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Responding to Michael Liebreich’s blog

It was with great interest that I read Michael Liebreich’s blog on the SDGs. For those of my readers who do not know Michael he is doing great work at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. He and Bloomberg have hosted some very useful meetings on SD finance over the past few years.

That brings me to his most recent blog. I can understand that some people are unhappy about the number of SDGs and the number of the targets. As I have said in previous blogs the difference between the MDGs and the SDGs is that the MDGs dealt with just development and developing countries and the SDGs deal with sustainable development and ALL countries. The world is a very complex and we find ourselves dealing with so many issues that are critical BECAUSE previous agreements such as Rio 1992 were not implemented. Lets not make that mistake again.

It is true the UK has been trying to reduce the goals but again for the reason that I mentioned in previous blogs they have been told to stop doing that by the UK Environment Audit Select Committee, basically for the reasons I put above. It is good to see a parliament holding an Executive accountable.

Michael be careful who you quote and align with. The UK has not played a good role on the SDGs -since before Rio. Again in a previous blog I mentioned that they were lobbying against the EU position at Rio (2012) in the context of agreeing any goals there. This was because the UK PM wanted to have a free hand when he co-chaired the Secretary General’s Panel this has not been forgotten by EU colleagues. The UK had a high handed approach to the panel, some have gone as far as saying ‘bullying’ also caused a reaction against some of the suggestions they put forward particularly the ones around governance and peace.

From 2011 one of the great problems has been the development community governments and development NGOs initially and some even until mid through last year campaigning against the ‘sustainable’ part of the SDGs – they just wanted an MDG+….so context is vital to understand how we got where we have got to.

The SDG OWG came to a political compromise which contains some commitments that are very important. There will NOT be any reduction on the number of goals, Im sorry Michael but no one is lobbying for this now or at least not formally. There may be some clustering and the Secretary General made a suggestion on that in his report. It is too early to know if governments will agree to this, but it can be done once everything agreed in PR terms.

There are only just over a 100 targets in 1-16 of the SDGs, if you take the MOI targets out. The Means of Implementation discussion has to be finalized together with the Financing for Development process so there may be some targets in SDG17 that go to FfD or will be negotaited in the Ffd process and replaced in the June or July negotiating session. I have for a long time argued that the South African government non paper from 2002 would be a better way to address   MOI as a common policy framework under each of the goals eg what – capacity building needs to be done, what technology facilitation needs to be done, what are the governance issues, what are the financial requirements (here Michael I am sure would be able to advice on the energy financial mix), what partnerships could be formed. This would still leave what we know as MDG8 issues in SDG17 eg trade, debt, aid etc

Finally the issue of follow up will be critical to accountability and this will be discussed in May. Already a discussion is happening among governments on strengthening the High Level Political Forum, what roles Sustainable Development Councils may take and parliaments, how to utilize peer group review mechanisms for national reporting and should the intergovernmental process review the goals and targets sectorally or cross-sectorially? Finally what are the indicators for the goals? Here the process will be established by the UN StatisticalCommission in March setting up an Inter Agency Committee with 10-15 governments as well as UN Agencies and Programmes and Commissions to report with a framework and a package by February 2016. There is some great work going on in preparation for this.

Am I happy with 17 SDGs and the targets associated? Is it a trans-formational agenda? I think so of course there are areas I would have gone further in such as SRHR and governance but now lets focus on how we are going to work together to implement. 

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