SDGs: Means of implementation in latest ‘zero draft’ fall well below expectations

by Ranja Sengupta and Bhumika Muchhala (TWN) | Means of Implementation remains the most fiercely contested issue in the negotiations of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations headquarters in New York. With the release of the Co-Chairs’ revised version of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Zero Draft on 30 June, the intergovernmental negotiations during the final session of the Open Working Group (OWG) in mid-July becomes even more critical. The OWG Co-Chairs are Ambassadors Macharia Kamau of Kenya and Csaba Korosi of Hungary.

Means of Implementation (MOI), currently under Goal 17, has witnessed a heated battle between the developed and developing countries through the entire course of the twelve OWG sessions that have transpired since March 2013.  In fact MOI was not on the initial agenda when the OWG had its first session to plan out its course of work. This was finally included as a topic for the 6th Session at the insistence of the developing countries.

Developing countries have argued that committing to and achieving the SDGs will be an impossible task without adequate means of implementation and a genuine global partnership for development, in the ethos of an enhanced Goal 8 of the Millennium Development Goals, not partnerships in the plural. MOI must primarily come from the developed countries, the developing countries led by the Group of 77 have insisted. They must include finance and technology but also address global systemic issues such as fair rules of trade and investment, sovereign debt restructuring, financial regulation, intellectual property rights, access to new and additional financing and tax evasion and avoidance, just to name a few.

[Developed countries have also made commitments under numerous United Nations treaties, declarations and programmes to provide financial resources, technology and capacity building.]

The debate over MOI and a global partnership for development has entered a critical stage as the OWG moves towards its concluding session in mid-July. The latest revision of the Zero Draft on SDGs includes goal-specific MOI (i.e. MOI under each Goal) as well as a stand-alone goal on MOI.  Goal 17 is classified under the categories 'trade', 'finance', 'technology', 'capacity building', 'policy and institutional coherence', 'multi-stakeholder partnerships', and 'data, monitoring and accountability' with a total of 17 targets covering these areas.

The text released by the Co-Chairs reflects a compromised response to various proposals placed by the Member States during the 12th session of the OWG 16-20 June. That session, which continued in the informal format of its preceding week, saw very clear positions emerging on MOI and global partnership for development as Member States gave their overall as well as target by target positions on Goal 17 based on the first version of the Zero Draft. 

Prior to the Session, the G-77 and China group of developing countries had submitted a strong and detailed proposal on MOI in which they had outlined a number of MOI for each goal.

During the course of the OWG the developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have continuously made strong cases for both goal-specific MOI along with a stand-alone goal.  However until the last ‘Focus Areas’ document released by the Chairs before the 11th Session of the OWG in May, goal-specific MOI had not found its place among the SDGs.  As a response, the 2 June version of the Zero Draft included for the first time goal-specific MOI under Goal 17.  However, the stand-alone MOI on systemic issues such as trade and finance was then dropped.

[Prior to the Zero Draft, the Co-Chairs had produced a Focus Areas document that reflected their sense of the OWG discussions, from which a set of goals was culled for the Zero Draft document for negotiations. This is made available on 2 June.]

This ‘either-or’ approach on MOI was unacceptable to developing countries and LDCs, and thus the Co-Chairs integrated both goal-specific and stand-alone MOI into the zero draft for the first time.  However, both MOI sections are alarmingly weak and insufficient.

[The chapeau of the Zero Draft states that the SDGs 'are accompanied by targets and will be further elaborated through indicators focused on measurable outcomes. They are … global in nature and universally applicable to all countries, while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. … Targets are defined as global targets, with each government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances.']

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* Courtesy of Third World Network (TWN), Info Service on UN Sustainable Development