Post-2015 development agenda intergovernmental negotiations, 22-25 June No 8: 4th and 5th meetings on goals and targets


On the afternoon of Tuesday 23 June, following the conclusion of the discussion on the preamble and declaration, the intergovernmental negotiations moved on to the goals and targets, although some delegations had already referred to them. The main areas for discussion included: suggestions in the Annex from the Co-facilitators for the ‘tweaking’ of 21 targets, vis-à-vis the ‘Xs’ and the targets that do not meet internationally agreed standards; chapeau and reservations; and indicators and work of the inter-agency and expert group (IAEG) of the UN Statistical Commission.

South Africa, speaking for the G77 and China said they appreciate the inclusion of the SDGs and targets in the text and SDGs report as an inter-governmentally agreed framework. The chapeau, however, forms an integral part of the OWG report and until there is certainty as to what happens to the declaration, it should be reflected as such in the text, and untied from the SDGs. They would appreciate receiving an indication of how the reservations will be referenced in the outcomes document. 

They cautioned against any action that could jeopardize the integrity of the report of the OWG-SDGs in line with their consistent position. Any action that could undermine the delicate compromise could actually unravel the entire package as encapsulated in the OWG-SDG report. They noted the sentiments expressed previously by their development partners on the revision of a myriad of targets and they continue to disagree with their proposals. 

Insofar as the Statistical Commission is assisting with the development of global indicators, they reiterate their view that a proposal on indicators should be presented for consideration and appropriate action by concerned intergovernmental bodies. 

European Union supported the idea of a very short introduction to this component and welcome the focused introduction proposed, integrating the main specific key messages on SDGs and targets, which will be understood by the public. They wish to see some clear and concise elements in the introduction to the SDGs and targets; a brief recapping of the OWG process OWG and its outcome; key principles about SDGs, stressing they are global and universally applicable, taking into account national realities, capacities and levels of development while respecting national policies and priorities; confirming that SDGs and targets are integrated and indivisible, and that targets are defined as aspirational and global, with governments setting their own national targets, guided by the global level of ambition, but taking into account national circumstances; and a clear paragraph on indicators, integrating recent developments, including the agreement by the Statistical Commission on a roadmap and a process ahead. 

They are ready to engage constructively on this short introduction and agree on the importance of the interrelation with leading UN agreements and processes, although it is questionable whether engaging in selective quotation is the best way forward, having regard to the many landmarks in other fields than those suggested, including human rights. The last paragraph of the draft introduction, seems a very general message that is actually relevant to the whole agenda. They are pleased that the co-facilitators text stays on the table for the revision of 21 out of 169 targets and has been updated. These constructive efforts should be integrated into the outcome document and they preserves the content and the balance of the OWG proposal. Heads of State should not be asked to agree on a text that is unfinished, as the references to Xs still show, or to endorse expressions are not aligned with existing international frameworks. The focused proposal on the 21 targets recommended by the co-facilitators must be integrated in the draft outcome document. 

Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, aligned the group with G77 and China. They welcome the integration of the goals as they were included in the OWG report, while commenting that the chapeau is in an annex, they wish to see it included together with the reservations. 

Peru said that delegations differ on the form and substance of a possible revision of some targets and that a review might jeopardize what has been achieved. They could therefore simply indicate that the SDGs and targets must be implemented in accordance with international law and that the 'Xs’ will be defined by each country in view of their national circumstances and needs. They are concerned that Member States will develop national and regional indicators, while global indicators will be developed by the IAEG. The intergovernmental nature of the process should be safeguarded. The IAEG should take into account the views of all countries and safeguard the universality of the agenda in the global indicators to be proposed. They should be accompanied by a programme of international cooperation to build and strengthen the concerned national capacities. 

Latvia welcomed the outlining of the most essential goals and targets. They appreciate the inclusion on an explicit text on the global indicators and the possibility of revision of targets in the future, on a technical basis, in a way that does not undermine OWG. They ask that Member States take a constructive approach on the revisions for the 21 targets.

Canada said that they have made significant compromises on the goals and targets and revisions, based on the Co-facilitators suggestions, should be included.  This does not challenge the OWG report. Reservations, however, are not an intrinsic part of the OWG and it would be unreasonable to ask their leader to sign the reservations of others. There is no place for the chapeau in the outcome document, as it has little added value to the text. The indicators process should be technical in nature and a strong reference on the process should be included in the document

Cyprus: supports the short introduction accompanying the goals and targets as it conveys basic key messages on SDGs in a way that enables the wider public to better understand what we want to achieve in the next 15 years and the welcome the revisions of the Co-facilitators. They are limited to only 21 targets and do not upset the delicate political balance of the OWG report, nor can be seen as reopening of the OWG report. 

Mexico has concerns about the word ‘substantially’ in assessing progress in the implementation of the SDGs. They wish to see consistency maintained with other political agreements. 

Russian Federation said that the SDGs and their targets are one and the whole and must be included as approved by the OWG and the General Assembly resolution. Any changes can only be made through consensus among Member States and without loss of their subtantive content. In paragraph 4 they wish to add the Second International Conference on Nutrition to the list.

Australia asked for minor amendments to targets 3b and 17.2 to bring them into line with existing international agreements. The lasting impact of the targets for millions of people means they should be ambitious, relevant and implementable. The OWG chapeau and reservations should not form part of the final outcome document. 

United Kingdom said that targets should be clear, ambitious and as transformative as possible. Well-crafted, clear and ambitious targets can have a transformative and galvanising effect and Heads of State and Government must not be asked to sign up to targets that fall short of existing commitments, nor that are incomplete or unclear, as they would be doing if the ‘Xs’ are not filled. The Co-facilitators proposals are not about re-opening the OWG proposals, nor do they affect the delicate balance. Therefore they should amend the targets as included in the Annex. 

Palestine made suggested to the language to bring the language into line on issues related to foreign occupation with other documents as the process is being led by “political people”, in accordance with norms and international rules.

Japan said that they are flexible with the proposals for revisions and they suggest that the revisions should be accurate and precise. On the ‘Xs’, they should be replaced with “substantially increase”, as was used in the Sendai Framework, and the chapeau should not be part of the whole document to be agreed in September.

Switzerland supports the Co-facilitators approach welcomes the reaffirmation in paragraph 3 of the mandate for the IAEG to develop a global indicator framework by March 2016. This should be the first version to be developed and improved over time under the Statistical Commission, comprising a conceptual framework based on common principles, and a list of indicators. The amendments cannot change the substance of the OWG proposal, but could improve clarity and coherence, consistent with international agreements. They support specifying the ‘Xs’ values, such as goal 4 on education or to target 6.3 or 9.5, and targets being in line with higher levels of ambition in existing international agreements, such as the Sendai Framework proposed for 11 b. On target 6.6 they would prefer to keep the timeline 2020. The fallback option would be the OWG proposal and changes should not re-open the discussion on substance. Reservations made to the OWG proposal should not be reflected in the Agenda as Heads of State cannot be expected to adopt reservations by other member states. 

Ecuador highlighted that the chapeau should be incorporated into the text of the agenda. As far as the reservations are concerned, “…many of the delegates have reservations…” could also be included in the text. Suggestions on the ‘Xs’ should be developed by statistical experts. 

Columbia repeated that the document has a careful balance and any attempt to change targets would jeopardize the balance of OWG agreement. This would impede the work that has been done and the proposal on target 14.c is unacceptable and a red-line for them.

Greece supports a short and focused introduction that integrates the main messages on the goals and targets. They welcome the inclusion of Annex 1, while stressing that they should be integrated into the document, while preserving the balance of the OWG proposal as no-one wants to open the OWG report. 

Brazil referred first to the declaration, saying that they like the references to the human rights dimension and gender equality and women’s empowerment including the reference to gender-based discrimination and violence against women and children in paragraph 18, as well as the vulnerable peoples including age and disability in paragraph 17. On goals and targets any attempt to change targets will risk the opening of them. Some suggestions go beyond agreed simple technical amendments. On the global indicators, this should be addressed under follow-up and review. They referred to the process for the regular reports on the work of the IAEG, including at next session and asked which body will have the political oversight? 

Sweden welcomed the short introductory text as well as the reference to indicator development. They assume that the revised set of targets will be incorporated in the next draft version of the text

Egypt: suggested that the whole OWG report should be integrated into the outcome document. 

United States said that the goals and targets renew and improve upon the critical ambitions of the MDGs, but also take their ambitions further, as they include strong goals in previously underserved or overlooked areas, including  gender equality, with the potential for long-term transformative impact. There is great value in ensuring the precision, consistency, and technical rigour of the agenda. The targets that most clearly and precisely communicate what we are trying to achieve are also those that are most likely to maximize and mobilize joint action and ensure the credibility of the agenda. They therefore thank the Co-facilitators for the inclusion of the 21 targets in Annex 1, which demonstrate how minor changes can improve the targets’ technical quality without upsetting the political balance of the OWG outcome. They suggest integrating these proposed improvements into our next draft, appreciating the co-facilitators’ efforts to change the ‘Xs’ to clear and specific benchmarks, eg in 3.2 and 6.3.

Turkey are not against ‘tweaking’ as long as the process is transparent. There is value in bringing focus on humanitarian assistance in disaster response. Targets on education are vitally important and the proposed changes are acceptable.  

Norway welcomes the proposal for a short introduction to the section on goals and targets, which should explain the nature of the goals, including that they are global and universal, integrated and aspirational. They support a paragraph on the indicators, which should avoid describing the process that will take place over the next months. The indicators should also not be cut in stone. They should correct some of the obvious imperfections of the proposal before asking Heads of to sign on to it and they cannot commit to unfinished targets such as those containing ‘Xs’, nor targets that fall short of existing agreements and commitments. They support some small revisions to 21 of the targets to this effect, which can be done without reopening negotiations or rocking the balance of the OWG proposal. 

Argentina said that the OWG fully reflects the consensus and should be taken as a whole. Any reopening should be avoided and not taking the Annex. The chapeau and reservations should be included.

Philippines emphasized that it does not mean that lack of revision makes the targets less ambitious...  They had comments on non-communicable diseases among others that they will submit in writing. On data, monitoring and accountability, there should be clarity on a number of terms that are used, eg pre-primary, and there are too many data categories that hinder understanding. 

Iceland noted that they had discussed the target revision and will not repeat reasoning of why targets need to be revisited. States would have liked to revise more. The modest package of revisions from the Co-facilitators does not open the OWG report. 

Timor Leste said that the risk in tweaking the targets is too risky. They wish to see the OWG report as a whole included.

New Zealand stressed that the introduction is useful, but not the chapeau. They are uncomfortable about including reservations and also asking leaders to sign up to the ‘Xs’.  They do not support a reduction in the number of goals and targets, but support the proposal of the Co-facilitators on the 21 targets.They asked as to what will happen to goal 13 after UNFCCC meeting at COP21 in Paris  and whether the goal be updated in accordance to the agreement reached there? 

Republic of Korea said that they hope the Co-facilitators suggestion on the 21 targets and hope to see consensus in integrating the revised targets into the text.

Saudi Arabia said that they do not see any conflict for the SDGs with other agreements. They wish to retain the chapeau as it has good material and is part of the SDGs. 

Uruguay emphasized that tweaking and reopening the SDGs is not possible under any circumstances.

South Africa said in their national capacity that the SDGs form the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. They would prefer that the chapeau continues to be retained as an integral part and introduction to SDGs as it was agreed by consensus and contextualizes the SDGs. Looking at the suggested changes to the goals and targets, they see a Pandora’s box of risks in revisiting targets. 

India pointed out that the issues of technical proofing, they lean towards the caution of the G77 and others. They see the proposals for tweaking the targets should remain in the Annex. 

Ambassador Donoghue closed the meeting, stating that the debate on the goals and targets had been completed.

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