NEW YORK CITY — On July 19, the United Nations Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published its Outcome Document which lists a total of 17 SDGs with 169 targets. Following the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — which the U.N. claims to be the “most successful global anti-poverty push in history” — the U.N. will consider the SDGs within the broader push for a new development agenda in 2015. U.N. Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo congratulated the group, saying, “The proposal of the Open Working Group brings together a breadth of economic, social and environmental issues in a single set of goals like never before.”
The delegates from 70 participating countries forwarded their proposed goals to the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA,) who established the group on January 22, 2013. The Outcome Document introduces its goals with the idea that “Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today…” The goals concern poverty, hunger, global health, equal and quality education, gender equality, water and sanitation, affordable and sustainable energy, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, infrastructure, economic inequality, urbanization, consumption, climate change, ocean usage, deforestation, justice and global partnerships respectively.
The Open Working Group developed from the Rio +20 Conference, and held 13 sessions until concluding in New York on Saturday. The Rio +20 Conference took place in June 2012 and was the largest U.N. Conference ever hosted with over 45,000 passes issued for entrance to the convention center. Delegates produced the document, The Future We Want, which acted as a starting point for the Working Group. According to the U.N., the conference resulted in “an estimated $513 billion mobilized from the 13 largest commitments alone.”
The document intends for the international community to complete most of the proposed goals by 2020 or 2030. Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 per day, would disappear by 2030 alongside AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and unemployment.
In its working draft titled Indicators for Sustainable Development Goals released in May, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network stressed the importance of monitoring progress in any SDGs the UNGA adopts. A crucial difference the Network cites between the MDGs and SDGs, should be the accuracy and timeliness of indicators. As “…an indicator should be a management tool, to help countries develop implementation and monitoring strategies for achieving the SDGs,” the report determines that the MDGs data time lag inhibited progress, and suggests a much stricter and admittedly more ambitious deadline for SDGs indicators. The report lists indicators and potential lead agencies for each goal and target that was available by May, although several additional goals were since added.
The Network’s report aims to have data collectors begin every calendar year and forward their information to those responsible for the Annual SDGs Report no later than April 15. If met, such a timetable would provide relevant data with which the U.N. could measure SDGs progress, but the report indicates funding for such data collection is limited.
In November 2014, Australia will host the International Symposium on the Sustainable Development Goals and Post 2015 Agenda.
– Erica Lignell