TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Mar13/01)
20 March 2013
Third World Network  

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are pleased to begin a new TWN Information Service that will cover the work of the UN in two important ongoing processes: the follow-up to the June 2012 Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and the post-2015 development process.

Our first mailing is a report of the first meeting of the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

With best wishes,
Third World Network

United Nations: SDG group starts work, G77 stresses means of implementation
Published in SUNS #7547 dated 18 March 2013

New York, 15 Mar (Bhumika Muchhala) -- The open working group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held its inaugural meeting in the United Nations General Assembly hall on 14 March, after many months spent on the formation and establishment of the group.
The June 2012 Rio+20 summit outcome document mandated the group's establishment and restricted its membership to 30 countries. However, many more than 30 countries vied to be members.
Arrangements were then made that some seats be represented by two or even three countries (with these countries coming from the same region). There are thus, in fact, 70 members altogether, although there are 30 seats, with some countries taking turns being in the official 30 seats.
In the opening of the meeting on 14 March, all UN member states were invited to attend. This was welcomed by the member states that are not part of the 30 or 70 members of the open working group (OWG), and that have been requesting that they also be allowed to be present at the meetings of the OWG. Rules of participation by various categories of countries that are members or non-members are expected to be clarified later.
The Chairman of the Group of 77 and China (G77), Ambassador Peter Thomson from Fiji, made a statement at the morning session.
He stressed that the SDGs should be based on a genuine global partnership that requires a new thinking on international cooperation. This should move away from the traditional ‘donor-recipient' paradigm to one that gives responsibility and sufficient policy space to developing countries, taking into account their different national circumstances, priorities and capabilities.
Thomson said that there should be a focus on eradicating the problem of inequality between and within countries. In practice, this means that the development and implementation of SDGs must be based on the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility.' It means that SDGs should not place additional restrictions or burdens on developing countries.
Importantly, it requires the donor community to honour its international commitments especially those related to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building. "SDGs should not place additional restrictions or burdens on developing countries. Importantly, it requires the donor community to honour its international commitments especially those related to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity," said the G77 Chairman.
He stressed on technology transfer and technological cooperation, saying, "Elaborating on these commitments, they must be matched by the effective transfer of financial and technical resources, which improve conditions in the developing countries and assist in eradicating poverty. Transfer of technology must encompass technological cooperation and the necessary technical and commercial information to understand, use and develop cutting-edge technology with a view to promoting endogenous capacity to use and further develop such technologies. Moreover, the dissemination of related technological knowledge as well as technical and commercial cooperation is also important. Only through this effective transfer and sharing will it be possible to promote the use and subsequent development of technology by developing countries themselves."
"Promoting mechanisms that strengthen capacity-building, the allocation of adequate, predictable and additional financial resources and the transfer of cutting edge technologies on concessionary terms from the developed to the developing countries must be a top priority," he added.
The G77 Chairman also reiterated that for SDGs to be successful, it is important that these goals be based on the outcomes of Agenda 21 (1992) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (2002), as well as outcomes of all UN major summits in the economic, social and environmental fields, including the Istanbul Program of Action (for Least Developed Countries), the Barbados Program of Action and Mauritius Strategy (for Small Island Developing States).
He further alluded to unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, saying that, "Any vision of sustainable development ideal for the 21st century must recognise that eradicating poverty, removing inequalities and achieving social justice is inextricably linked to ensuring ecological stability and renewal so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations. We must therefore increase our efforts towards changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead."
The G77 Chairman called for augmenting developing country voice in global economic and financial decision-making, stressing, "There is a need for an ample international dialogue with a view to building a new financial architecture that guarantees the democratisation and transparency of financial management and institutions and in this sense, it is indispensable to guarantee the full participation of developing countries in the reform of the international economic and financial architecture, favourable to sustainable development. We must advance towards a far-reaching democratisation of the international financial institutions, significantly increasing the voice, representation and voting power of developing countries."
The Group emphasised that a genuine global partnership must be founded on strong political will and shared responsibility. "It requires strengthened commitment from our developed partners to provide international cooperation and sufficient policy space to developing countries, taking into account their different national circumstances, priorities and capabilities. In this regard, particular attention must be given to developing countries with a focus on eradicating the problem of inequality between and within countries."
Thomson said that the Group is happy to see the OWG commencing its work. "The Group has held the view that it is imperative for the success of this multilateral endeavour that the wishes of all members are accommodated. The convening of today's meeting exhibits this achievement".
The G77 Chairman then alluded to the importance that all UN member states as well as other stakeholders should be allowed to take part in the OWG, in order to ensure that the process is inclusive and open.
He said: "The Group of 77 expresses its congratulation to the 30 members of the OWG on their nomination. The Group reassures them of its support and trust that in the conduct of their affairs, they will consider and provide ample opportunities for all other members of the United Nations, relevant stakeholders from civil societies, the scientific community and the United Nations systems to contribute to their deliberation in line with the mandate of the Rio+20 Outcome Document. It is vital for the success of this OWG that it is inclusive, open and transparent."
"The Group notes that the main task of the OWG is to submit a report containing a proposal for sustainable developments goals to the Assembly at its sixty-eight session in September 2013 for consideration and appropriate action. In view of the time constraint, the Group is ready to engage constructively in substantive discussions in the identification and formulations of these goals."
The Chairman said that Paragraph 246 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document states that the SDGs be a driver for implementation and mainstreaming of sustainable development in the United Nations system as a whole.
"While the development of the SDGs must not divert focus or effort from the achievement of the MDGs, the Group stresses the need for serious concerted effort in this OWG towards developing a concise set of aspirational, concise, action-oriented, universally applicable sets of sustainable development goals," said the G77 Chairman.
He emphasised that the SDGs should be guided by a set of key principles with an overarching objective of achieving poverty eradication.
"These SDGs should be balanced, coherent with and integrated into the United Nations' post-2015 development agenda in a way that incorporates the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and their inter-linkages," said the G77 Chairman, adding that "the human rights underpinning the MDGs have highlighted how poverty is multidimensional and that development must be achieved in a holistic sense, emphasising our desire to be freed from misery and suffering, hunger, illiteracy, disease, poor housing, insecurity and so on."
The relationship between SDGs and MDGs was clarified by the G77 Chairman: "The Group underscores the fundamental importance for the SDGs to build upon and complement the MDGs. As we focus our attention on the SDGs, it is imperative that we learn from the lessons of the MDGs. One of the key shortcomings of the MDGs is the lack of accountability in the global partnership under MDG8. For example, MDG8 explicitly recognised the special needs of vulnerable countries and called for strengthening of commitments to increase Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to LDC, LLDCs and SIDS. However, the targets and indicators were not backed up by any quantitative nor time-bound targets."
He added, "In addition, developing countries need a favourable international economic climate if their national development policies and programmes are to succeed. In this connection, the Monterrey Consensus provides the United Nations with a framework for promoting an economic climate favourable to development financing in its national, international and systemic aspects. We should continue working on these issues."
And finally, reference to the key outcomes of past conferences was made by the Chairman: "The Group further reiterates that the means of implementation identified in Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development are indispensable for translating the SDGs into tangible sustainable development outcomes. The Group of 77 is of the view that each SDG must be linked to an effective means of implementation." +