UN working group proposes ambitious future development agenda

Wind turbine farm in Tunisia. Photo: World Bank/Dana Smillie

22 July 2014 – Member States have forwarded to the United Nations General Assembly a set of proposed goals that consider economic, social and environmental dimensions to improve people’s lives and protect the planet for future generations.

Concluding its thirteenth and final session in New York on 19 July, the Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals proposed 17 goals with 169 targets, covering a broad range of sustainable development issues, including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.

“The proposal of the Open Working Group brings together a breadth of economic, social and environmental issues in a single set of goals like never before. All those involved in crafting these 17 goals can be proud of themselves,” Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo said in a news release.

“Member States have shown a determination and willingness to work together for people and planet that bodes well for the General Assembly’s negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda,” Mr. Wu said. The proposed goals will be considered by the Assembly as part of the broader development agenda that world leaders are expected to adopt in September 2015.

Focusing on what it calls the three pillars of sustainable development – namely social, economic and environmental – the goals aim, among others, to promote sustainable agriculture, women’s empowerment and the sustainable management of water and sanitation. On the economic front, they outline promoting decent work for all and pledge to reduce inequality within and among countries. In regards to the environment, they will aim to make human settlements safer and ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

This plan follows the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), considered the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. The Goals have significantly improved the lives of millions of people worldwide through concerted and targeted efforts. While several targets have already been met, such as halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, it is expected that more targets will be achieved by the 2015 deadline.

To continue the momentum, world leaders called for an ambitious long-term sustainability plan to succeed the MDGs. The new agenda must address the unfinished business of the MDGs, beginning with the eradication of extreme poverty. It will also need to address pressing global sustainable development challenges like environmental degradation and promote sustained and inclusive economic growth in poor countries.


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