Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A perspective on the new paper by the co-chairs of the Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group

We are now getting into a very interesting period in the Sustainable Development Goals process. There has been slimming down of the number of Focus areas from 19 to 16. This has been done by combining a number of Focus areas.

New Focus area 8: Economic growth, employment and infrastructure – is a combination of old Focus area 8 – Economic growth, old Focus area 10 on Infrastructure and old Focus are 11 on Employment and decent work for all. The New Focus area 9: Industrialization and promoting equality among nations – is a combination of old Focus area 9 Industrialization and old Focus area 12 on promoting equality.

The other main change is old Focus area 18 on Means of Implementation has been  either “mainstreamed” under each of the new focus areas or it’s a new Focus area 15 combining MOI and Global Partnerships for Development.

I have been arguing a similar line to most of G77 that it only makes sense if Means of Implementation ( e.g. capacity building, education, technology transfer, governance, funding)  is mainstreamed this will be a way of holding governments and stakeholders accountable to what they said they will do.

Means of Implementation should sit under each of the cluster areas in a structure something like the 2002 South African non-paper:
  •  proposed targets and timeframes
  • proposed actions
  • resources
  • institutional mechanisms
  • co-ordination
  •  monitoring
  • stakeholder involvement
  • implementation plan sustainability

There have been some developed countries who argue this is too difficult. They might want to look at both the South African 2002 Non Paper and Agenda 21 both of which seemed to be able to do it.

Some reflections
The co-chairs and the UNDESA Division on Sustainable Development should be complimented on how they have brought stakeholder views into the new paper and footnoted them. This builds on the approach taken for the zero draft for Rio+20. The SDG OWG is a temporary body of the UN General Assembly, a place where stakeholders have no rights of participation, so this is a very positive development.

The paper’s footnotes say a lot on which governments and which stakeholders have engaged in this process and what they have been asking for. The World Society for Protection of Animals has done very well both in the food focus area and the health focus area. I think as an organization they had the most single mentions – three in the footnotes. They are a very good case study of how to do this work around the UN. They were one of the first organizations with actual suggested targets and indicators for governments to see and played a very good hand in building relationships with governments.

Many stakeholders worked through the Major Group coordination mechanisms so it is less clear which organization led in particular areas but taking the women’s major group I count twenty four mentions, the Children and Youth twenty one mentions and for the local and regional government major group there were eight mentions.

What was very surprising was that SDSN only had one mention and none to the one million people who took part in the World We Want survey. The other group that should be pleased is the Rome based agencies, whose excellent work was led by IFAD. They brought together some very good targets and indicators in a very collaborative way and also worked collaboratively with stakeholders and governments. Finally Communitas is an example of a coalition that worked very much with governments, their major group but also with other stakeholders. They have at this point secured what they were set up to do and that is a stand-alone goal on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements in the present draft.

The Way Forward
For organizations who do not have their particular target reflected in the present text you have just over a week to persuade a government/governments to take that forward. If what they have in the present text you don’t like the same applies. By the time the session starts in May it will be very difficult to get governments to add to their game plan.

Beyond this session of the SDG OWG it will move into negotiations and the final two meetings will refine the present document more. The main areas for concern will be:
·         Means of Implementation
·         Focus are 16 Peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions
·         We could see some potential Focus areas questioned and it is probably unlikely that this will be resolved by the end of the SDG OWG

The document in July will capture where there is agreement and where there isn’t. For stakeholders the next BIG space for groups to come together and agree a strategy for the UN General Assembly and the negotiations in 2015 is the 65th UN DPI NGO Conference which is the 27th-29th of August. Under the leadership of Jeffrey Huffines (CIVICUS) this is a vital event for stakeholders to attend in New York.

The Focus areas and possible Goals
The co-chairs have given a suggested text for the goal under each Focus area. I am putting it as a goal they have not yet called it that. I am also putting under each Focus areas the goal areas that the 2011 UN DPI NGO Conference, which was the first stakeholder event to support SDGs, called for. We started the 2011 Declaration Chairs text with:

 “To achieve the goals of Rio + 20 in an ambitious, time-bound and accountable manner, we call upon governments in accordance with human rights, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and 438 respective capabilities to adopt the following draft Sustainable Development Goals together with the sub-goals, reasons and clarifications relating to each goal. Out of the 16 Focus areas in this draft from the co-chairs the DPI NGO Conference called for 11 and half of these areas.”

The Focus Areas

Focus area 1. Poverty eradication, building shared prosperity and promoting equality

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO

Focus area 2. Sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition

Goals 2: End hunger and improve nutrition for all through sustainable agriculture and improved food systems

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 3. Health and population dynamics

Goal 3: Healthy life at all ages for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 4. Education and lifelong learning

Goal 4: Provide quality education and lifelong learning for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 5. Gender equality and women’s empowerment

Goal 5: Attain gender equality and women’s empowerment everywhere

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO

Focus area 6. Water and sanitation

Goal 6: Water and sanitation for a sustainable world

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 7. Energy

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, sustainable, and reliable modern energy for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 8. Economic growth, employment and infrastructure

Goal 8: Promote sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth and decent jobs for all

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES (Economic growth –called new indicators of progress and sustainable livelihoods)

Focus area 9. Industrialization and promoting equality among nations

Goal 9: Promote sustainable industrialization and equality among nations

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) No

Focus area 10. Sustainable cities and human settlements

Goal 10: Build inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 11. Sustainable Consumption and Production

Goal 11: Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 12. Climate change

Goal 12: Take urgent and significant action to mitigate and adapt to climate change
Build a climate change goal based on the outcome of COP21 of the UNFCCC

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 13. Conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas

Goal 13: Take urgent and significant actions for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 14. Ecosystems and biodiversity

Goal 14: Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems and halt all biodiversity loss

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) YES

Focus area 15. Means of implementation/Global partnership for sustainable

Goal 15: Development Strengthen global partnership for sustainable development

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO

Focus area 16. Peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions

Goal 16: Peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and capable institutions

UNDPI NGO Conference (2011) NO


Over the years my experience has been that stakeholders have their most impact early on and the UNDPI NGO Conference in 2011 did just that with having substance on the possible SDGs available for governments to consider. As the process moves into negotiations the impact of stakeholders becomes less and less – unfortunately many do not engage until the later part of the process and are frustrated when they are enable to change the direction of a negotiation or get their issues raised. What has been unusual about this process is that stakeholders have been able to provide input into the process since July 2011 when Colombia first put it forward, there have been thematic discussions online, country consultations, a High level panel, a major UN Conference (Rio+20) online outreach through the World We Want, expert workshops, conferences and panels. It will be very difficult to argue that people haven’t had their chance to input.

Input is of course one aspect of this – the other is how close is your relationships with the governments who will be making the decision. Have you met your government regular in capital, have you reached out and met government’s reps at the meetings to explain your position? These will be what will impact the process as we move forward.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Next book due out in June - The Plain Language Guide to Rio+20: Preparing for the New Development Agenda

The Plain Language Guide to Rio+20: Preparing for the New Development Agenda is my second book with Jorge Laguna Celis and Liz Thompson and will eb a Kindle download in June.

It was inspired by a publication, in 1993 by the Centre for Our Common Future called The Earth Summit’s Agenda for Change. In 2003 Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future produced an updated document after the Johannesburg Summit called The Plain Language Guide to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. We have reprinted below the original Preface from 1993 by Warren (Chip) Lindner, which expressed the vision that sprang from Rio and was embedded in the Johannesburg and Rio+20 Conferences. Chip was then the director of the Centre for Our Common Future and had been the secretary to the Brundtland Commission. He went on to be the political advisor to the chair of the 1998 World AIDS Conference and successfully campaigned for the conference to have its next conference, its first in a developing country, South Africa. Chip died of an AIDS related illness in November 2000. We think his words on the role of stakeholders have mostly come true.

This book is a resource book which we hope will enable people to understand what was achieved at Rio+20 and become involved in the implementation of those decisions. We have been helped by Jacob Scherr and Chelsea Phipps from NRDC who have in the book looked at the commitments and the role of governments and stakeholders in light of the conferences since 1992. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Low wages means the State subsidies

I read a very interesting article on the Forbes web site this morning by Clare O'Connor about a report by the Americans for Tax Fairness - that suggests that Walmart Workers cost taxpayers $6.2 billion in public assistance.

The report argues that by paying low wages the State is therefore subsidizing the company and any company with food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing.

It is isn't something that I had seen so starkly put before but I think as we look more and more at the growing income inequality and the attacks on the state by some on the political right it is something people should be more aware of. Although the article focuses on Walmart it applies to so many companies that are paying around the minimum wage while at the same time making huge profits and paying their top management/directors very well. To put it very starkly your taxes are enabling companies to continue to pay low wages.

In 2012 the gap between the richest 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent was the widest its been since the 1920s. In the last twenty years the percentage of American workers represented by unions has dropped from 23.3 percent to 12.5 percent (2012) according to the Labor Department.

This growth in income inequality is one the challenges not just in the US but around the world. The future looks very challenging with an estimate of over 2 billion job losses with new technology over the next 20 years will add pressure as job availability will drop as the new jobs will not outweigh those lost and the world’s population will also grow by 1 billion.

Last November Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny" and called for global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality he went on to say:

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,”

Addressing income inequality now could help us through those difficult times. How we deal with inequality will tell a lot about the kind of society we are, what values we have and that perhaps is something we should reflect on this Easter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

EU and Australia approve/change legislation in favour of requiring companies to report on ESG

Aviva Investors welcomes brave new world on corporate transparency

Following up the Rio+20 push for a global framework for Corporate Sustainability Reporting the European Parliament voted on legislative proposals to encourage around 6,000 companies to report on their environmental and social performance. The proposals apply to all EU large public interest companies with over 500 employees. The legislation is now finalised and will see the proposals formally adopted by the Council of Ministers after which member states are expected to bring them into force by 2016.

 Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors warmly welcomed the conclusion of the legislative process and said:

"It is the start of a brave new world for corporate transparency. This legislation should hugely increase the amount of information available to investors and the general public on how sustainable a company’s operations are.

“Information on a company’s environmental and social performance is absolutely crucial for long term investors, as many of these factors are key to whether it succeeds in the long run. How companies address environmental emissions, human rights, employment relations and customer complaints are likely to be reported upon by many organisations for the first time. If they fail to do so, then the reasons for this failure will need to be given.

“This is superb news for investors, the wider capital markets and civil society. As long term investors we will use this additional data on approximately 6,000 European companies to understand what might impact sustainability of the companies we hold stakes in.

“I congratulate all of the policy-makers involved in producing an excellent, well-balanced piece of legislation.  We now need to see how the European legislation is embedded by member states in either national law or listing rules.

“Since this reporting will be on a comply or explain basis, it is important that the explanations given are substantive and are overseen by the market and society more broadly, not just regulators.  The Commission also needs to issue guidance for companies that brings together reporting codes, standards and conventions into a coherent document, to help companies navigate and ensure consistency and comparability.

“In 2011 Aviva Investors convened the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition, an investor-led group representing over €50tn and collectively calling for change. We have long campaigned for many of the changes introduced by the legislation to come into place and are delighted the legislation is now final.”

The call for Global Sustainability Reporting was also promoted in the UN Secretary Generals Panel on Sustainability and also in the more recent High Level Panel Report on Post 2015 Development Agenda co-chaired by the UK Prime Minister and the Presidents of Liberia and Indonesia. It said: 

"As more industries develop sustainability certification, it will be easier for civil society and shareholders to become watchdogs, holding firms accountable for adhering to industry standards and worker safety issues, and being ready to disinvest if they do not. Today, however, only 25 per cent of large companies report to shareholders on sustainability practices; by 2030, this should be 

Australia has just amended its stock exchange listing rules to require companies to disclose their ESG impacts on a comply or explain basis.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Great Transition Initiative Launches New Website

Great Transition Initiative Launches New Website

For over a decade, the Great Transition Initiative has advanced a visionary scenario of a future rooted in human solidarity, well-being for all, and ecological sustainability. It now enters a new phase with renewed energy and heightened sense of urgency. Its re-imagined website——serves as a platform for exploring bold visions and change strategies.

The new site features:

·         An open-access journal of ideas publishing new essays, book reviews, and interviews.
·         A MacroScope highlighting current developments that carry long-term global significance.
·         Educational material such as videos, an overview of critical ideas, and archival literature.
·         A GT Network Space for those seeking more intensive engagement.

GTI offers a unique and valuable resource for understanding our present moment and shaping our collective future.  


New Book Out

Juneia Mallas  has specialized in environmental and development issues. She was one of the first journalists to disclose the impact of the destruction of the Amazon region in the early 1980's. Her work in television includes the production of news and documentaries for BBC, Channel 4, CBC, PBS, RAI 2. She has a fiction book out which builds on her experience Find out its a Kindle download called Gold, Guns and Blow - Tales from the Amazon - a thriller for the summer holidays :-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reflections on the Way Forward from the SDG OWG 10

Reflections on the Way Forward from the SDG OWG 10

If you are hooked on intergovernmental meetings and coffee then SDG OWG 10 was a fascinating place to be this last week. This was the first time for governments and stakeholders to indicate what they wanted to retain and what they wanted out of the focus areas and their sub potential target areas. 

Star of the week has to go to Farrukh Khan from Pakistan who came very prepared for the meeting with language for the targets, timescales and % as well as goal areas they sit under. 
From Earth Negotiations Bulletin

 Most disappointing were most of the European Union members who came with just broad goal and target comments. The co-chairs showed enormous patience with some of the Member States’ “blah blah,” and continually reiterated that the stocktaking phase is over. 

Farrukh also has to again be complemented for bringing up Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) in much earlier meetings; now of course the rest of the governments caught up both for and against. 

Many developed countries argued it wasn’t relevant to the broad discussions on the SDG framework and especially not to all goal areas, claiming it only relates to environmental degradation.  I am not sure why they think that as Rio+20 reaffirmed the Rio Declaration which states: 

“In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.”

One argument was that CBDR applies to more legally binding agreements such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is true that the UNFCCC does commit parties to CBDR it says they: 

“should act to protect the climate system “on the basis of equality and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

But it is the Rio Declaration that predates the Convention and was part of the discourse for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development - although it applied to a different time its basic pitch is still right now. How that is interpreted in 2014 and 2015 and who it applies to will be different than it was in 1992. 

This SDG OWG was the last one for champion of the SDGs Paula Caballero Gomez Director for Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs in the Foreign Ministry of Colombia. It was her vision that put SDGs on the agenda for Rio+20 the first time at the meeting in Solo Indonesia in July 2011, and it was her who virtually single handedly at the beginning pushed a reluctant set of negotiators AND a very reluctant set of development Ministries in donor governments to accept the SDGs as the new development framework post 2015.  Her passion and conviction of its centrality in this transformative agenda was certainly contagious and proved able to galvanize other stakeholders. 

The NGOs attending the 2011 Bonn DPI NGO Conference backed her and put on the table a set of suggestions for these goals. Meanwhile even in the NGO world we had problems with the big development NGOs and their activity or behind the scene tried to stop the SDGs and retain a MDG focus. It was if they did not see the impacts we are having on our planet and could only conceptually see poverty eradication as the 'only overarching' need for the world. Paula is moving to the World Bank and the deliberations on the new development framework will be poorer for it over the next 18 months. 

It was great to see the idea of a goal on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlement now has broad support and there were some great suggestions on the targets. Clearly there is still work to be done on the balance between rural and urban but that should be clearer very soon with some work being undertaken by the Communitas Coalition. 

So what is going to happen now and what kind of report will come out of this process? It was clear that there were different ideas on this and the challenge for the co-chairs will be to guide with the confidence of governments as they delve more and more into the actual goals and targets. The 19 focus areas will have to shrink to 10-12 areas; some will be clustered while others will be mainstreamed. Overall I could imagine 10 goals between 50-70 targets which would include perhaps 2 interlinkage targets per goal and between 100-150 indicators, the latter being worked out by UN Statistical Division with the help of the UN Family and experts.

The Way Forward

The co-chairs explained how they were going to take forward the programme of work in the remaining SDG OWGs. For the 18th of April a revised document will be produced and the 5-9th of May will be based on the revised focus area document. The June 16-20 SDG OWG session will be a consultation on SDGs and targets and will produce refined SDGs and targets and the final meeting July 14-18th will look to have an agreement and adoption of the report on SDGs and targets. 

As the SDG OWG will finish in July what will the report look like? My best guess is it will be something like this:

A section indicating where there is full support, a second section identifying work still to be done where there are divergent views and a third section where there is no agreement. This report, though a consensus document, will not be able to resolve all the divergent views. It will then be handed with the President of the UN General Assembly’s outcome from his events and the finance committees to the Stocktaking event on the 25th of September where Heads of State will have the chance to put their views forward. The Secretary General will then produce his synthesis report for probably late November. It is this document that will then form the basis of the negotiations in January to September 2015.

Meanwhile the Ambassadors for PNG and Denmark are taking views on what the preparatory process should be for next year. I would strongly suggest that they
  • Go back to two week prepcoms – 3 or 4 of them
  • That they define the structure of the document in the GA Resolution; I make a suggestion on that below based on the South African non-paper from 2002. It will help enormously in focusing the negotiations
  • That stakeholders should be engaged in a similar way to the SDG OWG. An additional suggestion would be that the first day of the prepcoms is given to government stakeholder dialogue similar to the way it was undertaken in the UNCSD 1998-2001. This way, any output that the chair finds useful could be brought into the next iteration of the text for negotiations. (the CSD Chair Simon Upton’s former New Zealand Minister’s model)

Things that may be useful to consider:
  • Major negotiations blocks/countries appoint their own finance Ambassadors to liaise between Financing for Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Finance discussions and informally agree the sequencing of finance decisions in all three forums.
  • UN DATA is set up. Like UN Water and UN Energy as an interagency group to help with the indicators work and facilitated by UNDESA’s Statistical Division
  • Capacity 2015 – Perhaps set up prior to the final decision with UNDP and the World Bank co-chairing looking to pool capacity building programmes from intergovernmental bodies to support national level implementation by coordinating the work of the  intergovernmental bodies
  • What to do with the intro? My suggestion would be to consider exploring including language that captures:
a.     Rio Principles
b.     Millennium Development Declaration
c.      Rio+20
d.     Human Rights
e.     Gender Equity
f.      Good Governance
g.     Peace ,stability and resilient societies
  • Means of Implementation should sit under each of the cluster areas in a structure something like the 2002 South African non-paper:
a.     proposed targets and timeframes
b.     proposed actions
c.      resources
d.     institutional mechanisms
e.     co-ordination
f.       monitoring
g.     stakeholder involvement
h.     implementation plan sustainability

There have been some developed countries who argue this is too difficult. They might want to look at both the South African 2002 Non Paper and Agenda 21 both of which seemed to be able to do it. 

These are my thoughts after the April SDG OWG 10 which I hope you find useful.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America - Winter Soldier

For those who know me well they know I am a great superhero fan. When I was at Stakeholder Forum staff often accompanied me into comic shops I had found in different cities. While on the Danish delegation for Rio+20 some of us had superhero nicknames and mine was Captain America. I have always found the character of Captain America an interesting one. I apologies for those who know the story of Captain America but....he is one of the great collaborations of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby two of the absolute greats in superhero writing and drawing. Marvel would not be what it is without Jack Kirby he was the artists behind virtually all of Marvels heroes and some would say the writer as well though Stan Lee claims that. 

The character first appeared in 1941 where Steve Rogers a failed applicant for the army agrees to be a guinea pig in to enhance him to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum. This works but as he is going through some Nazi spies attack and destroy the machine and kill the professor  so he is the only person to go through the experiment. This is the story of the first Captain America film in it his partner Bucky dies while fighting Baron Zemo and Captain America is frozen in suspended animation until the Avengers find him in 1964. Or so we thought.........

Ed Brubaker - possibly one of the finest comic writers brings him back in 2011 as the Winter Soldier - it seems Bucky also had not died but captured by the Soviets - less an arm - who was then brainwashed and used as the ultimate killer through the period until the end of the cold war. The film picks up some of the ideas from the comics but builds its own story around the  infiltration of SHIELD by Hydra to control the world. The film has opened to the largest audiences for an April opening ever. I have to say it is the best superhero movie since the Batman Dark Knight.

Chris Evans is Captain America a great performance and Scarlett Johansson captures the Black Widow perfectly.  Robert Redford is the perfect villain in a world of the twenty first century where we have given away so much of our privacy to the security forces in our countries. Here you see Captain America trying to stop this and the Black Widow doing an Edward Snowden and dumping information on to the internet for everyone on what the security forces are doing.

If you do enjoy the film then pick up the comics as graphic novels by Ed Brubaker and also his new comic Velvet - a kind of James Bond figure but an older woman playing the part.

The film ends with Hydra having found the cosmic cube and you leave wondering when they are going to shot the third installment.