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The Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals


Today’s development goals 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 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that followed provided milestones for global and national development endeavours up until the end of 2015.

With that target date approaching, attention has turned towards a successor framework. The post-2015 development agenda is being 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”.  New goals should also be action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, and global in nature. Member States are expected to agree an outcome document at the end of July 2015 that will be adopted at a Summit at Heads of State and Government level between 25 and 27 September 2015.

FAO and Post-2015

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


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

Merging the two initial streams of the process, the UNGA adopted a resolution on 10 September 2014 making the OWG’s proposal the “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”.

The UN Secretary-General presented his final report on post-2015 in December 2014, synthesising the various inputs to the process. Welcoming the OWG report, he proposed an integrated set of six essential elements: dignity; people; prosperity; planet; justice; and partnership that could help build communication around the goals.

In the final phase of the post-2015 development agenda process, UNGA intergovernmental negotiations on Post-2015 (IGNP) will take place at UN headquarters in New York between January and July 2015. Following a scheduled eight sessions, Member States are expected to agree an outcome that will be adopted at a Summit at Heads of State and Government level between 25 and 27 September 2015. The outcome document will include a Declaration; Sustainable development goals (SDGs) and targets; Means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development; Follow-up and review of implementation.

In arriving at a final document, the IGNP will coordinate with and be informed by the outcomes of several related intergovernmental conferences and work streams. Member States will receive technical advice from the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) —an intergovernmental body— on an indicator framework ahead of the 3rd session on SDGs and targets between 23 and 27 March.

Playing a critical role in helping to deliver a transformative global development framework, the report of the third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3), from 13 to 16 July in Addis Ababa, is expected to result in an intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed outcome on effective use of financing and mobilization of resources for development. There will be strong coordination between the co-facilitators of the IGNP and FfD3 processes to determine the exact scope of FfD3 beyond financing to potentially include means of implementation, a renewed Global Partnership for Development and other elements.

And despite taking place after the post-2015 goals are due to be adopted, the result of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), 30 November to 11 December in Paris, where governments will aim to achieve a legally binding agreement on climate, will also impact the effectiveness of a post-2015 agenda. 

Beyond 2015

A key question in the process is the role, capacity and readiness of the UN system to support countries implement the post-2015 development agenda. In ongoing discussions, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), identified five driving elements of 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, has been widely discussed as a potential platform for monitoring and review of the post-2015 development agenda. 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.