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Signposts to the 2015 new Development Goals

Signposts to the 2015 new Development Goals
Having just attended the Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group and the consultation with Major Groups held the week before I wanted to share a number of reflections with this blog.

Major Group Consultation
On Friday November 22nd what was billed as an “Intersessional Meeting between Major Groups and other stakeholders and the Open Working Group on SDGs” turned out to mostly Major Groups talking to themselves. It was an excellently put together day with four sessions covering:

  • Rights-based SDGs that encompasses all dimensions of Sustainable Development;
  • How the Sustainable Development Goals can eliminate inequalities and poverty;
  • Good governance, enabling environment and institutions at the core of implementing SDGs
  • Designing SDGs that foster human development within planetary boundaries (including climate change and natural resources management).


Looking around the room I could see the two Co-chairs of the SDG OWG or their Deputies from Hungary and Kenya there and then Brazil, Italy, Mexico and Ethiopia – there may have been a few others I didn’t recognize but not many. There was a call on the final panel of the day by WADS Wijetunge: Children and Youth Major Groups for a High Commissioner for Future Generations.

High Commissioner for Future Generations
Interestingly parallel to the day there were negotiations on the Agenda 21 and assorted resolutions being debate in Committee 2 of the UN General Assembly. This is where most of the real game was and perhaps one of the saddest aspects of this set of parallel sessions was that what was happening in relation to the idea of Intergenerational solidarity and the needs of future generations the recent Report of the Secretary-General which had the recommendation:

” 68. Member States may wish to invite the high level political forum to consider, at its second meeting, in 2014, the possible institutional arrangements proposed in this report and other suitable mechanisms to promote intergenerational solidarity for the achievement of sustainable development, taking into account the needs of future generations.”

Here it was being kicked into touch without it seems any opposition from the EU, US or supporters in G77. It’s unclear where or how it will come back onto the agenda in New York, perhaps around 2015 but clearly there is a huge amount of work to be done with the New York Missions to make that possible.

Sustainable Development Goals

For many groups engaging in the process it has been confusing to work out where to put their energy into the online processes, the SDG OWG, the High Level Panel, the country or thematic consultations, with UN Agencies and Programmes, the Major Group work or the coalition’s such as Beyond 2015.

My advice when asked is which of these means you are spending most of your time talking with governments. While running Stakeholder Forum I always told my staff if you are spending more than 20% of your time with stakeholders then you are not doing your job.

In reality of course you need to have your organizations views reflected in as many places as possible but if you had to choose the one that is likely to have the biggest impact was always the SDG OWG. Why because it was set up by governments and had 70 of them on the OWG under the UN General Assembly which will be the body that negotiates the new Sustainable Development Goals.

So what will happen from here on in:
  1. The SDG OWG will have three more sessions in December, January and February
  2. The co-chairs with UNDESA will draw up a first draft of what they will need to negotiate with member states of the SDG OWG (the 70 countries)
  3. A draft will probably be available towards the end of February beginning of March.
  4. The report has to be ready for the UNGA session in September but should be ready with the Committee on Financing Sustainable Development in time to enable the Secretary General to produce his report. That report will need to be available in all six UN languages by mid-August so negotiations will need to conclude by the end of July.

What will the report look like?
The co-chairs would like to have a set of goals defined these would be aspirational something like “Universal Health for All” might be the health goal.
This might be possible to agree for some of the goal areas but not all of them. The core likely goals that might and I say might be able to be agreed would include:

  •   Health
  •  Education
  • Water
  • Food
  •  Poverty

Others that are seen as core goals but may not be reflected in the negotiations in full could include:
  •  Energy
  • Employment
  • Urban
  • Global Partnership

There some which might be considered as independent goals or cross cutting these include Gender and Governance. Is human rights a framework which goals can sit in or a cross cutting set of targets?
Outliers for goals are oceans, forests, disaster relief and what to do about peace and security.

None of these would be likely to be reflected in the negotiations before August but left for the next stage after September when governments get really down to negotiations and will still need to re-visit any of the agreed text from the SDG OWG.

On targets what can we expect? The co-chairs are pushing for real targets with  verbs and dates but my guess is that we may get are themes for targets under the goals and the actual targets would be left to the later negotiations after the September UNGA. It is likely that there will be global targets but also room for ones to be developed nationally. What is unclear is the narrative that would sit under.

On indicators it is highly unlikely that these will be negotiated by governments but handed to experts to develop to underpin any of the targets. These will also be very country specific.
What to do about climate and biodiversity? It seems that spaces could be left if governments wanted for the conventions to put forward a version after the 2015 Special Session. For biodiversity these would probably be based on the Nagoya targets. For climate well………


2014 is shaping up to be a really important year for the world and if you are reading this and engaged in the process ask yourself each day which governments have I spoken to.

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