A perspective on the new paper by the co-chairs of the Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group

We are now getting into a very interesting period in the Sustainable Development Goals process. There has been slimming down of the number of Focus areas from 19 to 16. This has been done by combining a number of Focus areas.

New Focus area 8: Economic growth, employment and infrastructure – is a combination of old Focus area 8 – Economic growth, old Focus area 10 on Infrastructure and old Focus are 11 on Employment and decent work for all. The New Focus area 9: Industrialization and promoting equality among nations – is a combination of old Focus area 9 Industrialization and old Focus area 12 on promoting equality.

The other main change is old Focus area 18 on Means of Implementation has been  either “mainstreamed” under each of the new focus areas or it’s a new Focus area 15 combining MOI and Global Partnerships for Development.

I have been arguing a similar line to most of G77 that it only makes sense if Means of Implementation ( e.g. capacity building, education, technology transfer, governance, funding)  is mainstreamed this will be a way of holding governments and stakeholders accountable to what they said they will do.

Means of Implementation should sit under each of the cluster areas in a structure something like the 2002 South African non-paper:
  •  proposed targets and timeframes
  • proposed actions
  • resources
  • institutional mechanisms
  • co-ordination
  •  monitoring
  • stakeholder involvement
  • implementation plan sustainability

There have been some developed countries who argue this is too difficult. They might want to look at both the South African 2002 Non Paper and Agenda 21 both of which seemed to be able to do it.

Some reflections
The co-chairs and the UNDESA Division on Sustainable Development should be complimented on how they have brought stakeholder views into the new paper and footnoted them. This builds on the approach taken for the zero draft for Rio+20. The SDG OWG is a temporary body of the UN General Assembly, a place where stakeholders have no rights of participation, so this is a very positive development.

The paper’s footnotes say a lot on which governments and which stakeholders have engaged in this process and what they have been asking for. The World Society for Protection of Animals has done very well both in the food focus area and the health focus area. I think as an organization they had the most single mentions – three in the footnotes. They are a very good case study of how to do this work around the UN. They were one of the first organizations with actual suggested targets and indicators for governments to see and played a very good hand in building relationships with governments.

Many stakeholders worked through the Major Group coordination mechanisms so it is less clear which organization led in particular areas but taking the women’s major group I count twenty four mentions, the Children and Youth twenty one mentions and for the local and regional government major group there were eight mentions.

What was very surprising was that SDSN only had one mention and none to the one million people who took part in the World We Want survey. The other group that should be pleased is the Rome based agencies, whose excellent work was led by IFAD. They brought together some very good targets and indicators in a very collaborative way and also worked collaboratively with stakeholders and governments. Finally Communitas is an example of a coalition that worked very much with governments, their major group but also with other stakeholders. They have at this point secured what they were set up to do and that is a stand-alone goal on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements in the present draft.

The Way Forward
For organizations who do not have their particular target reflected in the present text you have just over a week to persuade a government/governments to take that forward. If what they have in the present text you don’t like the same applies. By the time the session starts in May it will be very difficult to get governments to add to their game plan.

Beyond this session of the SDG OWG it will move into negotiations and the final two meetings will refine the present document more. The main areas for concern will be:
·         Means of Implementation
·         Focus are 16 Peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions
·         We could see some potential Focus areas questioned and it is probably unlikely that this will be resolved by the end of the SDG OWG

The document in July will capture where there is agreement and where there isn’t. For stakeholders the next BIG space for groups to come together and agree a strategy for the UN General Assembly and the negotiations in 2015 is the 65th UN DPI NGO Conference which is the 27th-29th of August. Under the leadership of Jeffrey Huffines (CIVICUS) this is a vital event for stakeholders to attend in New York.

The Focus areas and possible Goals
The co-chairs have given a suggested text for the goal under each Focus area. I am putting it as a goal they have not yet called it that. I am also putting under each Focus areas the goal areas that the 2011 UN DPI NGO Conference, which was the first stakeholder event to support SDGs, called for. We started the 2011 Declaration Chairs text with:

 “To achieve the goals of Rio + 20 in an ambitious, time-bound and accountable manner, we call upon governments in accordance with human rights, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and 438 respective capabilities to adopt the following draft Sustainable Development Goals together with the sub-goals, reasons and clarifications relating to each goal. Out of the 16 Focus areas in this draft from the co-chairs the DPI NGO Conference called for 11 and half of these areas.”

The Focus Areas

Focus area 1. Poverty eradication, building shared prosperity and promoting equality

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO

Focus area 2. Sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition

Goals 2: End hunger and improve nutrition for all through sustainable agriculture and improved food systems

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 3. Health and population dynamics

Goal 3: Healthy life at all ages for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 4. Education and lifelong learning

Goal 4: Provide quality education and lifelong learning for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 5. Gender equality and women’s empowerment

Goal 5: Attain gender equality and women’s empowerment everywhere

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO

Focus area 6. Water and sanitation

Goal 6: Water and sanitation for a sustainable world

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 7. Energy

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, sustainable, and reliable modern energy for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 8. Economic growth, employment and infrastructure

Goal 8: Promote sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth and decent jobs for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES (Economic growth –called new indicators of progress and sustainable livelihoods)

Focus area 9. Industrialization and promoting equality among nations

Goal 9: Promote sustainable industrialization and equality among nations

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) No

Focus area 10. Sustainable cities and human settlements

Goal 10: Build inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 11. Sustainable Consumption and Production

Goal 11: Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 12. Climate change

Goal 12: Take urgent and significant action to mitigate and adapt to climate change
Build a climate change goal based on the outcome of COP21 of the UNFCCC

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 13. Conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas

Goal 13: Take urgent and significant actions for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 14. Ecosystems and biodiversity

Goal 14: Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems and halt all biodiversity loss

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 15. Means of implementation/Global partnership for sustainable

Goal 15: Development Strengthen global partnership for sustainable development

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO

Focus area 16. Peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions

Goal 16: Peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO


Over the years my experience has been that stakeholders have their most impact early on and the UNDPI NGO Conference in 2011 did just that with having substance on the possible SDGs available for governments to consider. As the process moves into negotiations the impact of stakeholders becomes less and less – unfortunately many do not engage until the later part of the process and are frustrated when they are enable to change the direction of a negotiation or get their issues raised. What has been unusual about this process is that stakeholders have been able to provide input into the process since July 2011 when Colombia first put it forward, there have been thematic discussions online, country consultations, a High level panel, a major UN Conference (Rio+20) online outreach through the World We Want, expert workshops, conferences and panels. It will be very difficult to argue that people haven’t had their chance to input.

Input is of course one aspect of this – the other is how close is your relationships with the governments who will be making the decision. Have you met your government regular in capital, have you reached out and met government’s reps at the meetings to explain your position? These will be what will impact the process as we move forward.


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