Europe and Central Asia Regional Consultations in Istanbul help shape the Post 2015 Development Agenda

Mr. Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe; Mr. Cevdet Yılmaz Minister of Development of Republic of Turkey and Ms. Cihan Sultanoğlu, Chair of the UN Development Group for Europe and Central Asia, and Regional Director UNDP. Photo: Kamil Şan

Mr. Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe; Mr. Cevdet Yılmaz Minister of Development of Republic of Turkey and Ms. Cihan Sultanoğlu, Chair of the UN Development Group for Europe and Central Asia, and Regional Director UNDP. Photo: Kamil Şan

Post 2015 Europe and Central Asia regional consultations concluded today in İstanbul with a call to end the increasing inequalities in the region.

During the last three days, from over 40 countries, more than 350 government, civil society, private sector, academia and the United Nations representatives discussed ways to tackle the most urgent global challenges of the 21st century: lifting people out of poverty in ways that respect the planet’s ecological boundaries and advance social inclusion.

With the target date of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) rapidly approaching, the event provided regional reflections on priorities for inclusion as a new global development agenda is being formulated.

The most urgent development challenge of the world today is to make sustainability a reality. The Millennium Development Goals have cut poverty in half. Now the international community must maintain the momentum, craft an equally inspiring post-2015 development agenda and reach an agreement on climate change.

One of the main outcomes of the panel discussions was that inclusion and equality must be at the centre of sustainable development, because inequalities and exclusion persist or have raised in a number interlinked areas including, accountability, employment, health, education, gender equality and environment.

Participants in the panel discussion on population dynamics and migration called for a more constructive, holistic and rights-based approach to these issues. Population dynamics in particular was highlighted as a critical cross-cutting issue, as many societal shifts that will be central to the new agenda are influenced by demographic trends. Migration was seen as an important mega trend and enabler of development, which needs to be considered as a separate goal in the post-2015 agenda.

One of the topics discussed was environment and participants agreed that sustainable management and use of natural resources and ecosystems is central to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The need to accelerate the shift from brown to green economy was emphasized, pointing out that the role of governments in this process is essential.

During the three day event participants also exchanged views on why the cities are a significant part and driver of global environmental change. Participants pointed out that there is a need to make choices to transform cities into sustainable cities full of opportunities and services for all, and urban planning, governance, technology and citizen participation will be crucial to move towards smart, resilient and green cities.

Health and social inclusion was also on the agenda of the conference. Once again, it was reiterated that health is a human rights, it is at the heart of what sustainable, people-centred, rights-based and equitable development seeks to achieve. A whole-of-government, whole-of-society and a life-course approach is needed in order to achieve Universal health Coverage as well as national social protection floors as a fundamental element of comprehensive social security systems.

On 7 November, official opening of the event, titled “Perspectives from Europe and Central Asia on the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, took place under the auspices of Mr. Cevdet Yılmaz, Minister of Development of Republic of Turkey and with the participation of Mr. Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe; Ms. Cihan Sultanoğlu, Chair of the UN Development Group for Europe and Central Asia, and Regional Director UNDP; Mr. Michael Gerber, Special Representative of Switzerland for Global Sustainable Development, and Mr. Kadir Topbaş, Mayor of İstanbul and Member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Minister Yılmaz said that it is the responsibility of the governments and international development organizations to secure the social and economic development of people, increase social welfare and protect the environment. Mr. Yılmaz reiterated Turkey’s commitment for the achievement of Millennium Development Goals and said that Turkey has already reached the internationally set targets. Minister Yılmaz also said that Turkey’s official development assistance reached 2.5 billion US Dollars in 2012.

Minister Yılmaz said that international community has to work more to harmonize economic and social development and protection of environment, three main elements of sustainable development. He said that justice should also be the fourth element of sustainable development because without justice a peaceful world cannot be established.

UNECE Executive Secretary Mr. Sven Alkalaj said: “In order to address inequalities, it is necessary to create decent jobs, invest in quality health and education services, strengthen social protection, and tackle gender-based discrimination. Enhancing the voice and participation of the society as a whole is also crucial. The active role of civil society at this meeting is one example of the significant contribution it can make”. Moreover, “international cooperation at all levels will be vital in moving towards more inclusive and sustainable societies. UNECE is working to further develop regional cooperation on sustainable development issues, through the exchange of policy experiences, implementation of legal instruments, and capacity-building”, he added.

”This event is an important milestone on the road to the creation of a new development agenda”, said Cihan Sultanoğlu, UN Development Group Chair for Europe and Central Asia adding that the road we are on is unfolding in an unprecedented way and so far, over 1 million people have engaged in the global conversation.

‘The global conversation thus far contains two important messages: First, people around the world are asking us to finish the job and secondly, they want us to be more ambitious”, Ms. Sultanoğlu said.

Mr. Michael Gerber, Special Representative of Switzerland for Global Sustainable Development, said that the sustainable development goals should be measurable and concrete and ensure financial support and accountability.

Mr. Kadir Topbaş, Mayor of İstanbul and Member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda said that local governments want to take an active role in shaping the Post 2015 Development agenda and be part of the solution to the challenges the world faces today.

Regional consultations started with civil society consultations on 6 November with the participation of 80 civil society representatives. Participants agreed that to achieve development targets, universal goals and commitments are needed and the new agenda should be developed in a participatory manner. Emphasizing the importance of participation of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on national delegations for international meetings on the Post 2015 agenda, participants urged governments to take steps to end inequalities by promoting human rights, environment and sustainable and inclusive wellbeing.

During the Government Consultations on 7-8 November, participants attended 6 panels under three themes, ‘Equality of Opportunity and Outcome’, ‘Putting Planet and People First’ and ‘Making the New Agenda Work’ and discussed issues including human rights, education, health, population dynamics, migration, decent jobs, social protection and environment.

Europe and Central Asia is a highly diverse region which includes high, middle and low income countries and energy exporting countries as well as land-locked economies. Because of its heterogeneity, the region is a microcosm for the various challenges and opportunities facing the global community in building inclusive societies, ensuring environmental sustainability, achieving equitable growth by focusing on the creation of decent jobs and social protection floors and creating development partnerships and models of international cooperation. As such, the region has a significant contribution to make to the global debate in all of three areas.

Another emphasis was on the youth participation in determining the Post 2015 development agenda, and Youth Representatives made their voices heard by actively participating in debates and reaching out to the government officials during the event.

The Regional Consultation is a cooperative effort organized and supported by the Turkish government and about a dozen UN entities active in the region, with the core team consisting of UNECE, UNEP, UNDP, UNICEF, ILO, WHO, UNFPA and IOM. The aim was to bring stakeholders from across the Europe and Central Asia together to provide a regional perspective on priorities that should be contained in the post-2015 agenda.

Regional consultations ended with the closing remarks by Mr. Kamal Malhotra, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Turkey, and Mr. Yilmaz Tuna, General Director of Social Sectors and Coordination, Ministry of Development, Turkey.

More information on the Regional Consultation as well as the post-2015 vision of the regional UN System is available at:www.worldwewant2015.org/EuropeCentralAsia.