Following on from its advisory support to the Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to the United Nations during its participation in the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals over the course of 2014, PiPP will continue its strategic partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste as the intergovernmental negotiations enter their final phase, ahead of a global summit to launch the new agenda in September 2015.
Additionally, PiPP has extended its support services to other Pacific delegations as they navigate this extraordinarily inclusive, global multi-stakeholder process. The OWG has proposed a set of 17 sustainable development goals and targets, drawing on inspiration from a number of sources, including the Rio+20 outcome, the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, and a raft of contributions from academia, business and civil society.
In the end, however, the proposed SDGs were agreed by UN member states. That means there had to be political trade offs and compromises made. But it must be recognised that development is inherently political at the local, regional and global levels. There remains some pressure to reduce the number of goals and targets or to tighten the proposed language. But that would risk of omitting important issues just for the sake of easing communication, or risking a good political outcome in the search of technical perfection. It is very clear that amongst UN member states there is little desire to re-open what was an exhaustive and exhausting negotiation. Delegates recognise the political sensitivities of altering the agreed goals and the issues they address, which together form a comprehensive and mutually reinforcing development agenda. Add, remove or significantly change one goal, and the whole package is compromised.
The new agenda has more depth than the MDGs – and rightly so. This shouldn’t be seen as a problem. The general public will accept that any exercise that drives national, regional and global efforts toward coordinated, sustainable development is necessarily wide-ranging and complex. It will be up to governments, think tanks and other civil society stakeholders to distil the information such that citizens can to use the new agenda to hold their governments and international actors to account when undertaking development activities in their name.
Timor-Leste and Pacific island countries have especially welcomed new goals addressing climate change, oceans and marine resources, inclusive economic growth, ensuring peaceful and inclusive societies, and building capable and responsive institutions that are based on the rule of law. They will no doubt also welcome the shift in focus from quantitative measurements under the MDGs to metrics designed to improve the quality of outcomes, notably in health and education.
The core of the new agenda, the implementation mechanism, has yet to be finalised. There is a pressing need to rationalise and integrate many of the parallel processes that collectively set the global framework for development. Many small island countries struggle to deal with the multitude of international agreements, policy commitments and related reporting requirements. The new agenda should seek to streamline these, and not add to the bureaucratic burden. This, along with crafting a political narrative will be the focus of deliberations that will continue in New York over the next six months.