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One shared agenda for sustainable development

A week of intense negotiations in July, concluding with an uninterrupted 36-hour session, was necessary before the Open Working Group (OWG), commissioned to deliver recommendations regarding the formulation of new goals for poverty eradication and sustainable development to the UN Secretary-General, could reach agreement and finalise their report. The OWG was established back in 2012 at the Rio+20 Summit, partly on Danish initiative, and given the ambitious task of merging the global environmental goals and the Millennium Development Goals. It was not easy, but the OWG knuckled down and conducted a highly open process, offering ample opportunity for civil society, the private sector and others to make their views known. After the lengthy final negotiations in July 2014, the Group was ready to present its proposal for 17 new global goals.

The result is historic: Not only are the environmental and development goals now merged, but the new global goals – Sustainable Development Goals in international jargon – also apply to, and include commitments for, all countries in the world, in contrast to the Millennium Development Goals, which were primarily targeted at developing countries.

Some are sceptical about the outcome. Concerns include that 17 goals are too many and that some of the goals are unclear and difficult to communicate. Nonetheless, all 17 goals are included in UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s synthesis report, which together with the OWG’s proposal constitutes the basis for the intergovernmental negotiations on the final goals.

There is still a long way to go, particularly in relation to how the goals are to be implemented in practice, globally and in the individual countries, and who is to do what in order for the goals to be reached. All this needs to be in place before the final goals can be adopted in September 2015 at the Post-2015 conference in New York, which incidentally the President of the Folketing (Danish Parliament), Mogens Lykketoft, will chair as President of the UN General Assembly, assuming that his appointment to the UN in early summer 2015 proceeds as planned.