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The path to Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals

The latest meeting of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group (SDG OWG) met for three days last week. For those who are not aware the SDG OWG is one of the positive outcomes from the Rio+20 Conference last year.  It put sustainable development at the center of the post 2015 development goals which will be agreed in late 2015.

Initially it had a troubled birth because 70 countries wanted the 30 seats. This in the end caused some very interesting pairing up breaking down traditional groupings. The most interesting ones I think are the following:

·         USA/Canada/Israel

·         Cyprus/Singapore/UEA

·         India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka

·         Iran/Japan/Nepal

·         Denmark/Ireland/Norway

·         Italy/Spain/Turkey

This is not to mention many of the others are paired within a geographical region. This may mean that the traditional groupsings of the European Union and G77 may play less a role as it makes it easier for some states at certain levels of development to put their case a lot stronger.  

The second meeting of the SDG OWG had a series of moderated interactive discussions guided by the following:

·                     Overarching framework: poverty eradication and sustainable development

·                     Cross-sectoral issues will underpin all discussions, inter alia: governance, inequality and equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment, human rights and rights-based approaches, means of implementation

·                     Guided by: the principles affirmed in the Rio+20 outcome document, the need to balance the economic, social and environmental dimensions, ensuring coherence, implementation and assessing progress

The representatives of the countries attending were at a high level with Ambassadors and some Ministers or high level civil servants from capitals.

Governments are clearly investing in the process.

There is an excellent chair’s concluding remarks which give us the beginning of a roadmap forward on how we might bring together the two processes of the MDGs and the SDGs. As always the contribution of Paula Caballero from Colombia is worth listening to. The UN Webcast the three days and you can find the first day here.

They also agree a work programme for the SDG OWG until February next year.
May 22-24th 2013: Third Session SDG OWG – 3 days - (a) Food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation drought (1.5 days) and (b) water and sanitation (1.5 days)

June 17-19th 2013: Fourth Session SDG OWG   – 3 days – (a) Health and Population Dynamics (1,5 days); b) Employment, decent work, Social Protection, Youth and Education (1,5 days).

November 25-27th 2013: Fifth Session  SDG OWG  – 3 days – (a) Sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic issues (including trade and debt) infrastructure development (2 days)

December 9-13th 2013: Sixth Session SDG OWG – 5 days -  (a) Means of Implementation; global partnerships for achieving sustainable development goals (3 days) – (b) Needs of countries in special situations, LDCs, LLDCs, SIDA and Africa (2 days)

January 6-10th 2014:  Seventh session SDG OWG– 5 days – (a) Sustainable cities and human settlements, sustainable transport (1.5 days); (b) Energy (1.5 days),  - (c) sustainable consumption and production, climate change, and disaster risk reduction (2 days)

February 3-7th 2014:  Eight session SDG OWG – 5 days – (a) Oceans, forests, biodiversity (2 days), (b) promoting equality, including social equality and women’s empowerment ( 2 days),  - (c) Conflict, peace and security (1 day)

Although this will change with some additions the dates and most of it will be as it is in this list.

If you are interesting in sustainable development then this is the major place to  be engaged as the outcome from 2015 will have a huge impact on funding sustainable development and priorities of governments, the UN, the Bretton Woods Institutions and stakeholders over the period 2015-2030.

To follow this then the UN sustainable development web site is a great place to start if you are stakeholders then go to Major Groups button and find your Organizing Partner.

Soon to be announced will be the other significant outcome from Rio+20 the committee on Sustainable Development Finance. This will develop the funding matrix for the new 2015 development goals and its success will be critical to if the new goals have the right funding packages around them to help immediate implementation post 2015.

Rio+20 created the tools for the serious work to be undertaken. With a possible new climate agreement in 2015 then this is the time to get involved to try and ensure we are working together on a path to a more sustainable future. It is surely a time for boldness, for passion, for vision and for our joint commitment to create a better and more sustainable future for the next generations.


New book due out in November 2013:

From Rio+20 to a New Development Agenda: Building a Bridge to a Sustainable Future.

By Felix Dodds, Liz Thompson and Jorge Laguna-Celis





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