Can we score goals in the right place? – Day 2+3 OWG12

by khristian méndez //

Inside the Headquarters of the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals are being negotiated. Negotiations are taking place not only between governments at the formal and informal negotiations at the ECOSOC Chamber, but also outside of it in bilaterals, between Major Groups and other stakeholders. Chairs are asking to trim down numbers of targets and goals, important issues such as multinational corporations are being brought up, climate change is walking the line between a stand-alone goal and mainstreaming, and civil society is increasingly coordinating across the board. Some of the negotiations have been quite engaging, while some others seem to be mere listing of priorities and “psychological campaigning” as Amb. Kamua said. But there’s another layer of complexity to this process: Across the sea of laptop screens and the murmur of translations, we hear and see transmissions from Brazil, where another, clearly important thing, is at stake: a shiny cup of metal that represents the glory of all humanity.

The state of play here at the UN is as follows:

Trimming down

We have 17 Goals and over 212 targets in the latest text from co-chairs released ahead of this session, significantly more than on the previous version. Countries are putting forwards proposals to mix and match goals and targets. This morning, several joint statements were made by civil society which impressed the chairs, who are committed to having us present our views to them every morning. One of the particularly good responses was on Means of Implementation. It asked for implementation that addresses interlinkages, and finally brought a word to this room that negotiators have shied away from: Multinational Corporations. (More on that below.) Find a copy of the statement here.

After this morning’s round of statements, co-chairs Körosi and Kamua have asked that Civil Society doesn’t get tired, that we will have to repeat the exercise of crafting joint statements after they put forward new text. More importantly, they asked us to think of our top 5 targets under each goal, and 3 odd means of implementation. They hinted at the fact that if we have many more elements than these, they may be relegated to an Annex, but they will still be presented to countries as they negotiate the larger Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Will Climate Change score its own goal?

One of the most contentious issues on the room is whether climate change will stand alone as a separate goal. Several constituencies as well as a few individual delegations like Guatemala, Norway, and asked for it to have its own stand alone goal. Others, such as the Spain/Italy/Turkey trio, Palau and the Maldives, have asked to include it in targets across the other goals.

The main issue is that some countries, such as Norway, believe that a development agenda without climate change will not stand its ground for the next 15 years, although they recognize the OWG should not interfere with the UNFCCC process. The Climate negotiations under the UNFCCC regime are nearing their due date for a new agreement on climate change, expected on 2015. The co-chairs had suggested merging it with sustainable consumption and production, a proposal that rallied next to zero support from member states or civil society. Nicaragua suggested merging it with potential Goal 15 Biodiversity, a goal that hasn’t received much attention so far. Germany suggested merging it with potential Goal 7 on energy.

Multinational corporations: oh, the silence in the room.

As mentioned above, the joint Civil Society statement this morning pointed out that Public Private Partnerships have too often had negative impacts on society, economy and the environment. Further, the statement called for “the adoption of a binding multilateral instrument on transnational corporations at the UN.” This proposal speaks to goal 17.39 under implementation as it is right now, which corresponds to implementation for Sustainable Consumption and Production. Today, while addressing this issue at the negotiations, several countries said that this was not in line with their priorities, and they would not be willing to enter into this process. Among them were India and Pakistan, who said that corporations from developed and developing countries could be judged under the same rules. Japan and Iran, however, were in full support for the proposal.

Co-chair Kamua asked the representative from the United Nations Global Compact to speak to this issue. The representative responded that over 80% corporations of the Fortune 500 companies now have reports on their environmental impacts. Publicly owned, and Small and Medium Enterprises have also began to do so. According to the representative, this constitutes “an important indicator of the fact that there are more companies willing to report”. However, these voluntary reports hold very little value considering there are no international standards followed on their reports, and that reporting does not mean accountability.


Negotiations will resume at 3pm when the ECOSOC chamber is filled once again by a sea of laptops and the silent murmur of translations: some concerned with what is going on in this room, and more than a few who are in the southern hemisphere. We hope to count with the presence of more than half of the member states, particularly considering that Spain is playing against Chile right for the first half of these negotiations.

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