"Given the continued unacceptable levels of poverty and the impacts of climate change, the sense of urgency is here" said the ambassador from Kenya and co-chair in the opening day of the 5th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A group of government representatives, civil society and other stakeholders are in New York to discuss how to shape a set of sustainable development goals as part of the implementing a Rio+20 recommendations and looking into the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.
Report by Alejandra Scampini, AWID, from NY.
Where does the Open Working Group (OWG) stand?
According to the co-chair, Ambassador of Kenya, over the last 4th OWG meeting, there seems to be a growing consensus among countries on poverty eradication. There is agreement on the need for goals that are measurable and easy to communicate. Goals that will build also on the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). "We cannot claim targeting a new agenda when the MDGs are not finished", he said.
Another area of agreement, picking from the recent report by the UN Secretary General, is to leave no-one behind. The goals have to be inclusive and must be universal, applying to all countries while recognizing different levels of development.
Rather than discussion goals or targets, there seems to be an interest to focus rather on the following issues: poverty, food security, water & sanitation, health, employment, and social development. Also recognizing that any framework should move along the social, economic and environmental pillars in a balanced way.
What the OWG has done so far?
The OWG has done a series of meetings and consultations across regions. Judging upon results of these events, there is a growing sense of responsibility among all stakeholders to come and plan together.
A series of meetings were highlighted as important by the co-chair: the one from the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in September 2013 that came up with a good report, the meeting of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries in the United Nations (GRULAC). and he also mentioned the Intersessional Meeting between Major Groups and the Open Working Group on SDGs in which AWID, as part of the Women's Major Group, participated with a presentation on applying a human rights based approach to development.
Some highlights from debates on day one
A concerning trend was the references to economic growth as a synonym of poverty reduction. As CSOs have said repeatedly today, growth and development are not synonymous: we can have growth and not inclusive development. How do we deal with inclusive growth and deal with inclusive development? How do we deal with issues of inequalities and redistribution? As a colleague from DAWN representing the Women's Major Group said today "It seems we have an economic paradigm that is looking for growth but from a social perspective, we are in a race to the bottom".
Bhumika Muchhala from the Third World Network (TWN) also pointed out in the morning that international trade is not a goal in itself but a means to an end. So when we think of SDGs, there has to be a way to differentiate the means to the achieve the goals from the goals themselves, a point that was also mentioned by the co-chair later on as important to consider.
Industrialization was also mentioned as key but others posed interesting questions such as: Must industrialization be the determinative paradigm that drives all development? Must all societies and nations get industrialized? Is this possible? What kind of model and technological structure should nations have if they do not have the conditions for the industrialization. What if they do not have to industrialize? What if every people and peoples can have their right to self-determination and ownership to decide how they organize socially, economically, politically and culturally?
Discussions will continue until 27th November on the issues of "Energy" and "sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial system and external debt sustainability), infrastructure development and industrialization".