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High Level Dialogue on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development takes place in Solo, Indonesia

On 19-21 July, over 350 officials from 90 countries, 56 UN bodies as well as other stakeholders met in Solo, Indonesia, for the High-Level Dialogue on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development. The meeting served as a forum to provide input into the Rio +20 preparatory process, of which the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD) is one of the Rio Conference’s two major themes.

From the three-day meeting, three major areas of interest emerged above the rest, and were identified as instrumental to the strengthening of the IFSD: integration, implementation and coordination. The strengthening of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was also a widely debated topic.

Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of Rio + 20, expressed his satisfaction with the meeting, stating in his concluding remarks that whilst the understanding of IFSD had long been blurry, "it is now clearer - thanks to Solo."

The meeting was divided into five sessions concentrating on the respective issues: Assessing the Progress to-date and the Remaining Gaps in Implementation of the Outcomes of the Major Summits on Sustainable Development; Strengthening, Transforming and Reforming the Intergovernmental Institutions; Promoting Sustainable Development Governance at the National and Local levels; Strengthening International Support to National-level Sustainable Development Governance and Emerging Issues: Can the Existing Institutional Framework Adequately address them?

Professor Gusti Muhammad Hatta, Minister of Environment of Indonesia, chaired the meeting and produced an outcome document summarizing the three-day debate into seven key points which he referred to as the ’Solo Message’.

The Message called, first and foremost, for renewed political commitment which can be effectively translated into implementation. It stressed the need for the three pillars of sustainable development, namely economic, social and environmental, to be brought on par with one another, and hence the need to strengthen the presently lagging environmental pillar in order to achieve greater integration across the three areas.

The need to enhance cooperation at the international level also gained widespread consensus. This idea was complemented by various statements calling for a stronger and more bottom-up approach to compensate for the UN’s tendency toward a top-down approach. Strengthening and developing national and regional strategies was envisaged as a solution to the severe lack of implementation and integration of policies. Improving implementation was considered under various aspects and the provision of adequate funding was also one of the major discussion points, along with the need for capacity building and technology transfer.

A point of discussion that received particular attention was the need to strengthen UNEP. Participants re-iterated consensus on the issue and discussed several options, including a specialized agency status for UNEP, establishment of a World Environment Organization (WEO), and instituting piecemeal reforms within the existing structure.

To address the problems of coherence and coordination the re-establishment of an interagency committee, to be named the High Level Committee on Sustainable Development, was proposed, acting as a sub-committee to the Chief Executive Board (CEB). It was further discussed whether UN Water, UN Oceans and UN Energy should be included as sub-committees of the High-Level Committee or whether these were to stand on their own and merely linked to the latter.

The need to coordinate with International Financial Institutions was also discussed. In this regard, the idea of making the Global Environmental Facility , the major financial mechanism for multilateral environmental agreements, a member to the CEB was put forward. Similarly it was suggested that the proposed High-Level Commission on Sustainable Development (see below) include the Bretton Woods institutions as full-time members.

The issue of scientific fragmentation was also raised and one of the proposals considered was that of the creation of an Intergovernmental Panel on Sustainable Development [1].

Various speakers called for the strengthening of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), given its perceived lack of effectiveness due to its status as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and subsequent inability to require action from its decisions or report directly to the General Assembly. The need to assign a higher place in the UN hierarchy to the CSD was also called for. In this respect elevating the CSD to a General Assembly Council was a proposition that was thoroughly debated, although it was recognized that this would require strong political support.

The strengthening of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was also discussed, for some as an alternative to transforming the CSD into a Council, and for others as a complement to the latter. The need for regional bodies to assume a more prominent role was explored, although it was recognized that before recommendations can be made on this topic, there is a need for a full analysis that would not be ready in time for the Rio +20 Conference, but discussions could focus on delivering for the post-2015 agenda.

Other than the above points, noted in the Solo Message, and raised throughout the five panels, each meeting contributed to providing specific solutions pertinent to the panel’s topic.

To access background materials and some of the presentations delivered at the meeting please click here .

To access the discussion paper produced please click here .