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Summary report, 17–19 June 2013

4th Session of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) OWG on SDGs

The fourth session of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place from 17-19 June 2013, at UN Headquarters in New York. The meeting brought together OWG members, other member states, observers, and representatives from UN agencies and Major Groups. The meeting was devoted to addressing the thematic issues of: (a) employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture and (b) health, population dynamics. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, and Csaba Körösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, served as co-chairs.

Co-Chair Kamau opened the session saying the issues on the agenda are fundamental to sustainable development. Participants engaged actively with expert panelists and each other on all seven issues. The session also included a presentation from the lead author for the UN High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP).

After sharing the Co-Chairs’ draft summary on Wednesday afternoon, Kamau said the OWG is making “amazing” progress. He also reiterated his question from the close of OWG-3, that for each proposed goal and target, we must ask how to mobilize the resources to achieve it. He stressed the need to identify issues that are not only “goal-able” but also “globe-able,” which everyone can respond to. Kamau also highlighted the calls for an inter-generational partnership and the inclusion of voices of both youth and those over 65 years old.

The OWG has now reached its half-way point, and will not meet again until November 2013. The Co-Chairs will produce a short progress report to be delivered to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) by the end of August.


During the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 13-22 June 2012, governments agreed to launch a process to develop a set of SDGs. They called for establishing an OWG comprising 30 representatives from the five UN regional groups, nominated by UN Member States, to elaborate a proposal for SDGs to be submitted to the UNGA for consideration and appropriate action during its 68th session.

The outcome document outlines, inter alia:

•  the importance of remaining firmly committed to the full and timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and of respecting all Rio Principles, taking into account different national circumstances, capacities and priorities;

•  the SDGs should be action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries, and focused on priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development;

•  the need to ensure coordination and coherence with the processes considering the post-2015 development agenda, and to receive initial input to the OWG’s work from the UN Secretary-General in consultation with national governments;

•  the need to assess progress toward the achievement of the goals, accompanied by targets and indicators while taking into account different national circumstances, capacities and levels of development; and

•  the importance of global, integrated and scientifically based information on sustainable development and of supporting regional economic commissions in collecting and compiling national inputs to inform this global effort.

The UNGA endorsed the outcome document, titled The Future We Want, in resolution 66/288 on 30 November 2012.

UNGA SPECIAL EVENT ON “CONCEPTUALIZING A SET OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS”: On 16 October 2012, the UNGA Second Committee convened a special event on “Conceptualizing a Set of Sustainable Development Goals” at UN Headquarters in New York. The event served as an initial opportunity for participants to discuss how the SDGs can build on the MDGs, and possible elements of the characteristics and architecture of the SDGs.

INITIAL INPUT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL TO THE OPEN WORKING GROUP: On 17 December 2012, the UN Secretary-General released his initial input to the OWG (A/67/634). The report offers a synthesis of the input received from a questionnaire sent to Member States in September 2012. It includes Member States’ views on: SDG priority areas; balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development; key use of SDGs at the country level; defining national targets for global, universally applicable goals; incorporating existing goals and targets; ensuring coherence with the post-2015 development agenda; assessing progress; engaging all stakeholders; SDG principles; and a new global partnership for development.

UNGA RESOLUTION 67/203: On 21 December 2012, the UNGA adopted resolution 67/203 which calls for the OWG to report to the Assembly in the early part of its 68th session, preferably before the first meeting of the high-level political forum (HLPF). It also calls for the OWG to report regularly on its progress, taking into account the convening of the first HLPF and the UNGA Special Event to follow-up on efforts made towards achieving the MDGs.

UNGA DECISION ESTABLISHING THE OWG (67/555): On 22 January 2013, the UNGA adopted a decision establishing the membership of the OWG as allocated to the five UN regional groups. According to the annex to the decision, six seats are held by single countries: Benin, Congo, Ghana, Hungary, Kenya and Tanzania. Nine seats are held by pairs of countries as follows: Bahamas/Barbados; Belarus/Serbia; Brazil/Nicaragua; Bulgaria/Croatia; Colombia/Guatemala; Mexico/Peru; Montenegro/Slovenia; Poland/Romania; and Zambia/Zimbabwe. Fourteen seats are held by trios of countries, as follows: Argentina/Bolivia/Ecuador; Australia/Netherlands/UK; Bangladesh/Republic of Korea/Saudi Arabia; Bhutan/Thailand/Viet Nam; Canada/Israel/US; Denmark/Ireland/Norway; France/Germany/Switzerland; Italy/Spain/Turkey; China/Indonesia/Kazakhstan; Cyprus/Singapore/United Arab Emirates; Guyana/Haiti/Trinidad and Tobago; India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka; Iran/Japan/Nepal; and Nauru/Palau/Papua New Guinea. One seat is shared by four countries: Algeria/Egypt/Morocco/Tunisia.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS IN PREPARATION FOR THE FIRST SESSION OF THE OWG: Informal consultations were conducted from 6-12 March 2013 on the Programme of Work, the possible arrangements and the draft methods of work of the OWG’s first session.

FIRST SESSION OF THE OWG: OWG-1 took place on 14-15 March 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York. During the meeting, which included Member States’ statements and an interactive discussion on “Conceptualizing the SDGs,” participants shared their initial views on both the process and substance of the SDG framework.

EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON SCIENCE AND SDGs: Organized jointly by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the International Council for Science and the International Social Science Council, the Expert Group Meeting on Science and SDGs took place on 20-21 March 2013, at UN Headquarters in New York. Participants discussed the need to make science more accessible to policy-makers and the general public, the importance of new forms of governance that can adequately address scientific evidence and phenomena, and scientific innovation and capacity building in developing countries.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS ON THE PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR THE OWG: Informal consultations on the Programme of Work for the OWG were held on 5 April 2013. Delegates considered, inter alia: how to identify thematic issue areas and appropriately cluster them for discussion; the importance of poverty eradication as an overarching issue; and how to document each OWG meeting.

SECOND SESSION OF THE OWG: OWG-2 took place on 17-19 April 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York. Discussions addressed conceptualizing the SDGs and the SDG process, as well as poverty eradication. Delegates focused on the overarching framework of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and cross-sectoral issues including governance, gender equality and women’s empowerment, human rights and rights-based approaches, and means of implementation. Delegates also discussed the Programme of Work for 2013-2014 and for OWG-3 and OWG-4.

THIRD SESSION OF THE OWG: OWG-3 took place from 22-24 May 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York. The meeting was devoted to addressing the thematic issues of: (a) food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD), and (b) water and sanitation. On food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture and DLDD, delegates recognized: the inter-linkages between food, land, water and other development goals; the need to address nutritional needs, increased agricultural productivity and investment in agriculture; the need to support small-scale farmers, women, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, and fishers; the importance of addressing food price volatility and eliminating agricultural subsidies in developed countries; and the causes of land degradation and the need for land restoration and a “land-degradation neutral world.” On water and sanitation issues, delegates called for: universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; the use of a rights-based approach; and recognition of the inter-linkages and importance of water and sanitation for the attainment of many development goals, including health, child mortality, economic growth, and poverty eradication. Delegates also called for: improved preparedness for natural disasters; access to appropriate technologies for water treatment, recycling and re-use; and integrated water resource management.


Co-Chair Macharia Kamau opened the Fourth Session of the OWG on Monday morning by welcoming all delegates back to New York and introducing the two issue clusters for discussion at this meeting: (a) employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture; and (b) health and population dynamics. Saying these are core issues that sustainable development revolves around, he encouraged participants to think about the issues as they apply at both the universal and national levels. Kamau welcomed the contributions of stakeholders to the OWG, including consultations with Major Groups, briefing reports by the Technical Support Team (TST), and the reports of the HLP and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). Encouraging speakers to have an interactive debate, Kamau emphasized the importance of sharing ideas on the SDGs and discouraged the reading of formal statements.


Homi Kharas, Brookings Institution and lead author and Executive Secretary for the HLP, presented the Panel’s report. He said the process had been highly consultative, and the panelists learned the importance of fulfilling the promises of the MDGs, and that the post-2015 agenda must change course in many ways. He said the Panel believed the best way to provide input to the intergovernmental process was to synthesize and consolidate diverse opinions into relatively few priorities, and offer a narrative to inform a framework for Member States’ discussions.

Kharas said the resulting report is informed by four main drivers of change: demographic changes; rapid expansion of new technologies; availability of finance and need to organize the distribution of funds; and climate change, which he said the Panel had determined is inseparable from the poverty agenda.

On the first driver, demographic changes, which includes the fact that the number of children and youth has stabilized and the population is ageing, he noted it could enable a shift from focusing on access to focusing on quality of services.  He said implementing the post-2015 agenda may need to focus on growth in urban areas, making it easier and cheaper to provide services.

He said the key transformative shifts recommended by the Panel are universal and that every country has a responsibility to “put its own house in order” in order to achieve the post-2015 agenda. Accompanying this universal agenda, he said, is the Panel’s view that countries must own and lead implementation.

Finally, Kharas said the Panel felt its work was not complete in three areas: formulating global partnerships to ensure the post-2015 agenda goes beyond aid; accountability and implementation; and the need for more disaggregated data. He said this “data revolution” would require massive investment to build statistical and information systems in countries, and that these efforts should start now.


KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Greg Vines, Deputy Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the current lingering economic and social crisis is a concern for families and communities. He said the UN needs to address these fears and that the move towards a sustainable future will require major transformations in how people make their living. He emphasized that closing the gap between young job seekers and available jobs is a top priority and that improved training must build on good education, but children “can’t learn when they are hungry.” In closing, he said the UN system must help governments achieve integrated solutions to these interlinked problems.

INTRODUCTION OF THE UN TECHNICAL SUPPORT TEAM ISSUES BRIEFS: Vines introduced the TST’s Issues Brief on “Employment and Decent Work.” Its recommendations include: improve labor market statistical information; focus on job quality and productivity; a labor market perspective on environmental sustainability; a holistic policy approach; and a full international dimension.

Richard Morgan, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presented the TST Issues Brief on “Social Protection,” and emphasized the powerful contribution that this issue can make for development. He described the report’s recommendation for national “social protection floor” policies, which can address the symptoms and structural causes of poverty, reduce inequalities and vulnerability, empower women and girls, and realize human rights.

Jorge Sequeira, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), introduced the TST Issues Brief on “Education and Culture.” He called for the SDGs to include education as a cross-cutting issue across all goals, as well as a specific goal to achieve “equitable, quality, lifelong education for all.” He said the new framework must acknowledge culture, a neglected topic, as a driver for sustainable development.

GENERAL INTERACTIVE EXCHANGE OF VIEWS: Fiji, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), said the post-2015 development agenda and SDGs could be a turning point if the international community and national governments commit to a people-centered development agenda. On employment, he said: there needs to be new and more inclusive economic growth to assist the poor and marginalized and integrate migrant workers into society; that better jobs and market access in rural areas will address rural-to-urban migration; and that social protection reduces inequality and unemployment. He called for the implementation of commitments for a global strategy on youth unemployment, and said culture is an enabler and driver of sustainable development. On health, he called for attention on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that account for increasing deaths around the world. On population, he urged improved family planning and education for girls to reduce teen and unwanted pregnancies. He underlined that there must be means of implementation in each of the specific SDGs.

The European Union spoke of the importance of decent work and social protection when improving national conditions for growth and jobs, and highlighted cross-cutting issues of gender equality and governance. On education, he called for equitable access to quality learning beyond primary education to include early childhood, vocational, and tertiary learning.

Benin, on behalf of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), proposed goals for: full employment and decent work for all; universal coverage by social protection schemes in LDCs; youth access to secondary and higher education, vocational training and productive employment, healthcare, and an inclusive financial sector; and universal access and quality completion of primary, secondary, and tertiary education.

Denmark, also on behalf of Ireland and Norway, said examples from Nepal and Ethiopia demonstrate that “more jobs, green jobs, and decent jobs” can be achieved together. He supported a stand-alone goal and targets on decent work, and stressed that a proactive approach to environmental challenges is key to safeguarding and creating jobs in the long run. On social protection, he said effective, sustainable, and nationally owned social protection systems offer immediate positive effects as well as broader development impacts. Finally, he said quality education is the best investment a government can make, and welcomed its prominent place in the post-2015 agenda.

Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said youth-related issues are a priority, and young people should be at the center of development policy, planning and implementation. She said CARICOM is open to a stand-alone goal on employment and decent work, potentially including targets and indicators on social protection, and that youth should also be considered a cross-cutting issue.

Papua New Guinea, also on behalf of Nauru and Palau and the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS), supported a stand-alone goal on education as well as education’s inclusion as a cross-cutting issue in other goals, including a goal on healthy, productive and resilient oceans. Education for sustainable development, he said, should include climate change and disaster risk management education. He expressed openness to integrating measures on employment and decent work under a goal on poverty eradication or as a stand-alone goal.

Djibouti, on behalf of the African Group, called for a global strategy for youth, which includes employment. She said diversification from primary commodity production will create more jobs and reduce social unrest and inequality in Africa and will also create wealth and tax revenue that can mobilize resources to achieve education and social protection. She said social protection is a cross-cutting issue that should be a target across several goals and that respect for cultural diversity can be a separate goal or cross-cutting issue.

Italy, also on behalf of Spain and Turkey, said the creation of full and productive employment and decent work for all should be a fundamental objective. He underlined that increased investments in youth employment, active labor-market support, public-private partnerships, and synergies between schools and labor markets will improve opportunities. Further, he stated that an SDG on education for sustainable development is a key means of implementation, and that culture should be considered as a key element of any successful sustainable development policy or strategy.

Ghana, on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), proposed goals on employment and decent work opportunities, social protection, and youth development. He emphasized the need for national youth policies, for effective transitions between school and work, and for more investment in higher education programmes.

Montenegro, also on behalf of Slovenia, emphasized the linkages between education and sustainability. He called for a separate goal on education, while considering it a cross-cutting issue in all other goals, and called for education programmes to be cross-curricular and focused on global learning.

PANEL PRESENTATIONS AND INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: On Monday afternoon, the OWG heard panel presentations followed by an interactive discussion on “Employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture.”

Haroon Bhorat, University of Cape Town, speaking on global labor markets, compared current data on unemployment to that on the people classified as “global working poor.” As the working poor outnumber the unemployed four to one, he emphasized that goals and policies should work to address the first problem. Bhorat also spoke of the data limitations to measuring progress, as indicators differ between countries and in their effectiveness, and many data surveys are not widely available. He cautioned delegates to think very carefully about the indicators for potential goals on jobs and poverty reduction, and the types of data available to support them.

Bhorat responded to questions about designing effective interventions for the unemployed or working poor. He said that these two situations present very different strategies for intervention, with unemployment needing a focus on job creation, and the working poor requiring a broad increase of wage earnings. He agreed with a delegate that minimum wage policies can be a useful instrument, and that wage employment and self-employment are key factors in planning state interventions.

Bhorat stressed the need for “independence of action between and within countries,” allowing goals to be appended given specific national situations. He agreed with a participant’s statement on the harmful effects of non-tariff barriers for low-income countries. He encouraged delegates to think about the dynamics and diversity of the global economy when formulating the SDGs.

In Bhorat’s closing statement, he highlighted: the need for a data revolution and measurable goals; that there is no correlation between expenditures and educational outcomes; that social protection is crucial to support the working poor and is affordable in Africa; the importance of focusing on vulnerable groups; and the need to recognize the initial conditions of countries and construct goals applicable to all.

Karen Mundy, University of Toronto, discussed current proposals for education in the post-2015 development agenda. She recognized broad support for a stand-alone goal on education, with an expanded agenda to include early childhood and lower secondary programmes, attention to equity, and measurable targets. Mundy emphasized the stagnation of international financing for education and in the reduction of out-of-school children since 2009. Calling for a universal goal framed around the human right to education, she also highlighted the need for indicators to focus on equity, learning outcomes, youth and adult literacy, and local self-determination.

Mundy responded to delegates’ questions about defining “holistic education” by emphasizing basic education in reading, writing, and expression as the key to citizen engagement in society. She spoke of the negative effects of decreasing international aid on education programmes in Africa, and proposed looking for new forms of finance. Mundy also called for a “common and simple outcome that all can adhere to,” and targets that are easily measurable. On a question about the affordability of early childhood education programmes, Mundy said not to think of these programmes only in a school-based structure, and to realize the resources that school readiness saves in the future.

In closing comments, Mundy agreed with a participant about the importance of gender in education, and said the new goals should include a target on this issue. On defining quality of education, she said the OWG process could set a minimum expectation or “floor,” but that the most valuable input would come from citizens of each country. She stressed the SDGs should ensure that opportunities for education are spread as widely and evenly as possible across populations.

Fernando Filgueira, Consultant, former Collaborating Researcher for the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), said social protection should be financed by “social wages” defined as the state’s contribution to an individual’s material well-being. He suggested policies supporting: flexible and open labor markets; protecting workers rather than job positions; labor rights and unionization; labor mobility; mobility of capital while reaping benefits for social protection (such as through the Tobin tax which is aimed at cross-border currency transactions); World Trade Organization requirements on labor quality; and a global fund to help LDCs and middle-income countries to “leapfrog” over unsustainable technologies and provide green jobs. Finally, he suggested that the SDGs address the number of working poor, women not receiving income from their labor, the unemployed, families with children with no basic non-contributory social wage, children aged two to five years with no access to care systems, and elderly with no income.

In response to questions, Filgueira stressed the importance of regulation to distribute productivity gains to investments in human capital. He said early education would be one of the most important additions to the SDGs, noting benefits for children themselves, women’s participation in the labor market, and poverty reduction for households with children.

Filgueira said that in the SDGs, basic social protection should be independent of employment, suggesting that “being gainfully employed should not be a requirement to access a set of basic protective mechanisms.” Filgueira also said that a social protection floor enables the state to ensure a basic level of welfare without seeking a mere increase in consumption.

Filgueira’s closing comments noted that while globalization has had a positive impact on decreasing inequality on the international level, at the national level there has been diminished capacity to “tame globalization” and improve distribution of benefits. For this reason, he said regulation at the global level, a global taxation system, and increased national capacity are needed. He noted that the tax—although not necessarily the Tobin tax, to which Bhorat had voiced objection—could use financial flows to create funds for basic social protection.

In comments from participants, Colombia wondered how to incorporate macro-economic issues and other enabling factors that may not be “goal-able”. France, agreeing with the investment value of education, asked for ideas on financing these programmes, and to facilitate a necessary “change of paradigm.”

Tanzania referenced the ILO’s 2004 report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, which raises many of these issues, and asked why it hasn’t been mentioned. Bhutan said a stand-alone goal on reducing unemployment is very important. He referenced chronic unemployment, the transformation to sustainable economies, the need for targets on migration and the need to promote life-long learning.

Bolivia outlined three dimensions of a goal on education: basic education (primary education/literacy); building capabilities, technology and knowledge so young people are ready to join the labor market and get a decent job; and holistic education, including: education for peace, solidarity, tolerance, respect for life, protection of the environment, respect for Mother Earth, respect for community and other important values.

Bangladesh noted that solutions like micro-enterprises are all on the supply side, but without foreign markets, there is limited demand. Nigeria described employment, education, and social protection as necessary for the “wholesomeness of life,” and emphasized the role of national circumstances in their implementation. He called on delegates to integrate a state “responsibility to educate” in the post-2015 discourse.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union called for a shift away from increased production and consumption towards well-being, and added that while productivity has increased, the hours worked in developed countries have not been reduced. He asked to consider a target for developed countries to reduce work hours and pursue growth from a different perspective.

The Women’s Major Group highlighted reproductive rights education, which can empower women and impact education itself since it will permit girls to stay in school. She also called for strong measures to stop early and forced marriages.

The International Trade Union Confederation stressed full employment and decent work for all and universal social protection floors. He also talked about the role of public financing, the relevance of global financial taxes, illicit financial flows, pensions, and funding and technical assistance.

Greg Vines commended the presentations and interventions and stressed the need to move from just “jobs” to decent jobs and the importance of collecting employment data. The ILO representative emphasized the value in improving labor force surveys, and praised the idea of a national dashboard that can be linked to a set of global goals.

GENERAL INTERACTIVE EXCHANGE OF VIEWS: Co-Chair Körösi opened the meeting on Tuesday and discussed the civil society meeting earlier in the morning. He noted that stakeholders started addressing key issues and how to move forward, while identifying problems and challenges. He encouraged delegates to think about how to set priorities to make the transition to sustainable development. He noted that Brazil and Nicaragua posted their statements on the website in order to free up time for interaction, applauded them, and asked others to follow their example. He then opened the floor for comments.

Iran: noted that disaggregated data is the first step in defining goals; suggested that employment and decent work should be part of the overarching goal of poverty eradication; and suggested employment targets falling under three categories: structural features of labor markets, internal systemic issues, and cross-linked aspects. He said education should be both a cross-cutting issue and a single goal.

Zambia, also on behalf of Zimbabwe and the southern African group, said that while the MDG for education has resulted in greater enrollment in Africa, there is still a problem with completion rates, as the pupil-teacher ratio has increased and there are too many untrained teachers. She supported an SDG on education that captures the unfinished business of the MDGs.

Cyprus, also on behalf of United Arab Emirates and Singapore, said ensuring employment and decent work needs a holistic approach involving governments, the business sector, academia, and international cooperation. She said SDGs must: build on existing goals; include early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education; and address inequalities so education is accessible for all. She added that culture is a cross-cutting issue and should be integrated at all levels.

France, also on behalf of Switzerland and Germany, called for investing in innovation to finance social protection, underpinned by universal health coverage. He said that in February 2014 the OWG should discuss objectives on promoting productive jobs, including green jobs, and respect for rights and promotion of social dialogue. He expressed “anxiety” about not accounting for the impacts of culture.

Peru, also on behalf of Mexico, called for eliminating informal jobs, given their interference with tax gathering. She said protecting migrant workers is essential, education is a human right, and both formal and informal education should be considered in the context of multiculturalism. She also said social protection should be approached as a cross-cutting objective in the SDGs and institutionalized at the national level.

A youth delegate from the Netherlands, also on behalf of Australia and UK youth, called for attention to: youth unemployment through investing in quality education and green, decent jobs; girls’ access to education and health services; and fair, responsive and accountable governance that enables “courageous decisions for long-term benefit.” She said governments need youth in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and children and youth should be at the center of designing, monitoring and implementing the goals. She asked delegations to consider a youth-specific goal, or youth targets under multiple goals.

India supported the comments of the Netherlands about inter-generational equity, adding that intra-generational equity is also important. He stressed: full and productive employment for youth; a focus on NCDs and women’s health; trade opportunities, market access; and flexibilities on intellectual property rights, including in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) mechanism.

Belarus, also on behalf of Serbia, called for stand-alone goals on employment, social protection, education, youth, culture, health, and demographics and migration. He said addressing the unfinished business of the MDGs, especially on education and health, is important, but higher goals on these issues are needed.

Colombia, also on behalf of Guatemala, stressed the need to address what is “goal-able” and what is required for implementation. She called for approaches that reflect the interlinkages between education, employment, health, energy and clean water. She said there is a need for a flexible framework that takes into account shifts in economic and political geography, and that it is impossible to deliver on health, education and employment without the necessary infrastructure and technology.

Bulgaria, also on behalf of Croatia, said the SDGs should incorporate international standards on decent work. He said: social protection is a cross-cutting issue and needs to be addressed within employment; education, which is key to sustainable development, merits a separate SDG, which should include accessibility and measurable outcomes; culture should be either a separate goal or a sub-theme, and that all SDGs must address it; and youth should be a sub-theme of all SDGs.

Romania, also on behalf of Poland, said social protection should be a cross-cutting issue, with targets and indicators on poverty, education, employment, health, and food security and nutrition. On employment, she called for increasing opportunities for investment, trade and cooperation, and noted the need for statistical data for indicators.

Israel, also on behalf of Canada and US, said the SDG framework should give attention to: the policy and regulatory framework for employment; social protection and workers’ rights; entrepreneurship; gender equality and women’s empowerment in the labor force; and increasing opportunities for vulnerable groups. Social protection is integral since it addresses not just poverty’s symptoms but also its underlying causes. On education, he called for more attention to quality and outcomes, preschool, gender equality, and universal access to primary education. He asked for more ideas on filling data gaps.

The UK said: the conditions have to be right for job creation so firms can grow and employ more people; women must have the same economic rights as men; social protection is part of inclusive sustainable growth to end poverty; and youth bring new perspectives and fresh solutions to national and global challenges and must have access to education and decent jobs.

Japan drew delegates’ attention to the outcomes from the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) held earlier this month. He stressed: enhancing the quantity and quality of employment by providing necessary education, skills and training; entrepreneurship; enabling environment and infrastructure; data; and social protection.

Bangladesh stressed that business as usual will not work and the unfinished business of the MDGs must be addressed. With regard to the HLP report, he said that: inequality within and between countries must be addressed; international financial architecture must be examined; and there is no discussion on migration, especially climate-induced migration. He said that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity but has not been addressed head-on. Lastly, he underlined that means of implementation must be incorporated throughout the agenda, unlike the MDGs which segregated it into MDG 8, on developing a global partnership for development.

Saudi Arabia cited the changing face of the labor market, with youth unemployment as a new global challenge. She highlighted: government policies must incorporate the needs of youth and women to address employment; public-private partnerships are a source of job creation; access to education and training; economic diversification through investment in technology; and access to finance and loans for small businesses to address barriers to employment. She noted Saudi Arabia’s support for women’s employment and suggested a fund dedicated to measurement, as part of means of implementation.

Haiti expressed a preference for a separate goal on employment so it can play a catalytic role for other issues. She also said social protection could be considered as an indicator or target for other goals. She said education is linked to all aspects of sustainable development and must be a separate goal, with targets and indicators reflecting expanded objectives and greater attention to professional skills and eliminating gender discrimination.

Tunisia highlighted the youth employment crisis, including increasing unemployment for graduates in North Africa and the Middle East. His recommendations included: trade and investment policies to support employment generation; reform of international governance and economic institutions in support of decent work for all; and operationalizing the right to work. He encouraged urgent action on the commitment at Rio+20 on the global strategy on youth and employment (paragraph 24).

China, also on behalf of Indonesia and Kazakhstan, said the SDGs should create a goal for employment and decent work, with a linkage to other goals, and mainstream job creation into global macroeconomic policy. On education, the SDGs should build on the MDGs, further implement basic education for all and ensure lifelong learning and vocational training.

The Republic of Korea said the sustainable creation of decent jobs relies on transforming to low-carbon, green economies. Job losses in traditional industries will create a need for social protection. Employment and decent jobs should be the subject of a stand-alone goal, with targets on employment and training opportunities for youth and women. On education, he said the goal must encompass qualitative aspects and give special consideration to vulnerable social groups.

South Africa said: work must continue on the health MDGs, especially on HIV/AIDS and access to quality reproductive health services; respect for human rights without discrimination must be the foundation of the sustainable development agenda so no one is left behind; achieving full employment, decent work and sustainable livelihoods is the only way to improve living standards; affordable childcare and care for the elderly, disabled, and those with HIV/AIDS is essential; and the SDGs must emphasize access to quality education for all.

Ethiopia said: tackling youth unemployment would address the challenges of unemployment and under-employment; there is a need for a stand-alone goal on building productive capacity with different indicators to capture the three dimensions of sustainable development; and the post-2015 agenda should address the unfinished business of the MDGs, expanding access and completion of primary and secondary education and quality of education, and the expansion of higher, technical and vocational education. 

Ecuador described decent work as the link between economy and society, and a factor in social inclusion, and said access to decent work must be the basis for an SDG. He said: income indicators are not sufficient for assessing jobs; social inclusion and well-being must be reflected as well; education should address spiritual poverty in addition to material poverty by tackling discrimination, racism and violence; and that “culture is not a market product.”

Uganda said his country’s experience with MDG 1, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, shows that poverty reduction can result from expanded employment, not necessarily social spending, and that employment and decent work are fundamental goals in their own right. He said social protection should ensure healthcare and income security and urged empowering youth to participate in all development processes, emphasizing that the SDGs should increase youth employment opportunities. On education, he said the post-2015 agenda must address three key elements: equity, access and quality.

Nigeria said unemployed people should be seen as a resource, not a problem. On means of implementation, he said increased engagement of the private sector, international institutions and small- and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) will boost employment.

Russia stressed the importance of full employment and decent labor conditions for sustainable development and encouraged dialogue and partnership between trade unions, employers and authorities for innovative jobs, development of SMEs and professional training.

Jordan noted an evolving consensus that quality needs to be added to the quantity goals for education, but it should not be a choice between the two. She said there is a need to address NCDs, but there should be an outcome target, rather than a disease-specific target. She also mentioned reproductive healthcare and family planning, while taking into account cultural issues, means of implementation, tackling inequality, and gathering data and statistics.

Rwanda said poverty should remain a core focus of the post-2015 agenda, adding that employment for all will pave the way to sustainable development. She also mentioned employment as a fundamental human right, youth employment, and the importance of higher education and vocational and technical training.

The Commonwealth Secretariat said there is a need for more youth-specific disaggregated data, and that the post-2015 framework needs a specific goal on youth empowerment. Education goals should be universal and address access, equity and quality of education everywhere, but there should be flexibility in targets and deadlines, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.


Co-Chair Kamau introduced the afternoon session and the OWG’s consideration of health and population dynamics.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS AND PANEL PRESENTATIONS: Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Deputy Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), said the importance of health in the development agenda is not in dispute. He observed that consensus is emerging on a single overarching goal in the SDGs, rather than multiple health goals as in the MDGs. He suggested the overarching goal: could be phrased as “maximizing health at all stages of life”; should continue efforts toward the areas addressed by the MDGs; and add NCDs, cover social and economic determinants of health, include all age groups, and address the cost of care. He said targets for this goal could deal with access to services and affordability, i.e. universal health coverage (UHC), explaining that UHC: is both a means to better health and an end in its own right, allows integration of a range of issues, lends itself to adaptation to the needs of different countries, and provides a platform for a rights-based approach.

Asamoa-Baah echoed a suggestion from Ghana to avoid over-medicalizing health, suggesting a look at the social and environmental causes of health problems. He stressed the need for an indicator on quality of health services. On the need to invest in data, he said currently the most vulnerable are not counted, so figures are often estimates.

Hans Rosling, Karolinska Institute and Gapminder Foundation, presented animated demographic data, using declining worldwide rates of child mortality to show that people are not unwilling to use contraception. He suggested that the fertility drop to approximately two children per family is due to “decisions in bedrooms” that can be made when a family has appropriate resources.

Rosling highlighted that the richest countries use the majority of fossil fuels, while child deaths are concentrated in the poorest countries. He stressed the importance of energy in the context of extreme poverty, stating that one light bulb in a household saves as many lives as do vaccines. He also said that the former division of countries into developing and developed has been replaced by a convergence at the middle. Finally, he urged Member States not to focus too much on the quality of education, so as to guarantee basic education for everyone.

Rosling responded to comments on qualitative versus quantitative goals, for example in education. He said that even in bad education systems, some children will learn the basics, and we must never stop working on the quantitative reach of schooling just because of the enormous task of improving quality. Addressing Norway’s question on the effectiveness of one light bulb in a home, he said it enables families to care for children’s health, hygiene and education at night. He added that solar-powered light is not enough for critical tasks like surgery and food production. In response to Colombia’s question on an alternative to grouping countries as developed and developing, he said more stratification is needed, and to stratify differently for different purposes. For example, he said, almost all maternal and child deaths occur among the poorest two billion people, rather than in the “developing world,” which is too general to be accurate.

INTRODUCTION OF THE UN TECHNICAL SUPPORT TEAM ISSUES BRIEFS: A WHO representative presented the issues brief on health. She stressed that health is not only a contributor to sustainable development, but also a beneficiary, and should be considered as a key indicator of progress. She said the progress in global health in the MDGs has not been equitable across regions. She proposed maximizing healthy lives and accelerating MDG progress by prioritizing a global health goal.

A representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) introduced the issues brief on population dynamics by highlighting the increasing needs and expectations of a growing population and the accompanying pressures on natural resources. She discussed the benefits and complications of migration and urbanization, saying that demographic opportunities depend on the policies that are enforced. She stressed the importance of combating discrimination against migrants, creating livable and sustainable cities, and enacting rights-based policies informed by data.

PANEL PRESENTATIONS AND INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: Paulina K. Makinwa-Adebusoye, Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, presented on the state of maternal and child mortality, pregnancy risks, and population dynamics in developing countries, especially in Africa. She said most maternal deaths are related to pregnancy risks of high-parity births, frequent births, and births by mothers too young or old. Emphasizing that girls with higher levels of education survive childbirth at higher rates and have smaller families, she drew a link between the issues of health, education, economic growth, and population. Finally, Makinwa-Adebusoye presented on the “demographic dividend” age structure, in which economic, social, and good governance policies can harness the capabilities of the working population

Makinwa-Adebusoye responded to delegates’ questions and stressed that data disaggregation is very important to understanding population trends. To harness the demographic dividend, countries, she said, in combination with assuring good governance, should implement population and economic policies they already have in place.

Jeanette Vega, Rockefeller Foundation, proposed that UHC should be the umbrella SDG for health in the post-2015 framework, saying that in addition to linking with other sectors and enabling sustainable development, health is a human right. Defining UHC, Vega said it means all people can access the health services they need without incurring financial hardship. She explained that indicators can include cost and enrollment rates in health programmes. Vega recalled the 2012 UNGA resolution recommending consideration of UHC in discussions on the post-2015 agenda, and said several countries are moving toward UHC. She concluded by stating that UHC is the only proposal that embraces the whole health system and puts rights and equity at the center.

In response to a question, Vega said that the outliers in health indicators all have functioning and universal health systems in common. She also warned that many negative health behaviors are not lifestyle issues, but are often caused by the entrenched interests of the big food industry.

Saudi Arabia thanked the panelists, saying that presentations on the weaknesses of the MDGs were exactly what were needed. Tanzania raised the critical situation of migration and “brain drains” out of developing countries. Bhutan said that food is “the most intimate way we interact with our environment,” and asked for recommendations to address dietary overload of sugar and salt, sedentary lifestyles, and mental well-being.

Regarding Rosling’s presentation, France, also on behalf of Germany and Switzerland, said extreme poverty has been reduced but is still there, recalling the “forgotten people” who live on less than one dollar per day. He also underscored the link between the post-2015 development agenda and the ongoing negotiations on climate change.

Nigeria said Rosling had not mentioned the linkages between culture and population growth, noting that many Africans see children as a form of wealth. “Our parents still plead with us to have five or six children,” he added.

INTERACTIVE EXCHANGE OF VIEWS: Co-Chair Körösi reconvened the meeting on Wednesday morning to continue the discussion on health and population dynamics.

Benin, on behalf of LDCs, said poverty eradication efforts should focus on LDCs in order to “leave no one behind.” He said the post-2015 goal on health should build on the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) and include: universal reproductive healthcare; preventing deaths of infants and children under five years; ending maternal mortality; and creating livable and sustainable cities. He also said governments should consider recognizing climate change refugees.

Nauru, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said SDGs cannot be achieved without a responsive health system and a healthy environment. She highlighted health issues in SIDS including: water-borne diseases and salination, which are exacerbated by climate change; malnutrition due to the cost of imported healthy food; NCDs; and inadequate preventive health services. She said accessing healthcare must not cause financial ruin, and there is no single formula for establishing UHC in each country.

Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the PSIDS, proposed priorities for a stand-alone goal on health. He emphasized: prevention of non-communicable and communicable diseases; strengthening national health systems; maternal and child health; and sexual and reproductive health. On population dynamics, he highlighted the water and sanitation challenges that arise in island countries from urbanization and crowding.

Uruguay presented a statement also on behalf of Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey and the United Kingdom, stressing the importance of a human rights focus throughout the SDGs. He emphasized that empowerment of women, girls, adolescents and youth and the fulfillment of sexual and reproductive rights should be “critical pillars” of the agenda. He stressed equity, equality, and social justice for all to reach the potential of the sustainable development agenda.

Bahamas, on behalf of CARICOM, said that NCDs are a major cause of death in CARICOM states and warrant particular emphasis in the post-2015 development agenda. She also called for, inter alia: scaling up health intervention programmes; improving access to quality health services; improving collection, assessment and dissemination of health data; quality and quantity of health infrastructure; and long-term predictable financing. She also said a comprehensive approach to population ageing and migration must be part of the SDG framework.

The European Union stressed the importance of global environmental factors on health, and cross-sectoral linkages between health and other sectors; and added that the SDGs need to address unfinished business of the MDGs on maternal health and access to reproductive health, NCDs and access to health services; and that population growth, ageing, urbanization and migration are challenges and opportunities for all three dimensions of sustainable development.

Cyprus supported NCDs as an essential component of the health agenda, and that UHC must be included. She said the OWG discussions can be enriched from successful national experiences such as in Singapore, where medical savings accounts allow those who can afford it to set aside funds, freeing up government subsidies for those in need.

Poland, also on behalf of Romania, said population goals and targets should be compatible with human rights. She called for accelerating progress in areas where MDGs have not been achieved and formulating ambitious targets for the period to come. She stressed the importance of education on health risks arising from environmental threats, including climate change. She said a goal could address UHC and access to affordable, comprehensive and high-quality services at all stages of life.

Spain, also on behalf of Italy and Turkey, called for steady progress toward UHC, saying it is both universally applicable and could be adapted to national circumstances, with goals, targets and indicators that reflect existing agreements. He said the SDGs should address sexual and reproductive health and rights. On population, he called for consideration of environmental migration. SDGs should aim to improve quality of life and address the needs of youth and older people.

Slovenia, also on behalf of Montenegro, said that population dynamics and trends should be considered by every country and community when designing policies. On health, he stressed the important role of women, and sexual and reproductive rights, and addressed the environmental, social, and economic determinants of health.

The Netherlands said UHC is essential to break cycles of poverty and ill health, and that linkages between health, water, energy, sanitation, education, nutrition, and gender equality should be considered. She stressed the importance of prioritizing sexual and reproductive rights for women, the inequities in maternal mortality between countries, and implementing the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), asking, “Why does the gift of women to give life so often cost them their lives?”

The Republic of Korea said that efforts must be increased to achieve the unfinished health MDGs, and that progress on these goals should be continuously monitored. He said that a systematic and holistic consideration of population dynamics is needed for the formulation of goals, targets, and indicators, and that UHC should be a core SDG.

Congo, on behalf of the central African region: noted the relationship between reducing unemployment and private investment in a green economy and sustainable development; emphasized that youth must be the center of education and culture programmes; and stated that health is both an aim of and precondition for sustainable development.

Croatia, also on behalf of Bulgaria, called for: an overarching SDG on health that strengthens the links between health and development and ensures health as a human right; targets and indicators to focus on UHC, disease prevention, NCDs, and vulnerable populations; health-related targets included under other goals, such as food security, gender, and environmental sustainability; and forward-looking development goals to address population growth, de-population, ageing, and migration.

Norway, also on behalf of Denmark and Ireland, emphasized: a rights-based approach; gender equality and women’s empowerment; and the distribution of health within and across societies. Alongside a goal of UHC, he said possible targets could build on MDGs 4 (reduce childhood mortality), 5 (improving maternal health) and 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases), and focus on prevention and control of NCDs. Highlighting interlinkages, he said water management, energy access, food and nutrition, and climate change decisions all affect health.

Colombia said her “take-home message” from this session is that the health of people depends on the health of the planet and the animals. She cited the need for flexibility due to emerging challenges such as NCDs and zoonotic diseases. She also used health as an illustration of her delegation’s previously presented “modular approach” to the SDGs (dashboard proposal). She stressed the need to work with the UN’s statistical offices on cost-effective ways for governments to measure indicators, and on developing national baselines to inform countries’ commitments.

Anarfi Asamoa-Baah said that he was impressed by the richness and quality of the discussion so far. He highlighted the following areas of emerging consensus: progress in sustainable development will be reflected by progress in health; unfinished business of the MDGs should not be forgotten; a focus on sexual and reproductive health, NCDs, and strengthening the health system; paying attention to youth and the aged; a human-rights approach and ensuring gender equity; and shifting from a fragmented to an integrated approach to health. He said although there was convergence on these issues, it was broadly recognized that forces are preventing real progress from happening.

Iran said that health is a determinant and enabler of every pillar of sustainable development, and that education is also important. He said that a health SDG should emphasize means of implementation for capacity building, monitoring, training, and financing in health systems.

France, also on behalf of Switzerland and Germany, praised the positive spirit of the meeting, and expressed a wish for more interaction with representatives of the private sector. On population dynamics, he said young people and the ageing should be taken into account. He expressed commitment to sexual and reproductive health rights and endorsed other countries’ concerns about the impacts of climate change on health.

Bangladesh said that universal healthcare is key to sustainable development, but drew attention to the costs of these programmes, particularly in developing countries. He emphasized the benefits and costs of international migration, saying that partnerships should be developed between countries sending and receiving migrants. On urbanization, he spoke of the stress of unplanned urbanization on the provision of services in cities.

China, also on behalf of Indonesia and Kazakhstan, said priority areas for health include decreasing the spread of communicable diseases and NCDs, UHC, accessibility to medicine, and reducing maternal and child mortality. With regard to population, they said specific SDGs could include, based on the ICPD, a strategy of integrating population and development in decision making, promoting gender equality, coping with ageing and helping migrant communities.

Brazil, also on behalf of Nicaragua, stressed the need to address the health impacts of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, supported the idea of UHC, and stated that health is a human right and should be treated as such.

Malta called for full and comprehensive health services to be provided to everyone without discrimination and said the ICPD should be the guiding principle for achieving progress on population dynamics. He said no commitment can demand the legalization of abortion in any way or condone it as a method of family planning.

Liechtenstein called for accelerating progress on the health MDGs by focusing on the most vulnerable groups, ensuring UHC, and enabling universal access to education, especially secondary education. She called for: universal access to sexual and reproductive health, education and services; protection of women’s sexual and reproductive rights; decent work opportunities for youth; and a life free from violence.

Uganda said that the SDGs should build on MDGs and address health from two perspectives: UHC for all citizens at all stages of life; and well-resourced health systems. He stressed that the family unit can be an intergenerational bridge, and that the post-2015 agenda should allow for access to quality reproductive health services.

The Russian Federation said that health is an important element of a person-focused agenda, and UHC should be an umbrella goal. She stressed that health systems should provide prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and care by qualified staff.

The United States, also on behalf of Israel, said that health must have a central place in the development agenda, and recognized linkages to other goals and targets. She highlighted the difference between health outcomes and healthcare system outputs, and proposed consideration of: access and quality coverage; strong, well-designed health systems; and the improvement in the quality, quantity, and disaggregation of data. On population dynamics, she said that data must be used to improve policies on: voluntary family planning; empowerment of women; urbanization; the wisdom and potential of youth; and ageing populations.

The Holy See expressed its commitment to the right to basic healthcare for all, and called for a human-centered approach to health and population dynamics. In creating new goals on health, she called for states to move beyond reducing the goal to sexual and reproductive health and instead have a holistic understanding of the human person and their healthcare needs, saying the only thing preventing UHC is greed and profits.

Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed gender equality, empowerment of women and the rights of the child.

A representative of the Children and Youth Major Group noted the value in UHC, but stressed it must be focused on equity, quality of care and access. She said it is important to empower women and girls and provide access to family planning, and that the health impacts of climate change affect those least able to address them. 

Ethiopia called for greater attention to finishing the MDG agenda, while addressing: access to family planning and contraception, delivery of good quality health services, the importance of trained health professionals, NCDs, tropical diseases neglected in the MDGs, mental illness, access to clean water, sanitation, food, energy, and education. He said long-term, predictable finances for access to healthcare and medicine are needed.

Nigeria underscored the importance of the health needs of minorities and indigenous peoples, adding: the rural-urban dichotomy should be addressed; NCDs and neglected tropical diseases should be a priority; and the health of women, girls and youth is of the greatest importance in the post-2015 agenda. He also highlighted safety in the workplace, emergency and disaster risk reduction and healthcare delivery, access to medical technology, production of generic drugs, and statistical data, monitoring and evaluation, and means of implementation.

Japan raised three issues: the importance of realizing UHC; promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning and sex education; and ageing.

Peru, also on behalf of Mexico, called for rights-based governance. She said everyone should have access to health services, regardless of migratory status or nationality. She said migration should be approached as multi-dimensional, focus on the individual, uphold human and labor rights, and include a gender-based and inter-cultural approach.

Saudi Arabia said the OWG’s health focus should be on those who are dying, not on sexual rights. He said there would not be international agreement on this issue. Co-Chair Kamau responded that the OWG is not a forum for re-negotiating any issue, but for discussing everything in light of its impact on sustainable development.

The Women’s Major Group said fulfilling sexual and reproductive rights will help create the conditions necessary for sustainable development. She called for non-discriminatory access to healthcare and high-quality services, and said decriminalizing abortion and HIV/AIDS are urgent health and women’s rights priorities. She noted eliminating the gender pay gap is a crucial target for every country, and informal work should be regulated.

Local Authorities said all levels of government share responsibility for harnessing the sustainable development potential of urbanization and other megatrends. She highlighted the proposed modular structure (dashboard proposal) for the SDGs with regard to a goal on cities and human settlements, with targets that can be shared under other goals. On the needed data revolution, she urged governments to collect and standardize data at the local and sub-national levels.

Workers and Trade Unions stressed universal social protection, full, decent employment, and the right to healthcare. He said UHC must focus on access, quality and availability, and that governments bear the primary responsibility for establishing social protections.

UNFPA said the only way to achieve the demographic dividend is through public policies that promote human rights and increase opportunities for women, girls and teens. He added that coercive measures to control demographic factors do not work and are counterproductive, and it is important to move forward with reproductive rights.


On Wednesday afternoon, Co-Chair Kamau distributed the Co-Chairs’ summary bullet points from the meeting, and noted the “amazing” progress of the OWG and the rich discussion on a number of areas that affect sustainable development. As part of the discussion on each proposed goal and target, he said a simple question must be asked—how will this be achieved and how will we mobilize the resources? Acknowledging that that the goals are all interlinked, he suggested seeking goals that are both “globe-able” (applicable to anyone in the world) and country-specific, indicating it is the sum of the parts that will make a coherent whole. He said improvements on data and solutions to unemployment and underemployment will not all be driven by taxes or redistribution, but by entrepreneurs and enterprises who are the creators of jobs.

He said social protection addresses the causes of poverty and helps economies grow, emphasizing the need to ensure people do not fall back into poverty. However, he stressed, the importance of addressing financing and unequal access to education, saying “we cannot have sustainable development if half the population does not know what it means.” Further, he added: that sustainable development must start in the family, and production and consumption habits will not change if families do not see the need to change; and that everyone recognizes the value of culture in shaping values and attitudes.

He: stressed that youth want an inter-generational partnership; noted that both the voices of youth and those over 65 years are strong; and said health is a right and a goal although management of this goal is still to be determined. He pointed out that some suggest that there can be an overarching health goal, but said determining its interlinkages will be an important part of attaining sustainable development.

On population dynamics, he paraphrased a statement by Major Groups that “demography is not destiny”, and that there is potential for great opportunity. He said the OWG also heard about the upsides and downsides of migration issues and that these must be addressed.

He reminded delegates that OWG 4 marks the halfway point in the process and praised the stock-taking completed thus far, and announced the Co-Chairs would distribute a report on the progress in August 2013.

Saudi Arabia requested clarification on the Co-Chairs’ report. Kamau said it will be short and general, noting that the OWG had meetings, agreed on a method and programme of work, addressed several issues, built good momentum, and has some work left to do in order to come up with SDGs. It will not express agreement on specific goals, because this has not yet been reached.

The United Arab Emirates suggested an addition to the Co-Chairs’ summary on healthy diets. He also expressed concern that same-sex marriages will lower birth rates, with economic effects on entire societies. “What will happen to workers in factories that make baby food?” he asked. Kamau said that this comment represented the first mention of sexual orientation in the OWG and that it would be difficult to connect sexual orientation and sustainable development, which is the focus of the OWG. In response, France called for respecting cultures and legislatures of other countries. Saudi Arabia added there is no value in discussing this issue in the OWG, since there is no agreement on it.

Bangladesh asked for climate change to be better reflected in the Co-Chairs’ summary. Pakistan asked for the summary to reflect that health is a cross-cutting issue, and will not necessarily be simply “a goal.”

Peru, also on behalf of Bhutan, Colombia, Denmark, Guatemala, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the UK, suggested that the momentum on SDGs be kept up during the long break until OWG-5 in November.

Co-Chair Kamau said that he recognized delegations’ stamina and determination for the meetings ahead and closed the meeting at 4:50 pm.


Each morning at 9:00 am, the Co-Chairs held interactive discussions with Major Groups and stakeholders from civil society, to which Member States were invited. Each of the morning sessions featured two main panelists who provided a civil society perspective on the themes, followed by interventions from the floor, and concluding remarks by the panelists and Co-Chairs. The panelists during OWG-4 included:

•  Alison Tate, ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) speaking on behalf of the Workers and Trade Unions Major Group;

•  Masaya Llavaneras Blanco, DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New era) and speaking on the Women’s Major Group;

•  Samuel Kissi, Youth Coalition, Ghana, speaking on behalf of the Children and Youth Major Group;

•  Antonia Wulff, “Education International;”

•  Alexandra Garita, Resurj Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Women’s Major Group; and

•  Mikael Kalmus Eliasz, speaking on behalf of the Children and Youth Major Group.

The Co-Chairs integrated key points from these presentations and discussions into their summary of the meeting.


The fourth session of the OWG was a spirited three-day meeting that continued the Group’s work to take stock of a variety of substantive issues and consider their inclusion into a set of sustainable development goals. Co-Chair Körösi said that the OWG is still in the process of creating a “common knowledgebase” on the issues under consideration, and delegations approached this educational task with an overall positive attitude. Participants engaged with the topics through both formal and informal statements and panel discussions, and implored each other to consider each topic in creative and meaningful new ways.

Delegates faced a crowded agenda of seven different issue areas, each important and challenging in its own right. Some were pleased about how the discussions had progressed, particularly in how they revealed the interconnected nature of these issues, and actively highlighted the numerous inter-linkages. Seeing health, education, population, employment, social protection, youth and culture as “core issues of development,” delegates widely recognized that progress or failure in one area would have corresponding effects on the others. 


The unfinished business of the MDGs was a running theme, particularly when it came to the issues of health and education. Delegates pushed the panelists, and each other, to identify the shortcomings of the current goals, and proposed innovative ideas for the future SDGs. Equity, quality, universality, and human rights were repeatedly referenced as key concepts that must frame any new goals and targets.

On education, many delegations began to formulate ideas on goals to ensure good quality education, lifelong learning, and the development of vocational and transferable skills—all issues that were not addressed in the MDGs. On health, there was broad support for the inclusion of non-communicable disease prevention, and many promoted a goal on universal health coverage. A number of delegates gave passionate pleas for the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health rights in the SDGs.

There were also broad calls throughout the panel presentations on education, health, decent work and population dynamics to improve the quantity and quality of global data used to measure progress. Governments recognized these needs, and also called for the disaggregation of data to better reveal the conditions of vulnerable and marginalized groups. It was clear that many delegates believed addressing the structural causes of poverty, and the persistent problems of unemployment, underemployment, and sparse social protection, are fundamental to sustainable development.


Three days did not seem to be enough to do justice to the agenda and the discussions felt over-packed at times, with one delegate describing the meeting as a “laundry list of goal proposals.” Most recognized that it is not feasible to have a goal for every issue, but this did not prevent speakers from proposing as many as seven different goals in a single speech. Delegates privately expressed frustration at the paucity of true interactive dialogue on the issues, and were impatient for potential areas of consensus to be identified.

However, at the same time, the inter-linkages between issues were given much attention. As one delegation said, “We are getting to the point in the discussions where it is apparent how much each thematic issue affects and contributes to each other’s successes and failures.” Co-Chair Kamau stressed to delegates that, while there are many important topics being discussed, the sum of all issues is greater than each one individually.

Similarly, ideas for the overall SDG framework are developing and expanding. The “dashboard proposal” put forward by Colombia and Guatemala, which would define a core of agreed targets and indicators for each agreed goal, and allow countries to add more specific targets and indicators to reflect national or regional priorities or circumstances, seemed to be gaining traction. In addition, large groups of diverse countries began to deliver joint statements. Excellent panel presentations by stakeholders and inputs from Major Groups brought new and different ideas into the discussion. An intervention by a youth delegate introduced the concept of creating an “intergenerational partnership,” and inspired participants to think about the involvement of young people—the “future” in The Future We Want, in the words of one speaker.


The OWG will not reconvene until late November 2013, although Co-Chair Kamau noted that the interim period will not be a “summer holiday.” Important meetings, such as the Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals and the launching of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing will discuss related topics, and the OWG will host separate events to address monitoring and assessment, as well as to further engage with Major Groups and experts. Numerous reports are being released within the broader process of the post-2015 development agenda, including from the High-level Panel, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Global Compact, the UN Development Group, and the Secretary-General, and each contains inputs that will contribute to the work of the OWG.

Some delegations expressed the wish to meet informally over the next few months to continue discussing and learning about these important issues. It was clear that Member States are taking the job of defining sustainable development goals, which could also define the future for sustainable development, seriously, and their efforts to build and share knowledge will hopefully prepare them for the difficult road ahead. When the inputs and voices are broad and wide-ranging, as this process has prided itself on, narrowing down the many ideas into simple goals, targets and indicators will not be an easy task.


UNCTAD 2013 Public Symposium: Held under the theme “New Economic Approaches for a Coherent Post-2015 Agenda,” the 2013 Public Symposium of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will provide an opportunity for government officials, civil society representatives, academics, the private sector and other interested observers to discuss key trade and development issues. The sessions will focus on two themes: macroeconomic and financial governance in the road to 2015; and trade and investment rules for inclusive and sustainable development.  dates: 24-25 June 2013  location: Geneva, Switzerland  contact: UNCTAD Secretariat  fax: +41-22-917- 0057  email:  www:

Annual Ministerial Review of ECOSOC: The annual ministerial review will consider the theme “Science, technology and innovation and culture for sustainable development and the MDGs.” This event will seek to highlight the role of science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture—and related national and international policies—in promoting sustainable development and achieving the MDGs.  dates: 1-4 July 2013  location: Geneva, Switzerland  contact: ECOSOC Secretariat  email:  www:

Global Conference on Implementing Intergenerational Equity: Bringing Future Perspectives to the Status Quo: This high-level, two-day conference, organized by the World Future Council and the UN Environment Programme, will address the concept of intergenerational equity and consider how to safeguard the planet to ensure that future generations can enjoy it, and live in prosperity and with dignity. Discussions will reflect on what new mechanisms or tools, based on existing best practice, could more effectively take into account future generations. dates: 4-5 July 2013  location: Geneva, Switzerland  contact: Alice Vincent  email:  www:

UNGA Thematic Debate on Inequality: An interactive thematic debate on inequality will address income and social inequalities, with the aim of contributing to the ongoing debate on the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs. date: 8 July 2013  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Jorge Tagle, Adviser to the Office of the President of the 67th General Assembly  phone: +1-212-963-3575  email:  www:

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities COP 6: The sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be organized on the theme “Ensuring adequate standard of living: empowerment and participation of persons with disabilities within the framework of the CRPD.” Three sub-themes will be addressed: economic empowerment through inclusive social protection and poverty reduction strategies; disability-inclusive development in national, regional and international processes; and community-based rehabilitation. dates: 16-19 July 2013  location: UN Headquarters, New York  fax: +1-917-367-5102  email: www:

Third Session of the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management: This meeting will bring together geospatial experts from around the world to advance the development and use of geospatial data, information and tools to support global sustainability. Participants are expected to discuss, among other issues: future trends in geospatial information; a global geodetic reference frame; trends in national institutional arrangements in geospatial information management; the status of a global map for sustainable development; legal and policy frameworks; establishment and implement of standards for the global geospatial information community; linking geospatial information to statistics; integration of land and marine geospatial information; and activities related to Rio+20. Following the two-day session, a one-day training session will be held on geospatial data collection and management.  dates: 24-26 July 2013  location: Cambridge, United Kingdom  contact: Amor Laaribi, GGIM Secretariat  phone: +1-212-963-3042  fax: +1-212-963-9851  email:  www:

20th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development and first meeting of the high level political forum on sustainable development: The 20th and final session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 20) will take place back-to-back with the first meeting of the high level political forum (HLPF).  dates:September 2013  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact:UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone:+1-212-963-8102  fax:+1-212-963-4260  email: www:

High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development: The High-Level Meeting on the Realization of the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities is expected to produce an action-oriented outcome document on disability inclusion. The one-day event will comprise a plenary meeting and two consecutive informal roundtables, with participation by Member States, observers, UN entities, civil society and the private sector, including persons with disabilities.  date: 23 September 2013  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Akiko Ito  fax: +1-917-367-5102  email:  www:

UNGA Special Event to Follow up Efforts made towards achieving the MDGs: This one-day event will represent the occasion for leaders to identify actions to complete the MDG process and to provide guidance on priorities.  date: 25 September 2013  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Saijin Zhang  phone: +1-212-963-2336 (General Assembly Affairs), +1-212-963-7172 (Protocol and Liaison)  fax: +1-212-963-1921  www:

First Annual Sustainable Development Implementation Forum: The UN Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD) will host the first annual Sustainable Development Implementation Forum (SDIF). The SDIF aims to serve as a global platform for sharing best practices in formulating and implementing sustainable development programmes, reviewing evidence of impacts, and charting out new and improved pathways for implementation. The programme will include topics related to: scaling up implementation; finding effective solutions to address implementation constraints and challenges; examining emerging issues in the context of planning and implementation; promoting the science-policy-practice interface to ensure the transition towards sustainability; and promoting and facilitating partnerships, as well as building communities of practice. dates: 5-7 November 2013 (tentative)  location: Incheon, Republic of Korea  contact: SDIF Secretariat, UNOSD  phone: +82-32-822-9088  fax: +82-32-822-9089  email: www:

Fifth Session of the OWG on SDGs: OWG-5 will focus on sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial system and external debt sustainability), infrastructure development, and energy. dates: 25-27 November 2013 location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

Sixth Session of the OWG on SDGs: OWG-6 will focus on means of implementation; the global partnership for achieving sustainable development; needs of countries in special situations: African countries, LDCs, land-locked developing countries, and SIDS as well as specific challenges facing middle-income countries; and human rights, the right to development, and global governance. dates: 9-13 December 2013  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

Seventh Session of the OWG on SDGs: OWG-7 will focus on sustainable cities and human settlements, sustainable transport, sustainable consumption and production (including chemicals and waste); and climate change and disaster risk reduction.  dates: 6-10 January 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

Eighth Session of the OWG on SDGs: OWG-8 will focus on oceans and seas, forests, biodiversity; promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment; and conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and the promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance. dates: 3-7 February 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

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