Helen Clark: Speech on “Biodiversity in the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals: Next Steps” at the Side-Event to the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), COP-12

Oct 14, 2014

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
“Biodiversity in the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals: Next Steps”
at the
to the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), COP-12
Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea

I thank the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for inviting me to address this important side-event on “Biodiversity in the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals: Next Steps”.

UNDP welcomes the engagement of the Parties to the CBD with the debate on the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals, and also the leadership role played by the CBD Secretariat in co-ordinating UN agencies’ technical inputs on biodiversity issues as part of the General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG) process.

The design of the new Sustainable Development Goals offers the international community an opportunity to unite around an agenda which is truly transformational in nature and universal in application. The ultimate goal should be to eradicate poverty and put our world onto a sustainable path.
Achieving that will require a major departure from business as usual. It calls for significant capacity building, technical assistance, knowledge transfer, exchange of experiences, and finance.

It requires a change of mindset to see the opportunities and benefits of sustainable development and the high costs and risks of continuing as we are.
The number of people living in extreme poverty has decreased dramatically in the past three decades, from half the citizens in developing countries in 1981 to 21 per cent in 2010.

Yet our world is faced with persistent, and in some cases rising, inequalities both between and within countries. More than 75 per cent of the populations of developing countries live in societies where income distribution is less equal now than it was in the 1990s. A number of developed countries have also experienced growing income inequality.

Overall, our world is experiencing challenges on many fronts: the financial, food scarcity, extreme climate events, and armed conflicts - to name just a few. We have a fast growing population, rising levels of consumption, and great pressure on natural resources.

An inspirational and highly motivational post-2015 agenda is needed to tackle our shared challenges.
This is also what the global citizenry is calling for. Since 2012, the UN development system has facilitated a worldwide conversation on post-2015, in which more than five million people have participated.

The outcome of these consultations was an input to the work of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG), which delivered its proposals in July. The Working Group proposed seventeen areas of goals and 169 targets. These build on the legacy of the MDGs with proposed goals on poverty and hunger eradication, health, education, gender equality, and the environment.

The OWG however, also broadens the scope of the development agenda with its proposed goals on reducing inequalities, and on infrastructure, energy, and building peaceful and inclusive societies, and other new areas. The agenda they propose would be applicable to all countries and would aim to shift the world towards sustainable development.  

The OWG proposal has been officially presented to the 69th General Assembly. Now the UN Secretary-General will produce a synthesis report which will be an important point of reference for the Member States’ negotiations on Post-2015. A leaders-level summit to agree on the new development agenda is scheduled to be held at the UN in New York in September 2015.

On biodiversity, the OWG has proposed two “stand-alone” goals:

-    Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, and

-    Goal 15. Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss

These proposed goals signal the importance to UN Member States of an explicit focus on the integrity of the natural ecosystems which underpin our development.
Biodiversity-related targets are also incorporated in several other draft goals. For example,

•    The proposed poverty goal highlights the need for access by all men and women, including the poorest and most vulnerable, to land and natural resources.

•    The proposed food security goal promotes resilient agriculture which helps maintain ecosystems and the genetic diversity of seeds, plants, and animals, and ensure equitable benefits from the use of genetic resources.

•    The proposed water goal seeks to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers, and lakes.
Holistic approaches to sustainable development are critical for the success of the post-2015 agenda. Maintaining the integrity of ecosystems, for example, is also beneficial for health, and can mitigate against climate-induced disasters.

I encourage the Parties to the CBD to continue to advocate for integrated approaches so that the importance of maintaining biodiversity is acknowledged whenever development is addressed.

Following Rio+20, there is also consensus among Member States that the SDGs should build on existing commitments. Accordingly, the OWG’s proposed goals build on the CBD’s Aichi Targets, the UNCCD’s Zero Net Land Degradation target, and other biodiversity-related multilateral agreements. This is very positive.
Further work will be needed to develop indicators for the SDGs and their targets, and to explore how they can best be implemented at the national level.
In a developing country, the multi-year UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), or its equivalent, is the strategy agreed on by government and the UN Country Team.

The UNDAF provides a vehicle for dialogue with government and other local partners on how UN actions will support efforts to achieve national goals, as set out in national development plans, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, and other policies.
Countries have many experiences and lessons learned from implementing the Millennium Development Goals. As the post-2015 agenda emerges, the challenge is to build on these lessons and find the best ways to support achieving both national and global goals, including by harmonizing planning and reporting cycles wherever possible.

The new SDGs and their targets will need clear indicators of progress to be applicable at country level to inform policy decisions, budgeting, and the design of new interventions and technical assistance.

Ideally, we need to build outputs, output metrics, and output targets from the post-2015 agenda directly into the UNDAF planning process, in order to focus support on the critical factors which will drive progress on the SDGs, and to avoid a multiplicity of monitoring systems.
This will require a capacity for integrated decision-making like never before. It will require leaders who see the links between the complex challenges we face and their solutions.

It is now widely recognized, for example, that to save iconic wildlife species, we need not only stronger institutions and law enforcement, but also an assault on poverty, creation of economic opportunity, and the full engagement of communities in decision-making, along with reduction of demand from the countries receiving illegally trafficked wildlife products.

To preserve our forest cover, alternatives to wood and charcoal for energy, more productive use of existing agricultural land, more diverse livelihood opportunities, and action against illegal logging are all needed.

If we tackle poverty, inequality, and environmental issues in separate silos, we can’t succeed. We have to have holistic approaches.
This, to me, is the excitement of the post 2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals as called for at Rio+20. We can have an agenda which will inspire action and mobilise broad partnerships around clear and measurable targets for sustainable development.

I am convinced that we can eradicate poverty, achieve greater equality, and restore and maintain the integrity of our ecosystems if we are prepared to do “business unusual”.

The UN development system will step up to that task by working together in support of sustainable development. If we are fit for purpose for that challenge, we will be able to support countries to make the transition to a sustainable and inclusive future for all.

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