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

Published: 08 November 2013

The 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 more than 350 governments, civil society, private sector, academia and the United Nations representatives from over 40 countries 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. With Millennium Development Goals poverty has been cut 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 risen in a number of interlinked areas including accountability, employment, health, education, gender equality and environment.

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

During the two day event participants also exchanged views on why cities are a significant part and driver of global environmental change. Participants underscored the need to make choices to create sustainable cities full of opportunities and services for all. Urban planning, governance, technology and citizen participation will be crucial factors to move towards smart, resilient and green cities.

Health and social inclusion were also on the agenda of the conference and it was once again reiterated that health is a human right and governments should take necessary steps to make health services accessible to all.

On 7 November, the official opening of the event, entitled “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 stressed 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 to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and said that Turkey has already reached the internationally set targets. Minister Yılmaz also said that Turkey's official development assistance was over two billion US Dollars in 2012.

Minister Yılmaz asserted that the international community has to work more to harmonize economic and social development and protecting the environment- the three main elements of sustainable development. He further argued that justice should constitute the fourth element of sustainable development because without justice a peaceful world cannot be established.

UNECE Executive Secretary Mr. Sven Alkalaj stated: “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, he added: “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”.

''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, underlined that the Sustainable Development Goals should be measurable and concrete and encompass both 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 declared that local governments want to take an active role in shaping the Post 2015 Development Agenda and be part of the solutions to the challenges the world faces today.

Regional consultations started on 6 November with civil society consultations in which 80 civil society representatives took part. Participants agreed that in order to achieve development targets, universal goals and commitments are needed and that the new agenda should be developed in a participatory manner. Emphasizing the importance of participation of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in 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.

The area of 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 exemplary for the various challenges and opportunities facing the global community in building inclusive societies, ensuring environmental sustainability, achieving equitable growth 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 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 attending 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.

More information is available at: www.worldwewant2015.org/EuropeCentralAsia.



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