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Editor's Note: Looking Back and Looking Forward 

Issue #217 | 19 December 2013

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By: Lynn Wagner, Ph.D., Group Director, SDG Knowledge, IISD <>

A number of the news stories in this issue of Linkages Update suggest that, while 2013 was an extremely busy year for sustainable development policy makers, 2014 is shaping up to be even busier.

Many of the intergovernmental sustainable development events during 2013 were set in motion by the outcome from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). As the editor's note that I wrote right after Rio+20 noted, the true legacy of that event is still being determined, through the follow-up events that it called for. The work of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will determine one of the primary legacies from Rio+20, and this issue of Linkages Update reports on the two most recent OWG meetings. As our Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis from OWG 6 explains, the OWG process is still at the “input” stage, listening to all governments' and stakeholders' ideas about priority themes to incorporate into the SDGs. Some ideas for how the OWG could move from the inputs to the final output began to emerge from the Group's discussions, including the preference expressed at the conclusion of OWG 6 to focus on identifying targets and goals and rely on the Rio+20 outcome as the narrative basis for action. Also at the conclusion of OWG 6, delegates learned the dates of five one-week meetings that are to be added to the previously scheduled two one-week meetings in 2014, to facilitate efforts to achieve the OWG's mandate from Rio+20 to deliver a report to the next UN General Assembly session.

In addition to these seven OWG meetings in 2014, OWG delegates also highlighted other events in 2014 that would feed into this process, including: the review of implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action; the Third International Conference on SIDS; the Secretary-General's Climate Summit and the Lima Climate Change Conference; the fourth Africa-Europe Summit; the First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation; an OECD ministerial meeting on the reform of the development financing process; and the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous People. This issue of Linkages Update highlights that the preparatory process for the SIDS Conference has been approved, and our calendar highlights additional key events to watch for in 2014, from the Global Environment Facility Assembly to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Coordination among processes is likely to be a key topic in 2014, to ensure that the various inputs can feed into the outputs of the process that will begin in September 2014, to negotiate the post-2015 development agenda. A key group for the OWG to coordinate with will be the Rio+20-inspired intergovernmental process under the UN General Assembly to propose options on an effective sustainable development financing strategy. This issue of Linkages Update highlights the summary from the Co-Chairs of the second meeting of this Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICSDF). And coordination with the “input” stage from the post-2015 development agenda process will also be critical, from the thematic consultations that concluded in 2013 with high-level leadership meetings to the recently announced consultations for 2014 on “how to make the agenda work.” An additional coordination issue introduced in this issue of Linkages Update will be that of designing indicators, targets and goals to incorporate data and measurement requirements and "ensure their measurability."

As 2013 comes to a close, we at IISD RS wish you all the best for the holiday season. We look forward to following these policy developments in 2014, and to watching how the sustainable development community coordinates the multiple inputs as it works to set the post-2015 agenda.