TWN Info Service on Finance and Development (Jul15/10)
26 July 2015
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

The final scheduled negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda are taking place at the United Nations headquarters in New York from 20 to 31 July 2015.

We are pleased to share with you the first of a series of articles by the Third World Network team reporting from New York.

With best wishes,

Third World Network

Post-2015 Development Agenda: Concluding negotiations amidst differences

New York, 25 July (Ranja Sengupta) – The final two weeks of scheduled negotiations to wrap up the Post-2015 Development Agenda began in New York on Monday 20 July amidst differences over some key issues that have significant implications on the actual framing of the outcome.

United Nations Member States are supposed to agree on the final Outcome Document by this week so that it can be formally adopted during the September UN General Assembly session.

The discussion of the first week focused on various components of the Post-2015 Agenda, namely, the Declaration, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Targets, the Means of Implementation (MOI) (and global partnership); and finally the follow-up and review. While general concerns and the Declaration were discussed the first two days, the last three issues were allocated one day each.

The Co-facilitators are expected to come out with a revised draft between Saturday (25 July) and Monday (27 July). As Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya, one of the Co-facilitators of the negotiations, explained, the document is likely to get adopted in the second week as soon as the Co-facilitators feel that they can get consensus (on the document) in the room. It will then go to the September UNGA session for its formal adoption in a high level session. The other Co-facilitator is Ambassador Donoghue from Ireland.

However, differences continue to persist over several critical issues. Common but differentiated responsibilities, the notion of ‘family’ and foreign occupation were contested issues in the Declaration discussion. During the 22 July discussion on goals and targets, the role of the Chapeau crafted by the Open Working Group on SDGs and the ‘technical proofing’ exercise (by the UN secretariat) on 21 targets saw several issues that needed to be resolved, including the most important one of whether any changes to the SDGs would be acceptable at all. The discussion on MOI on Thursday (23 July) was fraught with tension over how, where and if, to include the outcome document of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (the Addis Ababa Action Agenda adopted on 16 July), into the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The first day of the ongoing negotiations (20 July) heard statements from the Group of 77 and China, as well as several other Member States on the broad state of play as well as the Declaration.

The G77 and China reminded that, “this Agenda is not being agreed to in a vacuum. It is a continuation of the work that has been so successfully undertaken under the framework of the MDGs and it addresses unfinished business. The negotiations of this Agenda are also taking place against the backdrop of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development (2012), the recently concluded Financing for Development (FfD) Conference and the still-ongoing UNFCCC climate change negotiations. While the Agenda will stand on its own, it will draw on the support of the FfD and UNFCCC outcomes, as well as the outcomes of other multilateral meetings…”

(The 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC – will take place in December in Paris.)

Maldives speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) suggested inclusion of reference to SIDS in the text. They requested clarification on the categorisation of some countries as vulnerable and suggested “listing of countries in special situations be consistent throughout the document with the Rio+20 language”. AOSIS suggested the title should be “Transforming our world for 2030: A Sustainable Development Agenda for Global Action”.

Benin speaking on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) suggested the title of the document should be Agenda for Global Action to Transform our World by 2030”. Benin wanted references to LDCS strengthened in several paragraphs, adding that “without significantly strengthened global partnerships for development, LDCs will not be able to achieve the SDGs”.

Brazil referred to the FfD process as a valuable independent process with a scope and challenges of its own. “The Addis Outcome supports Goal 17 and other means of implementation of the SDGs – as stated in its paragraph 19. They complement the existing Goal-specific MoIs, as well as stand-alone Goal 17, which are integrated and should be preserved as they are – as essential elements of the framework of goals and targets of our universal agenda,” Brazil said.  It hailed the dedicated and integrated follow-up and review for FfD, “which will contribute to the overall follow up and review of implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, as well as the establishment of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism.

Brazil expressed its regret over the lack of consensus on the intergovernmental tax body and said “notwithstanding the progress achieved in Addis, we regret that was no consensus to upgrade the (UN) Tax Committee to an intergovernmental body, as proposed by G77 and China and widely supported by civil society and renowned economists and policymakers around the world, not to mention the media, whether specialized or not”.

The European Union said, “we welcome the continuing attempts to create a compelling, communicable and action-oriented narrative in the preamble and Declaration, which underlines the integrated nature of the agenda … Likewise we need a better narrative of what the new Global Partnership means and the principles that underpin it”.

The EU also added in a later statement that they wanted “to see a very clear affirmation that the Addis outcome is both integral and fundamental to post-2015 implementation” in Paragraph 33.


The negotiation on the Declaration was first launched during the February session this year and the discussions were surprising in their intensity as the Co-facilitators suggested new text and a preamble, drawing somewhat from the Secretary-General’s Report and its framework of the six elements including dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice, and partnership. The SG’s report and the six elements were criticized for failing to mention the agreed SDGs even once. However, it had found strong support in the developed countries. Current iterations of the elements have come down to five P’s, namely, people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

While the developing countries had showed an openness to discuss the formulation in terms of these elements, they had argued that the Chapeau to the SDGs as agreed in the Open Working Group, should be the basis for this segment of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, and of Universality but keeping in mind the differentiation aspect, were challenged by several developed countries. The challenge posed by heavy references to multi-stakeholder partnerships was another issue raised by developing countries, and most clearly articulated by Brazil.

(For earlier articles on the negotiations on the Declaration, please see Post-2015 Development Agenda Declaration (Part I): One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward?  by Ranja Sengupta & Mirza Alas, 5 March 2015
and Post-2015 Agenda Declaration (Part II): Deep North-South Differences  by Ranja Sengupta, 10 March 2015.)

The current preamble to the Declaration encompassing the 5 P’s was a matter of some discussion.  G77 and China said the preamble should be fully reflective of and not inconsistent with the Declaration, and they also wanted clarity on the link between the preamble and the SDGs. The Group also emphasized the need to “reflect the inter-linkages between the three dimensions of sustainable development under each of the P’s in order to avoid placing the issues in silos”.  
The Group also called for the “inclusion of language in the preamble that contextualizes the Agenda and which reflects the fact that the Agenda is intended to build on the achievements of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and at the same time seeks to address unfinished business”.

The Group went on to give specific suggestions on the P’s including adding a reference to sustainable consumption and production. On the Declaration, it also said “in accordance with several UN Resolutions, the outcome document should explicitly indicate that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth natural resources and economic activity”. 
On paragraph 27 on climate change, the Group reiterated that the language in the Declaration should not prejudge the Paris outcome (in December when the UNFCCC Parties meet).

Maldives on behalf of AOSIS said the current preamble goes further in citing the goals but “unfortunately it still reorganizes the goals into new categories and is not an accurate representation of the declaration or the comprehensiveness of the SDGs”.  It suggested the preamble could overshadow the Declaration and “we are not married to its inclusion”. However AOSIS agreed to continue to work on the preamble and suggested inclusion of the words “people centered” and “resilience”.  The Group had several specific suggestions on the declaration language including specific references to SIDs, a clear articulation of the link between climate change and sustainable development, and reference to the Samoa Pathway in paragraph 34.

(The Samoa Pathway is the Outcome Document of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Apia, Samoa, in 2014.)

Benin on behalf of LDCS highlighted the need for structural and economic transformation in the LDCS, and wanted the addition of a new paragraph in the declaration to reflect this, based on the language in the Istanbul Programme of Action. It stressed the “seamless connection between the MDGs and Post-2015 development agenda” and wanted the reference to LDCs added to several paragraphs. Benin also wanted language on the economic pillar strengthened throughout the Declaration. The Group further wanted to see strong reference to agriculture and food security in the form of an additional paragraph.

(The Istanbul Programme of Action for 2011-2020 was adopted at the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs in 2011 in Istanbul.)

Brazil said the text of the preamble “needs to be redrafted … in order to reflect the concept of sustainable development and its three dimensions under each heading in a balanced way”.

Several developing countries wanted mention of the connection between the MDGs and the Post-2015 Development Agenda and a reference to “unfinished business” of the MDGs that captures the unmet commitments.


The current negotiations on the Declaration expectedly saw fault-lines emerge on the specific mention of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) as part of the Rio Principles that are affirmed in the current document under paragraph 10. Several developed countries, most notably the European Union, made a bid to delete the reference. The developing countries argued strongly in favour of retaining the reference in paragraph 10, which currently reads:

“The new Agenda is guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including full respect for international law. It is grounded also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights treaties and other instruments such as the Declaration on the Right to Development. We reaffirm all the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, including, inter alia, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”.

(On CBDR please also see Post-2015 development agenda - India speaks out on 'Common but Differentiated Responsibilities' TWN Info Service, 25 June 2015.)

The G77 and China added that it wanted reference to "shared responsibility" in paragraph 31 deleted “which dilutes the differences between the developing and the developed countries and contradicts the essence of the principle of CBDR”. It went on to elaborate at length on the issue of CBDR and said, “for the Group, an unequivocal reaffirmation of this principle as an overarching principle applicable to the whole agenda is a non-negotiable”.

The Statement went on to say, “CBDR is an internationally accepted principle reiterated in numerous internationally accepted outcomes agreed upon by all of us at the highest political levels, most recently at the Rio+20 Conference … and was reaffirmed by our leaders as a principle applicable to the post-2015 development agenda in the outcome document of the Special Events on MDGs. It is also a principle … agreed in the report of the OWG-SDGs, which is the basis for (and has been incorporated into) our current work. It was also reaffirmed by Ministers in the meeting of the High Level Political Forum last year”.

The G77 statement drew attention to the argument that there is a contradiction between universality and CBDR saying it is a “disingenuous argument”. “In fact CBDR is an acceptance that all Member States have responsibilities for global sustainable development, no matter whether you are one of those States with extensive means or whether you are a State with the least. CBDR reinforces universality and does not detract from that principle. However, universality does not mean uniformity in obligations” the Group stressed.

Benin on behalf of the LDCs took the CBDR argument even forward and argued for a Differential and Preferential Treatment for the LDCs. This has been a longstanding LDC demand throughout the negotiations.

Brazil said that while it welcomed the reference, in paragraph 10, to CBDR, “whose inclusion in this Agenda is “non-negotiable” for developing countries, as clearly stated by the G77 and China Chair in the closing of the Addis Conference … “it is not enough to just mention the principle. We need to mainstream the concept of differentiation throughout the text, as we did for the SDGs, in line with the mandate contained in the Rio+20 Outcome Document.”

Egypt said “we note with satisfaction the references to CBDR, the right to development, the respect of the national policy space, and the condemnation of the occupation. In this regard we want to reiterate the importance of keeping the reference to the principle of CBDR as we see it is relevant to the context of the agenda. Concerning the right to development, we insist on keeping the reference to this right in both paragraphs 10 and 31”.

Bangladesh proposed to add to paragraph 30 the right to development in the third line after human rights and to maintain agreed UN language of ‘post-conflict countries’ instead of ‘countries emerging from conflicts’.

Indonesia said “we are pleased to see the principle of CBDR in Para 10 ... the principle of CBDR should be the basis for the Post 2015 Development Agenda and therefore this formulation should be strengthened by deleting the word “inter alia” in this paragraph.

The EU articulating the predominant view of developed countries, suggested “in paragraph 5, we should spell out clearly that the agenda is underpinned by the principle of universality, transcending the traditional North/South divide and involving the entire world. Universality comes with the complementary notion of differentiation which requires us to take into account different national circumstances, capacities and priorities”.

In an earlier statement the EU had said for some sections of the Declaration – particularly 'Our shared principles', 'The new agenda' and 'Implementation’ – “there is still room for improvement in terms of coherence, balance and consistency” and expressed concerns on “the need to reaffirm the principles of the Millennium Declaration, and on the other hand the problematic references to CBDR, policy space, cultural values and right to development”.

The EU went on to say “we reiterate our position on CBDR, which cannot apply as an operational principle for the whole agenda. It should not be singled out among the Rio principles”.

The EU’s statement was expectedly in keeping with the continued resistance of the USA, EU and several other developed countries to any mention of CBDR, the right to development and policy space which are crucial needs for and articulated repeatedly by developing countries.


On official development assistance, the G77 and China said, “while paragraph 34 of the declaration recognizes the importance of Official Development Assistance (ODA), it would be necessary to also recognize the commitments that have previously been made by developed countries in this regard” and proposed specific language change. 

There was also some discussion in relation to language on migration. But while the G77 and China highlighted the need for further strengthening by adding “regardless of their migration status” in paragraph 37, the EU wanted an explicit reference to the “contribution of well-managed migration and migrants as an enabler to inclusive growth and sustainable development” as well as a reference to the challenges e.g. by adding “including the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking, in particular by combating criminal networks". The difference in approaches reflects the global reality of sources and destination of migration today.

Issues related to references to “family”, “universal coercive measures” and “foreign occupation” were also contentious and received several mention in Member States’ statements.

The G77 and China stressed that, “the Group remains concerned at the omission of language in the declaration which addresses the issue of ‘unilateral coercive measures’ and the impact that these have on the full achievement of economic and social development. Agreed consensus language drawn from paragraph 26 of the ‘Future We Want’ should be utilized to address this issue.” 

(Future We Want is the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference 0n Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2012.)

At the end of the discussion on the Declaration, several civil society groups were apprehensive that there could be a race to the bottom in dropping critical references on both sides as a result of compromises, for example between CBDR and full sexual and reproductive health and rights.+