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Civil Society Groups React to Revised OWG Zero Draft

OWGJuly 2014: Several civil society groups provided reactions on the UN General Assembly's Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) revised zero draft prior to the opening of the 13th session of the OWG. In the revised draft of introduction, goals and targets, which was issued on 30 June 2014, the number of targets was reduced from 212 to 107, plus 40 targets on means of implementation (MOI).

Biovision and the Millennium Institute provided suggestions on Proposed Goal 2 (End hunger, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture). Suggestions included: illustrating that food and nutrition security cannot be achieved without a shift to sustainable agriculture, reflected in the goal title; and referencing multi-stakeholder assessments in support of national plans for implementing the SDGs.

The Road to Rio Nutrition Advocacy Group proposed retaining the wording from the zero draft of 2 June, on Proposed Goal 2, stressing that the revised wording is “weaker and less meaningful.” It made specific text recommendations on the targets under this Goal, in line with World Health Assembly (WHA) 2025 targets on breastfeeding, anemia, low birth weight and obesity.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) released a briefing note on forests and SDGs, which recommended moving towards a transformative forest module that goes beyond a focus on sustainable forest management (SFM), deforestation and reforestation, to address an enabling environment that would address sustainable development outcomes for forests, landscapes and livelihoods. The brief also: called for a resolution of trade-offs for forests and people on goals on agriculture and food security and economic growth and industrialization; and recommended including watershed ecosystem restoration, integrated land-use planning, redistributive justice in forest land allocation and strengthened forest and farm producer organizations for collective action, among others.

A letter from the Mining Working Group at the UN and Blue Planet Project urged an explicit reference to the human right to water and sanitation under Proposed Goal 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable use of water and sanitation for all). Arguing that the current OWG approach to mainstreaming human rights makes them “invisible,” the groups recommended an agenda “rooted in human rights obligations” rather than one simply “guided” by human rights principles, as currently stated in the draft.

Beyond 2015 argued for retaining Equality as a stand-alone goal (Proposed Goal 10), suggesting that “the support of much of civil society highly depends on” this retention. The reaction expressed appreciation that, inter alia, the goal on peaceful and inclusive societies has been retained. It expressed concern on, inter alia: the absence of guarantees on participation in Goals 16 and 17; and the "business as usual" tone of many of the MOI targets. Expressing deep concern regarding weakened language on the climate change goal, Beyond 2015 urged raising the ambition of targets and including clear quantification, timelines and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) to drive climate action.

Safer World described the revised draft as an improvement, noting with appreciation the consolidation of targets and improvements to Proposed Goal 17 on MOI. It made suggestions including: reformulating targets under Proposed Goal 16 (Achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all, and effective and capable institutions) to focus more on outcomes for people; four targets under a goal on peace; three targets under a goal on governance; and three targets under a goal on international cooperation.

The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) discussed the evolution of the OWG's work, with a particular emphasis on: means of implementation; trade; climate, energy and oceans; and the final eight days of work of the OWG. It notes, inter alia: that the climate goal includes an asterisk that specifies that targets may be “part of and complementary to” targets defined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations; and that the goal on oceans has retained a target on eliminating and refraining from introducing new subsides that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.

The 30 June draft places greater emphasis on the development agenda than on the sustainability agenda, Derek Osborn, President, Stakeholder Forum, noted in a blog post. He recommended references to: the need to create sustainable development strategies for all countries to work towards efficient resource use and the elimination of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollution; reducing reliance on fossil fuels; and longer-term goals of keeping global temperature increase to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. He proposed targets on: energy efficiency; moving towards zero-carbon housing; and reducing the carbon footprint of transport system.

OWG is convening for its 13th and final session at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 14-18 July 2014. [Beyond 2015 Reaction] [Biovision Reaction] [Bridges News] [IIED Briefing Note] [Mining Working Group and Blue Planet Project Letter] [Road to Rio Nutrition Advocacy Group Comments] [Safer World Comments] [Stakeholder Forum Blog] [OWG Website] [IISD RS Meeting Coverage of OWG 13]