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Sustainable Development Goals

Background

On 25 September 2015, the UN’s 193 Member States adopted new global goals for the next 15 years (2016-30) at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York. “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Issues related to food and agriculture are comprehensively integrated among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. SDG1, End poverty, includes targets related to social protection, land rights and resilience, while SDG2 is dedicated to ending hunger, improving food security and nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. The link between food security and natural resources features prominently in SDG14, oceans and marine resources, SDG15, ecosystems, biodiversity, forests and land, as well as SDGs on water, energy, gender, climate, and consumption and production.

FAO, which has provided technical support to UN Member States throughout the Post-2015 process, will continue to work with countries and partners in implementing and monitoring the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs will succeed the 8 Millennium Development Goals at the end of 2015, and are expected to become the main reference for countries’ development policies and programmes for the next 15 years. 

Global development goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have their origins in the Millennium Declaration, a shared vision among world leaders, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 2000. The MDGs provided milestones for global and national development endeavours up until the end of 2015.

With that target date approaching, attention turned towards a successor framework. The post-2015 development agenda was led by UN Member States with support from the UN system and input from multiple stakeholders. While MDGs focused on developing countries, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be “universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities”. Concluding a process that lasted more than two years, Member States agreed an outcome document in August 2015. Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

FAO and Post-2015

FAO has been active in supporting Member States in the Post-2015 development agenda process. The Organization identified 14 thematic areas to its work in contributing technical knowledge to the UNGA Open Working Group on SDGs, and continued to provide technical support, including identifying viable indicators and appropriate means of implementation. FAO co-led one of the UN’s 11 Global Thematic Consultations - Hunger, Food Security and Nutrition – in a global conversation involving the genral public and stakeholders, and supported meetings of the Open Working Group by gathering knowledge and expertise on themes associated with social, economic and environmental sustainability. FAO also contributed capacity in sponsoring and organising events designed to inform and engage Member States, stakeholders and the general public on the Post-2015 process.

Beginnings

The post-2015 development agenda process was initially shaped by two distinct streams. In one, the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing were initiated by Member States in June 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro. Calling on inputs from “relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the United Nations system in its work”, the OWG held eight stocktaking sessions on key themes related to environmental, social and economic sustainability, sitting for 3-5 days each month between March 2013 and June 2013, and then from November 2013 to February 2014. The OWG moved into deliberation phase between March and July 2014, culminating in an Outcome Document consisting of a chapeau, 17 goals and 169 targets that was presented to the UNGA in July 2014. The final report of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing was presented in August 2014 following eight sessions between August 2013 and August 2014.

A second post-2015 stream responded to the need for greater engagement in the process of defining global goals, which had been identified as a key lesson from the MDG process. The UN Secretary-General (SG), mandated by the UNGA, sought inputs on a new agenda from a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public, civil society, scientific and knowledge institutions, parliaments, local authorities and the private sector. As part of this inclusive process, agencies within the UN system were involved in the organisation of two rounds of consultations/dialogues. The first took place at global, regional and country level between November 2012 and April 2013, focusing on priorities for a new framework. The second, directed at country and local level between April 2014 and April 2015, looked at means of implementation. Results were presented to Member States and informed the Secretary-General’s report on the MDGs and the post-2015 development agenda at the 68th session of the UNGA in September 2013. An Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (IEAG), which the Secretary-General had established in August 2014, reported back in November 2014 proposing measures required to close the data gaps and strengthen national statistical capacities.

Final phase

The UNGA adopted a resolution in September 2014 making the OWG’s proposal “the main basis for integrating SDGs into the post-2015 development agenda, while recognizing that other inputs will also be considered in this process at the 69th session of the UNGA”. In December 2014, the UN Secretary-General presented his final report on post-2015, synthesising the various inputs to the process.

In the final phase of the post-2015 development agenda process, UNGA intergovernmental negotiations on Post-2015 took place at UN headquarters in New York between January and August 2015. The outcome document includes sections headed Preamble; Declaration; Sustainable development goals (SDGs) and targets; Means of implementation and the global partnership; and Follow-up and review.

Playing a critical role in helping to deliver a transformative global development framework, the report of the third International Conference on Financing for Development, from 13 to 16 July in Addis Ababa, resulted in an intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed outcome on effective use of financing and mobilization of resources for development.

In March 2015 an Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators was formed by the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) tasked with developing an indicator framework to measure and monitor the SDGs. Composed of Member States with regional and international organizations participating as observers, the Group will propose  a final set of indicators to the 47th session of the UNSC in March 2016.

Despite taking place after the post-2015 Summit, the result of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 30 November to 11 December in Paris, where governments will aim to achieve a climate agreement, will also impact the effectiveness of a post-2015 agenda.

Beyond 2015

The role, capacity and readiness of the UN system to support countries implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was widely discussed during the process. The UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) identified five driving elements: being “fit for purpose”: universality, integration, human rights, equality and data for development.

The High-level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF), set up at Rio+20, will be the main body for monitoring, follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The HLPF meets every four years at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the UNGA, and every year under the auspices of ECOSOC.