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Zero draft details SDG priorities for post-2015

The prominence given to inequality is very welcome. The “enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power” are highlighted, with pledges that “nobody will be left behind”. The draft goals include tackling gender inequality and addressing inequality within and between nations.

The zero draft for the post-2015 development agenda, published today, promises “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”. It is universal and ambitious in scope, seeking to meet a broad range of economic and environmental objectives that “go beyond traditional development priorities” including “better governed and inclusive societies”. Importantly, it highlights the need to recognise the “deep interconnections” between the challenges of poverty, inequality, climate change, and rising incidence of conflict and humanitarian crisis around the world.

The prominence given to inequality is very welcome. The “enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power” are highlighted, with pledges that “nobody will be left behind”. The draft goals include tackling gender inequality and addressing inequality within and between nations.

Several references to climate change are also welcome given the threat that climate change poses to the achievement of all development goals. Yet whilst the draft asserts the need for a “meaningful and universal climate agreement” at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) later this year, it does not state explicitly that a COP agreement must put the world on a pathway to keep below a temperature rise of 2 degrees – a goal that is critical to prevent the worst impacts of climate change on driving poverty, hunger and conflict. Energy systems are also critical in meeting this goal, so it is disappointing the declaration references the need for ‘modern energy provision’ but does not specify renewables.

There has been an ongoing dispute on how to fill in the “x’s” – as yet undecided targets in previous negotiations. Despite debates, it is welcome that the co-faciliators have included their proposed amendments to 19 of the targets, some of which raise the level of ambition, although others propose removing the disputed percentages completely. The suggested target to reduce economic losses from disasters by “x%” is reworded to indicate “substantially reducing” these losses, and a specific afforestation target becomes a committment to ‘substantially increase’ afforestation. A lack of defined and measurable goals to work towards may pose challenges in the implementation phase.

Indicators are not featured, but these will be critical to guiding country action to fulfil the ambition of the framework. The strong push from several member states for only 100 global indicators to measure the 169 targets risks leading to weak or inadequate indicators that undermine effective monitoring. In the months ahead, it will be important that the Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG) on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators draws on input from NGOs and other experts in developing robust indicators. If not, indicators risk being counter-productive to fulfilling the ambitions of the framework.

Finally, the absence of commitment to accountability is another major concern. A commitment to mechanisms to hold governments accountable to their own people and the international system is needed for the framework to really offer something additional to the multiple existing agreements that underlie most of the goals.

Source: BOND