Other national governments have caught up with the phase. As a solo operation is no longer effective, we have to tear down the barriers between the different departments. That’s number one.   

Secondly, the resources to be used for sustainability will be huge. Where do we get these resources? This is a question bound for everybody. So in addition to traditional ODA, we need to have more players on-board, like international public and private financing

They have also been talking about the monitoring and follow-up system. This is very important. When we talk about the Millennium Development Goals, we stopped short about the means of implementation and monitoring and follow-up mechanisms. This time, these are not forgotten. Let’s say you have a good idea and a good plan. But you have no money, and no means of implementation, then this makes it empty talk. But this time, the international community is really serious about this.   

2) Martin Sajdik: Some of your readers may think this is nave. There is a gap. But at the end of September, the leaders of the world will come to New York and adopt this agenda. Now this will mean that you have 193 nave presidents and nave prime ministers who are as nave as those diplomats and officials that talk to you now. So this is not the case. These ladies and gentlemen know what they’re doing. This is all in all real politics. The problem for many politicians is when they adopt this (kind of agenda) their people would want, they will hopefully be accountable. Have you put that in place? What have you been doing?...  

One of the 193 targets is that you have to have birth certificates in every country. This is very concrete. In Austria, we have birth certificates. But in other countries in the world, they have none. If you don’t have birth certificates, you are nobody. You cannot go to school or register, and what kind of life do you have? So it makes a lot of sense to have targets, the 193 targets. It’s very important to understand what is behind it.   

3) Wu: Some developing countries worry that the unfinished business of MDGs may be forgotten as the attention is switched to SDGs. That is an unnecessary worry because as we set it from the beginning, the unfinished business of MDGs will be carried over to the SDGs.   

One of the important pillars of future sustainable development is the eradication of poverty. I think people understand that it is important to bring people out of poverty. In the new agenda, we have a target that by 2030, basically we will eradicate extreme poverty in the world. This is encouraging because as the secretary general has said, we will have that done in our generation. I think no generation in human history was able to say that.  

2. KH: How do you assess the contribution of Korea in promoting the Millennium Development Goals and the role it can play in the post-2015 era?   

1) Shin Dong-ik: In today’s meeting, I reminded them about the track record and history that we only joined the United Nations in 1991 after becoming an independent country in 1945, which was very late to join the U.N. system. We joined the OECD Development Assistance Committee as a new donor member in only 2010, so everyone knows our history in development cooperation is not long enough.   

But we’d like to be a modest contributor and a new emerging donor in the world development field. We’d like to increase the volume of our official development assistance modestly, but consistently and continually. So far, the total volume of our ODA is $2.3 billion and this year it will be a little higher than that  

From our side, Korea has more interest in priority in the area of rural development, the environment, education and monitoring issues. Now we have the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, but we don’t know how the final document and agreement will be made based on the SDGs. Anyhow, we have our own interest areas so we will make efforts to contribute positively and constructively in reaching an agreement on the final goals and post-2015 agenda.

2) Wu: Korea has been a very important member of the United Nations; it has demonstrated its leadership in multilateral areas in many ways, hosting this DCF for example. The next president of ECOSOC is the Korean permanent representative in New York. That is a crucial period; just two months before the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda and the initial periods of implementation of this historic development agenda. Under the leadership of Korea, ECOSOC can play a unique role in implementing the new agenda.   

3. KH: What are the lessons learned from Korea’s development, how they could help shape up the post-2015 agenda?   

1) Shin: First, we need to enhance country ownership and capacity building. In today’s session, we agreed to make this effort to strengthen national ownership and capacity building. The mindset is a co-value of people, and political will, based on strong mindsets, is another important area to realize our common goals. Without providing adequate training and education, it seems to be very difficult to achieve the goals to strengthen the ownership and capacity building.   

Another part is that for a more innovative partnership, we will need to mobilize all the available resource and actors to push forward our SDGs and post-2015 agenda. This is not new global partnership and international innovative partnership is a common agenda.   

And lastly, as I mentioned as the participants agreed in Busan, we need to reflect this important concept of monitoring and accountability system within the GPEDC (the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Busan in 2011) and the existing U.N. system. Hopefully the final document on development cooperation, as well as financing development in Addis Ababa the concept of the GPEDC monitoring mechanism, will be in place for the next 15 years. These three areas are nothing new, but very important basics to implement the post-2015 agenda.  

4. KH: What are the steps that ECOSOC has taken to help prepare for the post-2015 development agenda and the role that the council would play in implementing it?   

1) Sajdik: ECOSOC has undergone a major reform that was decided upon two years ago by the General Assembly. It was designed to make ECOSOC a real player in the post-2015 development agenda as a unifying platform for implementation and general policymaking and the review.   

Under the auspices of ECOSOC, there is the so-called high-level political forum to give ultimate political guidance and recommendations for policies to take on the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. This sounds all very technical; but in reality it is not really technical. It is all about the implementation on the ground.   

You have to understand that this post-2015 development agenda is completely unique. I have said in my speech today that this is unparalleled in history. It is an agenda for all 193 member countries on sustainable development. It is an unbelievable undertaking. It is not only on development assistance but also on sustainable development for the whole world  

I think the contribution of ECOSOC in the future will be much more permanent and visible, and it will be under the presidency of Korea. My successor from the end of July on will be Ambassador Oh Joon, who is now already one of the vice presidents of ECOSOC.

5. KH: What do you think would be the key inputs of DCF in preparing for the post-2015 agenda?   

1) Sajdik: Since Monterrey (the 2002 U.N. conference on financing for development in Mexico), we have been moving from an ODA-centered approach toward development. We speak about different resources for development and resources coming from the business sector. ODA cannot cover all the costs of development in developing countries.   

I think a lot of discussions are around what are other means of finances; how we can build enough trust in the business sector to be an honest and fair partner in the deliberations; is it in the interest of the business sector to be a partner?; and so on Leading companies have understood very well without sustainable development, they will be out of business. If we continue development like what it is, they will lose that business.   

6. KH: One of the key questions that is being discussed at the symposium is the allocation of ODA in the post-2015 era. What do you think should be the top priorities?  

1) Wu: As far as ODA is concerned, I think we have to recognize the importance of the contribution made by the ODA, in particular in the economic growth of the least developed countries. They constitute a major part of their budgets for development. Traditional donors have suffered economic setbacks and difficulties…   

From my point-of-view, ODA will continue to be very important as public financing will leverage more resources in developing countries. But ODA is not enough because the resources required for development worldwide are very big In addition, we have to be innovative. This morning we also had discussions about how to align different approaches in mobilizing financial resources.


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