Home > The Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals > Background > Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals
The Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals

Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

Mandated by the Outcome Document (The Future We Want) of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the Intergovernmental Open Working Group (OWG) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was established in January 2013.

The OWG reports to the UN General Assembly and is described by former GA President Vuk Jeremić as “the single-most important element of the post-2015 agenda”. In its final report to the UNGA by September 2014, it will propose a set of SDGs that should be “limited in number, aspirational and easy to communicate, addressing all three dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental)”.

FAO and the Open Working Group

In contributing technical knowledge to the OWG, FAO identified, in agreement with Members, 14 thematic areas to its work, nine of which centre on environmental issues.

FAO co-led the interagency issues briefs on sustainable agriculture (with IFAD) and food security and nutrition (with WFP and IFAD) at the 3rd OWG in May 2013, and co-led issues briefs on oceans and seas, forests and biodiversity (with UNEP) at the 8th OWG in February 2014.

FAO also contributed to a number of other issues briefs - water and sanitation; drought, land degradation and desertification; employment and decent work, social protection, youth; health; inclusive economic growth; macro-economic policy, trade; energy; means of implementation; needs of countries in special situations; human rights; global governance; sustainable production and consumption, climate change, disaster risk reduction; gender equality.

In the deliberation phase of the OWG (March – July 2014), FAO co-led technical inputs in three of the 19 initial focus areas: food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture (together with IFAD and WFP); marine resources, oceans and seas; and ecosystems and biodiversity. The Organization also contributed expertise to a number of other focus areas.

FAO identified targets and indicators for each of its 14 themes, and together with Rome-based Agencies, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP ), identified  common targets and indicators on sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition.

FAO's 14 themes (including targets and indicators)

RBA targets and indicators:  At a glance | full document

Side events

Lasting from 3 to 5 days, OWG sessions were supported by the UN system, with agencies providing knowledge through the preparation of issues briefs and panellist contributions for each thematic session. OWG meetings were also the stage for a number of side events organised by UN agencies, often jointly with civil society and private sector organisations and other stakeholders, ensuring “the full involvement of relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society”.

While the OWG was a 30-member body, each seat in the Group was shared by 1-4 Member States, with countries deciding among themselves how they would be represented at each meeting (see list of members).

Negotiation stage

Following the eight thematic “stocktaking”sessions, the OWG will move into negotiation mode, meeting on a monthly basis between March and July 2014 to design a set of Sustainable Development Goals for inclusion in its final report to the UNGA by September 2014.


  • 3–5 March
  • 31 March–4 April
  • 5–9 May
  • 16–20 June
  • 14–18 July

Stocktaking sessions

OWG1, 14-15 March 2013

OWG2, 17-19 April 2013, (co-chairs’ summary)

OWG3, 22-24 May 2013 (co-chairs’ summary)

OWG4, 17-19 June 2013 (co-chairs’ summary)

OWG5, 25-27 November 2013, (co-chairs’ summary)

  • Energy (TST Issues brief)
  • Sustained and inclusive economic growth (TST Issues brief)
  • Macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial system and external debt sustainability), infrastructure development and Industrialization (TST Issues brief)

OWG6, 9-13 December (co-chairs’ summary)

  • Means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building (TST Issues brief); Means of implementation; Global partnership for achieving sustainable development (TST Issues brief)
  • Needs of countries in special situations, African countries, LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS as well as the specific challenges facing the middle-income countries (TST Issues brief)
  • Human rights, the right to development (TST Issues brief)
  • Global governance (TST Issues brief)   

OWG7, 6-10 January 2014 (co-chairs’ summary)

OWG8, 3-7 February 2014 (co-chairs’ summary)

OWG9, 3–5 March 2014

OWG10, 31 March - 4 April 2014

OWG11, 5-9 May 2014

OWG12, 16-20 June 2014

OWG13, 14-18 July 2014

TST*= UN Technical Support Team