OWG Issues Interim Progress Report

Fourth Session of the Open Working Group30 July 2013: The co-chairs of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have issued an interim report to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on the Group's progress since January 2013. The progress report details organizational matters, substantive highlights of the OWG's first four sessions, side events, and possible ways forward for future meetings. 

Since 14 March 2013, the OWG has held four sessions, addressing: conceptualizing the SDGs; poverty eradication; food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation, and drought; water and sanitation; employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education, and culture; and health, population dynamics.

According to the report, the Group is currently in a phase of "stock-taking" on thematic issues, which will continue until February 2014. From February 2014 through September 2014, the OWG will prepare a report for the UNGA containing proposals and outlooks for SDGs. The report notes that "wide support" exists for a "single post-2015 UN development framework containing a single set of goals," which are universally applicable but adaptable to national priorities. Also highlighted as important are the daily consultations with Major Groups and stakeholders that the co-facilitators and Member States held during OWG 3 and 4.

Substantive highlights from the discussions to date include: the need for a narrative that frames and motivates the SDGs; poverty eradication as the overarching objective and central proposal of the Goals; the importance of balancing all three dimensions of sustainable development in a holistic way; need for means of implementation and a strengthened global partnership; the multi-dimensionality of poverty and need for disaggregated data; the right to be free from hunger; a focus on small-scale farmers and rural poor; halting and reversing land degradation; support for a water-dedicated SDG, to also address sanitation and hygiene; the global priority of tackling youth unemployment; the creation of country-specific social protection floors; the centrality of education to the agenda; integrating the health priorities of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with new targets in a single health-oriented goal; and the implications of population dynamics and migration on the economy and environment.

Going forward, the report suggests that the OWG may prioritize discussion of means and resources along with goal proposals in future meetings. It stresses the need for an "open and interactive exchange of ideas" and concrete proposals. Finally, the interim report suggests that the "convergence" of opinions around balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development with the central goal of poverty eradication can guide the work of the OWG in the future. [Advance Unedited Copy- Progress Report on the work of the General Assembly Open Working Group on SDGs at its first four sessions] [IISD RS Report of OWG 4] [UN Webpage on OWG]