Rishikesh Bhandary, Tufts University
The cluster group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) inched forward as negotiators discussed possible ways to launch the process for generating the Goals. While certain parties were eager to kick things off straight after Rio itself by awarding the Secretary General a mandate to conduct a process on the SDGs, others were more hesitant. These parties argued for an intergovernmental format with the General Assembly being the launch pad and the body that endorses the Goals. Apart from inevitable delay in proceedings the latter option would cause, concerns were raised about the limited involvement of stakeholders in a purely intergovernmental process and whether it would have enough ownership of various implementation agencies.
The facilitator indicated that a potential way forward could be to model the process on the Transitional Committee of the Green Climate Fund, with a regionally balanced committee of parties producing a proposal for the General Assembly to consider. While this met with immediate push back from a few parties, with some questioning the appropriateness of the format, it nonetheless offers a clear model that can be built upon. The cluster facilitator will continue to hold consultations on these matters and is expected to introduce some new text imminently.
The procedural and legal questions were indicators of larger problems: primarily the trust deficit and lack of ambition that seems to pervade the Rio+20 process. Shadows of the impending conclusion of the MDGs in 2015 loomed large, along with the possibility of SDGs taking the attention away from more general people-oriented development goals. While the Conference name (UN Conference on Sustainable Development) may have changed from that of 20 years ago (UN Conference on Environment and Development), today’s session on SDGs indicates that many parties are yet to reflect this evolution.