TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Mar14/02)
5 March 2014
Third World Network  

SDGs: G77 and China sets priorities, common but differentiated responsibility to be a guiding principle

New York, 5 March (Mirza Alas) – The Group of 77 and China reiterated thatthe principle of common but differentiated responsibility must be a guiding principle in the development and implementation of sustainable development goals.

The ninth session of the United Nations Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place on 3-5 March at the UN headquarters in New York. The Co-chairs of the OWG are Ambassadors Macharia Kamau of Kenya and Csaba Korosi of Hungary.

Member States discussed the progress report and the focus area paper provided by the OWG Co-Chairs as inputs for the development of SDGs.

The first key issue for the Group of 77 and China (G77) was regarding the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), which has been constantly named by the Group in its statements and by its Members through all the discussions and has been set out by Rio+20 outcome document: “The Future We Want”. It proposed the inclusion of CBDR as a guiding principle which means that SDGs should not place additional restrictions or burdens on developing countries. Importantly, it requires the donor community to honor its international commitments especially those related to financial resources, technology transfer and capacity.

Another issue of critical importance was means of implementation. The G77 emphasized that the OWG should integrate clear and concrete means of implementation to each of the goals that are discussed, as well as more concrete elements for a specific goal. It wanted to underscore the importance of linking international factors to an 'enhanced global partnership', the critical role of means of implementation, together with national actions and efforts to be taken by countries at the national level. This three-component approach is essential because the formulation of laudable goals at the national level will not be attainable unless structural factors, including international factors, are addressed. Similarly, developing countries require international cooperation in finance, technology transfer and capacity building if they are expected to achieve the SDGs.

The G77 pointed out that so far there were no concrete actions indicated in terms of international systemic issues, and the creation of an international enabling environment, including addressing trade, debt, technology and reform of international financial system and global economic governance. These issues needed further elaboration. Overall, the thrust on international systemic issues needs to be strengthened.

Also, the Group noted the need for achieving sustainable patterns of consumption and production as essential to the sustainable development agenda. This view is consistent with the call made by political leaders more than twenty years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit, in Agenda 21 ten years later and the Rio+20 Summit in 2012.

The G77 highlighted the need to include issues that were not fully reflected in the focus areas or that require further elaboration.

The attainment of food security and the move towards sustainable agriculture, including increased food production in developing countries, are important issues to be discussed in the SDGs framework. Agricultural production in developing countries mostly involves small land holdings and family agriculture for self-consumption. Smallholdings account for approximately 85% of the world's farms. To support the economic viability of smallholder family agriculture and thus reduce their vulnerability, policy actions are required to enhance smallholder producers, particularly women, indigenous people and people living in vulnerable situations to credit, markets, secure land tenure and other services.

The Group stressed the importance that desertification, land degradation and drought corrodes the three pillars of sustainable development and they represent a serious concern for developing countries. Addressing this phenomenon will enable countries to deal with several global policy challenges.

The G77 recognized that another essential topic that must be included is migration.  Migrants are relevant to all countries of origin, transit and destinations. These are global issues, with economic and structural imperatives. The organizational and political challenge is to overcome these biased approaches and work towards facilitating orderly and safe mobility, recognizing that greater mobility is inevitable in a context of increasing globalization.

It pointed out that 226 million people globally are affected on average by disaster associated with natural hazards every year. While hazards are natural, disasters are preventable. The scientific community has informed that the current drivers of risk are linked to poor policies and practices in land-use planning, governance, urbanization, natural resource management, ecosystem management as well as increasing poverty levels. It must be recognized that eradication of poverty and promotion of sustainable development is the surest way of enhancing people's resilience to disasters.

The Group also emphasized the importance of culture as both an 'enabler' and 'driver' of sustainable development. Development approaches should be adapted to national circumstances and local contexts. Culture also drives development within a number of cultural sectors including the creative industries, cultural tourism and heritage, both tangible and intangible.

It further expressed concern that Youth must not be merely connected to unemployment under SDGs. Engagement of Youth, which constitutes a significant portion of developing countries, should be acknowledged in overall SDGs considering many aspects such as education and skills development, entrepreneurship and innovation, ICT, health, SCP and their engagement in policy-making. Youth empowerment serves as enabler of realizing goals.

There was reiteration of the importance of undertaking further effective measures and actions, in conformity with International Law, to remove the obstacles to the full realization of the right of self-determination of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, which continue to adversely affect their economic and social development as well as their environment as detailed in paragraph 27 of "The Future We Want" adopted at Rio+20.

The Group recognized the hard work undertaken by the Co-Chairs and the other member states of the OWG, and it strongly believes in the need to include focus-areas with a real transformative impact that advances towards a real and comprehensive development agenda. With that intention, the Group requested the inclusion of the areas of culture, trade, technology transfer, financial architecture and taxation. The Group believes in the need to properly address the main development challenges of developing countries, including the multidimensional nature of poverty and development as well the creation and promotion of global public goods. Only recognizing and including those needs we can really talk about a global, universal, transformative and reachable development agenda.

In this regard, the G77 called for the urgent and immediate fulfillment of the relevant United Nations documents and resolutions which request all Member States to refrain from promulgating and applying any kind of unilateral economic, financial or trade coercive measures, against other sovereign States. Those measures constitute a flagrant violation of the International Law, the Charter of the United Nations and the Human Rights, especially the Right of Development. Moreover, these measures impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.

Lastly, regarding the Joint meeting of the OWG and the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (another outcome of the Rio+20 conference), the G77 stressed the necessity of addressing, among others, the following issues: the traditional and non-traditional resource pools and potential sources identified by the experts as main drivers of SDGs during the 15 years beginning 2016; the way to maintain the universal nature of means of implementation in a way that ensures adequate resources flows and technology transfer with respect to each identified SDG, with special reference to the countries which are lagging behind; and the thrust areas that the financing committee found as priority areas to be addressed.