TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Mar14/01)
2 March 2014
Third World Network  

SDGs intergovernmental negotiations begin

Dear friends and colleagues,

The United Nations intergovernmental negotiations on specific sustainable development goals will begin on 3-5 March at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

This is the first of five sessions in the second phase of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The eight sessions so far of the OWG that began its work in March 2013 constituted the “input” phase.

The eighth, and last, stocktaking session of the OWG took place on 3-7 February. This marked the end of the input phase of the OWG, with the next phase focusing on the intergovernmental negotiation of the final output including the SDGs themselves. This second phase comprises 5 sessions, with the first on 3-5 March.

The OWG is a key process for the follow-up of the outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (Rio+20). The Co-chairs of the OWG are Ambassadors Macharia Kamau of Kenya and Csaba Ko?r?si of Hungary.

At the February session, the Co-Chairs announced two ways in which they will be leading the way forward.  First, the Co-Chairs will produce a stocktaking document that will summarize the entire OWG process since the first session commenced in March 2013.  This was distributed on 14 February to member states’ representatives in New York as well as to capitals: a 30-page “Progress report of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals”.(URL:

Secondly, and more importantly, the Co-Chairs will present a text outlining the thematic areas of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  It will be based on the key focus areas within the eight OWG sessions that have occurred since March 2013. The Co-Chairs text of the SDGs will not indicate specific goals and targets; rather, it will identify clustered thematic areas that governments will discuss and develop further in their negotiation process.

This was circulated in a letter to member states dated 21 February from the Co-Chairs (URL with an attached 8-page document with 19 focus areas (URL: 

In their letter, the Co-Chairs stated:

"The attached document does not constitute a zero draft of the report that the Group has been mandated to submit to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session. While the document is recommended for further consideration, the focus areas identified here are not exhaustive. Therefore, they do not preclude inclusion of other issues discussed within the context of the thematic clusters but that may not have been captured here.”

The intergovernmental consultations on a final SDG report will be based on this second text outlining the key themes, as identified by the two Co-Chairs.

The 19 focus areas identified by the Co-Chairs are: poverty eradication; food security and nutrition; health and population dynamics; education; gender equality and women’s empowerment; water and sanitation; energy; economic growth; industrialization; infrastructure; employment and decent work for all; promoting equality; sustainable cities and human settlements; sustainable consumption and production; climate; marine resources, oceans and seas; ecosystems and biodiversity; means of implementation; peaceful and non-violent societies, capable institutions.

The other OWG negotiation sessions are: 31 March – 4 April, 5 – 9 May, 2 – 6 June and 14 – 18 July.

Meanwhile, gender equality and women’s empowerment gained significant member state attention at the 8th session in February. Below are highlights of the statement of the Group of 77 and China (that also included income inequality), as well as a joint statement by 48 government delegations of developing and developed countries

(The thematic focus areas included: oceans and seas, forests, biodiversity; promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women's empowerment; and, conflict prevention, post-conflict peace building and the promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance.)

With best regards,

Third World Network

Item 1

SDGs: Group of 77 and China call for actions to address income inequality, and support gender equality and women’s empowerment

New York, 27 February (Bhumika Muchhala) – The eighth, and last, consultation session of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place on 3-7 February in New York.

The thematic focus areas included equality (and inequality), social equity, gender equality and women's empowerment.

The Group of 77 and China (G77) in their plenary statement stated that the reversal of the universal trend of growing income inequality should be a global goal in the SDG framework.  This calls for reversing the secular decline in the share of labor income in most countries.

A goal to reverse income inequality could be pursued through various means to establish a level playing field between labor and capital, including greater international mobility of labor, regulation of international financial markets and capital movements, more equitable taxation of wage income and incomes from capital and financial assets, prevention of tax competition and a code of conduct for the private sector, especially transnational corporations.

The pursuit of such a goal calls for breaking the dominance of finance and corporate interest in the formulation of policies and operation of the global markets.  No single country alone can do this; it should be pursued collectively at the global level.

The G77 pointed out that studies show that income inequality among countries is higher than within countries.  Thus, there should be international action to reverse the trend and thus to reduce international inequality.  Other aspects of international cooperation, namely the means of implementation (which involves the commitment of financial resources as well as the transfer of technology), and the global partnership for development, should also be agreed on under the goal of reducing inequality.

The G77 statement also expressed widespread concern over the trends of greatly widened inequality between and within countries. In many countries, the share of income of the top 1% to 10% of the population has gone up very significantly, while the share of the bottom 40% has declined greatly and in some countries the incomes of the bottom segments of society have declined or stagnated.  Social equity was emphasized as the key ingredient of social cohesion and development.

Furthermore, establishment organizations including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Economic Forum have also identified inequality as a major global problem to be tackled.

One way to address inequality is to put a limit to the wealth and income of the economic elite, for example the moves in some developed countries to curb the bonuses or earnings of top executives, or through taxes on wealth and income.

The G77 also stressed social protection, stating that there is a strong case for the SDG framework to reduce inequality through social protection policies and measures, including social benefits and security, including transfer payments to poor families and free or subsidized healthcare, food and other services.  Social protection is also clearly linked to poverty eradication, which is the central and overarching goal for the Group.

The G77 highlighted employment in stating that generating full and productive employment, and providing access to economic opportunities for all sections of society, needs to be prioritized.  The SDG framework should encourage and support such objectives and policies.

Particularly in developing countries, inequality needs be tackled by pursuing policies of inclusive economic growth.  This needs to be coupled with enhanced investments in social and economic infrastructure and human resource development, in particular, education, health, housing and sanitation.

G77 calls for gender equality goal in the SDG framework

The Group of 77 stressed that nationally determined targets for promoting gender equality and women's empowerment should be considered in the SDG framework through the following key dimensions:

  • Elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against girls and women;
  • Promotion of gender equality in the access and ownership of productive resources, assets and opportunity;
  • Better and increased participation of women in decision making in political, economic and social spheres; and,
  • Equal access of all women and girls to education, health and other basic services.

The Rio+20 Summit recognized that persistent social, economic and political inequalities prevented the realization of potential of women to benefit from sustainable development as leaders and change agents.  The outcome document of R?o+20, entitled "The future we want," stated in paragraphs 236 through 241 the need for specific targets for increasing women in leadership positions, reforms to give women equal rights, and promote equal access to women and girls to social services.

Whilst there is a gender equality goal in the Millennium Development Goals, MDG 3 to be precise, it is widely and commonly agreed that the MDG 3 goal has not been sufficiently broad or deep enough to deal with the wide variety of challenges facing women in the world.

The MDG 3 goal primarily focused on gender parity in education, which does not address the multiple and deeply entrenched structural issues of violence, biases and discrimination that women and girls must confront in their social, economic, private and public lives. +

Item 2

SDGs: 48 governments call for gender equality and women’s empowerment

New York, 27 February (Bhumika Muchhala) – At the 8th consultation and stock-taking session of the United Nations General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), held in New York from 3-7 February, a joint statement was delivered to the two Co-Chairs of the OWG by 48 countries on the issue of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Among the thematic focus areas of the 8th OWG session were inequality, including income inequality, social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The SDGs are an outcome of the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development, held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

The joint statement from 48 UN member states was delivered by the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the UN,Maria Cristina Perceval, on behalf of the Governments of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

The above group of member states requested the Co-Chairs to reflect their statement and its main contents in the summary report for the 8th OWG session as well as in the final reports of the Open Working Group deliberations.

The joint statement called for the SDG framework to prioritize the achievement of gender equality and advancing the human rights of women, girls and all young people, especially those living in poverty or otherwise excluded and marginalized.  The SDG framework must specifically address the systematic inequities they and other groups face worldwide.

The statement said that gender inequality undermines progress, not only for women and girls, but for families, societies, economies and countries as a whole.  On the other hand, achieving equal rights for women and girls improves the well-being of children and households, increases prosperity and economic growth, enhances environmental stewardship and participatory governance for all.  The needs of older women and experiences should not be forgotten, as they can share with the view to contribute to sustainable development.

Today’s generation of adolescents and youth is the largest in history. Decisions about their place in the post-2015 agenda will be determining of humanity’s and the planet’s future.

At this stage of intergovernmental discussions in the UN, member states must be strategic, pragmatic and attentive to the realities people around the world face.  Building on the Millennium Development Goals, and from an evidence-based approach, the member states emphasized that the following must be incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals as essential elements of a universally-relevant, transformative, high-impact and cost-effective post-2015 development framework:

  • The promotion, respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, without discrimination on any grounds, must be the basis of a sustainable development agenda rooted in principles of equality, equity and social justice for all.
  • Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls must be a priority in the new agenda, as well as mainstreamed, with commitments across the range of social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring equal rights for women and girls to education, health, social protection, economic opportunities, access to justice and decision-making in public and private life; and on fostering shared rights and responsibilities with men and boys.
  • While increasing access to quality education for all children, continue to close gender gaps at all levels of education, eliminate gender biases in curricula and teaching practices, enable secondary school completion for girls, ensure universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, both in and out of school, and eradicate female illiteracy.
  • Ensure equitable access to quality universal health care focused on prevention that is affordable, and that protects individuals and families from financially-catastrophic consequences and impoverishment.
  • Respect, protect and fulfil the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all individuals throughout the life-cycle, including through universal access to quality, integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services.
  • End all forms of gender-based violence, including through public education campaigns for prevention and universal access to critical services, rehabilitation, justice and remedies for all victims/survivors; end harmful practices against girls, including early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation; criminalize sexual violence and end impunity of perpetrators, whether in peacetime or as a tactic of warfare; and eliminate sexual harassment and violence at home and in schools, workplaces and other public spaces.
  • Create decent employment and livelihood opportunities with decent wages, with emphasis on women and youth, including by supporting successful school-to-work transitions; ensuring women’s equal access to economic opportunities and productive assets, equal pay for equal work, and equal access to land, property, inheritance, banking and financial services, agricultural supports and information and communication technologies; reducing disproportionate time-use burden and unpaid care work for women and girls, and strengthening family-friendly policies for affordable child and elderly care, maternity and paternity leave; and enact and enforce legislation to protect human and labour rights and eliminate exploitation in all its forms.
  • Increase women’s and young people’s participation in decision-making at all levels, including through temporary special measures for women’s increased political participation, as well as leadership in all areas including economic, media, scientific and research spheres; and ensure women’s and young people’s voice and participation in decision-making in disaster- and conflict-affected situations  and as an integral part of the peacebuilding process.
  • In all these areas, policies need to be implemented effectively, with transparent resource allocation and supported by stronger efforts on data collection and analysis.

As the thematic debates of this Working Group come to an end, the member states urged that the human rights and empowerment of women and girls and gender equality, the rights and empowerment of adolescents and youth, and the respect, protection and fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all be positioned as critical pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

These are fundamental priorities for any human rights-based, people-centred and planet-sensitive agenda.