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Summary report, 3–5 March 2014

9th Session of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) OWG on SDGs

The ninth session of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place from 3-5 March 2014, at UN Headquarters in New York. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, and Csaba Kőrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, continued in their roles as Co-Chairs of the meeting, which brought together OWG members and other Member States, representatives from UN agencies, and Major Groups.

OWG-9 served as the first session of the OWG’s second phase, which began the process of narrowing down preferences for a set of SDGs following an extensive, eleven-month “stocktaking” phase. Delegates considered a list of 19 “focus areas” that had been distributed by the Co-Chairs one week prior to OWG-9, participated in a joint meeting with the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing, heard the reactions of Major Groups to the Focus Areas, and discussed the way forward for its next session, which begins on 31 March 2014. At the end of the meeting, the Co-Chairs offered to prepare four informational documents to assist delegates in their deliberations at OWG-10: a “slightly tweaked” focus areas document; a compendium of existing issue targets on various issues; a matrix of interlinkages between issues; and working definitions of goals, targets, and indicators.


During the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (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 that is transparent and open to stakeholders, and comprised of 30 representatives from the five UN regional groups, nominated by UN Member States, to elaborate a proposal for SDGs. They also called on the OWG to submit a report to the 68th session of the Assembly, containing a proposal for SDGs for consideration and appropriate action.

The Rio+20 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 UN General Assembly (UNGA) endorsed the outcome document, titled The Future We Want, in resolution 66/288 on 30 November 2012.

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 EIGHT SESSIONS OF THE OWG: The OWG held its first eight meetings between March 2013 and February 2014 at UN Headquarters in New York. During the first meeting (14-15 March 2013), participants shared their initial views on both the process and substance of the SDG framework. During the second meeting (17-19 April 2013), 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 at OWG-2 also discussed the Programme of Work for 2013-2014, and the following six OWG sessions focused on the issue clusters that were identified in this document.

The issue clusters for which the OWG conducted a “stocktaking” review were as follows:

•  OWG-3 (22-24 May 2013): food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation and drought, and water and sanitation;

•  OWG-4 (17-19 June 2013): employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture, and health and population dynamics;

•  OWG-5 (25-27 November 2013): sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial system and external debt sustainability), infrastructure development and industrialization, and energy;

•  OWG-6 (9-13 December 2013): 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 middle-income countries, and human rights, the right to development, and global governance;

•  OWG-7 (6-10 January 2014): sustainable cities and human settlements, sustainable transport, sustainable consumption and production (including chemicals and wastes), and climate change and disaster risk reduction; and

•  OWG-8 (3-7 February 2014): 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.

Based on the first eight sessions of the OWG, the Co-Chairs released a “stocktaking” document on 14 February 2014 and a “focus areas” document on 21 February 2014. The 19 focus areas, which were the basis for discussions at OWG-9, are: poverty eradication; food security and nutrition; health and population dynamics; education; gender equality and women’s empowerment; water and sanitation; energy; economic growth; industrialization; infrastructure; employment and decent work for all; promoting equality; sustainable cities and human settlements; sustainable consumption and production; climate; marine resources, oceans and seas; ecosystems and biodiversity; means of implementation; and peaceful and non-violent societies, capable institutions.

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 on a new UN development agenda.


Co-Chair Kamau opened OWG-9 on Monday, 3 March 2014, and welcomed delegates to the “second lap” of the OWG, noting that the Group’s work so far provides an excellent foundation for the way forward. Regarding the Co-Chairs’ focus areas document, which was circulated on 21 February 2014, he said these focus areas do not preclude other issues raised during the thematic discussions. He noted that the document aims to start the process of identifying the SDGs and accompanying targets, and is not a “zero draft” of the report that the OWG will submit to the UN General Assembly in September 2014. Kamau added that the 19 focus areas, if they can be addressed synergistically, can promise a more sustainable earth, societies, and economies, and ultimately a more sustainable global political framework. 

Kamau urged members to retain a high level of ambition in the next few months, rather than maintaining the status quo and protecting vested interests. He stressed the need for universality, calling on delegates to consider whether a proposed goal speaks equitably to “north and south, east and west, and rich and poor.” He also called on members to consider the interlinkages between proposed goals, and their collective impact. He said coherence is almost as important as universality.


OWG-9 participants offered their comments on the focus area document and their preferences for the SDGs all day Monday and on Tuesday morning. Many speakers commended the Co-Chairs for their work to develop the focus areas document and their leadership of the OWG process. Speakers also highlighted elements that they thought were not addressed adequately in the document.

Bolivia, for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), said the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) should be a guiding principle in the development of the SDGs. He suggested enhancing the document’s treatment of, inter alia, food security, agricultural production, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD), and migration. He added that culture is an enabler and driver of sustainable development, and the right of self-determination of peoples living under colonial occupation should be respected.

The European Union (EU) highlighted, inter alia: this should be a transformative agenda and requires innovation in the way interlinkages are addressed; priorities include achieving gender equality, addressing inequalities, freedom from violence and honest government; and key aspects of rule of law, such as birth registration. He recalled that the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF) is developing a financing strategy.

Benin, for the LDCs, said one-size-fits-all treatment of countries in the name of universality is not acceptable. The SDGs must be guided by the principle of Differential and Preferential Treatment for LDCs. He called for separate goals on: economic growth; industrialization; infrastructure; and employment and decent work for all. He also stressed the importance of: energy access, renewable energy, and energy efficiency; universal education; reproductive health; water and sanitation; climate change, disaster risk reduction and the need for “building resilient societies”; and means of implementation.

Guinea-Bissau, for African States, said the document should include concrete action to address inequality between countries. He called for sustainable agriculture and DLDD to be included as separate focus areas. He also supported: a focus area on scaling up the global partnership for development; reflecting human rights, governance and rule of law as development enablers; linking each SDG to means of implementation; and the importance of CBDR.

Guyana, for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underscored poverty eradication as the overriding priority and a necessary condition for sustainable development. He called for more emphasis on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), disaster risk reduction, small-scale fisheries, and mountains. He proposed that the development concerns of SIDS and other vulnerable countries should be considered throughout the goal framework, not only in regard to means of implementation (MOI). He called for serious consideration of a revitalized global partnership.

Papua New Guinea, also for the Pacific Small Island Development States and Timor Leste, welcomed the focus area on marine resources, oceans and seas, but said it “leans more toward the environmental dimensions” and that equal attention should be paid to its social and economic dimensions. He called for three main targets under an oceans and seas SDG: achieve a healthy marine environment; achieve healthy fish stocks; and realize the economic benefits of sustainable development of marine resources. Finally, he cited a need to define the new global partnership, which he said should complement traditional approaches such as official development assistance (ODA) and foreign aid.

Tanzania said the focus areas are broadly balanced, but would like them to include sustainable agriculture and DLDD. He said all of the OWG sessions should include meetings with the ICESDF.

Colombia, also for Guatemala, addressed the way forward, scope, universality and implementation. She said the OWG must have a coherent set of goals and targets by July, and suggested using an “M&M” indicator for assessing the OWG’s success: whether Ministers will be able to say they can take the goals forward, and whether Mothers will be able to understand the goals. She suggested “unpacking” the proposed goals to understand what the goals, targets and enablers are. She said poverty remains at the forefront of the agenda, which is not an agenda of minimums. She said universality does not mean “one size fits all,” adding that the way to differentiate is at the national level. She echoed the need for global agreement on global partnerships and examination of what is needed for implementation around each specific target.

Bulgaria, also for Croatia, said there is a need for more attention to sexual rights and vulnerable groups. She said promoting the right to quality education is the key to achieving other development goals. She added that peaceful and safe societies, and human rights and rule of law should be seen as two issue areas, and expressed disappointment that culture was not included in the focus areas document.

Norway, also for Ireland and Denmark, recommended, inter alia: linking poverty eradication to all other areas and reflecting the multidimensional nature of poverty; referencing the importance of non-agricultural food products, such as fisheries and forests, and including action to combat obesity; addressing women’s empowerment and gender equality throughout all focus areas; recognizing the potential of renewable energy for creating jobs; incorporating disaster risk management; better capturing interlinkages among peace, sustainable development and poverty eradication; and consistently reflecting the concerns of Indigenous Peoples.

Kazakhstan, also for China and Indonesia, said the document does not adequately reflect CBDR as a guiding principle of the SDGs, and a narrative preamble could reaffirm the importance of the Rio Principles. He said MOI should be strengthened in the document, and a global development partnership should be reflected in a stand-alone goal as well as cross-cutting. He also: emphasized reform of the international trade, financial and economic architecture for greater inclusiveness; said human rights, peace and security and governance should be reflected in a preamble rather than stand-alone goals; opposed a stand-alone goal on climate change; and called for a focus on equality between, rather than within, countries.

Peru, also for Mexico, called for more emphasis on economic inclusiveness, recognizing culture as a driver of sustainable development, and greater examination of risk reduction, beyond its interlinkages with climate change.

Indonesia said: the global partnership should be addressed as both stand-alone and cross-cutting; sustainable consumption and production (SCP) must be a stand-alone goal; and marine resources, oceans and SIDS should be clustered with ecosystems, biodiversity and forests under the umbrella of “sustainable management of natural ecosystems.” He also called for reflecting disaster risk reduction (DRR) in cross-cutting elements and for including women, youth and persons with disabilities.

India said the economic pillar is the foundation of sustainable development and must be adequately elaborated in the SDGs. He supported the call for mainstreaming MOI across each goal and a stand-alone goal on strengthened global partnership. He said the SDGs should not provide policy prescriptions for only one set of countries, adding that developed countries must take on commitments and lead a shift to sustainable lifestyles. He supported a stand-alone goal on sustainable consumption and lifestyles. He also said: the narrative must not be negotiated, but should draw from Rio+20; the environmental focus areas could be incorporated in a goal for sustainable management of natural ecosystems; the mandate and principles of multilateral processes on environmental issues should be respected and the outcomes in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process must not be prejudged; and the democratic deficit in international institutions must be addressed.

Zambia said that all of the elements to achieve poverty eradication should be incorporated, including youth employment, empowerment of women and social inclusiveness. She suggested moving beyond primary education to include a focus on secondary and tertiary education.

Nauru, for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said, inter alia: climate change should be treated as a cross-cutting issue; the Warsaw Process on Loss and Damage and the Hyogo Framework for Action should be accounted for; sustainable energy is an enabler; and SIDS’ priorities will be identified at the September 2014 Conference and should be incorporated into this process at that time.

Uganda said sustainable agriculture and agricultural productivity should be reflected in a stand-alone area. He also emphasized gender equality and empowerment of women, youth employment, and older persons and persons with disabilities. Human rights, governance and the rule of law should be considered in the context of development enablers as agreed in the Rio+20 outcome and in respect of national traditions, cultures and values. He said each SDG must be accompanied by means of implementation, and called for a focus area on strengthening global partnerships for development.

Bangladesh said the document does not duly reflect the need for international assistance to LDCs. He welcomed the focus area on climate change, and called for targets on CO2 emissions and adaptation challenges. He highlighted migration, youth and other population dynamics as inadequately reflected in the paper. He said the rule of law and good governance are best suited for the narrative of the post-2015 agenda, not goals or targets.

The Russian Federation said sustainable transport should be a stand-alone focus area, supported Indonesia, China and Kazakhstan on focus area 19 (Peaceful and non-violent societies, capable institutions), and asked for guidance on whether the focus areas should be discussed area by area or in clusters, and how interlinkages should be addressed. He looked forward to the discussion on financing, and noted the need to coordinate with consultations for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and preparations for the September 2015 summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda.

Nigeria said the MDG on global partnership was poorly conceptualized, and global partnership needs to be defined. He said sexual rights, among other issues, represents a “red line” that will hamper progress.

Palau called for a greater focus on health, including control of NCDs, and said there should be a target calling for breastfeeding all infants for the first six months of life.

Opening the afternoon session, Co-Chair Kőrösirequested that delegates keep in mind: how their proposal will address what we want to change; whether a proposed goal has a universal character; and how it contributes to the three-dimensional, interconnected nature of the SDGs.

Bhutan suggested a greater focus on countries in special situations. He also highlighted elements of the Istanbul Programme of Action that could help identify SDGs: building productive capacity; agriculture; sustained and inclusive economic growth; and climate change. The latter must give due attention to mountain countries, he noted.

Egypt said all economic areas should be reflected as stand-alone goals, including sustainable consumption and production, on which developed countries should take the lead. He also called for: stronger reference to implementation and a separate goal on global partnership for development; indications of concrete actions to deal with inequality between countries; and a stand-alone goal on DLDD.

Brazil, also for Nicaragua, said the OWG needs to devise a shared political vision taking into account that the SDGs must be global in nature and universally applicable, while respecting different national realities, policies and priorities. He expressed concern about “excessive reliance on multi-stakeholder schemes,” since governments are ultimately responsible for achieving the SDGs. He said CBDR underlies the agreement to devise the SDGs. The focus areas could further expand on SCP, and should address consumption in developed countries. On focus area 19, he said these issues are better addressed under equity, MOI and gender.

Pakistan said this is the first time that a genuinely intergovernmental process has been mandated to elaborate a development process. He said OWG-10 should not lead to another iteration of the focus area paper, but instead should make a serious attempt to develop the goals. He said the goals should be judged according to their ability to promote growth and development, eliminate poverty and synchronize implementation of the three pillars of sustainable development. He said greater attention should be given to, inter alia, rural development, reducing inequality, and access to justice. He added that targets should be aligned with the means to implement them. He noted that governments are often only elected for five years, and suggested devising short- and medium-term targets. He said the rule of law should be separated from the peace and conflict focus.

Slovenia said sustainable development is not possible without respect for human rights, and supported continued education for teachers, gender equality and women’s empowerment, access to women’s healthcare, and streamlining climate change into other goals rather than as its own priority area.

Congo said the goals should not have a hierarchy, highlighted Indigenous Peoples, and said recurring conflict, including its impact on the poaching of flora and fauna, needs to be dealt with through international trade.

Saudi Arabia highlighted the right to development and respect for national circumstances. He expressed concern that the document included subsidies under the focus area on energy, recalling that the Rio+20 outcome included this issue under consumption and production. On sexual and reproductive health and rights, he said the Group should respect the culture and religion of each country. He also cautioned about interference from other processes in the Group’s work.

Sri Lanka said the joint dialogue of OWG and ICESDF should focus on how to support each focus area with adequate MOI. He called for separate goals on global ecosystem management and on infrastructure. He said the development aspect of migration must be reflected, and that industrial development is key to reducing poverty. He highlighted the 2014 Youth Conference to be held in Colombo, noting that youth are the beneficiaries of development processes.

Iran suggested that each economic goal could have social and environmental targets, thus integrating the elements and allowing for more economic goals. He also called for concrete MOI for each goal, and urged members to avoid “controversial” language.

Morocco said the issue of youth should be further mainstreamed into the focus areas, supported including specific MOI for each SDG, suggested adopting an enhanced mechanism of accountability, and underscored the importance of regional, subregional and national action. He said focus area 19 could be considered an enabler of development.

Japan said the SDGs should have a people-centered approach. He also said: health and universal health coverage should have a goal; the focus area of gender equality should be a stand-alone goal and mainstreamed in the other goals; DRR should be given more importance; the inclusion of climate change should not prejudge the results of UNFCCC COP 21; there should be a holistic approach to MOI rather than a fragmented treatment of the issue; and CBDR is related to environmental issues and should not be an overarching principle of the SDGs.

Viet Nam suggested linking each goal with MOI, and called for stronger language on economic growth and industrialization.

The Maldives cautioned against sectoral approaches. He suggested focusing on areas where sustained economic progress can be reached while protecting the environment. He also: called for a stand-alone goal on gender parity, since this will not result automatically from sustainable development; reiterated the call for a goal on oceans; and said an “action-oriented update” of MDG 8 is imperative.

Belarus emphasized industrial development and related issues, such as industrialization, energy, infrastructure and economic growth.

Lebanon welcomed the focus area on peaceful societies, which she said are both an enabler and outcome of sustainable development. She highlighted economic empowerment for all social groups. She also noted the importance of migration, which could be reflected in indicators on global partnership, economic growth and decent work.

Liechtenstein welcomed a stand-alone goal on gender, but said the focus area does not sufficiently emphasize women’s participation and leadership at all levels. On rule of law, human rights and democracy, he expressed disappointment in the focus areas document, and called for stronger support for transitional justice and more interlinkages to rule of law in other focus areas.

Peru, on behalf of the Group of Friends of Culture and Development, stressed the need to incorporate culture in the SDGs and said his Group would come up with concrete examples as the discussion progresses.

Cuba said the Rio Principles, especially CBDR, have not been adequately reflected in the text, and should be in all of the focus areas. He called for international action to give support to action at the ground, and the level of development of each country needs to be taken into account.

Niger said DLDD should be addressed. He also stressed the need for the document to make sense, and said the priorities of states should be taken into account in this regard. He said these priorities include desertification and forestry management, and that a goal on ecosystem management may not fit into those priorities.

Panama highlighted the need to measure results, emphasized women’s empowerment, said the Group must emphasize that humans are dependent on ecosystems. She called for future sessions to highlight the resources to achieve goals and commitments.

Czech Republic commended the document for identifying interlinkages. She stressed the need to mainstream environmental sustainability, human rights and gender equality into all goals. She said that by addressing development separately from conflict, we could miss the opportunity to promote societies based on dialogue, inclusive participation and equality. She called for a separate goal on the rule of law, good governance and accountable institutions.

The Holy See called for full and productive employment and social development with an emphasis on meeting all basic necessities. He said: the development framework must avoid a “capricious” approach to inequality in which some can advance at the expense of others; family-focused policies are the most effective at reducing poverty; the right to health derives from the right to life; and remittances are engines of grassroots growth. He called for preserving natural resources for future generations. 

NGOs reiterated that the SDGs need to be universal, suggested adding text on obesity in the section on nutrition, noted that the only reference to developed countries is on SCP, and said references to corporate responsibility are missing. Women cautioned that some areas use language that falls behind existing agreements, and noted that the document includes no recognition of women’s rights or planetary boundaries.

On Tuesday morning, Ecuador, also for Argentina and Bolivia, called for eradication of poverty as a priority goal that must cut across all areas and goals. He called for further elaboration of goals on food security (to include small farmers and family agriculture), commodities markets (greater regulation and transparency in speculative markets), water (more than drinking water), employment (including youth, women, the elderly and disabled), and SCP as an independent area. He stressed the importance of CBDR, a rights-based approach, and reference to the role of culture. He concluded that each goal needs its own MOI that are concrete and measurable.

The US, also for Canada and Israel, called for focusing on goals and targets that will have the most transformative and enduring impact with a focus on impediments to development. She called for prioritizing the unfinished MDGs and recognizing development bottlenecks, including equality and empowerment of women, among others. She said CBDR has its place but does not have broad relevance in the post-2015 development agenda. She concluded by mentioning sexual orientation and gender identity, stressing that the foundation of our work and success is universal human rights and a life of dignity for all, and “all” does not mean “some.” She added that every individual is born with a fundamental right to be free from poverty, intolerance and violence. 

Zimbabwe, on behalf of Southern African Countries, endorsed the need to make poverty eradication a stand-alone goal. He also stressed the importance of addressing agriculture as a stand-alone goal. He called for a balanced treatment of the three pillars of sustainable development and CBDR.

Romania, also for Poland, said the SDGs should take a human rights-based approach. She said the rule of law, good governance, accountable institutions and democracy should be more prominent, and the interlinkages between these and other focus areas are not clear. She also said CBDR is explicitly related to environmental degradation. She noted that SCP has universal relevance: in industrialized countries, it means resource and energy efficiency and more sustainable lifestyles, while in developing countries it implies “leap-frogging” to cleaner, more efficient technologies.

Germany, also for France and Switzerland, said the agenda should be based on human rights principles, and that implementation of a new global partnership should be monitored at the global level. She proposed 12 focus areas: end extreme poverty; end hunger and ensure food security and good nutrition; maximize health for all through achieving universal health coverage; education and life-long learning; achieve gender equality, empower women and enforce women’s rights; water and sanitation; securing sustainable energy; sustainable and inclusive growth; sustainable management of natural resources; sustainable and inclusive cities and territories; peaceful and non-violent societies; and governance, transparency and accountable, inclusive and effective institutions.

The United Arab Emirates, also for Cyprus and Singapore, said poverty eradication and sustainable development are the two overarching objectives of the SDGs, and are mutually reinforcing. She said the SDGs are not meant to be binding or prescriptive, but aspirational, to help states clarify important issues and strengthen collective efforts, and should be interpreted in light of existing obligations of each state. She said all goals and targets should be relevant to all states, and asked the Co-Chairs to propose a concrete process for the way forward by the end of OWG-9.

The UK, also for the Netherlands and Australia, welcomed the broad consensus that poverty eradication is the overarching goal. He highlighted that gender equality and women’s empowerment must address the need to end all violence against women and girls, including early marriage. He called for goals on peaceful and stable societies, and accountable institutions. He said that on MOI, the document could highlight the benefit of stakeholder partnerships. He underlined that CBDR applies to global environmental degradation, not the SDGs. He concluded that leaving no one behind means no discrimination.

Ethiopia said that while the text addresses most African priorities, agriculture, industrialization and the interlinkages among climate change, the green economy and sustainable development need to be highlighted. He said that although MOI is reflected in the document, more emphasis should be placed on the importance of finance for implementing the post-2015 development framework.

Nepal identified a number of points to “complete” the document, including explicit mention of sustainable agriculture in in focus area 2 (food security); emphasizing the role of men and boys in focus area 5 (gender); public finance in focus area 8 (economic growth); the special needs of LLDCs in focus area 9 (industrialization); culture in focus area 13 (sustainable cities); and DRR and resilience in focus area 15 (climate).

Malta highlighted the issue of migration, and suggested the document include attention to readmission policies, among other elements. He said universal access to education should include primary and secondary education. And he stressed that the OWG should keep in mind that national positions vary on population dynamics, especially on the “highly controversial issue of abortion,” which is illegal under Maltese law.

Serbia supported stand-alone goals on: economic growth, including industrialization and infrastructure; employment, including for youth and with support to small- and medium-size enterprises; energy, including a target to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies; and food security and nutrition. He also said: on health, the document should address the advancement of affordable medicines and joint work on rare diseases between developed and developing countries; equality should be addressed in relation to gender as well as other inequalities within and among countries; and there should be special attention to middle-income developing countries.

Sweden said: differentiation should be based on differing national capacities and should take the form of different paces of implementation and ambitions of indicators; a rights-based approach should permeate all of the goals; and further work needs to be done to elaborate the interlinkages. She also said: there is a fair amount of consensus on including a focus area on gender equality as well as to mainstream it into other focus areas; non-violence should be at the center of the agenda and requires a separate focus area; governance and rule of law should be a separate focus area; and MOI should be addressed as a generic, cross-cutting principle.

Portugal welcomed focus area 19 on peaceful and non-violent societies and capable institutions, and the proposal for two separate goals, as recommended by the UN High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. On marine resources, oceans and seas, he suggested marine protected areas as an area for specific action. He also: welcomed the focus area on water and sanitation; said CBDR cannot be construed to exempt any country from helping countries that lag behind; and the SDGs should be truly rights-based, with human well-being, dignity and equality at their core.

Qatar said culture and sustainable development must be given greater importance in the document. She called for special attention to desertification, the effects of which block attainment of sustainable development, and said water and sanitation should be part of the SDGs.

Finland said the post-2015 development agenda should be transformational, universal and based on human rights. Sexual and reproductive health and rights “concern us all” and should be reflected in the SDGs and post-2015 agenda, she said, recalling the joint statement of approximately 50 states at OWG-8. Finland said the rule of law, global governance and democracy should have their own focus area. She emphasized the whole agenda should be climate-sensitive, there should be more emphasis on DRR, and forests should be clustered with natural resources and ecosystems, rather than biodiversity.

Turkey, also for Italy and Spain, said the focus areas document, along with the OWG Progress Report, will serve as a solid basis to commence a consensus-building exercise to define targets and goals. He suggested that transformative shifts should be better highlighted, and that areas such as industrialization, infrastructure and economic growth should be considered in terms of planetary boundaries. He also stressed for inclusion in the agenda: the causes of poverty; gender equality; inequalities that undermine development; good and democratic governance; DRR and resilience; DLDD; and means of implementation.

Austria stressed the importance of linkages between sustainable development and poverty eradication. He reiterated that the SDGs should be limited in number and clearly elucidate interlinkages between issues. He called for dedicated attention to: rule of law; a human rights-based approach; a dedicated goal on gender equality; mountain ecosystems; regional and cross-border cooperation; sustainable and inclusive development; and a dedicated goal on sustainable energy.

Uruguay said the SDGs will apply to both developed and developing states, so differences between countries must be taken into account in terms of CBDR. She stressed that the goals should not place additional burdens on countries, and previous commitments should be fulfilled. She proposed a stand-alone goal on poverty, strengthened by specific attention to equality, as well as addressing sexual and reproductive health rights.

The Syrian Arab Republic stressed that occupation is the primary obstacle to sustainable development, and emphasized the need for countries to end “coercive measures” that violate a state’s sovereignty and right to development. He called for mechanisms throughout the agenda that are based on CBDR.

The Philippines said the 19 focus areas represent an attempt to form a new architecture for sustainable development. He stressed that the SDGs must recognize responsibility and accountability to both present and future generations, and encouraged the OWG to look at focus areas from an inter-generational standpoint. He emphasized the need to recognize that all of humanity lives with finite resources and planetary boundaries.

New Zealand welcomed the focus area on oceans and seas and detailed oceans’ relevance for all countries—including those without a coast—noting their role in global trade, jobs, food, and environmental resilience. She compared oceans to the atmosphere in being a “rare, shared global resource.” She also outlined the strengths of the proposed stand-alone goal on oceans.

Mexico said governments have not yet sent clear signals on how the negotiation process should develop. He called for a revised version of the focus areas document, and to achieve two main goals: integration among the focus areas—noting that there are risks to an exclusively environmental approach—and balance among the three dimensions of sustainable development.

Guatemala said the phase for general statements has been exhausted and it is time for a more substantive discussion. She requested a matrix or visual map of the layers that will define this framework, including goals, targets, enablers and indicators, and said “transformation takes place at the interlinkage level.” She said there is wide support for: poverty eradication; water and sanitation; sustainable energy for all; health and population; education; inclusive economic growth, including employment and youth employment; gender equality and empowerment of women; sustainable and safe cities; SCP; food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, including the role of chemicals; natural resources and ecosystems; and access to justice and freedom from fear. She added that several cross-cutting issues should be incorporated, such as equality, climate change, migration, strengthening institutions, an open trading system, and resilience and DRR. She also noted that a narrative is not part of the Group’s mandate, and she called for a wider discussion on the question of including MOI for each goal and target.

Timor-Leste supported the inclusion of marine resources, and said it should be balanced among the three pillars of sustainable development and that the interlinkages between this topic and poverty eradication should be incorporated. She also supported including: gender equality as a stand-alone goal with cross-cutting indicators; recognition of the linkages between DRR and oceans, human settlements and other topics; the specific challenges of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS; and a stand-alone goal on peace, with mechanisms around it being country-owned and country-led and with targets across the SDG framework.

Panama highlighted that speakers had only praised the Co-Chairs’ focus areas document and not presented any new proposals. Since there is consensus on where we can work, he requested a matrix for the next session so we can move forward.

Tunisia said the document does not sufficiently detail the importance of the most critical goal: justice. He said economic and social as well as environmental justice are among the most important topics and without justice there can be no stability.

Local Authorities supported a stand-alone goal on urbanization, and said it should seek to foster multilevel stakeholder cooperation. He noted that implementation will be the key to whatever agreement is reached on the SDGs, and pledged that local governments are committed to ensure the SDGs will be implemented.

Children and Youth expressed concern with the lack of focus on needs, rights and capabilities of children and youth, as well as a lack of focus on human rights in the agenda. She welcomed the recognition of CBDR, and said we all share common responsibilities for implementation.

NGOs said the reflection of industrialization, infrastructure, and economic growth in the focus areas document over-emphasized a traditional paradigm of growth. She called for the document to include reform of economic systems, environmental limits, and increased accountability for the private sector, in order to move past business as usual.

Workers and Trade Unions said a human rights-based approach must be better reflected across all areas, social protection must be “ramped up,” and the focus areas on employment and decent work should be supported.

Ageing Persons said older people will not be excluded in the next development agenda. He emphasized that older persons are resources, not burdens, and that the SDGs should focus on the specific needs of ageing populations.

Iceland said the focus areas document should take a more rights-based approach to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment including reproductive health and rights. In addition, DLDD is not reflected adequately, he said, emphasizing the call for a land-degradation neutral world.

Belgium said it is time for a more focused discussion in order to build bridges between areas and then strengthen those interlinkages. She called for focusing on actions with the largest multiplier effects and co-benefits. She added Belgium’s support to previous calls for: a human-rights approach; stronger ambition on peaceful societies and capable institutions; and reflection of population dynamics, migration, and social protection. She also favored designing “climate-smart” SDGs.


Opening the joint meeting with the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF) on Wednesday morning, OWG Co-Chair Kőrösi said the two groups have a similar objective of helping the UNGA shape the post-2015 development agenda. He added that the “global to-do list” that the OWG will compile will require modus operandi and means of implementation. Kőrösi asked participants if every goal should have associated means of implementation, or should this be handled in a separate goal, as in MDG 8 (global partnership for development)?

ICESDF Co-Chair Pertti Majanen (Finland) said that as both bodies approach the report-writing phase, an exchange of information is especially important. He said the Committee is working in the spirit of the Monterrey Consensus, including the need to look at a range of financing sources beyond ODA, and that it also shares the Rio+20 platform, in its emphasis on integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development.

Majanen said the pressing issues for the OWG identified in the recent Co-Chairs’ documents—poverty eradication, inequitable development and protection of the environment—are shared by the Committee. He added that the results of the two bodies’ work will be “amalgamated” as part of the UN Secretary-General’s forthcoming synthesis report on the post-2015 development agenda. Finally, he highlighted the Committee’s regional meetings being organized by the UN regional economic commissions and others.

ICESDF Co-Chair Mansur Muhtar (Nigeria) shared substantive insights of the Committee, inter alia: financing needs are large but there are methodological challenges to quantifying them; even a small fraction of global savings allocated to financing sustainable development could help address needs; all sources of financing should be considered mutually reinforcing and complementary; domestic resource mobilization is critical; ODA is not sufficient and should have a strategic role for private investment; the private sector is profit-oriented and needs incentives to invest in sustainable development; innovative partnerships should be used to mobilize additional financing; the impacts of “bad policies” and inaction should be considered, and there had been much discussion of energy subsidies; and there was a strong call to account for countries’ special issues and challenges, especially the middle income trap.

OWG Co-Chair Kamau said there had been no clear resolution on how ODA will be reconsidered in the new development and financing frameworks. He said that meeting the challenges of global sustainability must “go way beyond ODA,” and yet the debate is still centered on a North-South financing paradigm. He posed questions on how to manage the interplay between finance and other streams of MOI, and how to build the outcomes of the financing committee into the work of the OWG.

Brazil said there is also a third process on the table: the Financing for Development follow-up conference. He expressed hope that the preparatory process would begin soon, as it will be an important and broader stream of development financing negotiations. He said ODA is an important element for the discussion, and insisted that the concept must not disappear. The SDGs should not prescribe commitments for developing countries, he said, but should be diverse and differentiated according to national capacities and resources. “CBDR is not a principle applying only to climate change, as Rio+20 universalized it,” he stressed.

Egypt emphasized the importance of coherence and synergy between the different work streams. He echoed the G-77/China proposal that MOI be linked to each goal, and said it is important to change the way MOI is being addressed. Egypt posed the question: if the two groups are working in parallel, how can we address the issue of allocating specific MOI to each goal?

Ireland asked how the Committee is addressing, inter alia: the global trade structure; climate change negotiations; management of financial crises; transparency and accountability in the financing architecture; coordination between donor groups; recommendations for the entire global financing system; decision-making principles of international financial institutions; domestic resource mobilization; how financing can support gender equality; meetings with the private sector; rule of law and governance issues; enabling environments at the national and regional levels; and involving civil society in the deliberations.

Benin, on behalf of LDCs, highlighted finance-related activities called for under the Istanbul Programme of Action, including reducing transaction costs for remittance flows, and noted that countries in the South have become important partners to LDCs. He called attention to efforts to establish a global framework for investment in LDCs, and said LDCs know that no country can rely solely on ODA. He concluded by stating that LDCs are the poorest and most vulnerable of society, and they should be at the front and center of the SDGs.

The EU said the alignment of the work of the OWG and ICESDF is important, and ultimately the work of the two bodies should converge into a single framework. He recognized the importance of MOI for the success of the sustainable development framework, and said the Busan Global Partnership, which will have its first ministerial meeting in Mexico in April 2014, can provide examples for this process.

ICESDF Co-Chair Majanen said the Committee is trying to cover everything within its limits. ICESDF Co-Chair Muhtar cited a need for the two groups to work more closely together to synchronize their work, and that the closer aligned they are now the easier it will be for the follow-up process.

Liz Ditchburn, Facilitator of ICESDF Cluster 1, reaffirmed that LDCs’ needs have loomed very large in their discussions, especially regarding the role of ODA vis-à-vis domestic resources and private flows.

Bolivia said CBDR is set out in the outcome of Rio+20, and should guide the design of the SDGs, and added that the SDGs should not place additional restrictions or burdens on developing countries. He urged the OWG to integrate clear and concrete means of implementation for each goal, and reflect more concrete elements in a separate goal. National goals are not attainable without addressing structural issues, he said.

The US supported the Committee’s consideration of all financial flows as complementary, not alternatives for each other. She added that it would be useful to gain a more detailed, empirical understanding of various possible financial flows to be captured for development objectives, and the policies or mechanisms required to unlock them.

The Netherlands, also for Australia and UK, echoed Co-Chair Kamau’s suggestion that a universal agenda suggests a shift in the ODA paradigm, but said ODA is needed to finish the MDGs. He called for ambitious partnerships to tackle themes, goals and targets, conducted in synergy and including outside partners. He reiterated his troika’s view that CBDR is not the overarching principle of SDGs, and the outcome of the UNGA’s special event on the MDGs, held on 25 September 2013, should be taken into account.

Argentina, also for Bolivia and Ecuador, emphasized that CBDR applies to sustainable development, which includes an environmental dimension. She expressed disagreement with the idea that the ODA paradigm should be reconsidered, She also indicated that the private sector should not be relied on to achieve states’ objectives. Finally, she argued that the ICESDF’s mandate calls for identifying options on a broader set of objectives, not only the SDGs. Each goal identified by the OWG, meanwhile, needs means of implementation, she said.

Rajasree Ray, ICESDF expert, said poverty eradication is an overriding priority. All options for financing must be explored, as every option has a role. Domestic resource mobilization, she emphasized, depends primarily on a country’s stage of development, and all private resources require leverage from public resources.

Dulce Buergo Rodriguez, ICESDF expert said financing for development is a pending issue on the international agenda, and stressed that the results of the Committee’s work could help reduce growing inequality at the international level.

Colombia stressed the need to consider paradigm shifts in both the international financial architecture and implementation architecture. She emphasized that “everyone along the development spectrum will have to make changes” in order to break out of the mold. It is important to talk about implementation for each target, she said, while meaningfully engaging non-state actors in these discussions. Finally, she suggested more intensive, informal dialogues between the OWG and ICESDF.

Saudi Arabia said the two groups must adhere to their original Rio+20 mandates, including support for developing country efforts to achieve sustainable development. He stressed that the private sector is looking for incentives, not policy prescriptions.

Pakistan raised questions about: how the ICESDF is looking at a strengthened and deepened global partnership for development; the measurement of implementation and partnership; and the involvement of the private sector in the work of the Committee.

Ethiopia said that however the paradigm changes, we must not tamper with ODA, which is absolutely critical, as has been highlighted in the common position of Africa. He said change is necessary but needs to be realistic.

Barbados said, based on experiences with MDG 8, there needs to be a more practical way to integrate global partnership into the goals.

Peru said countries have stressed the need for a single post-2015 agenda, where all the processes converge. He noted that: MOI covers mechanisms including capacity building and technology transfer; commitments for ODA need to be retained; new options should be explored, including mobilization of domestic resources; and middle income countries need support.

Sri Lanka noted possibilities related to leveraging global public goods, asked how seriously the ICESDF is looking at debt repayment, and suggested considering risk avoidance mechanisms.

Bangladesh said it is the responsibility of national authorities to steer development, but domestic economies are tied to the international economy and a reinforced global partnership is needed. He said the private sector seeks to make a profit with little attention to sustainable development.

India said the ICESDF’s mandate is to find strategies to mobilize resources for sustainable development, not the SDGs specifically; therefore, the SDGs must be accompanied by concrete MOI. He said as the sustainable development agenda expands, resource mobilization must also expand. On public finance, he said the decline in ODA does not mean the decline of its relevance, and ODA is a lynchpin of overall cooperation. India also called on the Committee to look at international systemic issues, and not look excessively to the private sector. Finally, he stressed that commitments for sustainable development must be new and additional, so as not to divert ODA away from poverty eradication.

Japan welcomed suggestions on moving away from the traditional ODA framework, given the greater importance of private flows in developing countries. He said CBDR is related to environmental issues and not an overarching principle for financing economic development or the SDGs. The important thing is the respective financial capacities of countries. He also called on the Committee to fully account for climate finance.

Iran urged: the OWG to work on technology, capacity building and trade, and to incorporate them under each agenda item; the ICESDF to work on financing as a whole, and development options as mandated by Rio+20; and the OWG and ICESDF to work together to identify options for each agenda item. Iran cautioned that “outside-the-box thinking will be judged by inside-the-box people” who are concerned about national ownership, priorities, and capacities, as well as the need for private sector accountability.

Tanzania said no one has refuted the importance of effective MOI, while taking into consideration different national capacities, but feasible financing options must be proposed.

Germany, also for France and Switzerland, said financing is only one means for implementing an ambitious agenda, and highlighted the need for capacity building, transparency, reporting, and lifestyle change. She looked forward to deliberation of cross-cutting issues, and encouraged the Committee to provide the OWG with ideas to support a transformative agenda. “All financing is only as powerful as the politics behind it,” she stressed.

Nigeria expressed his belief that MOI is fundamental to formulating the SDGs, and should be clearly linked to each goal. MOI should be considered in a holistic manner, he said, while giving attention to ODA and the role of the private sector.

Joseph Enyimu, ICESDF expert, highlighted two main themes from the discussion: the centrality of poverty reduction, and the involvement of the private sector. He expressed hope of linking these two issues in the future. “The private sector has been an engine of growth,” he said, “and the public sector is the spark to that engine.”

ICESDF Co-Chair Majanen responded to key themes of the discussion, saying: ODA has been very central to the agenda of the Committee, especially in relation to extreme poverty eradication; CBDR has had very strong references; the private sector and civil society must be strongly engaged; and “universality and differentiation work extremely well together.”

ICESDF Co-Chair Muhtar recognized Member States’ request to go into great depth on: country specificity, the financial architecture, MOI, diversity, global partnership, and the role of the private sector.

OWG Co-Chair Kőrösi summarized the discussion, describing the two processes as synchronized in both time and principles, and said both are part of the larger post-2015 development agenda process. He reiterated that ODA is very high in the attention of all Member States, and stressed that the concept would not disappear from the discussion, but would be complemented with additional possibilities. He thanked the delegates for a mutually-enriching discussion, and promised to create ongoing synergy between the two groups.


On Wednesday afternoon, Co-Chair Kamau opened the meeting with Major Groups, welcoming their reactions to the focal area document. Sascha Gabizon, Women’s Major Group, introduced the session, and expressed appreciation for the opportunity to interact with delegates in this way. Representatives offered comments on the focus areas document, both from their individual Major Groups and in joint statements.

Women expressed disappointment that women’s rights were not given more attention in the document. She said the SDGs need to be firmly rooted in human rights, and there should be a strong narrative on redistribution of wealth and power.

Children and Youth called for youth-sensitive targets and indicators, and youth inclusion in the design, development, and implementation of the agenda. He said the framework must: go beyond a linear growth model; reduce inequalities; include good governance and rule of law; emphasize planetary boundaries; be grounded in human rights principles; and include sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Indigenous Peoples said there are not sufficient opportunities for meaningful engagement with Member States. She stressed that respect for human rights is a cornerstone of sustainable development and must not be positioned as only an enabler of economic growth. Poverty eradication targets must focus on well-being, she said, and culture must be recognized formally as a dimension of sustainable development.

NGOs stressed the need for sustainable development, rather than economic growth, to be put at the heart of all policies. The agenda should be built on existing agreements, she said, there must be a stronger mandate for monitoring bodies.

Local Authorities proposed a sustainable urbanization goal to universally address the cities of both today and tomorrow. She said the goal can help formulate ideas on how interlinkages can strengthen partnerships and reflect the context of culture within the SDGs.

Workers and Trade Unions said: employment and decent work for all must have a stand-alone goal; on education, the “big missing piece” from the focus areas document is free education; and on promoting equality, wage inequality is particularly important.

Business and Industry said “the private sector” is a broad term encompassing: formal and informal, and micro, small, medium and large enterprises; local and global organizations; and private financial institutions and business associations. She noted that all of these will be critical to moving the post-2015 development agenda forward, and business can supplement governments’ actions without usurping their authority.

Farooq Ullah, Stakeholder Forum, presented a new report comparing Major Groups’ collective priorities with those of the focus areas document. Stakeholder Forum’s analysis identifies 11 top priorities of Major Groups: poverty eradication; energy; peaceful and non-violent societies, capable institutions; gender equality and women’s empowerment; promoting equality; ecosystems and biodiversity; food security and nutrition; economic growth; sustainable cities and human settlements; SCP; and climate.

Beginning a series of thematic presentations on the focus areas, a representative of Indigenous Peoples, NGOs and Women addressed poverty eradication. He said it must be pursued equitably and be founded on human rights, and suggested that all goals include targets on reducing inequalities. He suggested targeting extreme wealth accumulation in high- and middle-income countries and addressing tax flight.

On food security and nutrition, a representative of Local Authorities, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, Women and Farmers said the OWG must call for transformation to sustainable, diverse and resilient agriculture and food systems, and called for eliminating dumping, establishing food reserves, and mitigating price and supply volatility. He emphasized the role of the Committee on World Food Security in supporting regular multi-stakeholder assessments of the food system.

On health and population dynamics, a representative from Children and Youth, NGOs and Women expressed concern that healthy people were referred to as “assets,” said any goal on health must rest on the achievement of the highest standard of health, and services should be free of stigma and discrimination.

On education, a representative from Workers and Trade Unions, Women and NGOs said there is a need for free education at all levels, it should be financed primarily from domestic sources, and it should include education on global citizenship.

On gender equality and women’s empowerment, a representative from Women, NGOs and Children and Youth called for sexual education programmes and the elimination of early and forced marriages, and female genital mutilation.

On water and sanitation, a representative from NGOs, Women and Indigenous Peoples said water is a right in itself, not a commodity. They called for water resource allocation and use to be measured in terms of sustainability and human rights.

On economic growth and industrialization, a representative from Business and Industry, Scientific and Technological Community, and Local Authorities stressed actions to ensure legal identity, protection of property rights, and independent courts, and highlighted that local governance will have a critical role in implementation.

On employment and decent work for all, a representative from Children and Youth, Workers and Trade Unions and Women expressed concern that this section contains the only mention of young people, and said social protection for all persons should be a stand-alone goal.

On equality, a representative from Children and Youth, NGOs, and Women stressed that the concept must be an overarching goal. Ending violence against the most marginalized must be pursued, she said, by including the most vulnerable in decision-making processes and the monitoring of the SDG framework. Success should only be declared when targets have been reached for each and every group, she emphasized.

On SCP, a representative from Children and Youth, Women, and NGOs stressed that the concept is about sustainability and poverty eradication for both current and future generations. She proposed including “caps” on resource extraction, tax reform, good working conditions, and education for sustainable development.

On climate, marine resources and oceans and seas, ecosystems, and biodiversity, a representative from Women, Indigenous Peoples, Children and Youth, and NGOs stressed the need to restore and conserve resources, including through a stand-alone goal on ecosystems and climate change. Areas must not only be protected for economic gain, and long-agreed Agenda 21 commitments must be implemented.


On Wednesday afternoon, Co-Chair Kamau described the Co-Chairs’ ideas for the “way forward” for the OWG, observing a sense of urgency in the room for a more focused conversation, now that the stock-taking process has concluded. He proposed the following inputs, prepared by the Co-Chairs, to support discussions at the next session: a slightly amended (“tweaked”) focus areas document, reflecting the comments made by delegates at the current session, to be released by 19 March; a matrix document, mapping how different focus areas could come together through interlinkages; a compendium document, describing existing targets that have previously been agreed; and a technical document, describing the differences between goals, targets and indicators. The latter also would be the subject of a discussion during OWG-10, to ensure a common understanding of the three terms.

He said OWG-10 would be structured to proceed through the entire focus area document, discussing a few issues at a time. Kamau stressed that this discussion should focus on proposals for targets and goals. At the end of OWG-10, Kamau proposed that another “way forward” discussion would determine how OWG-11 would proceed.

Brazil said the Co-Chairs should not introduce major structural changes to the document, as it already enjoys broad support. He favored adding a narrative to frame the goals, which would be “extracted” from Rio+20 without renegotiating the language. He said: the focus areas should be more universal, not addressed only to developing countries, and differentiated through the targets; the SDGs should not prescribe national policies but “update the international commitment” on sustainable development; and each goal should indicate its means of implementation.

Ireland urged moving to a “real conversation on substance,” hoped future meetings would allow for fully interactive exchanges, and said the technical explanation of goals, targets and indicators will help to establish a common understanding. 

Colombia welcomed: a gradual process for revising the focus areas document; the “clustering” of focus areas for the next session’s discussions; the proposed matrix of interlinkages, since their importance has been repeated throughout the past year; and the focus on targets, not only goals.

Pakistan said that, although he would prefer moving in a more expeditious manner, he appreciated the caution and welcomed it in the document the Co-Chairs will work on.

Argentina said there was a request for some narrative from the Rio+20 outcome, and suggested that it should be added to the “tweaking.” She said this is a “one-time tweaking,” following which the text should evolve through consultations among Member States.

Saudi Arabia said the preamble should be clear to allow all to know the legality within which the goals will be developed.

Australia said a narrative is not needed because we already have the Millennium Declaration and Rio+20 outcome, and the OWG should aim for consensus on the totality, but may not be able to reach consensus on each of the goals

Germany, also for France and Switzerland, said the time is right to propose goals as well as targets, including proposed interlinkages, and said thematic clusters similar to those used during the stocktaking phase would be useful for organizing further discussions.

Iran said it is time to have new proposals and a tangible document, and the Group should not enter into discussion of prescriptive indicators.

Cuba favored more direct exchanges, including the possibility of direct negotiations. He said the next version of the document should include a narrative, which is already contained in the Rio+20 document and includes CBDR. He added that each goal must include MOI to ensure its effective implementation, particularly at the international level.

The US expressed commitment to a strong agreement on ambitious, clear and measurable goals with targets: “goals are the headings, and targets are the actions.” She called for identifying targets that can have the greatest impact on the desired goals, and said the conversation must be underpinned by evidence and analysis. Regarding a narrative, she said the OWG’s primary mandate is to discuss the substance of goals and targets.

Zambia said targets and goals cannot be framed in isolation from MOI. She called for defining and establishing clear language on MOI at the same time as the goals and targets are discussed, rather than leaving them until the end.

India applauded the leadership of the Co-Chairs and supported the comments of Brazil, Argentina and Pakistan. He stressed that “tweaking” should not mean subtracting from the focus areas document, but should add to and clarify certain parts of the text. He requested that the next iteration of the document provide some understanding of how MOI could go along with each goal.

China supported the statements of Brazil, India, Pakistan and Argentina, and said that a narrative should be a brief, technical and practical preamble to introduce the final report.

The United Arab Emirates, also for Cyprus and Singapore, supported the Co-Chairs’ proposal on the way forward, and looked forward to receiving the documents.

Co-Chair Kamau said he looked forward to seeing delegates at OWG 10, beginning on 31 March, and adjourned the meeting at 5:49 pm.


“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol

OWG-9 marked a turning point as delegates began the process of shifting gears from stocktaking mode to negotiating mode. The possibilities—and enormity—of the OWG’s task came into greater focus as delegates began to discuss what issues, goals and targets may be included in the final list of SDGs. On the one hand, several participants acknowledged that about 80% of the proposals for goals and targets have broad consensus among Member States. However, on the other hand, they noted that the remaining 20% represent some of the most challenging issues, including means of implementation and broader financing issues, common but differentiated responsibilities, and universality. This brief analysis of OWG-9 reviews the changes that the OWG is facing as it moves forward, and possible areas of convergence and divergence on goals and targets, based on the comments on the OWG Co-Chairs’ focus areas document.    


Over the past year, OWG speakers have recognized that the possibility exists for the SDGs to set a new course for development. During the OWG-9 discussion on financing for sustainable development, for example, some raised the possibility to address new sources of finance, with Co-Chair Kamau suggesting that the focus should go “way beyond” traditional official development assistance. This comment, however, reminded many participants that change is never easy. Iran recalled that the decisions of those who are thinking outside the box “will be judged by inside-the-box people,” serving to remind the OWG that the latter may have a different set of concerns and may not implement the decisions that do not resonate with them. In this respect, some thought that Colombia’s proposed “M&M” indicator might help the OWG determine if they have pushed themselves hard enough. The indicator refers to whether “Ministers” will see the SDGs as something they can implement, and “Mothers” will understand the SDGs and recognize the goals’ relevance for their lives. 

Throughout the OWG’s work, participants have recalled the differences between the process underway to develop the next set of global goals and the process by which the MDGs were elaborated. In the case of the MDGs, while an intergovernmental discussion led to the adoption in 2000 of the Millennium Declaration, which identified global priorities and even included a few targeted actions, the MDGs themselves were presented in a Secretary-General’s report, which resulted from inter-agency consultations. Subsequently, many have acknowledged that the initial acceptance of the MDGs was slow, due in part to the limited participation in their creation.

Determined to learn from the MDG experience, governments are taking a different approach for the post-2015 development agenda. As Pakistan noted during OWG-9, the Group is playing host to the first genuinely intergovernmental process that has been mandated to elaborate a “development process.” Another speaker highlighted that dialogues such as OWG-9’s joint meeting with the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing are important for building trust among delegates and understanding the challenges that each country will face within their respective capacities. Both this trust and understanding will be needed to help move this unique decision-making process forward and enable everyone—those “outside” and “inside” the box, as well as Ministers and Mothers—to come together.


Specific areas of convergence and divergence became clearer during OWG-9, as governments responded to the Co-Chairs’ focus areas document. For example, “Focus Area 1”—poverty eradication—received nearly unanimous support as the primary focus of the SDGs. There was also significant support for economic growth as the subject of several focus areas and/or goals, such as on industrialization and infrastructure. However, OWG-9 revealed that some developing country governments view poverty eradication and economic growth as steps on the way to sustainable development, while other governments and Major Groups stressed that a focus on economic growth over-emphasizes the traditional paradigm of development.

At the other end of the document was the much discussed “Focus Area 19”—peaceful and non-violent societies, and capable institutions. Some governments called for these issues to be separated into two separate areas/goals (one for peace, the other for governance). Others preferred a narrower focus area on rule of law, good governance and accountable institutions. And several called for removing them altogether, with the issues—the so-called “enablers” of sustainable development—addressed instead as supporting and interlinking targets, or perhaps through a preamble or narrative for the goals.

A number of speakers highlighted the missing or underdeveloped areas of the focus areas document, including food security and nutrition, agriculture, disaster risk reduction, and desertification, land degradation and drought. Some voiced support for “Focus Area 16”on oceans and seas, while others instead preferred to cluster this issue in a “sustainable management of natural ecosystems” goal. Delegates also suggested that: climate change should be incorporated in a cross-cutting manner; migration and youth should receive greater prominence in the framework; water and sanitation are key issues; and gender equality and women’s empowerment should be treated in both a stand-alone goal and as cross-cutting across all other areas. There also appeared to be general agreement on the importance of interlinkages and their elaboration in order to bring about a transformative agenda.

Strong disagreement continued to surface on references to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Echoing arguments from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, a number of speakers said these issues represent a “red line” that will hamper agreement. They stressed that “controversial language” should be avoided and the OWG should respect each country’s culture, religion, and legal system. Others adamantly favored addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the SDGs.

Just as challenging are discussions on two factors that could shape the entire framework: MOI and CBDR. Many developing countries called for each goal to contain concrete options for MOI. Some skepticism was expressed regarding the private sector’s role in implementation, and although many supported a stand-alone goal on strengthened global partnership, they expressed many differing definitions of just what this implies. On CBDR, Brazil asserted that the principle applies to the entire SDG framework because “Rio+20 universalized it,” expanding its scope beyond climate change. Many developed countries, however, argued that CBDR applies only to environmental degradation, and not poverty eradication or other areas of development.

During the closing session, several developing countries called for the Co-Chairs to provide draft opening paragraphs for the SDGs, to set the context in which intergovernmental cooperation would take place in the coming years. Some thought that the way this discussion plays out during future OWG sessions could set the stage to resolve the reflection of MOI and CBDR across the SDGs.


Amid discussion of the many pressing issues, delegates were clearly anxious to discuss “the way forward”—how the OWG will begin negotiation of specific goals and targets. Such discussions were confined to informal meetings until the final hour of the meeting on Wednesday afternoon, when the Co-Chairs offered to prepare four informational documents: an amended focus areas document; a compendium of existing targets on various issues; a matrix of interlinkages between issues; and working definitions of goals, targets, and indicators.

Using a slightly “tweaked” version of the focus areas document as the basis for the next meeting’s discussion seemed acceptable to all, although Co-Chair Kamau repeatedly reminded the delegates that the discussion should now move to specific proposals for goals and targets, rather than continued exposition of the issue areas. With just twenty negotiating days left on the calendar, the OWG appears ready for change as the time for negotiations has arrived.


Third High-level Symposium for 2014 DCF: The Third Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) High-Level Symposium will focus on “Accountable and effective development cooperation in a post-2015 era.” The Symposium will feed into the fourth Development Cooperation Forum, which will take place in July 2014, in New York, and will seek to advance the global dialogue on the future of development cooperation in the post-2015 era.  dates: 20-21 March 2014  location: Berlin, Germany  contact: DCF Secretariat  email:  www:

OWG-10: The OWG will continue the consideration of sustainable development goals, targets and indicators. dates: 31 March - 4 April 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

UNGA Thematic Debate: Role of partnerships and their contributions to the post-2015 development agenda: This event is part of a series convened by the President of the UN General Assembly under the theme, “The post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!” The objective is to generate concrete contributions to the formulation of the SDGs. dates: 8-9 April 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Office of President of the General Assembly  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 cooperation. These include the UN Development Cooperation 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 City, Mexico  contact: Derek Kilner, UNDP  phone: +1-212-906-5742  email: www:

UNGA Thematic Debate: Ensuring Peaceful and Stable Societies: This event is part of a series convened by the President of the UN General Assembly under the theme, “The post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!” The objective is to generate concrete contributions to the formulation of the SDGs. dates: 24-25 April 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Office of President of the General Assembly  www:

OWG-11: The OWG will continue the consideration of sustainable development goals, targets and indicators. dates: 5-9 May 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

Fourth Session of Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing: The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing is scheduled in May 2014. dates: 12-16 May 2014   location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email:  www:

UNGA High-level Event: Contributions of South-South, North-South and triangular cooperation and information and communication technologies for development to the post-2015 development agenda: This event is part of a series convened by the President of the UN General Assembly under the theme, “The post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!” The objective is to generate concrete contributions to the formulation of the SDGs.  dates: 20-21 May 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Office of President of the General Assembly  www:

OWG-12: The OWG will continue the consideration of sustainable development goals, targets and indicators. dates: 16-20 June 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email: www:

UNGA High-level Event: Human rights and the rule of law in the post-2015 development agenda: This event is part of a series convened by the President of the UN General Assembly under the theme, “The post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!” The objective is to generate concrete contributions to the formulation of the SDGs.  dates: 17-18 June 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Office of President of the General Assembly  www:

2014 Substantive Session of ECOSOC: The 2014 substantive session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will include a High-level Segment, as well as the second meeting of the High-level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF). The HLPF meeting—taking place from 30 June-3 July—will include a three-day ministerial segment, and is expected to adopt a negotiated declaration. The ECOSOC High-level Segment will take place on 7-11 July and is expected to devote three days to the HLPF. dates: 23 June - 18 July 2014  location : UN Headquarters, New York  contact: ECOSOC Secretariat  email: www: and

OWG-13: The OWG will continue the consideration of sustainable development goals, targets and indicators. dates: 14-18 July 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  phone: +1-212-963-8102  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email:  www:

Fifth Session of Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing: The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing is scheduled in August 2014. dates: 4-8 August 2014  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  fax: +1-212-963-4260  email:  www:

For additional meetings, see

Further information