Sustainable 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.

It was charged with proposing a set of SDGs to the UNGA by September 2014 that should be “limited in number, aspirational and easy to communicate, addressing all three dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental)” calling on inputs from “relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the United Nations system in its work”.

The OWG’s final report included a chapeau, 17 goals and 169 targets. On 10 September 2014, the UNGA adopted a resolution 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 complete Report of the Open Working Group on SDGs - EN | FR | ES | AR | CH | RU 

FAO and the Open Working Group

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

All of these thematic areas featured in the OWG’s final report. FAO co-led technical inputs for Goal 2 (food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture), Goal 14 (marine resources and oceans) and Goal 15 (ecosystems, biodiversity, forests, land/soils, mountains), and also contributed to Goals: 1 (poverty), 5 (gender), 6 (water), 11 (human settlements) and 12 (sustainable consumption and production).

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

In the stocktaking phase, the Organization 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.

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).

Deliberation phase

Following the eight thematic “stocktaking” sessions, the OWG moved to the deliberation phase, and met on a monthly basis between March and July 2014 in designing a set of Sustainable Development Goals.


  • 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

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