November 2017: European nations attempting to mislead
"...the best way to fulfil the promise of Agenda 21"
[which aims at adequate water and sanitation for all by 2025]
"is through a focused and effective implementation of the new ambitious [!] and comprehensive 2030 [!] Agenda which builds on and incorporates [!] Agenda 21"
Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States
United Nations General Assembly
From around 1 hour 4 minutes into the recording.
17 November 2017
"Agenda 21 has fulfilled its purpose [!], having helped shape the fundamental elements of the 2030 Agenda.
We acknowledge that Agenda 21 has been a milestone in our
journey towards sustainable development and has guided us in in carrying
! - more accurately, not carrying out?
"a vision that stemmed from the Rio conferences."
The "vision" in Agenda 21 agreed at the 1992 Rio conference included goals for 2000 and 2025, all of which the EU seems to be distracting from.
"In fact we are convinced that the best way to fulfil the promise of Agenda 21 is through a focused and effective implementation of the new ambitious and comprehensive 2030 Agenda which builds on and incorporates Agenda 21, the "Future we Want" document and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation."
In reality the 2012 "Future we Want" document from the Rio + 20 Conference on Sustainable Development emphasises existing commitments, and commits to the full implementation of Agenda 21.
In that context, the EU misleads significantly misleading in its claim about "building on" and "incorporating" the existing commitments.
"We have examined carefully the annual report on the implementation of Agenda 21 and related documents A/72/228 issued by the Secretary-General.
Despite efforts to respond to the request of the General Assembly resolution 71/223 to present an analysis of the unfinished business of the Agenda 21, the report has been unable to do so.
The report is the best proof of our thesis. It provides
a concise overview of the issues pertinent to the follow-up of the 2030 Agenda
including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda without additional elements which are
unique to this agenda item in a valuable way."
In their misleading statement, the EU member states are correct in that the Secretary-General's purported report on the unfinished business of Agenda 21 is basically about follow-up to the "2030" agenda, not Agenda 21. But clearly the EU is incorrect if it means the Secretary-General was "unable" to write the report he was asked for. It is not exactly difficult to list the goals for 2025, which he for some reason failed to do.
I do not know why Mr Guterres supplied a report while claiming it was something else. But I do know that both he and member states are avoiding the clear commitments to implement and "follow up" existing commitments.
The mandates are very clear in the 2012 conference document, in resolution 67/290 of 2013 on the high-level political forum and even in the 2015 summit document, which reaffirms existing conference and summit decisions in paragraph 11:
"We reaffirm the outcomes of all major United Nations conferences and summits which have laid a solid foundation for sustainable development and have helped to shape the new Agenda."
It seems difficult to understand how that could mean throwing out Agenda 21's goals for 2025.
Leaders also said in 2015:
"The challenges and commitments identified at these major conferences and summits are interrelated and call for integrated solutions. To address them effectively, a new approach is needed."
Again, it is hard to see how that can be consistent with the high-level political forum of all UN member states, and the Economic and Social Council, and the Second Committee, repeatedly failing to mention the existing post-2015 goals in Agenda 21 which nations agreed in 2012 to implement fully - or the goals of water and sanitation for all in "least developed countries" by 2020.
The EU countries said above that they had examined Mr Guterres' report carefully. But if that is true, we might expect them to have looked at the material he linked to instead of reporting on Agenda 21: the reports from 2011. In those reports the EU governments would have found out, if for some extremely strange reason they were not already aware, that the existing "environmental infrastructure" goals in Agenda 21, including water and sanitation, are more ambitious than those in the "SDGs".
Theoretically, their position might be that they did not bother reading what Mr Guterres presented as the analysis of unfinished business, and were unaware of what they were already committed to - rather than deliberately misleading the public.
However, among other severe problems with such an idea is that UN resolutions tend to include passages "recalling" previous resolutions.
The European Union countries add:
"The report clearly states that although Agenda 21 is a very comprehensive document it reflects the realities of the 1990s."
"The greatest task ahead of us all is the full and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda"
In fact not only are the 2025 goals on water and sanitation greater tasks than in the "SDGs", but achieving those goals would need, and cause, progress in many other areas covered by other "SDGs".
"and we call on our partners in the Second Committee to concentrate efforts to this end.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the promises of the 2030 Agenda is what our committee should be about."
The EU countries' wish to concentrate on the "2030
Agenda" may not be consistent with their - or other governments' -
apparent desire to avoid mentioning the Agenda 21 goals.
If they mean "2030 Agenda" to refer to resolution 70/1, the agreement by world leaders in 2015, then they are omitting the key point that it decided to stick with resolution 67/290, which is about following up all the conference outcomes.
Leaders in 2015 said:
"The high-level political forum will have a central
role in overseeing a network of follow-up
and review processes at the global level, working coherently with the General
Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other relevant organs and forums,
in accordance with existing mandates"
"The high-level political forum, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, shall carry out regular reviews, in line with General Assembly resolution 67/290 of 9 July 2013."
So leaders in 2015 agreed to stick with "existing mandates".
What are the "existing mandates"?
To follow up all major conferences and summits.
"The General Assembly...Recalling...Agenda 21...Recalling the commitments in the outcomes of all the major United Nations conferences and summits...
Reaffirming also the commitment to strengthen the Economic and Social Council...as a principal organ in the...follow-up of the outcomes of all major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social, environmental and related fields..."
"the meetings of the forum... Shall follow up and review progress in the implementation of all the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and environmental fields..."
(General Assembly Resolution 67/290, 9 July 2013)
In 2015 and 2016, the Secretary-General seems to have taken "2030 Agenda" to mean the 2015 summit document, not just the "SDGs":
"In the 2030 agenda, the high-level political forum on sustainable development is called upon to assume a central role in overseeing a network of follow-up and review processes at the global level, working coherently with the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other relevant organs and forums, in accordance with existing mandates. The agenda underscores that effective linkages need to be established with the follow-up and review arrangements of all relevant United Nations conferences and processes"
"In the 2030
Agenda...the high-level political forum on sustainable development was
mandated....with “the central role in overseeing follow-up and review at the
(From the Secretary-General's reports on the implementation of Agenda 21 and the other sustainable development conferences since then)
It would seem that either the EU countries are saying
a) they want to concentrate on "the 2030 Agenda" in the sense of the easier water and sanitation "SDGs" for 2030,
in which case they grossly mislead in saying the "2030 Agenda" incorporates Agenda 21,
b) the EU countries want to concentrate on "2030
Agenda" as the Secretary-General meant that phrase in the reports above,
including the mandate to follow up all conferences and summits,
in which case the EU countries are bound as part of the forum (taking into account the voluntary nature of reporting) to follow up on Agenda 21's goals for 2025.
In any case, the mandate seems clear: UN member states have decided to follow up all relevant conferences and summits.
So it looks like as before, governments are pretending to stick to previous agreements when they are not.