Summary report, 18–19 March 2013

Leadership Meeting of the Global Thematic Consultation on Environmental Sustainability in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The Leadership Meeting of the Global Thematic Consultation on Environmental Sustainability in the Post-2015 Development Agenda convened on 18-19 March 2013, in San José, Costa Rica. The meeting was co-convened by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and co-hosted by the Governments of Costa Rica and France. About 100 leaders from civil society, government, the private sector, UN agencies and international organizations participated in the meeting. This meeting is part of the 11 Global Thematic Consultations held on the post-2015 development agenda.

This meeting took place in the context of the Global Thematic Consultation on Environmental Sustainability, which aims to stimulate creative thinking on how best to reflect environmental sustainability in a multi-dimensional context within the future post-2015 agenda. The Leadership Meeting reviewed the results of the first phase of the Consultation, and exchanged views on key areas of consensus and those where further dialogue is needed.

Discussions took place in breakout groups and in plenary around the themes of capitalizing on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and MDG 7 (ensuring environmental sustainability) achievements and addressing the gaps, and addressing environmental sustainability in the post-2015 agenda. Groups based discussions on outcomes of the first phase of the consultation and key questions, which were provided in a background note. During the meeting, participants also highlighted key aspects to frame the second phase of the consultation as well as to inform the conceptual foundations for environmental sustainability in the post-2015 agenda. Moreover, they identified key messages that could be transmitted to the UN High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP) at its meeting in Bali, Indonesia, later this month. This report summarizes the presentations and discussions that took place during the meeting.


At the High-level Plenary Meeting of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on the MDGs, held in New York, US, in September 2010, governments called for accelerating progress towards achieving the MDGs, and for thinking about ways to advance the UN development agenda beyond 2015. In response, the UN undertook several initiatives aimed at developing a post-2015 development agenda, including: setting up a UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda (UNTT); launching a HLP; appointing a Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning; and launching national and global thematic consultations.

In addition to the above, other processes that will feed into the post-2015 discussions include: the work of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a 30-member group mandated by the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) to prepare a proposal on SDGs for consideration by the UNGA at its 68th session; regional consultations by the Regional Economic Commissions, which will result in a report on regional perspectives on the post-2015 development agenda; inputs from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, set up by the UN Secretary-General in August 2012 to support global problem-solving in ten critical areas of sustainable development; and input from businesses and the private sector through the UN Global Compact.

In order to ensure coherence across these different work streams, an informal senior coordination group of four Assistant Secretary-Generals (ASGs) was put in place, which includes the ASG for Economic Development at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the ASG for Development Policy at UNDP, the ASG for Policy and Programmes at UN Women, and the Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning. A “One Secretariat” also was established to facilitate coordination and coherence across the work streams.

UN System Task Team: UNTT, which includes over 60 UN entities and agencies, and other international organizations, was set up to assess ongoing efforts within the UN system, consult all relevant stakeholders and define a system-wide vision and roadmap to support the deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda. UNTT presented its report, “Realizing the Future We Want for All,” in June 2012, calling for an integrated policy approach to ensure inclusive economic development, social progress and environmental sustainability, and for a development agenda that responds to the public’s aspiration for a world free of want and fear. The report, which recommended that the post-2015 vision be built on the principles of human rights, equality and sustainability, will serve as a reference for additional, broad and inclusive consultations on the post-2015 development agenda.

UNTT, which is co-chaired by DESA and UNDP, continues to provide technical support to the OWG. It also aims to support ongoing preparations on a post-2015 development agenda by providing analytical inputs, expertise and outreach.

High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: The UN Secretary-General launched the HLP in June 2012, and appointed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK as co-chairs. The HLP includes leaders from civil society, the private sector and governments. The Panel, which reports to the UN Secretary-General and is not an intergovernmental process, is expected to publish its report in May 2013, outlining its vision and recommendations on a post-2015 global development agenda. This report will feed into the Secretary-General’s report to Member States at the UN’s Special Event to Follow-up on Efforts Made Towards Achieving the MDGs in September 2013.

Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning: In June 2012, Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria was appointed as ASG and Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning to coordinate, on behalf of the Secretary-General, the process of developing and building consensus among Member States, UN actors and key external actors. Mohammed also serves as an ex-officio member on the HLP, represents the Secretary-General in the post-2015 debate and advises him on related matters.

National and Global Thematic Consultations: The UN Development Group (UNDG) initiated national and global thematic consultations on the post-2015 development agenda aimed at bringing together a broad range of stakeholders to review progress on the MDGs and discuss options for a new framework. The national consultations are taking place online and offline in more than 70 developing and developed countries, with national stakeholders exchanging information and providing their inputs for a shared global vision of “The Future We Want.”

At the global level, UNDG initiated 11 multi-stakeholder thematic consultations on: inequalities; education; health; governance; conflict and fragility; growth and employment; environmental sustainability; hunger, nutrition and food security; population dynamics; energy; and water. The final consultations on inequalities, governance, population dynamics, health, and conflict, violence and disasters have already taken place.

Each thematic consultation is co-convened by two or more UN agencies with support from governments, working together with representatives from civil society, the private sector and academia. The consultations, which seek online contributions at the “World We Want 2015” website, aim to explore the role each theme could play in a new framework, the various ways in which they can best be addressed, and the linkages among them. A high-level meeting is being held for each thematic area, to consider the results and recommendations of the consultations.

In addition, UNDP, the UN Millennium Campaign, the Overseas Development Institute and the World Wide Web Foundation developed and are facilitating an options survey called “MY World” that allows citizens to vote online and offline for issues that they believe would make the most difference to their lives. This survey aims to gather public opinions on development priorities.

Global Consultation on Environmental Sustainability: The aim of this consultation is to facilitate an open dialogue to stimulate creative thinking on how best to reflect environmental sustainability in a multi-dimensional context within the post-2015 development agenda. The consultation has been organized in two phases. The first phase consisted of an open call for discussion notes, of which 90 were submitted by a wide variety of actors, and an online discussions, which addressed four topics: capitalizing on the MDGs and MDG 7; addressing development challenges in a changing world; framing environmental sustainability in the post-2015 agenda; and consensus and divergence regarding these issues. The Consultation’s first phase culminated in this Leadership Meeting, which sought to identify key areas of consensus, as well as areas where further dialogue is needed.



Yoriko Yasukawa, UN Resident Coordinator, Costa Rica, noted the appropriateness of convening this meeting in Costa Rica, which she said is a pioneer in sustainable development. She highlighted the country’s ongoing national consultations on the post-2015 development agenda. 

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, underscored a lack of progress in implementing some aspects of MDG 7, and called for a shift in discourse from focusing on trade-offs among growth, poverty and environment, to a “triple-win approach” that advances all three dimensions of sustainable development. She said challenges at the national level include integrating decision-making across ministries to reduce separation of thematic goals into “silos.” At the global level, she suggested coupling targets for human development and sustainable management of natural resources, for example, by matching targets  on nutrition with those on reducing food waste.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, highlighted the Global Economic Outlook report’s findings that only four of all global environmental goals agreed in the past 20-30 years have shown major positive developments. Moving toward post-2015, he said the challenge is not to be fixated on a date, but to devise a clear analysis of what has worked, a direction for facing future challenges, and catalytic opportunities to “let us move forward faster.” He added that the distinction between the MDG agenda and the sustainability agenda is “a luxury of debate.”

Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of France for the Protection of the Planet, highlighted the need for a model of change, saying that environmental protection, inequality and poverty eradication have so far been addressed separately and require consideration in an integrated manner. He said his country and the EU support ambitious, universal objectives, and that the process requires a strong commitment from both states and civil society.

René Castro Salazar, Minister of Environment, Costa Rica, highlighted local challenges in implementing sustainable development, stressing the need to move from a consensus on what “not” to do, to an agreement on “what to do.” He said that moving from knowing “how to talk the talk” to “how to walk the walk” will be the key to a greener country with more prosperity and solidarity.

Carlos Roverssi Rojas, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Costa Rica, noted that electronic media has created new spaces to facilitate broader and more active participation. He called for a coherent and mutually reinforcing new agenda that emphasizes the linkages between environmental sustainability and poverty reduction, and that seeks human wellbeing without surpassing the planet’s limits. Rojas said this can be done through, inter alia, radical changes in consumption patterns and using more holistic criteria than gross domestic product (GDP) for measuring success.

INTRODUCTION TO THE MEETING: Thematic consultation process introduction: Consultation Co-Chair Veerle Vandeweerd, UNDP, emphasized the need to establish a new development paradigm, and provided an overview of the post-2015 processes, including: the HLP, noting it would deliver a report in May 2013 and provide input to the Secretary-General’s report to the Special Event to Follow-up on Efforts made towards achieving the MDGs in September 2013; the national and thematic consultations; and the OWG, which is expected to present a report with proposals on SDGs to the UNGA for consideration in the post-2015 framework. She pointed to strong momentum and intense interest from all stakeholders in the post-2015 development framework and SDGs.

Aniket Ghai, UNEP, discussed UNEP’s work on measuring progress towards achieving environmental goals, noting progress on lead, persistent organic pollutants, water and ozone. He said SDGs must be coherent with and fully integrated into the post-2015 development agenda, noting they are at the “core” of such an agenda.

When asked how the reports of the thematic consultation on environmental sustainability will be presented to the Secretary-General, Zehra Aydin, UNEP, explained that the first report would provide input to the HLP, while the second would provide input to the Secretary-General’s report for the September MDG meeting.

In response to a question by a civil society representative from Guatemala on how to ensure the involvement of people without access to the Internet, Aydin said that, at least for the national consultations, text messaging might be a good method of communication. She hoped the voices of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable populations can be brought into the discussions, with a representative of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues noting its next meeting will devote considerable time to discussing the post-2015 development agenda.

Vandeweerd urged for continuing pressure on governments and engagement through the entire process to ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Aydin emphasized interlinkages among thematic issues, noting the MDGs failed to link with one another. She said the UNGA does not allow for civil society participation and that any such inclusion will require an exceptional arrangement that will only be possible through pressure on Member States. A civil society participant highlighted the ongoing process to develop the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development and the Intergovernmental Expert Committee on a Sustainable Development Financing Strategy. He stressed that governance and means of implementation are critical for the success of any SDGs, and emphasized interlinkages among all processes.

Participants introduction: Participants then met in smaller groups to discuss their expectations for the meeting. Reporting back to the larger group, participants called on the meeting to result in: a shared, clear definition of sustainability; tangible ideas for mainstreaming and integrating recommendations on environmental sustainability into other priority areas; proposals to ensure convergence between SDGs and the MDGs; and indicators for new, environmental goals.

 Participants also highlighted other expectations, including: an emphasis on solutions and practical implementation; a rights-based approach and emphasis on the voices of indigenous peoples, local communities and women; engagement with the private sector; and balance among environmental issues represented in goals, such as preventing land degradation, ecosystem conservation, food security and caring for the oceans. One participant highlighted the relevance of ensuring a bottom-up, participatory approach, saying that civil society participation must be broader and more diverse. Another supported ensuring accountability from the beginning of implementation.

Summary of Phase One of the Consultation: Aydin and George Bouma, UNDP, explained that Phase One of the Consultation consisted of online discussions on, inter alia: capitalizing on MDGs and MDG 7; and addressing development challenges in a changing world. Among the main findings, they highlighted that: MDG 7 was not integrated with other goals, and lacked measurement systems and data; the MDGs did not address corruption; and the post-2015 agenda should address climate change, energy demand, equality, and participation and justice, as well as link environmental sustainability to national development strategies.

Responding to this summary, some participants observed “missing pieces” from Phase One discussions, including: recognition of the special situation of countries facing conflict; intimidation and criminalization of those defending natural resources; and market failures and the role of economics in policy making. Another participant drew attention to the need to question current economic models.


Participants split into breakout groups, and addressed key questions provided in the concept note for breakout sessions, with the aim of validating the results from online discussions and finding common ground on important elements of the MDGs and how they relate to national development agendas. Later on, rapporteurs from each of the breakout groups joined a moderated panel discussion to report back on the various questions addressed in the groups, which was followed by an open discussion.

FRAMING AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE MDGS: Working in two breakout groups, participants addressed questions on the framing and achievements of the MDGs. They discussed, inter alia: whether the current framing of the agenda and discussions are still relevant; why progress has been elusive on environmental sustainability; reaffirming the MDGs and work that remains before moving forward; lack of a definition of environmental sustainability; investing in a natural capital base that supports achieving the MDGs going forward; shifting to a focus on sustainable consumption and production (SCP); differences between goals and indicators; difficulties with standardizing definitions of success and development; how measuring success should be determined at the national level; and using South-South cooperation appropriately. One participant cautioned against tailoring goals so much that “we end up with no goal.”

Reporting back, rapporteurs highlighted, inter alia: reframing environmental goals as integral to development; linkages between poverty reduction and environmental sustainability; overcoming the myth that environmental protection means loss of economic prosperity; that the natural resource base was forsaken by the MDGs; that sustainable companies are outperforming their unsustainable peers; and that the three principles of improving sustainability - including efficiency, using the “circular economy” concept, and market mechanisms - are not a panacea.

They also pointed to: inadequate fulfillment of MDG 7; lack of a definition of success regarding environmental sustainability; and lack of recognition that environmental sustainability underpins the achievement of other MDGs. Regarding success after 2015, they stressed the need to: define success differently in different countries; clearly define the links between environmental and other objectives; respect existing rights and achieve equity in outcomes; include all stakeholders; and make realistic and achievable goals that are consistent across international agreements.

CONTENT OF THE MDGS: One breakout group addressed questions on the content of the MDGs. On why MDG 7 did not result in tangible outcomes, participants recalled the lack of thorough preparation and strong political will to include environmental sustainability, resulting in a narrow focus on conservation and exclusion of core issues, such as climate change, natural capital, SCP and oceans. Some stressed that since the MDGs are part of a poverty eradication agenda, MDG 7 is aimed mainly at developing countries, which leaves out those countries most responsible for environmental degradation. One participant said MDG 7 has shown that a goal without concrete measures or targets can become invisible. The group also noted that each target should have its own time frame, and called for a global universal framework that can be easily adjusted to regional and national contexts. Responding to the rapporteur, Vandeweerd said some recent national consultations have put forward the idea of setting goals that are universal in scope, accompanied by a “basket” of targets and indicators from which each country may choose, depending on their needs and baselines.

On whether MDG 7’s targets are sufficient for mainstreaming environment across other areas, participants noted: the way to hold national governments accountable for international commitments is through civil society groups working on each goal; that the MDGs imply an immediate focus, while shifting to a sustainability agenda means not leaving “ecological debt” to future generations; in a sustainability agenda, irreversibility of progress becomes the main goal; that the lack of political will to meet targets is partly due to the targets not being linked to the core needs of people; and the need to stress the poverty-related benefits of each target. Others said new goals and targets should correspond to core environmental and/or “multiplier” issues, such as climate change, natural capital and SCP.

APPLICATION OF THE MDGS: One breakout group addressed questions on application of the MDGs. On barriers to the implementation of MDG 7, participants discussed, inter alia: the “silo syndrome;” the need for a universal and holistic approach; the lack of integration of global targets into domestic policies due to the lack of structural transformation at the national level, in particular for MDG 7; the need for an accountability framework that establishes “who is responsible, what is the time schedule and based on what funds” the goals are to be implemented. A participant added that goals should be global but that accountability should be addressed at the local level.

Participants also highlighted that planning capacity at the national level is still weak and requires strengthening to incorporate development goals. Other said lack of an adequate institutional framework is a barrier to delivering on the goals, noting for example that the Latin American countries achieving better results in their fight against deforestation are those whose forestry agencies are placed under the environment ministries, rather than under the agriculture ministries. Some participants stressed the need to ensure that the goals consider gender issues, small householders and indigenous peoples rights.

On gathering political will to integrate environmental sustainability into national sustainable development objectives, participants discussed, inter alia: the lack of structural changes at the national level to enable implementation; and economic adjustments, including the way that achievements are measured and how national accounts address externalities of extracting natural resources. Another participant stressed that equity should be addressed not only “among ourselves but also among generations.”

GENERAL DISCUSSION: In ensuing discussions, participants addressed, inter alia: how to make goals communicable; how to bring what is agreed internationally to the national level; and how trade agreements introduce conditions into the development agenda. One participant highlighted land degradation as a “forgotten issue,” while another participant warned against identifying specific areas. He supported broader approaches related to economic growth, natural capital depletion, ecological footprint and planetary boundaries. Participants also discussed how an inclusive green economy model could contribute to sustainable development, with some pointing out different interpretations of the terminology.

Common support was expressed for the following ideas: the role of diverse local economies; responsible global consumption; an equitable green economy; re-visiting economic models; access to justice; and limits to consumption.

The rapporteurs from each breakout group then provided closing comments. One said finance ministers should be the target for transformational action, as they make the most important decisions related to sustainability in governments. Another noted the need for strong environmental laws. Another rapporteur called for “bringing the environmental and development debates together,” saying they have been taking place in different rooms for 20 years. He outlined a “consumption conundrum” in which some in the development arena would not accept that limits on consumption exist and said recognizing such limits must be built into the post-2015 framework. The final rapporteur outlined key principles for the post-2015 framework, including social justice, a “circular economy,” greater equity and confronting “the myth that protecting the environment is bad for business.”

SUMMARY OF DAY 1: On Tuesday morning, Vandeweerd reflected on the ideas exchanged so far. She highlighted five points that emerged during the first day: that the time for sectoral, thematic goals is past, and the need now is for aggregated goals that can be disaggregated at the country level through targets and indicators; that political economy determines governance and drives politicians to enact change; the need to change the current economic model, perhaps through the concept of “smart economy”; the importance of changing attitudes, behaviors and consumption patterns; and the need to “go beyond GDP.”

Consultation Co-Chair Maryam Niamir-Fuller, UNEP, also recalled themes emerging from the first day, including: consciousness of planetary boundaries and limits to consumption; a “secular,” rights-based approach to equity and inequality, noting the outstanding question of how to achieve this; ensuring a role for civil society in holding governments accountable; and taking personal responsibility as consumers. She also suggested a need to add targets and indicators to existing goals, and stressed that progress must be irreversible.

The co-chairs then invited participants to voice their own reflections on elements discussed during the first day.

One participant sparked discussion with a suggestion that labeling goals as “environmental” automatically flags them as “last priority” for many governments. He said while “butterflies and bees are important,” new goals must highlight links with economics and poverty. Regarding the title of the present meeting and the scope of MDG 7, another echoed concern about the “environmental sustainability” label.

Other participant said that environmental constraints soon will start to limit human progress, or even reverse it, depending on the extent of global warming, adding that environmental sustainability is critical for development. One participant suggested that resource scarcity results from unequal use of resources, and proposed making natural resources cheap or free for those that use very little, and expensive for those that use excessive amounts, noting this could result in compliance with planetary boundaries without affecting the poor.

Another participant emphasized the need to pay attention to ongoing negotiations on the establishment of the HLPF, with a view to ensuring robust modalities for stakeholder engagement. He and others drew attention to the need for means of implementation for civil society participation in all processes related to the post-2015 agenda.

Another participant said that while the private sector is “in the driver’s seat,” due to the current economic model, it cannot solve everything.


This session convened on Tuesday morning. Aydin and Bouma presented on online discussions addressing the issues of barriers/enablers for moving towards environmental sustainability; and consensus and divergence. On moving towards environmental sustainability, they noted that the debate addressed, inter alia: characteristics of a conceptual framework; governance at all levels, and the need for coherence among policy sectors; and population dynamics. As barriers, they highlighted: skepticism regarding the possibility of fundamental change; poor integration of MDG 7 into national strategies; and insufficient public investment.

Regarding enablers, they stressed: governance and political will; education for sustainable development and changing mindsets; human rights-based approaches; integrated planning at the national level; and a post-2015 development agenda at the global level. They outlined conceptual issues, including: environmental sustainability as a poverty issue; practical integration of environmental measures into other goals; tailoring universal goals to national contexts; multi-level and multi-sectoral approaches; and the application of goals, by using, inter alia, existing institutions and targets that include both qualitative and quantitative aims.

During discussions on consensus and divergence, Aydin and Bouma highlighted as areas of divergences: SDGs in contrast to, or converging with the post-2015 agenda; population as the number of people or their choices; whether to use new or existing treaties, institutions and mechanisms; and how to manifest universal goals at the local level. They discussed areas of consensus as, inter alia: insufficiency of focusing only on economic growth and GDP; the need for a global, holistic and interlinked agenda; common but differentiated responsibilities; local engagement and ownership; and education. They stressed ambitious goals as the most important area of convergence.

On framing environmental sustainability in the post-2015 agenda, Co-Chair Maryam Niamir-Fuller, UNEP, asked participants to identify further outreach and dialogue that might be required during the remaining six weeks of the environmental sustainability consultation. She called for a realistic agenda that is equitable, achievable, measurable, irreversible and nationally applicable, and for doing things differently from the past.

Participants then split into five breakout groups. They addressed key questions provided in the concept note for breakout sessions, in order to: build consensus on the key issues that should frame environmental sustainability in the post-2015 agenda, consider key interlinkages, drivers and enablers, and identify areas where further dialogue, outreach and innovative thinking are needed to continue to build consensus and evolve the discussion. The outcomes are expected to frame the second phase of the thematic consultation. Later on, rapporteurs from each of the breakout groups reported back on the various questions discussed.

PROTECTING GLOBAL COMMONS WHILE RESPECTING NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Participants in this breakout group noted that examples of global commons include biodiversity, marine resources and orbital space. The group considered global commons as something for which there is no jurisdiction to exclude anyone from the benefits, alongside rivalry for their consumption. Participants discussed the predominant approach of “dividing the pie” of the global commons, in which governments race to grab the biggest piece.

In its key messages for the HLP, the group emphasized: that protecting the global commons while respecting national development can be approached as both favorable and achievable, including through: education to change consumption values, and through pricing tools, such as carbon taxes; the need for dedicated numerical targets for the global commons; and the need for an international governance system that enables the delivery of these targets.

COUNTRY TYPOLOGIES: This breakout group agreed that SDGs should be universal and that only under certain circumstances differentiation or typologies would be useful. For example, participants believed typologies might be useful in determining which countries should receive support and which ones should provide it, noting the broad range of countries now considered donors, and regarding global public goods. They also considered that those countries that have already reached some goals should set higher targets for themselves or help other countries reach their targets. The group discussed that targets should be relative rather than absolute, and that they should not inhibit countries from being more ambitious. Participants further noted that the use of typologies should be minimized as they could lead to confusion rather than clarification.

Regarding key messages to the HLP, the group stressed: SDGs should be universal and typologies avoided in the context of global public goods discussions; environmental sustainability and global public goods should underpin other SDGs, and be set up both as a stand-alone goal and as a cross-cutting issue in the post-2015 agenda; and typologies are needed to determine resource flows.

BUILDING FROM THE LOCAL LEVEL: During this breakout group, participants stressed that, inter alia: poverty and environmental degradation feed off of each other in both rural and urban settings; and lack of opportunities and employment drives people from rural to urban areas. Group members pointed to successful examples in the Philippines and Costa Rica of payments for environmental services to indigenous communities, and recommended, among other things: strengthening indigenous institutions, taking an ecosystem approach, and recognizing the power of the poor to organize and change their conditions. They also discussed capacity to organize through local institutions, participation of local communities in policy making, and the crucial role of remittances from those living abroad.

Participants illustrated local use of waste in Kenya and ethno-tourism in Costa Rica that benefits indigenous communities, suggesting that these sustainability experiences could be scaled up. To reduce migration from rural areas to cities, one participant discussed efforts to make agriculture “cool” and more integrated, through using: electronic tablets to check on crops; animal manure to produce gas; and organic waste to produce fertilizer. He added that mistreating cows leads to a 25% decrease in milk and that improving care of animals increases income. Regarding partnerships, the group stressed the importance of governments and local communities working together.

The group recommended the HLP to consider: the importance of community-based initiatives and traditional knowledge; local efforts that can be replicated through networks, knowledge sharing and scaling up; and dedicated resources at the local level to “build a bridge” with the global level.

GOVERNANCE, HUMAN RIGHTS, PEACE AND SECURITY: Participants in this group highlighted that these three issues, taken together, are crucial for moving toward a new economy. On governance, the group said certain fundamental norms – access to information, participation in decision making, access to justice and accountability – empower people to ensure that governments fulfill promises and the economy functions as “it is supposed to.” The group noted, inter alia: positive trends on governance in the private sector, including growing recognition that sustainability is good for business; and room for expansion of constitutional provisions for environmental rights.

Emphasizing that the investments needed for sustainable development will not happen amid conflict and insecurity, the group underscored stability as a pre-condition for progress towards sustainability. They also noted that environmental protection represents a “cheap way” both to avoid conflict and to build trust and cooperation following periods of conflict.

The group’s key messages for the HLP emphasized: in regards to governance, promises go undelivered without access to justice and accountability; the extension of environmental rights and the potential to use the judiciary to enforce them; and peace and security as a precondition for progress on sustainable development.

INEQUALITY AND INTER-GENERATIONAL ISSUES: Participants in this group highlighted the right to a healthy environment as a universal right for present and future generations, and that inequalities impede the exercising of that right.

The group also stressed the need to bridge the gap between the international recognition of human rights and its real implementation at the national level. Participants discussed: States’ responsibilities in realizing human rights; the need for structural changes in the current development models, including by internalizing costs of extraction of natural resources in market prices; the variety of views on the concept of development and the need for further discussion on the issue; and consideration of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The group further addressed the need for collective and individual actions and responsibilities, taking into account, inter alia, a clear threshold for the global common goods.

Among key messages, the group also underscored that: the environment is a common global good; the post-2015 agenda should address a “zero tolerance” approach to inequalities; civil society should also be accountable for implementing these rights; work on the causes of inequalities is needed, including on trade and industry structures; and a cultural fourth pillar should be considered.

DISCUSSIONS: In ensuing discussions, participants addressed trade and sustainable development, with a number of them underscoring the need for trade and the World Trade Organization’s rules to serve sustainable development. One added that “trade is not an end in itself, but rather a mean to an end.”

Divergent views were expressed on whether typologies or national differentiation would be necessary for the post-2015 agenda, and where and how such typologies should be established, with some cautioning against using typologies to avoid responsibilities. Some participants opposed using terms that have polemic connotations in other international fora, such as the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the context of the climate change negotiations. A participant supported redefining such terminology rather than trying to avoid using it.

One participant stressed the need to link discussions on the post-2015 agenda with already agreed goals, such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, to avoid distracting from existing targets. Another participant suggested that goals need to be flexible so as to incorporate emerging issues.

Key messages discussed by participants included: changing the approach to addressing global commons; setting a specific target on global commons; establishing a specific governance system to deliver the target; setting universal goals; determining country typologies, including to determine flow of resources; holistic locally-based programmes; replicating local efforts; and bridging institutions, from the global to the local levels.


Vandeweerd moderated the closing session. Wael Hmaidan, Climate Action Network (CAN), said the two days had produced fruitful discussions, and that engagement must continue at all levels. He emphasized interlinkages across thematic issues, saying that the consultation process must break out of “silos,” and called for each MDG to have a test for environmental sustainability, such as whether it protects the global commons.

Mara Murillo, UNEP, highlighted that the common ground found at this meeting will contribute to building a sustainable development agenda. She said UNEP was working with civil society, and contributing to the launch of a process in Latin America and the Caribbean to establish a regional instrument on Rio Principle 10 (access to information, participation and environmental justice). She said transformation and structural societal changes to achieve sustainable development were possible with a strong commitment by everyone.

Vandeweerd said that while decisions regarding the post-2015 agenda and SDGs are the prerogative of governments, all stakeholders can have an impact. She emphasized that: environmental sustainability is at the center of every thematic discussion; new questions will be posed so the online discussions can continue over the next six weeks; and that after June, a new process will be established toward 2015 that hopefully will link the 11 themes together. She explained key forthcoming outputs, including: a Co-Chairs’ summary; a brief summary of the Consultation as input to the HLP meeting in Bali; and a second report, synthesizing the 74 national, 11 thematic consultations and results of online discussions, to be tabled at and provide input to the Secretary-General’s report for the Special Event to Follow-up on Efforts Made Towards Achieving the MDGs, to be held in September 2013.

In a brief summary of the meeting, Bouma emphasized interlinkages as a key focus of the post-2015 agenda, noting that the meeting’s participants will comprise an important “sounding board” on this. He also said the meeting had shown “plenty of divergence,” mirroring the diversity of views in the online discussions.

In a final round of comments, participants drew attention to: the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to be held in 2014, the themes of which should also be part of the post-2015 agenda; communication strategies to maximize the chances of success for the post-2015 agenda; and population dynamics, an issue they said that had not been adequately addressed during the meeting. One participant said the outcomes of the post-2015 process must not be so sophisticated, detailed and analytical that they lose the “special sauce” of simplicity that made it easy to mobilize money and political support around the MDGs.

Jean Baptiste Chauvin, Ambassador of France to Costa Rica, said “the time of silos is over,” and the interdependent and supplementary battles “all have to be won.” He added that this meeting’s approach of putting civil society at the heart of the discussion was a needed paradigm shift.

Javier Díaz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Costa Rica, urged immediate convergence of the post-2015 and SDG processes. He called for tools other than environmental impact assessments for measuring the consequences of individual and state actions. He also said: environmental goods and services are a condition for maintaining peace; and governments must “declare peace with nature” and undertake low-emissions development. Díaz adjourned the meeting at 5:03 pm.


Advancing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda: Reconfirming Rights-Recognizing Limits-Redefining Goals: This event will aim to draw together civil society inputs into the sustainable development and post-2015 discussions, in order to gain a better view of civil society perspectives and advocate more effectively for their implementation. The event is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and is being shaped by a Steering Committee composed of CIVICUS, Beyond 2015, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA), Social Watch, VENRO and the Baltic Sea Forum, among others. dates: 20-23 March 2013 location: Bonn, Germany www:

High-Level Meeting on Water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: As part of the Thematic Consultation on the Post-2015 Development Agenda on Water, this High-level Meeting will bring together Member States, NGOs and civil society to discuss and define recommendations on water for the Post-2015 development framework from 21-22 March 2013, in The Hague, the Netherlands. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the World Water Day celebrations, and is facilitated by UN-Water, co-led by DESA and UNICEF, and co-hosted by the Governments of the Netherlands and Switzerland. dates: 21-22 March 2013 location: The Hague, Netherlands www:

Fourth Meeting of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda:The fourth meeting of the HLP, hosted by the Government of Indonesia, will convene in Bali, Indonesia, from 25-27 March 2013. The focus will be on “Partnership and Cooperation for Development.” dates: 25-27 March 2013 location: Bali Indonesia www:

High-Level Consultation on Food and Nutrition: As part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda Global Thematic Consultations, this High-level Meeting will bring together Member States, NGOs and other members of civil society to discuss and agree on an agenda on food and nutrition for the Post-2015 Development Framework in Madrid, Spain. This consultation is co-led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme, and is co-hosted by the Governments of Colombia and Spain. date: 4 April 2013 location: Madrid, Spain www:

High-Level Meeting on Energy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: As part of the Global Thematic Consultation on Energy in the post-2015 development agenda, participants will consider the results of the online consultations and their recommendations. The meeting is expected to develop an “Oslo Declaration” on key energy recommendations and potential global energy objectives, with the aim of informing and shaping the post-2015 development agenda on energy issues. Participants will also discuss processes for engaging with key national, regional and global stakeholders on energy. The meeting will be organized by UN-Energy and the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Initiative, the co-leaders of the Consultation, in partnership with the Governments of Mexico, Norway and Tanzania. date: 9 April 2013 location: Oslo, Norway www:

Second Session of Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals:The second session of the UNGA Open Working Group on SDGs is tentatively scheduled to take place in April 2013. dates: 18-19 April 2013 (to be confirmed) 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 Meeting on Disability and Development: This meeting, which is being convened by the UNGA, will be held at the level of Heads of State and Government on the theme “The way forward: a disability inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond.” date: 23 September 2013 location: New York, USA contact: UN Enable, Secretariat of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities fax: +1-917-367-5102 email: www:

UNGA Special Event on the MDGs: This special event will follow-up on efforts made towards achieving the MDGs. It is expected to include an opening and a closing plenary meeting, and up to four high-level interactive multi-stakeholder roundtable sessions addressing the acceleration of implementation of the MDGs, as well as looking forward to the post-2015 framework. date: 25 September 2013 (tentative) location: New York www:

UNGA High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development: This high-level dialogue is being held as a follow up to the first High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development held in 2006, and will convene during the 68th session of the UNGA date: fall 2013 location: New York, USA contact: DESA www:

Further information


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