TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Jul15/18)
28 July 2015
Third World Network

Post-2015 Development Agenda: New draft out for final negotiations

New York, 28 July (Ranja Sengupta) – At the late hour of 11 pm on Sunday (26 July), the Co-facilitators of the Post-2015 Development Agenda talks released what could be the near-final version of the outcome document the world will try to implement over the next 15 years.

This version of the Post-2015 Development Agenda will set the stage for the final round of hectic negotiations at the United Nations headquarters in New York this week.

The “Outcome Document for the UN Summit to Adopt the Post 2015 Development Agenda: Draft for Adoption” attempts to resolve some of the still remaining thorny issues that were discussed last week.  However, whether and how quickly the Member States agree to the final document remains to be seen. The document is likely to undergo some changes over the course of the week as negotiations continue, and as informed by the Co-facilitators last week the final document will be adopted as soon as they feel there is consensus among the membership. 

(The document is available here:

Small group meetings are expected to be the main form of discussions this week. However, some civil society organisations are apprehensive over possible last hour talks that could turn out to be as non-transparent as the recent Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa when governments agreed on the Outcome Document in the ‘green room’ style of trade talks.

The current draft, gives a new title to the Agenda, “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The previous version, released on 8 July, had the title “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Global Action”. The change reflects the sentiment expressed last week by several Member States that sustainable development should be specifically mentioned in the title.

From a preliminary look, the document seems to have incorporated several demands made by the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and other individual developing countries.

The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) continues to occupy a specific reference in paragraph 13 (it was earlier in paragraph 10) which now reads: “We reaffirm all the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, including, inter alia, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as set out in principle 7 thereof”. However the reference to Principle 7 may be a limiting factor for application of CBDR to the entire agenda.

CBDR has been a North-South bone of contention throughout the negotiations of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2015 agenda in the General Assembly this year.  In the Addis Agenda, the developed countries had resisted any specific mention of CBDR, except in the context of climate change, though they were ready to affirm Rio+20 principles in general. Last week’s Post-2015 talks had clearly revealed the developed countries’ displeasure at the still remaining mention of CBDR as an underlying principle and this is one area which is likely to see some strong push back by them.

The developing countries in groupings and individually had strongly argued for this specific mention of CBDR to be retained. For them, recognition of historical responsibilities is crucial for the development agenda to be successful, and though the Rio Principles include CBDR whether this implies the application of CBDR to the entire agenda has been challenged continuously. The current explicit mention of CBDR is positive. However the reference to principle 7 may be problematic.

(For more information on last week’s negotiations including on CBDR, please see: Post-2015 Development Agenda: Concluding negotiations amidst differences, by Ranja Sengupta, TWN Information Service of 25 July.)

Another key ask of the developing countries was to recognize that though it is linked to the Means of Implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Financing for Development (FfD) process is an independent and distinct process in its own right. They had also felt that their demands and aspirations had been diluted considerably in the Addis Ababa Agenda. They had therefore asked that reference to “fully endorse’ the FfD outcome document, contained in Paragraph 53 of the Means of Implementation chapter in the 8July version, be deleted. They had also asked that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda not be included as an annex to the Post-2015 Agenda.

Both these demands, strongly articulated by the G77 and China, AOSIS, CARICOM and others last week, seems to have been paid heed to. The words “fully endorse” and the addition of the Addis Ababa Agenda as an annex are both deleted now. The relevant Paragraph 53 in the 8 July draft had read “We welcome and endorse fully the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa from 13-16 July 2015. This is included in Annex 2”.

This paragraph is now replaced by paragraph 61 in the current draft, which reads as “We welcome the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development held in Addis Ababa from 13-16 July 2015. We recognise the important interlinkages between the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets”.  (Emphases added.)

However, like CBDR, this is also likely to be a battlefield over this week. Observers note that the G77 and China grouping represents 134 Member States and therefore the majority in the General Assembly, and the Co-facilitators have played fair by incorporating their strong position on this issue.

(For more information and analysis on the Ffd Outcome, please see: The Third International Conference on Financing for Development: Outcome document adopted without intergovernmental tax body or new financial commitments by Bhumika Muchhala and Ranja Sengupta, TWN Information Service of 16 July.)

One positive is also the reaffirmation of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) in paragraph 64 which reads “Enhanced international cooperation to promote science, technology and innovation is fundamentally important to achieving our goals. We therefore launch a Technology Facilitation Mechanism in order to support the sustainable development goals, as agreed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. We decide that the technology facilitation mechanism will be based on a multi-stakeholder collaboration between Member States, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community, United Nations entities and other stakeholders and will be composed of a United Nations inter-agency task team on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals, a collaborative multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the sustainable development goals and an online platform, as detailed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The meetings of the forum wil l result in a summary of discussions as an input to the meetings of the High Level Political Forum, in the context of follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda”.

This was a strong demand from the developing countries last week. The TFM has been an important win for the developing countries though it still remains to be seen how effectively it addresses thorny issues including intellectual property rights.

The developed countries had wanted the Means of Implementation (MOI) goals and targets to be placed only in one chapter, either with the SDGs or in chapter 3 on MOI. The developing countries in fact wanted these included with the SDGs (in order to maintain the sanctity of the OWG-SDG document) but also in Chapter 3. The current draft places the MOI goals and targets with the SDGs in Chapter 2 while the MOI Chapter/segment include paragraphs 59-67 that outline the framework on MOI.

Another issue for developing countries is the treatment of the Chapeau (or introduction) to the OWG-SDGs in the current Post-2015 Development Agenda text. Developing countries had wanted the Chapeau to form the basis of the Preamble and Declaration of the current Agenda. They had also argued that since the entire OWG-SDGs Report was agreed as the basis of the Post-2015 goals and targets, the Chapeau, as part of the agreed document, should be included as an integral part of chapter 2 on goals and targets.

None of these changes were agreed to by the developed countries, which had backed a new Preamble and Declaration framed by the six (now five) elements described in the Secretary-General’s Report last year. They also refused to allow the Chapeau as part of the SDGs chapter. In fact even the inclusion of the agreed Chapeau as an annex, a follow-up demand by the developing countries, had been bitterly contested last week. However, the developing countries had continued to hold on to their position that the Chapeau/Introduction be included either as part of the OWG-SDGs itself, or at least included as an annex.

The current draft of 26 July does not include the Introduction or the Chapeau (of the OWG-SDG Report) as part of the SDGs but it does include it in full as Annex 2.

There is also a new paragraph 30 in the new draft which says "States are strongly urged to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries". This had again been a demand from the G77 and China but is likely to be contested among others, by the USA.

But the hard task of the negotiators this week may be to agree on the proposed technical tweaking that was suggested by the Co-facilitators in March this year, based on an exercise done by the Secretariat guided by them. The exercise had two criteria: to replace “x”s in the document with specific numbers, and to ensure compatibility with international agreements. The original proposal included 19 targets that were supposed to be tweaked. The exercise had generated quite a controversy with developing countries reminding repeatedly that the SDGs were better not reopened or re-negotiated. However, a broad agreement seemed to prevail on the technical proofing if kept purely technical without any change in substance.

Last week saw a re-emergence of this debate when replacing the “x”s proved to be quite a challenging task. The fact that the 8July version had already incorporated the suggested changes without an agreement among the Member States was also pointed out by the developing countries. The proposal vis a vis target 3.b had already been dropped while the changes suggested to target 14.c, on the application of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to all States, was the only one still remaining in the annex.

(Target 3.b reads: Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all.

(The tweaking exercise had proposed the deletion of the word “essential” enphasised above as the TRIPS Agreement is not limited to essential medicines. However several developed countries, notably the UK, had challenged this on the ground that the sentence also includes reference to vaccines.

(The explanation given for abandoning the proposed revision as given in the June draft was “the language would need to be further amended to remove references to vaccines, developing countries, and the provision of access to medicines for all. Making such substantive revisions to the OWG target however risks undermining the balance agreed during the OWG process and it is therefore proposed to revert to the original text”. To many health activists and developing countries in general, this would be a major disappointment.)

The Co-facilitators’ suggestion of replacing “x”s with “all” or “substantially increase/reduce” or other slightly ambiguous terms was also viewed with discomfort by several developing countries, and expressed clearly by AOSIS and CARICOM. Some of them (e.g. Trinidad and Tobago) had suggested leaving the “x”s as they are as it is agreed by all that agreeing on specific numbers is unlikely to be resolved given the time constraint. According to some, the UN Statistical Commission could then attempt to pin down the numbers. However, Ambassador Kamau had warned against keeping this work pending for another forum (he had suggested the High Level Political Forum). 

(For more information on last week’s negotiations on the SDGs, please see Post-2015 Development Agenda: Maintaining the integrity of the SDGs by Ranja Sengupta, TWN Information Service of 26 July.)

The 26 July version puts the proposed revisions back in Annex 1. Eleven targets are proposed for removing “x”s, and 9 more proposed revisions are to ensure consistency with international agreements. The “x”s are not yet replaced by numbers and the document retains the reference to “all” or “significantly increase/reduce”. Agreeing on specific numbers will clearly take time, but whether the current revisions are acceptable to all, remains to be seen.

Five more revisions on targets 1.a, 2.b, 7.b, 9.c and 17.18 are suggested to include specific reference to landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), where other country groupings in special situations such as LDCs, SIDs, are mentioned. The LLDCs had strongly appealed for this inclusion during last week’s negotiations.

However, to the disappointment of civil society observers, the only mention of redistribution in paragraph 25 of the 8 July draft has now been dropped in favour of much softer language limited to addressing income inequality. The earlier language was “We will seek to build strong economic foundations for all our countries. Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth is essential for prosperity.  This will only be possible if wealth is shared through progressive policies aimed at redistribution”.  (Emphasis added.)

The current paragraph 28 reads: “We will seek to build strong economic foundations for all our countries. Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth is essential for prosperity. This will only be possible if wealth is shared and income inequality is addressed”. (Emphasis added.)

This week’s negotiations will be critical in determining the final shape and effectiveness on the Post-2015 Development Agenda that will bring to an end nearly two and a half years of work by Member States, the UN, and stakeholders such as civil society groups, academia, and others.+

(Edited by Chee Yoke Ling)