Comments on the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015 Zero draft

Future Earth • 08-07-2015
Comments on the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015 Zero draft

This article was originally published on the Future Earth Website.

Between the 4th and 12th of June 2015 Future Earth opened a short survey to seek input from the science community on the Sustainable Development Goals Zero Draft. The survey was promoted by Future Earth and the Earth System Governance Project and featured on the Future Earth website and social media channels. Below are the consolidated comments by paragraph. (This text has not been formally edited nor agreed by Future Earth committees). 

Overall comments

  1. Environment and human development are treated as independent almost in the whole declaration text (see para.12). Even though recognized in para. 13, by para. 15 the integration aspect is lost and that environmental/planet is regarded as separate. It should mention that all development efforts now depend on a healthy planet. To minimise risk, this will require adhering to the precautionary principle, for example using a  planetary boundaries type framework.  The text should go beyond  balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development, but rather the environment and natural resources being the base for all other development. The social aspects are our goals, while the economy is the means to reach the goals.
  2. Further comments:  The declaration text should mention somewhere too, the importance of policy measures to come to terms with environmental degradation issues,  such as global carbon tax, stop subsidies to fossil fuels etc.
  3. Concerns over the the nine selected introductory themes in the preamble:


  • Sustainable agriculture is dropped out, even though being part and parcel of the first goal on “end poverty and hunger”, this might not be recognized by governments unless explicitly expressed. It risks putting us on a path of intensified agriculture that is not environmentally sustainable nor adapted to climate change.
  • The goal “promote safe and inclusive cities and human settlement” misses out on important aspects and should be “Promote safe, sustainable, inclusive, productive and resilient cities and human settlement”.
  • A great pity over the decision to communicate all planet-related goals in one. It fails to communicate its interdependence and crucial connections and direct linkages to all other social and economically related goals, and thereby risks governments seeing it as a separate area and in silo, the opposite of what the SDGs are supposed to achieve (integrating developmental and environmental issues). Either include the words environmentally sustainable in other goals and/or change the goal to: “All development to be achieved within a safe planetary operating space by fighting climate change, use environmental resources sustainably, stop the loss biodiversity (or strengthen ecosystem services)”



“(We) want to heal and secure our planet for present and future generations”. Query over “heal and secure”. Alternative wording aligning with evidence on the state of the planet, for example “we want to safeguard Earth’s life support system for present and future generations”.


1. SDGs have been renamed the “Global Goals”. This is a significant communications improvement.

6.  “It is the first ever global compact for human development and preservation of the planet”. This is unclear. The planet is not in the kind of jeopardy indicated here. It would be clearer to say “and safeguarding Earth’s life support systems upon which human societies depend.” Note, the edit does not say “human development” as this might indicate only developing countries are at risk. 

7. “Heal and secure our planet for future generations”. The word “protect Earth’s life support systems” may be more appropriate. 

12.  “The survival of many societies, and of the planet itself, is at risk”. The planet is not at risk from humans. Human activities are altering Earth’s major cycles, reducing biodiversity and driving a major shift in Earth’s climate. The planet will remain, but it is being profoundly altered. Perhaps change the wording to “The survival of many societies, and the stability of the planet’s life support systems upon which we depend, are at risk”. 

13. “Preserving the planet”. See previous comments. Suggest also adding the need for a “precautionary approach to further changes to Earth’s life support system, greater commitment to increasing knowledge of global change, and sustained efforts to understand the risks of crossing natural planetary boundaries. 

14. This paragraph articulates the 3 dimensions of sustainable development. It articulates the integrated nature of these dimensions would be useful to reframe this.

 21 could include vulnerable groups 

15. This paragraph lacks any reference to the ambitions set out in Goal 11, for example in Target 11.1. Whilst it is recognised that this provides only examples of the world to which we aspire, ‘a world of adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services’ should be added. This would reflect the ambitions set out in not only Goal 11, but also Goals 6 and 7.

22 should mention education for Sustainable Development. 

24 Refers to the adoption of policies to increase modern energy provision. The terms 'modern energy’ is not defined and as such does not necessarily entail low-carbon energy. It is important to ensure that modern energy supplies draw from low carbon sources in terms of not only combatting climate change (paragraph 27, p. 5) but also environmental sustainability and public health, and their associated economic impacts as a result of the air quality issues associated with fossil fuel sources of heat and electricity. To this end we recommend referring to modern and sustainable energy provision, reflecting the language of Goal 7 and the need for transition to low carbon societies. In the development of the indicator framework for Goal 7 it is important that an indicator for Target 7.3 should address country-specific business models to increase and deliver energy efficiency. 

25. It would be useful to list science and technology as a tool to inform the goal of sustainable consumption and production. This paragraph could include "...recognizing the fundamental role of biodiversity in providing these goods and services."

26 “We will work to minimize the impact of cities on the global climate system”. This should encompass more than climate and include global biodiversity . It should include resources and Earth’s natural cycles. Urban issues should preferably include green spaces. Again environment seen as separate from other urban solutions. The words “Resilience” and “sustainable” is missing in the text. 

26 refers to ‘more efficient use of water and energy’ but it is clear that in order to tackle the impact of these services on the planet and its ecosystem we should aim to be ‘more efficient and transparent in both the provision and use of water and energy’. For example, If we are to ‘ensure available and sustainable drinking water and sanitation for all’ as stated in Goal 6, we will need to guarantee provision of access to safe water and sanitation infrastructure even for the large share of the world population that cannot afford to pay the full cost of these services. With respect to ‘modern energy’ and the aspirations of Goal 7, the goal focuses on global access to sustainable energy supply whilst the largest energy demands come from cities. To balance supply with demand requires digitally-enabled solutions to providing sustainable energy. In making the low-carbon transition, cities will not only be able to increase energy efficiency, but reduce air pollution, improve public health and well-being, and create new forms of economy based on innovation. 

26 could specifically reflect the inequalities suffered by low-income urban dwellers. These are people that often face issues of urban poverty, food insecurity along with lack of access to energy, water and sanitation. In incorporating such language, paragraph 26 (p.5) expresses the aspiration of the - interlinked - Goals 1, 2, 6, 7 and 11. 

27 Include the need to halt deforestation and use fertilizers more sustainably. This paragraph could articulate the scale of human impact and recognize the profound new responsibility we now have in the Anthropocene. This paragraph might benefit from the inclusion of a commitment to decarbonize the global economy. A little piece at the end mentions biodiversity and oceans in passing. This should also be strengthened to “halt loss of biodiversity” not only “protect biodiversity”. 

28 could make clearer the impact environmental degradation has on conflicts, and that the solutions thus are integrated Social-ecological. 

29 recognises the intrinsic value of diversity, culture and sport as enablers of sustainable development. However, it is clear that culture also acts to influence the means by which the goals and targets should be implemented. For example, with reference to Goal 7, we must be careful in assuming that all people of all cultures want the same type of access to affordable and reliable energy. ‘Energy for all’ should be attuned with local cultural values and needs of individual countries. 

30. This would benefit from the inclusion of the need for support from the scientific community and scientific knowledge to implement the goals.

33. Explicit mention of science and technology in this paragraph but it is striking that the word is mostly used in a context of industry, R&D, and technology. The first sentence acknowledges the role of science in enabling sustainable development but already the second sentence shifts the focus to technology. It would be useful to articulate more specifically the role of science for example: “solutions-focused research linking global change, development and transformations is urgently required to locate a safe operating space for humanity”. 

Science is rarely  linked to knowledge, knowledge creation or sharing, or indeed to scientific communities. 

37. An emphasis is placed on ‘the critical importance of engaging all relevant stakeholders in implementation of the new Agenda. Governments and public institutions will work closely in this regard with national parliaments, local authorities, international institutions, business and the private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations, voluntary groups and others.’ However, rather than ‘working closely’, Governments and public institutions need to collaborate to find local, integrated solution to global problems. Indeed, all relevant stakeholders need not only to engage but should also be encouraged to collaborate. In this way the agenda will be genuinely inclusive, avoiding the exclusion of - or creation of - marginalised groups. Similarly paragraph 7 of the MoI section, p. 22 should read ‘successful implementation will also depend on the resources, knowledge, ingenuity and collaboration of business, civil society, the scientific community, academia, research institutions, philanthropists and foundations, parliaments, local authorities, volunteers and other stakeholders.’ 

39   Indicators to operationalise SDGs are still to be developed and should be based on state‐of‐art knowledge on the issues but also on the design and use of indicators. 

Future Earth could immediately provide valuable input. Introduction p39 is an entry point in this direction. This could usefully highlight the vital role of the scientific community in developing indicators and realising a 'data revolution for sustainable development'. UN Resolution 67/290 resolves (in para. 20) to "strengthen the science-policy interface", commits to "enhancing evidence-based decision-making at all levels", and "ongoing capacity-building for data collection and analysis". These commitments could be reflected in para 39 (and also in the section on follow up and review - see below). 

41. “Saving the planet”. This needs rewording to reflect more precisely the future trajectory of the planet. 

44. “The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands”. This is a direct articulation of the new responsibility we have in the Anthropocene.


SDGs and targets 

3. Here is an opportunity to highlight how internationally coordinated research can support the development and implementation of the indicators 

We welcome p. 4 recognizing the link with other existing ongoing relevant processes and convention. Important not to create double burdensome structure, or parallel reporting systems. Much of the Aichi Targets under CBD for cover and link to several of the SDGs, not the least sustainable consumption and production.


Means and implementation

This should explicitly mention the requirements for internationally coordinated research relating to integrated challenges of the SDGs. 

7. This is by far not as strong as we wished for (i.a. proposed language by ICSU et al.) and just lists the scientific community in between many others and without a specific role or specific expectations. In UN language, this kind of lists are mainly to satisfy various interests and agendas (similar to the frequently used “(…), in particular, LDCs, SIDS, children, minorities (…)” phrases). 


Follow up and review 

A related challenge and opportunity for the scientific community, is the question of monitoring and data over the next 15 years in which the scientific community could play a major role, especially given that the review should be “rigorous and evidence based” (§III/3/e). As monitoring and review will be mainly nation state driven (complemented by regional and global reviews and using existing mechanisms), efforts to influence and contribute to this seem best targeted to national level: 

9: Resolution 290 committed to reviewing 'implementation of sustainable development commitments and objectives' (para. 8). However, the current proposal aims only to review 'progress', and this commitment should be changed to reflect the stronger wording of Resolution 290. This weakening from the more concrete “implementation of commitments” is significant, and undercuts the evidence-based, policy-guiding value of follow up. 

12. Disappointment that the SDG progress report will be based only on data from national systems rather than other sources such as scientific bodies, like Future Earth.This would benefit from more explicit articulation of the science-policy interface, for example inclusion of internationally coordinated research in support of the Global Sustainable Development Report. 

12-14 should reinforce the content of resolution 67/290, para 20 on strengthening the 'science-policy interface' and committing to 'evidence-based decision-making.' 

Also specifically include Future Earth to engage in the “Global Sustainable Development Trends” Report. 

Important to strengthen the accountability aspects and ensure a multi stakeholder engagement where science plays a crucial role. 

3: The interlinkages between Goal 16 and the multi-level system of follow up and review should be reflected in the section on follow up and review. In particular, targets 16.6 and 16.7 apply to institutions and decision-making processes at all levels. Prima facie, the same commitments should apply to the institutions and processes that constitute the multi-level follow up and review mechanism. This could, for example be reflected in new wording for paragraph 3, principle 3c: - as an example: “3c: They will be responsive, inclusive, participatory and transparent, supported by an enabling environment…"(wording taken from goal 16 - 16.6 and 16.7) 

Revised targets 

The suggested revision of targets in Annex 1 is welcome, and important for implementing the goals successfully. 

The Technology Facilitation Mechanism 

Annex 2 

Generally, the mechanism proposed could be adapted to incorporate a coordinated approach international research in the mode of Future Earth. Future Earth is already creating global knowledge hubs and information-sharing platforms. The issue with the existing text is the almost complete focus on technological solutions. Research can also elucidate social solutions. 

In addition to ”facilitate access to and exchange of information and knowledge to support the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of technologies to achieve the SDGs” a proper Technology Facilitation Mechanism should have a task to undertake regular integrated robust technology assessment. An idea of such a capacity for technology assessment arose already in the lead up to the Rio +20 Summit 2012, where UNEP´s Foresight report ”21 issues for the 21st century” noted that the pace of introducing new technologies has increased, while the role of regulatory bodies in protecting the public from the consequences of new technologies has diminished. Therefore, the report suggested policy makers to ”consider, for example, organizing a new international governance system which would produce, and potentially oversee new international procedures to identify dangerous side effects of technologies and chemicals before they are produced” (UNEP, ”21 issues for the 21st century: result of the UNEP Foresight process on emerging environmental issues”, 2012, p.40.)

The technology facilitation mechanism could then have a role to assist the LDCs in horizon scanning, assessing specific technologies, and evaluating the most appropriate technology partnerships. Furthermore, it could monitor trends and advice on risks and opportunities. Specifically, technologies that are new to an LDC and that might be expected to impact employment, health or environment.

Science would play a crucial role in such global technology assessments work, and Future Earth in particular.

THE MOST IMPORTANT is that the mechanism will hold an annual meeting that is multi-stakeholder based. ETC group has further developed these ideas.

Tags: Earth System Governance Project,frameworks and conceptualizations,Future Earth,Post-2015 intergovernmental process,Science and the SDGs,SDGs,SDGs post-2015 zero draft

How much science is in the Sustainable Development Goals zero-draft?

Ruben Zondervan [@RZondervan] • 09-06-2015
How much science is in the Sustainable Development Goals zero-draft?

This article was originally published on 6 June 2015 at the Future Earth Blog

Forget about the big picture. Ignore the overall context. Just start a frenzied word search. Like many others, that’s what I did last week when the UN released the Zero draft of the outcome document for the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Not surprisingly, my words of interest were “governance” and “science”, including variations like “research” and more specific “social science” and “scientific community”.

This narrow word-count focus results in 30 mentions: science (6 times), academia (3), research (3) scientific and or academic community (2), energy research (2), scientific capacity (2), scientific knowledge (2), others (10). Despite zero-counts on social science, humanities, or interdisciplinary research, the overall number of mentions of science is pleasing. The first sentence of paragraph 7 in the section on Means of Implementation and the Global Partnership, is as good as it gets:

“Successful implementation [of the Post-2015 Development Agenda] will also depend on the resources, knowledge, and ingenuity of business, civil society, the scientific community, academia, research institutions, philanthropists and foundations, parliaments, local authorities, volunteers, and other stakeholders.”

Three mentions in one sentence: scientific community, academia, and research institutions. But wait, although these words are not perfectly synonymous is this not a bit redundant? Maybe. In any case it is a typical example of text resulting from long intergovernmental negotiations with strong involvement of other stakeholders. Every interest groups wants its agenda included in the text. This means many sentences are long, though vague, broad, though not always relevant, and seemingly comprehensive, but - wary of sins of omissions – ending in the catch all “and others”. Another common ending for such sentences is “as appropriate”, code for: only when member states are comfortable with it.

Thus, having established that science is at least mentioned frequently – which is relevant only to the few people lobbying for science in sustainable development – it is necessary to look more broadly into the context and framing of science in the text. Here I will use the example of paragraph 33 of the introduction:

“We recognize the central role that science, technology, and innovation play in enabling the international community to respond to sustainable development challenges. We recognize the power of communication technologies, technical cooperation and capacity-building for sustainable development.”

This paragraph, like in most others that mention science (e.g. targets 9.5; 12.a; 17.6; and 17.8) ties science together with technology and innovation. To me, as a lobbyist for social and interdisciplinary sciences, this indicates a rather utilitarian understanding of science in which the usefulness of its findings for the agenda at hand overshadows the value of fundamental knowledge production and critical reflection on the Post 2015 Development Agenda and its implementation. The value of social science and humanities knowledge is not recognized anywhere in the zero-draft, yet technical fixes alone will not deliver success.

Also, like in the above example of paragraph 33, science is often mentioned in combination with capacity building to “support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity (…)” (Target 12.a.) or part of calls to “enhance (…) cooperation on and access to science, technology, and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing (…)” (Target 17.6). Similar ideas are articulated in targets 9.5 and 17.8. Much of that has to be read as UN code for technology transfer from the developed to the developing countries.

While this is without doubt laudable and absolutely necessary, the zero-draft fails to recognize that the Post-2015 Development Agenda also needs to foster the production of scientific knowledge in general and in particular research in, for, and by the developed countries, and to facilitate their scientific perspectives to the discourses on global sustainable development.

Bucking the trend of vague platitudes, Goal 14 on Oceans has a different language on science. Target 14.5 explicitly even calls for conservation of coastal marine areas “(…) based on the best available scientific information.” The prominent role of oceans throughout the zero-draft is anyway remarkable.

More important than how often science is mentioned, or in what context, is of course the question of how much the formulated goals are based on solid scientific knowledge.

As the goals and targets have in essence remained unchanged from the outcome of the Open Working Group, it suffices to refer here to theReview of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals undertaken by ISSC and ICSU which concluded that out of 169 targets, 49 (29%) are considered well developed, 91 targets (54%) could be strengthened by being more specific, and 29 (17%) require significant work.

A related concern is that there are a few instances in the document which raise the question whether the negotiators or some of the more effective lobby groups were sufficiently informed about existing research findings. Two examples from areas of research in which I have been involved indicate independent analysis is having little impact:

First, there remains a rather uncritical belief in the value of partnerships for sustainable development. For example, partnerships “that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources (…)” are prominently feature as one of three systemic issues in goal 17 on means of implementation (targets 17.16-17) which promotes “effective public, public-private, and civil society partnerships building on the experience (…) of partnerships.” Even although the word is mentioned significantly fewer times than in the recent Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda by the UN Secretary General, research on partnerships shows that their contribution to closing the implementation gap has been negligible and their overall effect has been inconclusive at best.

Second, target 6.5 to “by 2030, implement integrated water resource management at all levels (…)”. Recent research highlights that content of this water governance approach is not clear, that it is difficult to implement, and there are few successful examples in the developing world, not least because its underlying values are often not shared.

Likely, the most crucial role for the scientific community is not related to what is in the zero-draft, but rather to what is not.

For example, the indicators to underpin the goals and targets are yet to be developed. Future Earth, through its various projects, has the knowledge and expertise to contribute to indicator development in many issue areas, as well as contribute to a better understanding of the function and politics of indicators. Similarly, the scientific community could help to ensure that the various numbers still lacking in the targets, currently expressed with x, are informed by science.

And last but not least, the entire architecture and process of review and monitoring of the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda is still on the table. The zero-draft includes some interesting ideas on this already. There is plenty scientific knowledge on design of such processes, and the scientific community is key to contribute high-quality and timely data and data-analysis to review and monitoring.  Review and monitoring is not just about technical and bureaucratic arrangements. It is intrinsically linked to broader questions of the legitimacy, accountability, and effectiveness of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Now that is the big picture!



The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Earth System Governance Project, or the Project on Sustainability Transformation beyond 2015 (POST-2015) and their joint initiative on Navigating Sustainable Development in the 21st Century: Governance ’of’ and ’for’ the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Tags: Earth System Governance Project,indicators & targets,monitoring reporting verification,Post-2015 intergovernmental process,Public-Private Partnerships,Science and the SDGs,science-policy

Zero Draft of the Outcome Document for the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Earth System Governance Project • 05-06-2015
Zero Draft of the Outcome Document for the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda

On 2 June 2015 the Co-Facilitators for the intergovernmental negotiation process on the post-2015 development agenda issued the Zero Draft of the Outcome Document for the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda “‘Transforming our world by 2030: A new agenda for global action”.

The zero draft aims to facilitate preparations for the next session of intergovernmental negotiations, on 22-25 June 2015.

The document is available here (pdf).

See also this call for comments from Future Earth.

Tags: Post-2015 intergovernmental process

Comment on the first draft of the Sustainable Development Goals outcomes document

Future Earth • 04-06-2015
Comment on the first draft of the Sustainable Development Goals outcomes document

Future Earth seeks input from the scientific community and other stakeholders on the zero-draft outcome document for the UN Summit in September 2015. Comments are due by 12 June.

On 2 June the United Nations released the Zero draft of the outcome document for the UN Summit in September 2015. The Summit will adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The centrepiece of the agenda is the set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Read the zero draft here (pdf). 

The zero draft will facilitate preparations for the next intergovernmental negotiations taking place in a few weeks time (22-25 June) in New York. Future Earth would like to invite comments from the research community and other stakeholders on the draft document with relation to:

1. The role of science in the supporting the Post 2015 Development Agenda. 

2. The scientific grounding of the text. 

Science and technology have a significant role in the means and implementation of the goals, including in the development of indicators (to be agreed in March 2016). This role can be articulated more clearly. Please also note that the discussion on the number of goals and targets, and on the description of targets, has concluded and it is unlikely this discussion will re-open. 

Submit feedback in this Google Doc or by email 


Tags: Future Earth,Post-2015 intergovernmental process,Science and the SDGs,United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

Universal Sustainable Development Goals: Understanding the Transformational Challenge for Developed Countries

Stakeholder Forum: Derek Osborn, Amy Cutter, Farooq Ullah • 02-06-2015
Universal Sustainable Development Goals: Understanding the Transformational Challenge for Developed Countries

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are intended to be universal in the sense of emodying a universally shared common global vision of progress towards a safe, just and sustainable space for all human beings to thrive on the planet. They reflect the moral principles that no-one and no country should be left behind, and that everyone and every country should be regarded as having a common responsibility for playing their part in delivering the global vision. In general terms, all of the goals have therefore been conceived as applying both as ambitions and as challenges to all countries. All of the goals and targets contain important messages and challenges for developed and developing countries. 



This study proposes a new method of analysis of the goals and targets to assist in identifying those which will represent for developed countries the biggest transformational challenges, in the sense of requiring new economic paradigms and changes in patterns of behaviour as well as new policies and commitment of resources. 

In the initial analysis, the methodology identifies the goals of sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12), sustainable energy (SDG 7) and combating climate change (SDG 13) as the three most transformational challenges facing developed countries - and as being the challenges on which the world at large needs to see the developed world place a strong emphasis for action so as to relieve the overall anthropogenic pressures on the planet and its natural systems. Other goals involving significant transformational change in developed countries include the need to achieve more sustanable economies and growth pathways, the goal of greater equality, and the goals to achieve better protection of the oceans and of terrestrial ecosystems. 

Social problems of poverty, health, education and gender issues are still present in developed as well as in developing countries (though to different degrees) as are all the other issues covered by the SDGs. And the universal applicability of the SGDs stresses to the need to continue to confront all of these issues comprehensively in all countries. But further progress on these issues in the developed world cannot be expected to have such a large, transformational effect either within those countries themselves or in its impact on the rest of the world. 

The report suggests that the method of analysis it employs should now be used more widely to explore more deeply the major transformational challenges which the SDGs present to developed countries, as they begin to plan their SDG implementation strategies. It could also be applied to help other countries or groups of countries to identify the major tranformational challeges which the SDGs imply for them. 

The full report can be found here

Tags: climate change,frameworks and conceptualizations,means of implementation,Post-2015 Development Agenda,Post-2015 intergovernmental process,SDGs,sustainable consumption and production,sustainable energy

Workshop on the Institutional Architecture for the Science-policy Interface on the Sustainable Development Goals

19-06-2015 • New York, United States of America
Workshop on the Institutional Architecture for the Science-policy Interface on the Sustainable Development Goals

As a post-2015 development agenda will be launched at a UN Summit in September 2015, the Earth System Governance Project, POST2015 and Keio University will jointly organize a one-day workshop with negotiators and stakeholders to explore possible institutional aspects of the science-policy interface for implementation of the Stustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The workshop is endorsed by Future Earth and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The workshop will take place on Friday, 19th June 2015 in New York, USA. 

Further information can be found here

Tags: Earth System Governance Project,Future Earth,Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR):,Post-2015 intergovernmental process,POST2015 Project on Sustainability Transformation beyond 2015,Science and the SDGs,science-policy,Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

Project Information Document

The Earth System Governance Global Research Alliance & Sustainable Development Goals • 11-05-2015
Project Information Document

Earth System Governance - a global research alliance, is the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change. The Earth System Governance research alliance takes up the challenge of exploring political solutions and novel, more effective governance mechanism to cope with the current transitions in the biogeochemical systems of the planet. The normative context of this research is sustainable development; earth system governance is not only a question of insitutional effectiveness, but also of political legitimacy and social justice. 

At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ("Rio+20"), the UN member states decided on developing "Sustainable Development Goals" (SDG). The goal setting and implementation processes, and the development of the goals and their indicators pose a challenge to policy-making and to research. 

The Earth System Governance Project, jointly with partner organizations is taking up this challenge. The research on SDGs is coordinated by the Earth System Governance Tokyo Research Centre, which is co-organized by Tokyo Institute of Technology and United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), with funding from the S-11 research project entitled Project on Sustainability Transformation beyond 2015 (POST-2015) of the Ministry of Environment, Japan.

The aim of this 3-year project is to provide inputs into the policy process on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, with particular focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on rigorous scientific analysis on the governance of, and governenance for, the Post 2015 Development Agenda, which includes longer-term philosophical and normative underpinnings to SDGs. 

Tags: adaptiveness,Earth System Governance Project,environmental governance,frameworks and conceptualizations,,governance definitions / concepts,means of implementation,Post-2015 intergovernmental process,POST2015 Project on Sustainability Transformation beyond 2015,science-policy,United Nations University (UNU)

Brave new world: An Introduction to Financing for Development

Henry J. Kröger, Earth System Governance International Project Office [@ave_frater] • 30-04-2015
Brave new world: An Introduction to Financing for Development

In July 2015, global political leaders and stakeholders from the business world, the non-gonvernmental sector as well as international instutions will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 3rd conference on Financing for Development, supported by the Financing for Developmen Office (FfDO)

The goal of this conference is an intergovernmental agreement to contribute to and support the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. It was orginally set in motion in UN resolution 68/204 as a follow up to the conferences in Monterry, Mexico in 2002 and the review conference in Doha in 2008, while its scope was further defined in UN resolution 68/279.

In particular, the conference is set to

  • Assess the progress made in the implementation of the Monterry Consensus and the Doha Declaration;
  • Analyse the obstacles and constraints encountered during this process;
  • Address new and emerging issues during the implementation process; and
  • Develop strategies to overcome said obstacles. 

In preparation of the main conference in July 2015 a number of regional consultations were held in March and April in five different locations. The expected outcome of the conference is regarded as one of the most important contributions to the post-2015 development agenda in order to secure a stabel financial situation for implementation of all post-2015 goals (read more about these goals in our other article). Thus it is worthwile to have a deeper look into the Financing for Development framework and recall the outcomes of previous conferences and consultations.

Monterrey Consensus

The Monterrey Consensus is the result of the first Financing for Development conference in March 2002 in Mexico. One of the majore agreements within the outcome document is to implement and constantly improve the effective usage of financial resources towards the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and economic growth. New partnerships between developing and developed nations are to be established (such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development) on the basis of international trade as the motor for global, national and local growth.

A strong focus is given to the mobilization of domestic financial resources as a form of self-help via the use of international assistance and investment. This is to be achieved through combatting corruption, promoting public-private partnerships (we also published a critical analysis of the PPPs here) and implementing an effective, efficient and transparent fiscal system. From a macro-economic perspective, developing nations are advised to establish a capital market system to allow for business development, particular for small- and medium sized enterprises following good corporate citizenship. 

From an international perspective, on the one hand, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and the associated transfer of technology and knowledge is encouraged. Nevertheless, it is also stressed that these investments need a favourable domestic and international environment to allow for efficient and effective financial flows. International trade is to become open, non-discriminatory and multilateral with meaningful trade liberalizations where seen fit and necessary. On the other hand the significant role of official development assistantance (ODA) is emphasized, especially for those countries lacking the ability to attract FDI on their own due to the lack of infrastructure, human capital or other domestic resources. ODA serves as means to build such capacities necessary to allow for FDI inflows in a developing country as well as empowering least developed nations to achieve the global development goals. 

Last but not least, the Monterrey Consensus addresses systemic difficulties in the coherence and consistency within and between the international monetary, financial and trading system. It is recognized that the three systems need to be coordinated better to achieve greater coherence in the collective effort towards the fulfilment of the development goals. This includes more transparency on the international level regarding the transformation of the international financial architecture. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is directly addressed to increase its efforts in forecasting potential international as well as national crises to actively prevent the happening of such.

Doha Review Conference

The Doha Review Conference critically acclaimed the outcome of the first conference on Financing for Development and acknowledge significant improvements in several development countries economic frameworks towards more open trade and the establishment of an effective and transparent financial sector. It is accentuated that an environment, which allows for entrepreneurship as well as small- and medium sized companies to prosper, is an important step towards a more productive domestic economy including income growth and empowerment. 

Countries are urged to focus their macro-economic policies on high rates of economic growth, working towards full employment of all citizens as well as minimize internal and external shocks to ensure growing wealth for all citizens. The domestic reformations of tax systems should be "pro-poor" and if applicable, supported by the international community.

Fighting money-laundering, illicit financial traffic and corruption is re-strengthened with noteworthy remarks about the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative of the World Bank Group and an urge to ratify and accede to the UN Convention against corruption.

It is noted that, even though FDI flows have been on the rise since the Monterrey Consensus, there is still a long way to go for a significant number of countries. A stronger focus will be given to these countries for they are in need of assistance to increase their popularity among FDI providers. Similar difficulties are observed for the Monterrey proposed broadened access to international markets resulting into the situation where many developing nations are still at the margin of international trade. 

All in all the Doha conference participants are convinced that substantial progress has been made in solving all of the in 2002 outlined problems, although full solutions are still bound to further effort by the international community.

Chief among those challenges not covered by the Monterrey Convention, but recognized by the review conference are the 2008 financial crisis, additional cost for climate change mitigation and the volatility of international markets, especially for key commodities. 

Addis Ababa Conference

The upcoming conference will include two different formats:

  • Plenary meetings
  • Multi-stakeholder round tables parallel to the plenary meetings

It will include the possibility of institutional stakeholders not yet part of the Monterrey and/or Doha process to be accredited to the 3rd conference on Finance for Development.

In line with the previous two conferences, as well as the zero-draft outcome document of the 3rd conference from March 2015, the conference talks and negotiations will likely cover the following topics as well as some further ones:

  • Achieving sustainable, open and effective FDI in order to grow domestic markets and facilitate technology and knowledge transfer;
  • Combatting corruption and illicit financial trafic;
  • Strong support for entrepreneurial activities and small- and medium sized companies;
  • Further establishment and increase of ODA efforts of the developed world;
  • Meaningful trade liberations as well as improvements to the international trading system;
  • Reduction of systemic problems (e.g. environmental challenges, international financial system).

Tags: Finance For Development (FFD),frameworks and conceptualizations,Post-2015 intergovernmental process

Governance trends in the intergovernmental sustainable development discourse: a text analysis

Simon Hoiberg Olsen, Eric Zusman, Magnus Bengtsson, Tim Cadman, Ikuho Miyazawa • 25-04-2015
Governance trends in the intergovernmental sustainable development discourse: a text analysis

The international policy community has promoted sustainable development as a response to human-caused global environemental degradation for four decades. Implementation barriers have nontheless frustrated efforts to achieve a more sustainable future. A large body of literature holds that complementing top-down compliance-based governance with more collaborative forms of governance can help overcome these barriers. However, this literature often has a strong normative bent and draws from a limited number of case studies over a relatively short period of time.

While there is a long empirical track record of important outcome documents from key sustainable development meetings, extracting patterns from their coverage of governance and related means of implementation (MOI) (finance, technology, and capacity) can prove challenging. This paper uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to assess whether and to what extent governance (both compliance and collaborative forms) as well as related MOI appear in nine key documents from 1972 to 2015. The analysis shows a sharp increase in references to governance in general; a gradual increase of references to compliance-based governance; a steady increase in text on collaborative governance; and a sharp increase in text related to MOI. A possible interpretation of these trends is that collaborative forms of governance are increasingly complementing the preexisting government-centred views of governance. Additional research would be needed to examine not only if similar trends can be found at national levels, but more importantly whether collaborative forms of governance produce better outcomes or whether the increasing emphasis at intergovernmental levels are mere lip service to non-state pressure. 

Find the full article here.

Tags: collaboration,compliance,frameworks and conceptualizations,Governance,means of implementation,Post-2015 intergovernmental process,S-11,Sustainable Development Goals