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MEPIELAN E-Bulletin is a digital academic and practitioner newsletter of the MEPIELAN Centre, launched in 2010.  It features insight articles, reflective opinions, specially selected documents and cases, book reviews as well as news on thematic topics of direct interest of MEPIELAN Centre and on the activities and role of MEPIELAN Centre. Its content bridges theory and practice perspectives of relational international law, international environmental law and participatory governance , and international negotiating process, thus serving the primary goal of Centre: to develop an integrated, inter-disciplinary, relational, context-related and sustainably effective governance approach creating, protecting and advancing international common interest for the present and future generations. Providing a knowledge- and information-sharing platform and a scholarly forum, the Bulletin promotes innovative ideas and enlightened critical views, contributing to a broader scholarly debate on important issues of international common interest. The audience of the Bulletin includes academics, practitioners, researchers, university students, international lawyers, officials and personnel of international organizations and institutional arrangements, heads and personnel of national authorities at all levels (national, regional and local), and members of the civil society at large.

Report of the Open Working Group on SDGs: An Innovative Process with a Significant Input to the Post-2015 Agenda

December 21, 2014

1. Introduction

After almost one and a half year of intense deliberations, the proposal of the Open Working Group on sustainable development goals was submitted in August 2014 for consideration and appropriate action by the UN General Assembly[1]. A short historical background on the establishment of the Open Working Group and a brief description of its outcome is provided below.

One of the main outcomes of the “Rio+20” UN Conference on Sustainable Development, was the agreement by UN Member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which “will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda”. In “Rio+20” it was decided “to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals that is open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly”, as stated in paragraph 248 of the “Rio+20” Outcome Document “The Future we Want”[2].

Furthermore, paragraph 248 of “The Future we Want” stated that: “An open working group shall be constituted no later than at the opening of the sixty-seventh session of the Assembly and shall comprise thirty representatives, nominated by Member States from the five United Nations regional groups, with the aim of achieving fair, equitable and balanced geographical representation. At the outset, this open working group will decide on its methods of work, including developing modalities to ensure the full involvement of relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the United Nations system in its work, in order to provide a diversity of perspectives and experience. It will submit a report, to the Assembly at its sixty-eighth session, containing a proposal for sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action.”

2. The Innovative Establishment of the Open Working Group

The Open Working Group was established on 22nd of January 2013 by decision 67/555 of the General Assembly[3]. A 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly was tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs. However, the flexibility provided by the “Rio+20” Conference to the Open Working Group to “decide on its methods of work” resulted in a novel and inclusive mode of operation. The Member States decided to use an innovative, constituency-based system of representation that is new to limited membership bodies of the General Assembly[4]. This means that most of the seats in the OWG were shared by several countries, while on the same time even countries that did not share a seat had the opportunity to participate in the deliberations.

In its first session, the Open Working Group elected two co-chairs: Mr. Csaba Korosi, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN, and Mr. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN. Thirteen sessions of the OWG were held in total between March 2013 and July 2014, as follows: first session (14 and 15 March 2013, four formal meetings); second session (17-19 April 2013, six formal meetings); third session (22-24 May 2013, six formal meetings); fourth session (17-19 June 2013, six formal meetings); fifth session (25-27 November 2013, six formal meetings); sixth session (9-13 December 2013, nine formal meetings); seventh session (6-10 January 2014, nine formal meetings); eighth session (3-7 February 2014, 10 formal meetings); ninth session (3-5 March 2014, five formal meetings, including a joint meeting on 5 March 2014 with the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Financing for Sustainable Development); tenth session (31 March – 4 April 2014, 10 formal meetings); eleventh session (5-9 May 2014, 10 formal meetings); twelfth session (16-20 June 2014, two formal meetings and informal meetings); and thirteenth session (14-19 July 2014, two formal meetings and informal meetings).

3. The Significant Outcome of the Open Working Group

At the 2nd formal meeting of its thirteenth session, on 19 July 2014, the Open Working Group, pursuant to paragraph 248 of the “Rio+20” outcome document, agreed by acclamation “to submit its proposal on sustainable development goals to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session for consideration and appropriate action”. The “Open Working Group proposal for Sustainable Development Goals” includes an introduction of 18 paragraphs, then the 17 proposed SDGs and finally the SDGs with the proposed targets under each goal[5].

The proposed SDGs are:

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The General Assembly decided that “the proposal of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals contained in the report shall be the basis for integrating sustainable development goals into the post-2015 development agenda, while recognizing fully that other inputs may also be considered in this intergovernmental negotiation process at the sixty – ninth session of the General Assembly”[6]. On the 4th of December 2014, the Synthesis Report of the UN Secretary-General on the Post-2015 Agenda entitled “The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet” was issued[7]. As noted in this Report: “the Open Working Group proposed 17 specific goals with 169 associated targets which it described as “action-oriented, global in nature, and universally applicable”, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development. It sought to combine aspirational global targets with country-specific targets to be set nationally”. The outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals constitutes one of the main inputs to this report, which is another important step to the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, expected to take place in the UN Summit of Head of States and Governments in September 2015.



To view the Report of the Open Working Group, which includes its proposal on sustainable development goals, press HERE

Ilias Mavroidis (Chemical Engineer, MSc, MEd, PhD) is a Scientific Expert in the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change of Greece. Since 2001 he has been involved in international negotiations related to the environment and sustainable development and has participated in several international meetings, as a national representative of Greece to international and regional organisations and initiatives.

About the author

Ilias Mavroidis

Scientific Expert, Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Greece, Collaborator, MEPIELAN Centre

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