The intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, established on 22 January 2013 by the United Nations General Assembly in response to the Rio+20 Outcome Document, met on 5 April to continue informal deliberations on its programme of work. While the OWG held a first official meeting in March, it still needs to decide on the specifics of its programme of work for the months ahead. The OWG is expected to submit – by September 2014 – a document outlining potential SDGs to the United Nations GA
During the 5 April informal meeting, one of the two Co-Chairs of the OWG, the Permanent Representative of Hungary Csaba Körösi , informed Member States that the work of the OWG will be organized in two phases: the first one is expected to last until February 2014 and will be dedicated to gathering and sharing information, including on different sustainable development approaches, and from a variety of relevant actors (representatives of Member States, civil society, academia, UN agencies and other stakeholders). This phase will help Member States to develop a common knowledge base and a shared understanding of the conceptual and methodological challenges ahead of them. Building on this “input phase,” Member States will draft – between March and September 2014 (the “output phase”) – their report containing a set of SDGs. The latter will be presented to the GA at the beginning of its 68th session.
As mentioned above, the OWG still needs to decide on the specifics of its programme of work, especially in terms of procedural and conceptual aspects. The G77 and China, for instance, are proposing that the OWG will first initiate a mapping exercise in order to identify priority issues (e.g. water, energy, agriculture) for the Group’s actual programme of work. Moreover, more clarity is needed on how so-called cross-cutting issues (e.g. gender, governance) will underpin the thematic discussions, as well as on the inter-linkages between the SDGs and the in 2015 expiring Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Until today, it is insufficiently clear how the SDGs will build on the MDGs in the context of defining the post-2015 development agenda.
The G77 and China also emphasized the importance of finding synergies between the work of the OWG and the Working Group on financing for sustainable development (also established in the Rio+20 Outcome Document), as it expects that the OWG will also outline the potential means of implementation of the future SDGs.
The OWG will hold its next official meeting on 17-19 April in New York, during which it will feature two main discussions; one on the conceptualization of the SDGs and one on poverty eradication, which is seen by Member States as the centre piece of the development agenda and which touches a broad range of other relevant development issues. The OWG will request technical support from the UN system to prepare for the next round of deliberations, while retaining the intergovernmental nature of the process. The upcoming meeting will also feature inputs from representatives of civil society, academia, the UN and other relevant actors.
The programme of the coming meeting as well as all official information of the OWG is posted here.