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UN officials urge innovation at session on integrating sustainability agenda

A wide view of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber as it held its 2016 Integration Segment.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
A wide view of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber as it held its 2016 Integration Segment.

UN officials urge innovation at session on integrating sustainability agenda

Integration across sectors and disciplines, and between actors and institutions, is essential to drive forward and successfully implement the United Nations development agenda, the Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) emphasized at the conclusion of a three-day segment on promoting integration of the three pillars of sustainable development.

“Given the complexity of the new [2030] Agenda [for Sustainable Development], the challenge of integration will not be met without innovative solutions,” said Sven Jürgenson at the conclusion of the segment at UN Headquarters in New York.

Noting that this was the first Integration Segment of ECOSOC to be held since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the Vice-President said that the discussions were very timely.

“As our general debate highlighted, the solution for the challenges of successful integration lies in instilling ownership at all levels of implementation. All stakeholders must be turned into partners in achieving sustainable development,” the ECOSOC Vice-President said.

Among the key messages of the integration segment are that every country faces special challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda, and all countries will require contextualized policy solutions to address such problems, he said.

“Only through policy integration and innovation can countries surmount sustainable development hurdles in a coherent manner and in line with national priorities,” Mr. Jürgenson said.

The Vice-President also emphasized that innovation does not always need to be based on novel technologies – it can be achieved by applying existing technologies in new ways and learning from situations where new approaches have worked.

“We need a truly integrated policy framework but should also consider possible trade-offs. Investing in the time required for consultation across sectors and actors can cause delay in policy initiatives. What is certain is that the longer-term benefits of such investments are incalculable,” he said.

In addition, he noted that a process of building on past successes and learning from failures is essential to policy integration, as is the need to equip institutions, particularly in the public sector, with the skills, tools and systems needed to forge an integrated approach to policy making.

“It is imperative that the appropriate use of innovative technologies and other tools should be considered, especially given the scope and scale of the SDG agenda. There should be more sharing of innovation between the countries,” the Vice-President said.

Along those lines, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, underlined that the integration segment provided an opportunity to bring together different analytical competencies, experiences and challenges in integrating the three pillars of sustainable development.

“It is crucial for examining key policy questions – and there will be many new and complex issues that require continuous search for innovative solutions,” he said.

For its part, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is undertaking several activities in order to support SDG implementation in an integrated manner, he said.

Among the activities include strengthening and integrating its demonstrated, in-house analytical capacity in areas such as the global economy, social development, population, public administration, as well as data, statistics, financing and capacity building. DESA is also responding to Member States’ increased demand for integrated support to build national capacities for SDG implementation, as well as promoting participation of a wide range of stakeholders working towards sustainable development solutions, he said.

“The UN is striving each day to support Member States to meet the high expectations set by the 2030 Agenda,” Mr. Hongbo stressed.

Every year, ECOSOC convenes an integration segment for three days in May on the main theme of the Council. The outcome is a summary by the ECOSOC Vice-President highlighting the main policy recommendations arising from the discussions and providing guidance on integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development.