SDG zero draft: glass three-quarters full

This post is written by Elizabeth Stuart, research fellow, Overseas Development Institute

In the spirit of positivity which every paragraph of the document exudes, let’s call the SDG zero draft, published late Monday NY time, a glass three-quarters full.

That the draft is inspiring, lyrical even (‘win, win cooperation’; just as the UN Charter emerged ‘from the ashes of war’, this will be a ‘charter for people and planet in the twenty-first century’, with special mention of the younger generation who will ‘pass the torch to future generations’), is non-trivial point: it’s deeply important that the SDG agreement be a call to arms, around which people can mobilise.

This is why the 9 bullet-pointed aims at the start of the document – an odd number chosen very carefully perhaps so that it doesn’t appear to be a rival goal set – are a welcome addition in that they convey in brief the soaring importance of the post-2015 agenda (and an improvement on the six elements in the Secretary General’s synthesis report.

There are few surprises in the document, but other welcome elements include:the high profile given to the concept of leaving no one behind, including the very specific kinds of data disaggregation called for: by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts. (But see below)

The reference to ‘we encourage all member states to develop ambitious national responses to the SDGs and targets as soon as possible, with the illustrative framework adding the detail that there should be ‘adequate differentiation’. In other words, an acknowledgement that there will need to be a process to translate this at the national level, that starting points in different countries need to be taken into account, but that national targets need to be much more than business as usual

But there are still key problems. Despite the rhetoric, the document lacks specific deliverables on Leave No One Behind. Coupled with the inadequacy of financing commitments in the Financing for Development draft document (ODI analysis shows that both the overall quantity and country allocation of ODA is completely inconsistent with leaving no one behind because not nearly enough goes to the countries most in need, and giving those countries enough would be impossible under current global ODA budgets there is a real danger that this remains fine language but nothing more. The final document would benefit from more specifics – such as a commitment that all countries will identify their marginalized communities and implement specific policy measures to support them, and Addis is the place to agree the finance to do this.

Then there’s the reference to matching demand and supply of means of implementation – again an excellent aspiration, but no clarity here (nor in the FfD drafts) that this will actually happen. Indeed, although the means of implementation language is (in two separate places) caveated that it depends on the outcome at Addis Ababa, it seems clear that the intention is to not go beyond that outcome, which will be deeply concerning to the G77.

The carefully-crafted follow up and review section does not talk enough about looking at what’s not working and the need to course correct.

And some will be disappointed that the SDG progress report will be based only on data from national systems rather than other sources.

Also of note, despite its twice-rejection by the G77, the co-facilitators have chosen to include as a annex the technical paper on amending targets to bring them in to line with existing international agreements and to fill in the x’s.

So, there are clearly improvements to be made.  But overall this is a good start, and shows that despite the gruelling two years of negotiation, the spirit of optimism and ambition is still alive in the negotiating rooms of the UN.  The challenge now is to keep that flame burning for the final stretch.

1 Comment on "SDG zero draft: glass three-quarters full"

  1. Yes, it’s a great draft, when you compare it to the awful MDGs, but there’s a significant gap in the Vision – perhaps the most important part of it – which somehow fails to mention peace (or good governance)

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