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Civil Society Reacts to Proposed SDGs

OWGJuly 2014: In reaction to the final outcome of the Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in which it proposed SDGs at the conclusion of the 13th session (OWG 13), a number of Major Groups and civil society organizations have released papers and press releases commenting on the proposal. The majority of reactions suggest the outcome is a significant step forward, while also highlighting specific concerns. Many groups expressed appreciation for the OWG's inclusiveness, noting that full and meaningful participation of civil society is being recognized as an essential aspect of the new global agenda.

The absence of human-rights based language is a weakness of the OWG's proposal, according to ATD Fourth World, which suggests the term "access to" could be replaced with "right to" throughout the goals and targets, and that the document "could better emphasize reaching the most marginalized.” It criticizes proposed Goal One on poverty eradication for failing to prioritize those living in greatest poverty, arguing this shortcoming could result in governments targeting those groups that are easiest to reach. Noting the importance of moving towards participatory and multi-dimensional measures of poverty, ATD Fourth World expresses disappointment that target 1.1 refers to an income-based measurement for extreme poverty.

The Climate Action Network (CAN) describes the OWG outcome as “an important step forward towards a fairer, safer and cleaner world.” It says a growing number of countries recognize the importance of addressing climate change in efforts to eradicate poverty. CAN will work to ensure strong climate and energy goals in the final post-2015 agreement, it says.

The Mining Working Group at the UN welcomes the inclusion of the human right to water in the Outcome Document's chapeau as an entry point for a rights-based approach to development. The group expresses disappointment that human rights language is not reflected in proposed Goal 6 on water and sanitation, which should have established "a hierarchy of water use that prioritizes human and ecosystem well-being.” The group concludes “much work remains to be done throughout the post-2015 process to center on people's human rights, including to affordable, acceptable, available, and quality water and sanitation."

Saferworld expresses optimism that the final post-2015 agreement will include a strong focus on peace, noting the inclusion of 12 targets under proposed Goal 16. Still, it cautions that ensuring the coming year of negotiations leads to a “framework that is effective in promoting peaceful societies is still going to be extremely challenging.” Saferworld highlights challenges related to: continued discussion on contested issues, particularly on climate change, inequality, peace and reproductive rights; and the need to improve the wording and content of many targets.

The OWG's final report represents “a major breakthrough for the sustainable transport community,” and reflects a common vision on the need sustainable transport, according to the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT). Sustainable transport is reflected in seven of the proposed 17 SDGs - those on climate change, energy, food security, health, infrastructure development, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and urban development. SLoCaT also emphasizes the need to ensure the Goal framework is of equal value to the rural transport community, and welcomes targets on road safety, air pollution, energy efficiency, fuel subsidies and climate change.

The Women's Major Group highlights eight "Red Flags” in the Outcome Document: absence of human rights; sexual and reproductive health targets do not go far enough; it does not sufficiently address concentration of power and wealth imbalances that deepen poverty and inequalities within and between countries; unpaid domestic and care work still rely on women; lack of recognition of women as farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples and key for sustainable natural resource management; insufficient attention to women's role in peace and justice; concern around partnership(s); and technology focus remains on trade and private access.

UN Foundation President Kathy Calvin expressed gratitude to OWG Co-Chairs Macharia Kamau of Kenya and Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary who “skillfully navigated a complicated process and created an atmosphere of inclusivity and mutual respect among countries, while consistently pushing Member States to be guided by the need for" a transformative agenda. The Gender and Development Network (GADN) calls for including unpaid care work in the post-2015 agenda, stressing that “recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid care work can have a major positive impact on achieving gender equality, realizing women's rights and in meeting other development goals,” and proposes targets, indicators and recommendations for country progress.

Global Policy Forum (GPF) recently released a report, titled ‘No SDGs without Sustainable Development Budgets,' which examines government responsibility in implementing the agenda. It finds that integrating different perspectives in budget policy and analysis is needed to implement the SDGs, and proposes ways to shape fiscal policy in accordance with sustainability criteria.

Participate has published ‘Knowledge from the Margins: An anthology from a global network on participatory practice and policy influence,' reflections on participatory approaches to influencing policy, including on the post-2015 process. It shares ideas on how to amplify the voices of the marginalized, highlights lessons learned from participatory approaches to influence policy and provides recommendations for policy influence. [ATD Fourth World Reaction] [CAN Reaction] [GADN Brief] [GPF Press Release] [Mining Working Group Response] [Participate Press Release] [SLoCaT Press Release] [UN Foundation Statement] [Women's Major Group Statement] [Saferworld Reaction]