Read in: French

Summary report, 9–13 December 2013

6th Session of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) OWG on SDGs

The sixth session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place from 9-13 December 2013, at UN Headquarters in New York. The meeting brought together OWG members and other Member States, observers and representatives from UN agencies and Major Groups to address the thematic issues of: means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building); global partnership for achieving sustainable development; needs of countries in special situations, African countries, least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), and small island developing states (SIDS) as well as specific challenges facing the middle-income countries; and human rights, the right to development, and global governance.

Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, and Csaba Kőrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, served as Co-Chairs. In their concluding summary on Friday afternoon, which reflected on the areas of convergence among delegations, they highlighted that we cannot set ambitious goals without specifying how they will be achieved and the need for political will, financing, technology, capacity building, policies and institutions. Other areas highlighted include: the need for a strengthened partnership for implementation of the SDGs that is equitable and inclusive and with mutual accountability and a fair sharing of responsibilities; the need for public-private partnerships; recognition of the role of large corporations in developing new sustainable business models; the importance of science, technology and innovation; and strengthening data and statistical capabilities in developing countries. With regard to countries in special situations, they said: Africa wants to focus on eradication of poverty and hunger and finishing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); SIDS want stronger action on climate change and the sustainable management and use of oceans; LLDCs want to alleviate the high costs of market access through a trade facilitation agreement; and middle-income countries are concerned with inequality.  

At the conclusion of the session, Co-Chair Kamau announced future OWG dates after the eighth session in February 2014: 3-7 March, 31 March - 4 April, 5-9 May, 2-6 June and 14-18 July. The OWG will reconvene on 6 January 2014 to discuss: sustainable cities and human settlements and sustainable transport; sustainable consumption and production (including chemicals and waste); and climate change and disaster risk reduction.  


During the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, governments agreed to launch a process to develop a set of SDGs. They called for establishing an OWG comprising of 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 towards 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.

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 statements and an interactive discussion on “Conceptualizing the SDGs,” participants shared their initial views on both the process and substance of the SDG framework.  

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, and (b) water and sanitation.  

FOURTH SESSION OF THE OWG: OWG-4 took place from 17-19 June 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York. 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 and population dynamics. The session also included a presentation from the lead author for the UN High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  

FIRST MEETING OF THE HIGH-LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: The inaugural meeting of the HLPF, under the auspices of the UNGA, convened on 24 September 2013. The session was divided into several segments that featured the following themes: “From vision to action,” “Global partnerships for development to create jobs and improve sustainable lifestyles,” and “Mapping the way forward for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development.” Heads of State and Government, Ministers and other leaders articulated a number of concrete proposals on the role of the HLPF: it should include stakeholders; it should emphasize accountability; it should review the post-2015 development agenda and the implementation of the SDGs; and it should examine issues from scientific and local perspectives.  

UNGA SPECIAL EVENT TOWARDS ACHIEVING THE MDGS: The High-Level Special Event took place on 25 September 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York. The Outcome Document of the event determined that the work of the OWG will feed into international negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, beginning in September 2014, and that a Global Summit will be held in September 2015 to agree to a new UN development agenda.

FIFTH SESSION OF THE OWG: OWG-5 took place from 25-27 November 2013, at UN Headquarters in New York. The meeting focused on the thematic issues of: (a) sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial system and external debt sustainability), infrastructure development and industrialization, and (b) energy.  


Opening the sixth session of the OWG, on Monday morning, 9 December, OWG Co-Chair Macharia Kamau welcomed the outcome of the recent meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Bali, Indonesia. Co-Chair Csaba Kőrösi described the parallel work of Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICSDF). On global partnership, Kőrösi emphasized the need to learn lessons from the MDGs and to find potential areas for new partnerships. Kamau gave a brief overview of the “long pipeline of work” on the post-2015 development agenda between now and 2015. He said the report on SDGs will be synthesized with other relevant reports, and presented by the Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly in 2014 to inform the negotiations on the post-2015 agenda. The work of the OWG will continue to be on SDGs, he stressed, and will focus on issues and targets around which to mobilize the means to achieve goals.


The discussion on means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building) opened on Monday, and extended until Tuesday morning. Three keynote speeches were offered Monday morning, and two panelists engaged in an interactive discussion with the OWG on Monday afternoon. The OWG was also briefed on the progress of the ICSDF by its Co-Chair, Pertti Majanen (Finland).

KEYNOTE SPEECHES: Erik Solheim, Chair, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, said official development assistance (ODA) needs reform to account for the role of middle-income countries (MICs) and need to better direct an “abundance of money.” To this end, he said OECD is considering: reforming the concept of ODA, which currently “disincentivizes success;” widening the concept of financial flows for development; and measuring impact, not only effort. Solheim called for increasing development spending for LDCs and supporting the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process.

Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director-General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), said sharing scientific knowledge bridges cultures and promotes peace. He described a virtuous cycle “that should never be broken,” consisting of basic education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and applied research and development (R&D). Heuer proposed SDG targets for global and national investment in science, R&D, and STEM education, to guarantee these areas are publicly funded.

Martin Khor, Executive Director, South Centre, recommended that means of implementation (MOI) be included in each SDG and as a separate goal. On technology transfer, he said high economic growth with minimal carbon dioxide emissions requires access to financing and technology. He noted that technology patents create barriers to health, food production and climate change mitigation. He suggested: capacity building on using flexibilities within the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS); creating a global “pool” of environmentally sound technologies; assessing a technology before developing and transferring it—“it is better not to transfer technology than to transfer bad technology”; and an OWG recommendation to establish a technology facilitation mechanism.

BRIEFING ON ICSDF: ICSDF Co-Chair Pertti Majanen reviewed the Committee’s work thus far and said the OWG and the Committee are “sister processes.” He outlined the following areas of growing consensus among the Committee’s experts: desire to form a comprehensive and integrated financing strategy; commitment to guaranteeing financing to achieve the MDGs; the need to find innovative means to finance the SDGs; and the need to look into the financing of large environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and desertification. He stressed eradicating poverty, the environmental sector, and the need for qualitative policy responses.

PANEL PRESENTATIONS AND INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: Keith Maskus, University of Colorado, said key factors in technology transfer include the economic climate, economic governance, and openness to skilled labor migration. Incentives for R&D and dissemination remain inadequate, and while emerging global networks for innovation and research hold promise for R&D and learning, they do not have high participation of poor countries. He said countries with higher science and R&D capacity are better placed to benefit from technology transfer. In terms of the technology facilitation mechanism, Maskus noted that the following could be implemented in the short term: a technology and information bank; more harmonized science, technology and innovation (STI) data collection; global public access to all patent information; and a public-private fund for adaptation needs.  

Ambuj Sagar, Indian Institute of Technology, said STI underpins all important sustainable development goals. In order to leverage it to meet SDGs, he urged governments to make sure that when technologies are available, they are deployed at scale and according to each country’s actual needs. He noted the need to build national capacity in the numerous components of deployment. Sagar added that finance is the counterpart to any technology question for large-scale deployment to very poor people.  

Maskus answered a question on patent barriers in poor countries, saying that capacity building is needed to help states understand how to apply the TRIPS agreement to their situations, but that the barrier of patents is also overstated. He answered another question on public policies saying that it is impossible for governments to force corporations to transfer technologies, but that on-the-ground learning and knowledge-sharing must be coordinated.  

Sagar answered a question on leveraging STI by proposing a two-step approach: building capabilities for quick deployment in the short-term, and then building technology capacities for the long-term. He said governments and the UN can help solve market inefficiencies in technology deployment by considering it a public good.

Sagar, responding to India, said new technologies allow for reaching goals more quickly and cheaply; the question is how to use finance strategically to advance goals. In response to a question from Egypt, he said TRIPS applies to technologies that already exist and need to become more available, affordable and deployed in developing countries. As for technologies that do not exist because there are no market forces to create them, the question is how to bring them out. Responding to a question from the scientific and technological community, Sagar said a stand-alone goal on STI could result in an emphasis on some goals over others, if it is not designed appropriately.  

Maskus, responding to Pakistan, said increasing the flow of skilled labor would have benefits, but the WTO would have to be involved, suggesting that inter-institutional discussions will be important in the OWG. On a question about finance and technology, Maskus said private finance could be encouraged through: sharing fixed or sum costs for investments; risk guarantees; and a peer review mechanism for returns on investments. Responding to the question from the scientific and technological community, Maskus cited the need for interconnectedness, and called for a number of targets, such as on poverty reduction, building human capital and making global innovation more efficient.  

EXCHANGE OF VIEWS: The OWG also heard statements on means of implementation. Fiji, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), said a discussion on the report that the OWG is to submit to the UNGA should commence at this session. He recalled that Rio+20 calls for exploring options for a technology transfer mechanism, and proposed steps to establish the mechanism.  

Benin, for the LDCs, said: ODA disbursements should be based on need; the issue of policy coherence for development needs to be recognized as crucial; the voice and representation of LDCs in international institutions needs to increase; and the technology transfer bank through the Istanbul Programme of Action needs to be operationalized by 2015. He thanked Turkey for offering to host the technology bank.

The European Union (EU) said a true partnership consists of all parties taking ownership of the agenda and committing to action. He recognized that partnerships for sustainable development should be comprehensive and recognize various financing sources and instruments for implementation. He emphasized that financing should be put to “good and results-oriented use,” with mutual accountability, transparency and monitoring.  

The Gambia, on behalf of the African Union, said the elaboration of the SDGs will require diverse forms of MOI, and partnerships should be built on existing agreements. He said the framework of the post-2015 agenda should ensure partnerships, include technology and skills transfer, and be built on the specific characteristics of each country. Development, he stressed, relies on the enhancement of the productive sectors in developing countries.

Papua New Guinea, also for Nauru, Palau and the Pacific small island developing states (PSIDS), said MOI requires “enhanced and transformative partnerships” and long-term commitments. He stressed their desire to work in partnership with all stakeholders at all levels, and to improve MDG-8 by ensuring mutual trust, accountability, and durability.

Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Arab Group, said technology is the most important factor in sustainable development. He encouraged assessment of technology needs, emphasized that ODA remains an important source of funding for developing countries, and said meeting the 0.7% ODA commitment will enable LDCs in particular to meet development challenges.

Slovenia, also for Montenegro, said everyone has a responsibility to help establish an enabling environment for sustainable development, and diverse sources of support should be understood as complementary, not substitutes for one another. He called for a human rights-based approach to technology transfer.

Zambia, on behalf of Southern African countries, called for a goal on global partnership that “speaks to the entire spectrum of sustainable development.” She said the ICSDF should guide discussions on financing as MOI, and urged “early convergence” of the ICSDF with the processes on the SDGs and post-2015 development agenda. Turkey said cooperation, coordination, partnerships and collective decision-making are needed to meet global targets. He stressed imbalances between countries in regard to: lack of high-skilled work forces; low levels of investment; lack of access to reliable data sets; and technology transfer. Tanzania said that there is no substitute for investing in science, and that it requires global effort and cooperation. Expressing concern that STI is so unevenly distributed, he said there is still much to be realized in the context of the MDGs. Colombia, also for Guatemala, stressed that the MOI for each goal will be different and that different goals will require different investments. She also: encouraged a discussion of targets and indicators; said “partnerships are part of the equation, but not all of it;” and, emphasizing the interconnectedness that the universal agenda demands, stressed the need for focusing on inter-linkages between issues and implementation.

Norway, also for Denmark and Ireland, said strong economic growth will create a stronger basis for national financing of development goals. She said ODA is indispensable to LDCs and should be used more consciously to mobilize domestic and private resources. She also stressed good governance and human rights as prerequisites for achieving sustainable development.

Co-Chair Kőrösi highlighted upcoming meetings of an Expert Group Meeting on “Science and Technology for Sustainable Development Goals” on 16 December 2013, and an “Informal Meeting on Measuring Progress,” on 17 December 2013, which, he said, would allow UN Member States and stakeholders to discuss the OWG agenda items in relation to the design of goals and targets.  

Nauru, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said the SDG framework must integrate SIDS’ priorities, to “leave no country behind.” On MOI, she called for a dedicated mechanism for financing to developing countries, along with concessionary financing, and for provision of environmentally sound technologies on favorable terms for SIDS. On global partnership, she said implementation of MDG-8 has been “wholly inadequate and insufficient,” especially regarding the specific needs of SIDS. At the upcoming Third International Conference on SIDS, AOSIS hopes to enhance existing partnerships and create new, innovative ones.

Guyana, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the new agenda depends on getting the commensurate MOI right from the start. He called for definitive arrangements to mobilize financial and other resources, improve trade and market access, increase capacity building and support for monitoring and statistical analysis, inter alia, as well as for an accountability mechanism to promote and monitor the implementation of commitments. He said to account sufficiently for SIDS’ vulnerabilities, arrangements should include: access to concessionary financing and debt relief; broader measures to assess development progress; fairer trade arrangements; and access to modern energy services.  

The United Arab Emirates, also for Cyprus and Singapore, noted that the ODA target remains largely unfulfilled, and looked forward to the ICSDF’s work on realizing long-term financing. On capacity building, she emphasized national administrative and technical capacity building. She called for coherence across intergovernmental processes on sustainable development, the post-2015 development agenda and financing for development (FfD), and said the HLPF should be the central place to review progress on sustainable development objectives. Germany, also for France and Switzerland, encouraged a broad approach to MOI, including diversified financial resources and a favorable environment in terms of governance, trade and STI. He said the OWG can have a more substantial discussion on this issue only once the ICSDF provides its final report. Human rights and sustainable development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, he said, and human rights should be at the heart of the post-2015 agenda.

Brazil, also for Nicaragua, supported a follow-up conference on FfD, the establishment of a technology transfer facilitation mechanism, and taking a more systemic approach to considering MOI. He emphasized the need to adhere to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR).

Co-Chair Kamau stressed the need for delegates to imagine specific proposals for incorporating principles into goals and targets.

Sri Lanka, also for India and Pakistan, said a global partnership must learn lessons from the challenges of fulfilling MDG-8, build on established principles, and be better institutionalized. He said the role of the private sector is relevant, but its limitations must be acknowledged.

Bulgaria, also for Croatia, stressed the need for mutual accountability of all actors at all levels and South-South and triangular approaches, and looked forward to the 2014 ministerial-level meeting in Mexico on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. She said national and international initiatives to strengthen public-private partnerships should be promoted by the UN regional economic commissions, and partnerships under the Secretary-General should be promoted.

The Netherlands, also for Australia and UK, said the concept of “donor vs. recipient” is out of date and there should be a new global partnership based on shared responsibility, transparency and policy coherence. He said ODA is still needed for the poorest countries, should be targeted according to greatest impact, and should be used to support capacity for tax collection and domestic resource mobilization. He added that the recently agreed Bali trade package ensures the cost of trade will decrease, and some countries need support in order to participate in the open trading system.

Co-Chair Kamau suggested that the OWG should move towards providing options for concrete targets that will “nudge us toward the ideals” being discussed. He said the OWG is not creating another Future We Want document, but focusing on targets that will help us move in the direction of the future that we want. He suggested focusing on the “nuts and bolts of the targets,” and what they would collectively tell us about the global goals.

South Africa recalled that the world is focused on his country, where leaders had converged Tuesday to remember South Africa’s outstanding statesman, Nelson Mandela. He supported the call for a stand-alone SDG on harnessing STI.  

Romania said a renewed and strengthened global partnership must build on MDG-8, with mutual accountability and transparency of all actors and comprehensive monitoring of financing at the national level.  

Japan highlighted South-South cooperation and increasing roles for civil society, philanthropy, the private sector and new partnerships. On finance, he noted the particular importance of private flows to developing countries, and said ODA can play a catalytic role in this regard. He said capacity building is a cross-cutting issue, especially in developing countries.

Kuwait highlighted the changes that will come with the WTO agreement in Bali, which followed 12 years of negotiations. He noted a special responsibility toward island and landlocked countries to assist with debt alleviation and affordable financing. He said technology development is important but technology also needs to be transferred, and “we need to know how to use it.”

Kazakhstan, also for China and Indonesia, said information and knowledge are critical to adapting and progressing in a fast-changing world, and especially important to developing countries and economies in transition, which depend on technology to shift to a more sustainable path. He looked forward to a process to establish a technology transfer mechanism. He said North-South cooperation should serve as the main channel for development financing and the core of partnership, with South-South cooperation as a useful supplement.

The Republic of Korea emphasized that STI has been a “true driver for economic and social transformation.” She suggested that the new global partnership should be accommodating, inclusive, strengthened, and reflect new realities of development, and that there should be a platform for monitoring and reporting on commitments through the HLPF.

Sweden said partnerships between stakeholders must have robust and transparent monitoring frameworks, and that information and communication technologies should be seen as important tools for empowering men and women. She stressed the need to fight the gender divide in technology, as there are 200 million more men than women online in developing countries.

Bangladesh said developed countries must fulfill the commitments they have made under various international institutions. He said his country is ready to consider resources beyond ODA, but that diverse financing sources should complement, not substitute, one another. He said technology development could merge partnerships between committed non-governmental stakeholders, but should not replace public efforts.

Israel, also for the US and Canada, said proposals to include specific MOI for every goal should be considered carefully. The best policy instruments emerge, he said, after “trial, error, and learning.” He called for the agenda to maintain flexible MOI that can adapt over time and avoid strict prescriptions.

Iran said MOI should be identified for each goal, as global partnership and MOI should not be isolated items. He also said MOI should be equitably devoted to each of the sustainable development pillars.

Argentina, also for Ecuador and Bolivia, stressed the value of guiding principles, such as the need to reorient MDG-8 and reverse trade distortions. She said developing countries should not be seen as new markets for sales of ecologically-related technology, but as partners in technology transfer. She proposed including specific MOI for each SDG and coherence between the ambitions of SDGs and their specific MOI.

Co-Chair Kamau asked delegates to distinguish between the OWG process and the forthcoming intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, so as not to overburden the OWG with work that belongs in the other process.

Nepal said the poorest and most vulnerable countries are most off-track in all three dimensions of sustainable development, and urged prioritizing the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA), which he said is the key instrument for LDCs. He said ODA is extremely important for LDCs, and its decline has made it more difficult to face development challenges. On STI, he called for establishment of a technology bank and a supporting mechanism for LDCs to implement the IPOA. The poorest countries, he said, should get top priority for special and differential treatment in trade. He also emphasized debt relief as a means of implementation, and urged development partners to promote foreign direct investment (FDI) in LDCs.

Ethiopia said sustainable development cannot be realized without mobilizing domestic resources including savings, public revenue collection and private capital flows. She also called to reverse the decline of ODA and reduce the costs of remittances. She requested the international community to do more to address illicit financial flows, including by strengthening global regulatory frameworks. Finally, she recommended a separate goal on MOI and specific targets on STI.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said two STI issues need to be tackled simultaneously: innovation-driven growth should no longer be the priority of developed countries only; and STI policies must not be pursued independently of the broader development agenda.

Business and Industry said businesses in every country of the world will contribute to sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda. She said business’s priority would be the creation of enabling environments for investments and growth.  

Women proposed targets on increased domestic resource mobilization, specifically through tax reforms and transparency. She also emphasized the need for female access to information and technology, in order to hold their governments accountable.

Children and Youth said publicly-funded research should be made available to all, and equitable access to technology should be emphasized. She advocated for “meaningful and strategic partnerships” that hold all stakeholders accountable.

Peru said that, while countries must adopt fiscal policies that promote financial growth, the promotion of governance and transparency is indispensable. He also stressed the need for South-South cooperation to play a prominent role alongside ODA.  

Uganda said the post-2015 development agenda needs a new and renewed focus on poverty eradication, with specific MOI outlined to achieve this goal. He said MDG-8 on the global partnership lacked stakeholder accountability and time-bound limits, and the global community will need to scale up partnership to implement sustainable development.  

Tunisia proposed a stand-alone goal on STI, while also understanding it to be a cross-cutting goal for all development issues with a target on universal and affordable access and sharing of vital technologies. He welcomed the idea of making the results of publicly-financed R&D available.


Opening the session on this agenda item on Tuesday afternoon, Co-Chair Kőrösi noted that several speakers in the discussion on MOI did not believe it would be appropriate to replace part of ODA with other types of cooperation or partnership, and he asked whether there is a link between ODA and corporate investments or philanthropy. On the numerous references to technology transfer that had been made, Kőrösi asked the presenters on the panel on global partnership whether any such transfer is being conducted by an international company, and its motivation.

PANEL PRESENTATIONS AND INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, said many private companies acknowledge the economic costs of environmental degradation, and business is conscious of the price of carbon and knows that climate change could wipe out the profits of entire industries. He recalled two concepts of partnership articulated by the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: a global partnership for development, realized through a compact of commitment; and multi-stakeholder partnerships, in which various actors, including businesses, work to achieve specific goals. Polman recommended that every SDG be supported by such a partnership. Finally, he said governments must take the lead in creating an enabling environment for investment, marked by transparency, absence of corruption, and a regulatory and legal framework. Companies, meanwhile, must create confidence through transparency.

Gargee Ghosh, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted the success of the MDGs in creating enabling environments for well-coordinated partnerships. She said the MDGs aligned the initiatives of diverse stakeholders in developing countries by being time-bound and limited to the most critical priorities. She suggested that the priorities for the post-2015 development agenda are: a full endorsement by all Member States; a focus on the biggest gaps in social areas; targets that are ambitious, achievable and measurable; and clear deadlines. Ghosh also said the agenda should do a better job of addressing pockets of persistent poverty and recognize the importance of environmental sustainability to other development priorities.

Among the questions for the panelists were how to include interim targets, how to build learning and opportunities for adjustment into partnerships, and how to engage the private sector in the SDGs. One delegate emphasized that “you cannot build value if you don’t have values,” and asked how to make sustainable consumption and production patterns a key element of a new global partnership, and what role foundations could play to bring such partnerships around.  

Polman noted that citizens demand transparency from businesses, and responsible businesses realize that they cannot be bystanders in the system that gives them life in the first place. He also said business prefers a concrete objective and specific projects, and that negotiations such as those at Rio+20 and in the UNFCCC are not easy for business to follow or rally around. He suggested identifying a topic around which a few big actors could be engaged to achieve a tipping point for action. Polman noted the UN’s opportunity to set a moral framework through the post-2015 development agenda, and highlighted the multiple benefits of investing in women. He said business “needs to pay its fair share in the places where it has its operations,” and noted that the amount of money “pumped into” the global economy since 2008 has led to very little growth, but has concentrated wealth and worsened inequality. He said good business welcomes regulation, and that business must gain trust through its behavior. He emphasized the importance of statistics, without which no one can be held accountable.  

Responding to a question on ODA for LDCs, Ghosh said it should not become a substitute for domestic resources, which should play a bigger role. She noted the possibility of health convergence by 2035, recently outlined by a Lancet Commission, as an example of a goal that incorporates both a poverty focus and a global vision. Ghosh said the new agenda must incorporate the element of “no one left behind” and recognize vulnerable groups in particular. To do this, she said countries must invest in systems that create data and track progress. Responding to a question on innovative financing, Ghosh gave examples of converting loans to grants on the condition of achieving certain targets, creating market assurances to develop new products, and using guarantees to increase stability in the ODA market. Responding to a question on how many goals could “spread us too thin,” she said the power of the SDGs will be advocacy and profile, and if the list is long, people will stop listening.  


Opening the session on Wednesday morning, Co-Chair Kamau said the two-day discussion on “Needs of Countries in Special Situations, African Countries, LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS as well as Specific Challenges Facing MICs” is “where the rubber meets the road.” Two keynote speeches were offered Wednesday morning. The OWG also engaged in a discussion with a panelist on Wednesday afternoon and two panelists on Thursday morning.

KEYNOTE SPEECHES AND INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), said the principle of universality is based on commonalities as well as differentiation of targets and priorities. He called for avoiding a hierarchical approach to sustainable development, in which economic development would be seen as the first priority, followed by social issues and only at the end bringing in environmental concerns. Instead, he called for a “humanized, environmental economy.” He added that there is a need to refresh the concept of CBDR, which has resulted in a limited scope for international agreements, most recently at UNFCCC COP 19. He added that gross domestic product (GDP) is a poor instrument for measuring economic development, let alone social progress and environmental regeneration.  

Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Group President’s Special Envoy on MDGs and Financial Development, highlighted that MICs are home to 75% of the world’s poor, and that a very small number of MICs go on to become high-income, due to the “MIC trap” of slowed growth and stagnating innovation and productivity. He outlined a pyramid approach to good policy for development, consisting of macro foundations, specific policies to handle challenges, and prioritization. Mohieldin reviewed four pillars of financing for the post-2015 development agenda: ODA, private finance, innovative sources and domestic resource mobilization. He said the relative importance of each pillar will differ among countries. For example, ODA is far more significant in fragile countries (40%) than in the average developing country (7%), where FDI has the largest share of development financing.  

Following a round of questions, Mohieldin responded about global measurements other than GDP by saying that the World Bank is about to introduce a new dashboard approach of measurements and indicators. He said countries must deliver on commitments to include natural capital accounting. Lopes responded to questions on the multidimensionality of poverty by stressing that national accounts practices should be updated, particularly in Africa. He responded to questions on CBDR by highlighting the need for the international community to refresh its interpretation of the concept.

PANEL PRESENTATIONS AND INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: During a panel presentation on Wednesday afternoon, Patrick Guillaumont, President, FERDI, said the post-2015 development agenda will merge modified MDGs with the SDGs. Regarding concerns that the poverty emphasis will suffer in this merging, he recommended giving particular focus to LDCs and other vulnerable countries. He said universalism is consistent with special treatment based on country categories and on vulnerability related to shock exposure and resilience. In broadening the goals to include SDGs, a vulnerability focus is needed more than ever, he said, vulnerability is easier to measure than sustainability, and economic vulnerability threatens the sustainability of economic growth and its inclusiveness. If multilateral development banks applied uniform criteria, such as LDC indicators, gross national income (GNI) per capita, the Human Assets Index (HAI) and the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), he said, it would represent significant progress. He noted that the legitimacy of the LDC category comes in part from its reliance on identification criteria, and these criteria could be redesigned through a composite index.

Guillaumont answered questions on the development of indicators, saying that they must be flexible at the micro-economic level. He distinguished between vulnerability from external events, and vulnerabilities that demand changes in country policies.

Mohieldin emphasized that it is good to have indicators that are aspirational, but they must consider a country’s capacity to deliver and monitor progress with data. He highlighted the divide between achievements in rural and urban areas, and divides according to gender. Investing in structures and open access to data were stressed as important for transparency and assessment.

During the panel presentation on Thursday morning, Selwin Hart, Caribbean Development Bank, gave an overview of the present challenges facing SIDS, including their unique circumstances of energy, climate change, oceans and finance vulnerabilities. He said the islands’ small size, remoteness and insularity pose specific challenges. He said urgent priorities are to address SIDS’ high reliance on imported fossil fuels and high vulnerability to climate change. On the SDGs, Hart emphasized that goals must be supportive of SIDS’ national and regional priorities, and must give clarity on means of implementation.

Answering a question on addressing public debt in the SDGs, Hart said this issue must be embedded in the agenda, either as a stand-alone goal or a cross-cutting issue. On energy, he said the priorities of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative represent a good start, but goals and targets must be even more ambitious.

Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue, suggested that taking LDC status as the “founding element for concern” of the agenda would largely capture LLDCs, SIDS, conflict-affected, fragile, environmentally vulnerable and African countries. He raised the need to determine the balance among the three dimensions of sustainable development, proposed the possibility of a fourth dimension on governance, and noted the traditional “primacy” of economic thinking. He also said that an accountability mechanism depends on data, as data availability is not just a technical issue but also a political issue in many countries. He said that data needs for monitoring implementation should be considered at the same time that targets are considered.

Responding to a suggestion that SDG discussions are reverting to an emphasis on general economic development models, Bhattacharya said there will always be tradeoffs when trying to address more than one objective, and that tradeoffs are “national choices” but should be embedded in a universal framework. On a question about reconciling universalism with the needs of countries in special situations, he said aid effectiveness should be improved, and regional development banks should provide long-term finance. He noted that choosing the benchmark year for goals will allow for “more head-on” discussion of data.  

Co-Chair Kőrösi recalled that MOI consists of financial and non-financial parts, with the former being dealt with under the ICSDF and the latter in the OWG. He said the two tracks are strongly interlinked and must “talk to each other.”

EXCHANGE OF VIEWS: Fiji, for the G-77 and China, said it is important to avoid a one-size-fits-all development approach and outlined the special needs and situations of the five groups on the agenda. He highlighted, inter alia: no LDC has been able to meet all of the MDGs; youth unemployment and widespread discontent in Africa could lead to instability; the 2014 review of implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action; the 2014 Third International Conference on SIDS; the need for the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in 2014 to achieve concrete outcomes on mitigation; and that economic growth and GDP are not good measurements of well-being in MICs, where economic growth can occur while income equality deteriorates.

The EU also called attention to the events taking place in 2014, including the fourth Africa-Europe Summit in April, the review of the Almaty Programme of Action, the International Conference on SIDS, and the First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. He said the post-2015 development agenda should recognize that the world has evolved since the MDGs.  

Germany, also for Switzerland and France, emphasized that the SDGs should respect national policies, priorities, ownership and leadership, as well as build on existing frameworks and goals including the IPOA, Almaty Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation. He said the SDGs should be conflict-sensitive. He also stressed the importance of institutional capacity—including rule of law, financial sector maturity, and resilience—not only a country’s wealth.  

The Gambia, on behalf of the African Group, called for Africa to be given priority in the SDG framework. Among Africa’s most critical needs, he highlighted poverty eradication through a people-centered development approach, by means of structural economic transformation, and said industrialization is a powerful tool for inclusive and sustained growth, productive employment and decent work. He said that unlike the MDGs, the SDGs should champion a development-friendly trading system. Finally, he highlighted peace and security, human rights, democracy and rule of law as development enablers.

Benin, on behalf of the LDCs, said the SDGs will remain incomplete and lack legitimacy without focused attention on the LDCs, and called for “Differential and Preferential Treatment for LDCs.” He recalled that the IPOA prioritizes eight major areas of importance for LDCs, and said these should be integrated “front and center” in the SDGs.

Nauru, on behalf of AOSIS, said the special case of SIDS must be considered, namely their structural challenges, small size, remoteness, isolation from markets, and capacity limitations. She said climate change must be considered a cross-cutting issue for the SDGs, and supported by thematic goals on sustainable energy and oceans. Insisting that political, technical and financial support is needed, she urged governments to provide effective and measurable benefits to SIDS communities.

Laos, on behalf of LLDCs, said infrastructure gaps cause the greatest barriers to growth in LLDCs. Supply-side constraints, limited market access and high vulnerability to shocks were highlighted as issues to be addressed by the international community. He proposed a stand-alone goal on “efficient and reliable infrastructure.”

Papua New Guinea, on behalf of Pacific SIDS, said the SDGs must be adapted to national circumstances and address rising poverty in the region. He advocated for a stand-alone goal on oceans and climate change, and including meaningful and measurable indicators and targets.

Saudi Arabia, for the Arab Group, emphasized the challenges that Africa faces, supported developing a science and technology bank for LDCs, and stressed the importance of an extensive and genuine study of the needs and options to address them for each of the five groups being discussed.

Barbados, on behalf of CARICOM, said the post-2015 and SDG processes must create an enabling environment for SIDS to build resilience. The outcome of the SIDS Inter-regional Preparatory Meeting for the Third International Conference on SIDS should inform SDG targets and indicators, she said, highlighting: renewable energy; non-communicable diseases; MOI; chemicals, hazardous and ship-generated waste; and data collection and analysis. She said the Apia conference will enable the integration of SIDS’ sustainable development aspirations into the broader global development agenda. MIC issues are of the utmost importance to CARICOM, she added.

Mexico, also for Peru, suggested that the OWG recommend changes to the criteria used to classify countries, which he called unfair and arbitrary. He said there are serious problems with the current graduation system in which a country must assume responsibility for its own development once it reaches a certain level of income. He said GDP per capita does not reflect major challenges, and the MIC classification does not account for their homogeneity.

Italy, also for Turkey and Spain, said, inter alia: all forms of partnerships should be initiated for the most vulnerable LDCs; Italy, Turkey and Spain are committed to working with Africa, with poverty eradication at the core; the theme of “partnerships” for the 2014 SIDS meeting should be applauded; and the interdependence of urban, peri-urban, suburban and rural areas should be recognized in MICs.  

Nicaragua, also for Brazil, said the new global partnership for development must be aligned with the priorities of developing countries and must promote a shared global agenda of implementation, financing and international trade. He said the post-2015 development agenda must be based on the Rio Principles, and highlighted the need for a transition for countries that have recently graduated, especially since many graduating countries have large debts.

Kazakhstan, also for China and Indonesia, said the speedy implementation of the IPOA should be prioritized. He welcomed the WTO Bali agreement, suggested that regional integration among developing countries be promoted, and proposed working to accelerate industrial development and strengthen governance, among other actions.

Ireland, also for Norway and Denmark, highlighted that ocean acidification and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing affect the livelihoods of SIDS, and employment and decent work should be addressed in this process, including as they affect gender issues.

Zambia said countries in special situations have two major considerations: the eradication of poverty as an over-arching goal; and country-specific needs and targets, so that “no one is left behind.” She said SDGs should prioritize sustained and inclusive economic growth, genuine partnerships, technology transfer and infrastructure, and that investments in programmes at the national level must be improved.

Japan said there must be a focus on robust, inclusive and sustainable growth to create jobs, especially for youth and women. He said a transformation of industrial structures can be the solution for countries in special situations, and wondered how to translate the challenges for these countries into SDG targets.

Australia, also for the Netherlands and the UK, said goals and targets must be universal in nature, but flexible enough to be meaningful and useful in national development plans. He said today’s topics are universal issues that affect all people and represent basic concepts of a social contract between citizens and the state.

Ecuador, also for Argentina and Bolivia, suggested that poor governance of private financial institutions renders CBDR more applicable than ever. He called for regulating FDI to ensure it improves living standards. He also highlighted the need to review agricultural subsidies, which he said lead to unsustainable consumption.

Bulgaria, also for Croatia, said a set of human-centered SDGs should strive to eliminate certain human rights violations, and called for support to the groups of countries in special situations to strengthen good governance, social inclusion and human rights. He said the post-2015 agenda should prioritize measures for climate change adaptation and resilience, and vulnerability should be considered a cross-cutting issue.  

Bangladesh said the key overriding challenge for LDCs is to enhance productive capacity. With LDCs having pledged national responsibility for their development, he said, it is the international community that needs to create an enabling environment. He added that the quality of ODA matters: it must be needs-based and country-driven. Finally, he noted that his country’s “development gains are increasingly at stake due to climate change.

Congo noted the decline in traditional aid, said bold steps are needed to support countries’ integration into the global economy, and said the WTO should propose valid indicators for countries in special situations.  

Zimbabwe identified development challenges facing LLDCs that should be addressed in the post-2015 agenda, including: inadequate transit systems; isolation from world markets; and resilience of LLDCs’ private sector to respond to new challenges. He suggested that the WTO devise measures to increase the share of trade from LLDCs.

Togo said it needs to develop infrastructure for sustained development of agriculture and for strengthening of good governance. She mentioned its intention to continue improving economic governance and access to public services. Information and communication technologies should be used, she said, to improve vocational training and raise the education level for all.  

Uganda said there is “a lot of unfinished business” on MDG-8, and sectoral distribution has channeled funds toward unproductive sectors. He said priority areas include: building countries’ capacity to produce higher-value goods and services; infrastructure development; access to affordable energy; agriculture and food security; and climate change adaptation.  

Women said the rule of law should be used as a tool to further the rights and respect for women, and respect for the rights of women in family and political life should be enhanced.  

Children and Youth emphasized the importance of the right to development. She said donors should allow their recipients flexibility and support, and emphasized the untapped potential for information and technology-sharing.  

Belarus, also for Serbia, said global governance must be rule-based, equitable and transparent, with the UN at the center connecting to all other stakeholders. He said he did not believe there could be a stand-alone goal on human rights, but it should be reflected in the agenda as a cross-cutting issue. He also advocated for a goal on science and technology, with an indicator on achieving universal access for all.

Slovenia, also for Montenegro, said they support an evidenced-based agenda, with measureable quantity and quality indicators. He advocated for the continuation of international efforts to support countries in special situations, with flexibility on implementation approaches at national levels.

Poland, also for Romania, said the SDGs should have the eradication of extreme poverty as a principle objective, along with structural economic transformation, capacity building and infrastructure development. He stressed the need to reduce inequalities and social imbalances.

The United Arab Emirates, also for Cyprus and Singapore, said persistent poverty and widening gaps with the rest of the world are specific challenges for countries in special situations. With support and technology transfer, she said, countries have the potential to transition to a path of green economic growth.

Nepal noted that LDCs are the most off-track on the MDGs, and called for integrating the IPOA priorities into the SDGs. She said the SDGs’ economic dimension should focus on, inter alia, productive capacity, technology transfer, renewable energy and transit facilitation, while the social dimension should ensure affordable, quality education and health services, and the environmental dimension must include a definite goal on reducing global emissions.

Paraguay called for priorities on: productive diversification, access to markets, freeing up transportation for trade, sustainable transport systems, and special, differential treatment for LDCs. He also advocated, inter alia, eliminating red tape at border crossings.  

New Zealand called for stand-alone goals on sustainable energy and oceans, and for goals, targets and indicators that address countries in special situations. She noted that how the SDGs include the most vulnerable countries will be their mark of success or failure, and highlighted that, while many LDCs have multiple vulnerabilities, few have the exact same mix of vulnerabilities. This shows the need to leverage common experiences while considering local circumstances, she said.

South Africa said that for countries prioritizing poverty eradication while lacking human and financial capacity, development efforts will be hindered if they encounter “any undue demands.” He said the post-2015 and SDG processes must include MOI, and noted that countries’ prospects of achieving the MDGs depend on access to industrialized country markets. In addition, he said CBDR must be given specific expression.

Cabo Verde called for support to countries graduating from the LDC category, and suggested creating a specific framework to address MICs’ challenges. She looked forward to the next FfD conference to advance the Monterrey and Doha outcomes.

Indigenous Peoples questioned toward what kind of sustainable development the world is moving. She advocated for protecting land and natural resources to “defend the rights of humanity.” She said indigenous peoples want the opportunity to participate in decision-making and to share their knowledge.

Workers and Trade Unions said full and productive employment and decent work are necessary for development, particularly in LDCs. She highlighted the importance of providing adequate social protection as a means to combat inequality.

Local Authorities proposed a stand-alone goal for urbanization to “open up possibilities for partnerships” in LDCs and countries in special situations.


OWG-6 discussed human rights, the right to development, and global governance on Friday. The discussion began with comments by two panelists and was followed by an exchange of views. Delegates were also briefed on the activities of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

PANEL PRESENTATIONS AND INTERACTIVE DISCUSSION: Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović, on behalf of Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the current mode of development is unequal, unstable and unsustainable. He said we need a new development paradigm that is equitable, sustainable and built on human rights, including the right to development. He stressed that human rights should be mainstreamed not quarantined, especially since they provide a framework for universal goals for countries at different levels of development and resources. Human rights require paying attention to equality and non-discrimination so no one is left behind, he concluded.

Bjorn Lomborg, Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, explained how economics can help achieve better global governance. He compared the proposed solutions in the post-2015 development agenda to a vast supermarket with a “fantastic amount of options,” some more nutritious than others. An economist would compare prices and sizes to determine the best value, he explained. He described a project he is working on with economists to estimate the cost and benefits for all proposed targets, with the goal of “giving headwind to poor targets and tailwind to good targets.” Using education as a case study, Lomborg described how this decision-making process would work and how it can help prioritize development targets and goals.

In response to a question on using this methodology in cases when cost is not the main issue, Lomborg said the price is one piece of information, and one can still decide to buy the most expensive item; choices depend on priorities.  

ECOSOC BRIEFING: ECOSOC President Nestor Osorio reported on the October 2013 symposium in Montreux, held in preparation for the July 2014 ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum on the future of development cooperation in the post-2015 era. He noted: fundamentals of the global development discourse have changed; sustainability is now the centerpiece of the post-2015 development agenda; and a renewed global partnership is needed that brings together the Monterrey and Rio tracks. Multi-stakeholder partnerships will become an ever more important part of development, but will not replace intergovernmental actions, he added. The “daily practice” of development cooperation has changed and the UN debate has to catch up, he concluded.  

EXCHANGE OF VIEWS: Mexico said the new agenda should ensure inclusion of all who have been excluded from development, and exclusion affects developed countries, too. He said development for a few is not compatible with peace, security and consolidation of rule of law, and the new goals must be linked to fulfilling human rights, strengthening rule of law, and promoting global governance based on inclusive, effective global partnerships.  

Fiji, on behalf of G-77 and China, said the new agenda must put people at the center of the development process, with poverty eradication at its core. Cross-border and extra-territorial policies must “do no harm” and respect human rights. He cautioned against, for example, deregulating speculative trading in food futures. Regarding the increasing role of the private sector, he stressed the need to ensure accountability. On global governance, Fiji said developing countries remain largely underrepresented in international institutions, especially the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  

The EU said leaving no one behind means ensuring that no right is forgotten. He highlighted the right to water and the rights of women and girls, and said experience has shown that benefits do not necessarily trickle down to the most disadvantaged. He stressed the EU’s commitment to addressing justice, equality and equity in the post-2015 development agenda. Emphasizing multilateral solutions, he said the establishment of the HLPF, greater contact between the G20 and the UN system and other recent developments show how global governance can be more effective and inclusive.

Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of CARICOM, stressed: the right to development should include not only the social and economic aspirations of the individual but also the environmental needs of future generations; the role of an enabling international environment for a people-centered approach, including social inclusion, gender equality and the empowerment of women; the need to streamline the fulfilment of human rights, including the right to development, across all future goals; and the importance of effective accountability mechanisms to monitor the implementation of all commitments by all actors.     

Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Arab Group, affirmed: that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms should be linked to the right to development; the importance of the right to self-determination, including those people under occupation; the right to a healthy environment; and the need to address the obstacles and challenges that impede sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty.

Benin, on behalf of the LDCs, stressed the importance of legal empowerment of the poor, which implies “viewing development from the end-user’s perspective.” He noted that: global economic integration has outpaced the development of appropriate governance institutions; the global financial crisis proved that the world lacks an institutional framework to manage development; and the effectiveness of international financial institutions has been adversely affected by governance deficiencies and loss of credibility. He also called for protection of migrant rights and the flexibility and policy space for LDCs to determine their own development policies.   

The Gambia, for the African Group, said poverty eradication will require a framework that values development enablers such as human rights, good governance and rule of law at national and international levels. However, the SDG framework should not “entertain the increasing trend to create new rights, concepts, categories and standards.” He said human rights should not undermine national sovereignty or cultural beliefs, and the financial and economic architecture should not marginalize the UN.

Germany, also for France and Switzerland, said the right to development relies on the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms. He said strengthened global governance can create a favorable environment for sustainable development, for example by reducing volatility of agricultural prices, promoting shared management of water resources, and regulating tax evasion and illicit flows. On the institutional framework for sustainable development, he advocated for regular reviews of implementation.  

Montenegro, also for Slovenia, said the SDGs must integrate and be underpinned by the full range of human rights, and the post-2015 agenda should focus on those left behind, including people with disabilities. He also highlighted access to justice for indigenous groups, protecting children’s rights, and gender equality and women’s empowerment, which he said requires a stand-alone goal. Spain, also for Italy and Turkey, said the right to development is not just about economic growth, but reorienting development through a human rights prism so nobody is left behind. He stressed the importance of corporate social responsibility, empowerment of civil society, effective global economic governance and high quality data. He called for revision of the classification of countries, so human development is taken into account.  

The UK, also for Australia and the Netherlands, listed three critical dimensions: the SDGs must be designed so no one is left behind, and a data revolution can make this happen; institutions are needed to enable people to realize their human rights and freedoms; and women and girls must be able to enjoy their rights, including reproductive rights. He called for accountability of governments, business and civil society.  

Denmark, also for Ireland and Norway, said the MDGs conceal growing inequalities between and within countries. Human rights are essential to identifying and addressing inequalities so no one is left behind. He called for a limited number of global goals, targets and indicators aligned with human rights treaty obligations. He added that the UN system must be reformed so it is equipped to support efforts to confront global challenges, and partnerships can play an important part in this regard.

The US, also for Canada and Israel, said eradicating poverty and making growth sustainable are rooted in commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, and we need particular attention to the most vulnerable, including girls and women, children, and people with disabilities. Fundamental rights are best protected in a context of rule of law, credible institutions and accountable governments, she said, calling this the best context for promoting development. She suggested that OWG discussions focus on specific solutions, and that global governance should not be a major focus at this stage.

Croatia, also for Bulgaria, expressed commitment to a human rights-based approach to development, and said the focus should be on poverty eradication, gender equality, health and education. Without rights, there can be no development, and vice-versa, he said. He called for a stand-alone goal on empowerment of women, favored including the rights of persons with disabilities as a cross-cutting issue, and advocated for human rights indicators in measuring the SDGs’ success.

Ecuador, also for Argentina and Bolivia, urged moving from “human subsistence goals” to entitling individuals to a fair and dignified life. The post-2015 agenda should cover economic, social and cultural rights such as decent work, free education, universal health care, and full respect for indigenous peoples’ rights. Growth is not sustainable if it is not also inclusive, he noted. He called for measurable goals, including on persons with disabilities, as well as lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people.  

Singapore, also for Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates, said there is no need for a stand-alone goal on human rights because it is a cross-cutting issue, and the SDGs should be holistic and take a rights-based approach. He said the OWG must strike a balance between the ideal and the practical.

Sri Lanka, also for India and Pakistan, said a rights-based approach for the post-2015 development agenda must translate into commitment to the right to development as the fundamental basis of the SDGs. He said the right to development must be mainstreamed at all levels and in all institutions. He stressed the importance of reforming inequalities in global economic governance to improve participation of developing countries.  

Japan said it is the responsibility of states to respect and promote human rights of their people and that we do not need a stand-alone goal on human rights, but it should be a guiding principle. In response to Lomborg, he said this is a political discussion based on value judgments. The economists’ approach may be helpful, but it cannot be a decisive factor.  

Bangladesh argued against explicit reference to human rights in the new goals. In practice, development goals correspond to a range of human rights; for example, he said providing drinking water and sanitation supports the right to water. In this way, he said, human rights are mainstreamed in the development framework. “We are not aware of any success story” with regard to human rights as a means to development, he said. Bangladesh added that global governance is better suited for inclusion in the narrative part of the SDG framework, than as a goal or target.

The panelists were then invited to respond to the morning’s statements. Craig Mokhiber, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), cited an “impressive level of consensus” among Member States that freedom from fear and freedom from want without discrimination need to frame the new agenda. He observed the view that economic, social, civil and political rights and the right to development need to be integrated across goals, not expressed in a stand-alone goal. He said the global partnership for development should be coherent with international human rights standards, and that the private sector should engage according to the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights.

Lomborg affirmed the need to prioritize and to do what is practical, not just ideal. Regarding Japan’s comment that this is a political exercise, Lomborg suggested that, with price tags on various options, the selection process will be easier.

In the afternoon, Romania, also on behalf of Poland, said gender equality should be a cross-cutting theme in the SDGs and unleash the potential of women for the well-being of society. She argued that women must be central players in the post-2015 framework at all levels.  

Nepal said all institutions should increase the participation of LDCs. She said that the UN system and regional commissions should play an important role in follow up to the SDGs. She added that rights-based development efforts and effective governance is a huge task for countries like Nepal, and that business as usual doesn’t work for LDCs and LLDCs.

Zimbabwe stressed that firmly entrenched societal beliefs and values should not be undermined, and each country’s culture, including political culture, must be respected. He said there is a need for mechanisms to facilitate greater citizen participation in global governance, and it is inappropriate to incorporate issues for which there is no consensus or to create new categories of norms and rights.

Thailand noted the interconnections among sustainable development, human rights and international law. She said universal health coverage is critical to achieving basic health care for all, and expressed hope that a clear indicator on universal health coverage would be included in the development agenda. And she said the realization of human rights should not be a conditionality to cooperation.

Iran said sustainability should be a qualifier for development, not a definitive determinant and, to create synergy, the focus should be on concordant, not discordant, denominators. He said human rights should be aligned with the existing human rights framework and an accountability framework with binding commitments should be established at the global level. On global governance, he said there is a need for a more participatory, transparent and accountable structure.

In response to Iran, Chair Kamau asked delegates to consider whether an accountability framework is important for the OWG or for the post-2015 development agenda.

Pakistan agreed on the need to mainstream human rights into the SDGs. He asked OHCHR to elaborate on what is lacking in the MDG framework that needs to be improved upon.

OHCHR responded that the MDGs have made an important contribution but don’t address inequalities, and this undercuts the development agenda. He added that the MDGs are a narrow set of socio-economic indicators that don’t include freedom from fear or issues like the quality of education.  

Co-Chair Kamau responded that the failures of the MDGs and freedom from fear may not only be within countries but also between countries.  

Zambia, on behalf of the Southern African countries, agreed that human rights should not be a stand-alone goal, but a cross-cutting issue. She stressed: the importance of women’s and children’s rights; the need to consider the capacities of countries to measure progress; the critical importance of good governance; and the need to ensure the right to development is respected and upheld.   

Brazil, also for Nicaragua, said the ILO’s decent work agenda provides a model for mainstreaming human rights into the post-2015 agenda. He also said access to information, learning and education on an affordable basis is important, highlighted the role of the HLPF and a strengthened ECOSOC in strengthening sustainable development, and called for strengthening the UN Office for South-South Cooperation.

Liechtenstein said the SDGs should focus on inclusiveness and, therefore, vulnerable groups. He said human rights should not be considered a policy choice but an imperative.  

Lebanon recognized the importance of voice and participation, said a stand-alone goal on global governance and renewing MDG-8 is essential, and emphasized the importance of a science-policy interface and channeling funds appropriately.  

Malta agreed that eradication of poverty can only be achieved if human rights are respected. He stressed the importance of empowerment of women and girls, but also noted that the outcome document of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development should be a point of reference and not be disturbed, in that discussions of reproductive rights and abortion should not contravene national legislation.  

Botswana warned against moving too fast on the SDGs because there are still a billion people who do not have the most basic human rights: access to food, shelter and water. He called for an agenda that focuses on closing the existing gaps since many countries are still far behind.

Palestine said they are an example that proves development cannot be achieved without respect for human rights, including the right to development and the right of people to self-determination. He stressed the importance of accountability mechanisms based on human rights and freedom from fear between countries.  

Co-Chair Kamau said the Group is seeking to execute a transformative agenda within a generation: “we cannot move fast enough” to eradicate poverty and other dehumanizing conditions. It is reasonable to press for such change in the next 15 years, especially given the progress made in one or one-and-a-half generations by several developing countries: “we are looking to make this the common standard of change.” Kamau also highlighted a distinction between sustained and sustainable growth, with “sustained” referring to continued economic growth, and “sustainable” meaning economic growth that is consistent with planetary boundaries.

The International Organization for Migration called for global partnerships on migration to enhance how migration is governed and conditions for migrants, along with a target outlining migration’s potential benefits, which currently are squandered.  

NGOs said economic development alone is not sustainable development, but an important indicator, as long as every stakeholder is included. He suggested attention to youth discrimination, violence against women, and caste-based violence.

Indigenous Peoples said they hope for the chance to exercise their rights in the new agenda, but right now they are “no closer to dialogue.” She highlighted the role of indigenous knowledge on biodiversity for food and health, and asked for recognition of intellectual property in this regard.

Business and Industry said an effective human and indigenous rights agenda means long-term sustainability for all parties. He highlighted the UN Human Rights Council’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework, consisting of: state duty to prevent human rights abuses by third parties; corporate duty to respect human rights; and victims’ access to remedy. These could form the basis of concrete targets for the post-2015 agenda, he said.

NGOs stressed that communities cannot engage when they cannot get information from their governments, or when information is collected in a sub-standard manner. He urged the OWG to examine existing standards to measure the right to information, public participation and access to justice.  

Women said the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development are impossible unless human rights are at the center. She stressed the importance of respecting rights of girls and women.  

Children and Youth called for a focus on the right to quality education. She supported Colombia’s global dashboard approach that gives countries the flexibility to implement the SDGs, and said countries must carry out these goals in a transparent and inclusive manner.  


Co-Chair Kőrösi presented the Co-Chairs’ summary of the session on Friday afternoon. He highlighted that we cannot set ambitious goals without specifying how they will be achieved, and the need for political will, financing, technology, capacity building, policies and institutions. He noted that the Rio+20 outcome identified means of implementation by creating the ICSDF and leaving the rest for the OWG to consider, and said the two tracks are interlinked, and it may be difficult to draw the line between them and to avoid duplication. He also noted the need to discuss the potential sources of financing to implement the SDGs and stressed the need to go beyond government-to-government cooperation, since there are limited resources available in the ODA framework.  

Other areas he highlighted include: the need for a strengthened partnership for implementation of the SDGs that is equitable and inclusive and with mutual accountability and a fair sharing of responsibilities; the need for public-private partnerships; recognition of the role of large corporations in developing new sustainable business models; the importance of science, technology and innovation; and strengthening data and statistical capabilities in developing countries.  

With regard to countries in special situations, he noted the need to: build resilience; address vulnerabilities; and invest in education and skills. He said: Africa wants to focus on eradication of poverty and hunger and finishing the MDGs; SIDS want stronger action on climate change and the sustainable management and use of oceans; LLDCs want to alleviate the high costs of market access through a trade facilitation agreement; and MICs are concerned with inequality.   

On human rights, development and global governance, he highlighted: the importance of human rights and fundamental freedoms; the right to development; and an effective UN institution as the cornerstone of sustainable development governance.

Delegations then suggested changes to the Co-Chairs’ summary, to reflect, inter alia: calls for every goal to be accompanied by MOI; calls for reforms to ODA, the international financial architecture and FDI; vulnerability of countries other than the five groups listed; varied views on the WTO Bali agreement; the existence of other processes on migration and financing; distinct interpretations of multi-stakeholder partnerships and the global partnership; and the need for improved uptake of sustainability reporting practices.

Co-Chair Kamau then outlined initial thoughts on the next steps in the process, which will be revisited in February. He suggested that the report of the OWG should be faithful to The Future We Want and will include a narrative to reflect the debate, an analysis with a reflection of the debate and then the goals and targets. After the January and February sessions, he said the methods of work will continue to be transparent, inclusive, Member State-driven, participatory and consensual. He announced the dates for the next set of OWG meetings: 3-7 March, 31 March - 4 April, 5-9 May, 2-6 June and 14-18 July. He noted that there will also be informal meetings of the OWG to help “prod things along.” In addition, there will be other post-2015 development agenda-related meetings under the auspices of ECOSOC and the UNGA President, along with expert groups and other consultations.

Peru, on behalf of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico, said we want to arrive at a concrete, limited number of goals and targets by next September that we can recommend to the UNGA. He stressed that the OWG is doing something revolutionary: defining goals, not text for a resolution, and focusing on our common humanity, not the North-South Divide. He urged that we not approach this as a traditional negotiation and said it is our responsibility “to get this right.”  

South Africa asked if participation would be limited. Co-Chair Kamau responded that the OWG will continue to follow the methods of work already adopted, and any changes would be adopted in February.  

Pakistan said the mandate of the group is to deliver the SDGs and he didn’t see the need to negotiate a narrative since it already exists in the Rio+20 outcome document. He urged the Group to focus on targets and goals. Nicaragua, Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan agreed with Pakistan that time should not be diverted to developing a narrative. Germany supported the Co-Chairs’ proposals. Sri Lanka said the length of the meetings might need to be reconsidered.

Co-Chair Kamau recalled the significance of the room in which OWG-6 had met, the Trusteeship Council Chamber. He noted that the Group has been entrusted with something very important, and said that the way it has been working signals the importance of this work. He wished everyone a wonderful holiday season and closed the session at 6:10 pm.


“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”*

The discussions during the sixth meeting of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals reminded observers of the high bar that the international community set for itself at Rio+20 eighteen months ago. It was there that UN Member States agreed to construct a set of goals that are “global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.” During the OWG Co-Chairs’ closing remarks on Friday, the Group was reminded that, in order to achieve this ambitious and different type of outcome, they would need to chart a new course and not fall back on the increasingly deadlocked ways of negotiating multilateral environmental agreements. As the first year of the international community’s work to chart a new path by setting bold but achievable goals comes to a close, this analysis looks at a number of ways in which OWG-6 has revealed an evolution in the process and approach that the international community is taking to develop the SDGs, and reviews some of the challenges it will face in an extremely hectic 2014.  

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”*

The OWG was established as a thirty-member body, and set the agenda for its first eight sessions as an opportunity for an inclusive and transparent “input” stage, to feed into the report it will deliver to the UN General Assembly in September 2014. Although some participants have expressed frustration with sitting through hours of prepared statements, others have noted the critical role that such a process provides the intergovernmental community to “be heard” and to learn how other actors would approach each issue. Some further noted that the requirement that the OWG consist of thirty members— hotly debated this time last year— has had a positive, although unintended, consequence: countries have not been able to “hide” behind the traditional coalitions, but instead a wider range of ideas has been aired. The OWG seat-sharing format has introduced an additional vehicle for coordination among governments. Nevertheless, some pointed out that traditional coalitions have continued to deliver statements as usual, and wondered which coalition structure would allow the most constructive talks after the first eight OWG sessions.  

As the end of 2013 brought the first six OWG meetings to a close, some highlighted that the Group is entering a critical phase. Ultimately, a focused, coherent and limited series of targets will need to be identified to support an even more limited number of goals. With the need to chart a new path in mind, the Co-Chairs encouraged OWG-6 delegates time and again to forgo their urge to make broad, political statements and to focus instead on identifying targets from which a collective preference for goals could be discerned. But the road from the inclusive and transparent airing of views to a set of agreed SDGs is in uncharted territory for an intergovernmental process. The rough outline of the next steps in the OWG’s journey were alluded to in various statements by the Co-Chairs during OWG-6, including the dates for five formal meetings of the Group after the “input” meetings are complete in February. Also during the final meeting of OWG-6, delegates indicated that they would prefer to refer to The Future We Want as the narrative context for their work, to allow them to focus on delivering a list of targets and goals. But many more steep hills remain to be climbed in 2014, including numerous coordination and process issues, if the Group is to achieve its objective to set the international community on a new sustainable development path.  

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”*  

While the work of the OWG has introduced a new way of approaching sustainable development diplomacy—both in terms of outcome and the organization of parties—some pointed out that it has also revealed a recognition of the evolving international system in which the discussions are taking place. While some statements may have sounded like they would have been appropriate in the follow-up to the first Rio conference, the 1992 Earth Summit, others indicated that voices of change from outside the UN halls are beginning to echo within. In some cases, the evolution of issues was faster than others. For example, while many OWG-5 speakers voiced the well-worn call for a successful outcome to the Doha round of trade negotiations, speakers at OWG-6 two weeks later provided more concrete suggestions for how the Bali package, reached the Friday before OWG-6 opened, could be built upon.

The evolution of thinking about other issues has been slower, but did reveal itself at points during OWG-6. Many speakers emphasized the need to develop new partnerships and to recognize that the traditional donor-recipient relationship no longer exists. Delegates also generally supported a rights-based approach that could underline all of the SDGs. The most engaged and unscripted discussions with expert panelists during OWG-6 were those with Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who called on governments to recognize that they cannot do everything by themselves, and Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes, who highlighted the need to “refresh” the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). In a venue where applause after statements is not standard, some noted the significance that it was civil society leading the cheers at a number of points during Polman’s exchange with the OWG. He said business “needs to pay its fair share in the places where it has its operations,” and argued that good business welcomes regulation, as it “gets rid of free riders and moves platforms up.” Lopes emphasized that, while CBDR is a fundamental principle that should be part of the universal discussion, its application has changed with changing circumstances. He suggested that examples of an evolved interpretation would include the identification of Africa’s needs for assistance to engage in international trade and needs for assistance to address climate change within Africa.  

In addition, distinctions in the definition of global partnership were made, with “global partnership for development” embodying MDG-8 and referring in many cases to ODA and North-South donor relationships, while a newer addition refers to more thematic, multi-stakeholder partnerships for specific objectives, such as the Every Woman Every Child initiative. Some participants emphasized the need to focus on the latter as an important model to secure new financing for implementing the goals.

“… Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great.”*

While all eyes are on 2015 and the new development agenda, speakers at OWG-6 reminded each other of the key discussions in 2014 that will feed into the debate. These events include 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, not to mention the simultaneous work of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing, a series of thematic debates organized by the UN General Assembly President, the five one-week meetings of the OWG that were announced at the end of OWG-6, and the intergovernmental process that will begin in September 2014 to negotiate the post-2015 development agenda.  

The possibilities offered by this post-Rio+20 process have been noted by many as a once-in-a-generation chance to change the approach to intergovernmental cooperation and arrive at a different type of outcome. The constant nudge from the OWG Co-Chairs during the sixth session reflected the need to adjust the approach, as they encouraged speakers to specify how their ideas could be operationalized and what specific targets they would recommend. The adjustments to the process and recognition of evolving relationships during 2013 suggest that a new type of development partnership could be crafted, and the high-level representatives that governments have sent to the OWG thus far indicate a seriousness befitting their work in the UN’s historic Trusteeship Council Chamber. Nonetheless, the tendencies to fall back on well-known habits of lowest common denominator agreements and reliance on previous language and positional negotiation will need to be avoided on the road to 2015.  

*Editor’s Note: Many speakers at OWG-6 paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, whose memorial services took place during the meeting. We have selected several quotations from Mandela here, including his book, Long Walk to Freedom (1995) and Speech for the Campaign to Make Poverty History, London, UK (2005), as entry points to some of the themes from OWG-6.


Science and Technology for Sustainable Development Goals: The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs will convene this workshop where participants will discuss the need for science-based and technology-based transformations, and opportunities for promoting these transformations through the SDGs. date: 16 December 2013  location: Columbia University, New York  contact: Lauren Barredo, SDSN  email: www:

OWG Informal Meeting on Measuring Progress: This meeting will discuss experiences gained from monitoring and implementing the MDGs, in the context of the post-2015 development agenda. The meeting will also consider the implications for the monitoring and measurement of proposals on SDG goals and targets. date: 17 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:  

First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation: The Global Partnership works with partners to complement existing efforts that impact on effective development co-operation. These include the UN Development Co-operation Forum, the Development Working Group of the G20 and the UN-led process of creating a global development agenda for after 2015. The Global Partnership builds on a range of international efforts, including those begun in the Monterrey Consensus (2002), the Rome Declaration on Harmonisation (2003), the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008).  dates: 15-16 April 2014  location: Mexico  contact:  Derek Kilner, UNDP phone: +1-212-906-5742  email:  www:

Second Set of OWG Meetings: At the conclusion of OWG-6, the Co-Chairs announced that the Group would meet formally on the following dates in 2014: 3-7 March, 31 March - 4 April, 5-9 May, 2-6 June and 14-18 July. location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email:  www:

Further information