Countries Agree to Explore Options for Sustainable Development Goals as Discussions Aimed at Shaping Future United Nations Development Agenda Get Under Way

20 March 2013

Countries Agree to Explore Options for Sustainable Development Goals as Discussions Aimed at Shaping Future United Nations Development Agenda Get Under Way

20 March 2013
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Countries Agree to Explore Options for Sustainable Development Goals as Discussions


Aimed at Shaping Future United Nations Development Agenda Get Under Way


Member States have completed a first round of discussions aimed at articulating a set of new set of sustainable development goals that will shape the United Nations development agenda.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a two-day inaugural meeting of the new General Assembly working group tasked with proposing new universal sustainable development goals that should build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while inspiring and galvanizing action.

At last June’s Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, countries agreed that a set of “action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate” goals could help drive the implementation of sustainable development.  The Rio+20 outcome document, “The Future We Want”, also calls for integrating the goals into the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.

“The MDGs have united the world and inspired action,” Mr. Ban told the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.  “We must do our utmost to focus attention and accelerate progress.”  He said the focus of the Millennium Goals — eradicating poverty and promoting health, education and economic and social development — would retain their prime importance and would have to be addressed in the sustainable development goals.  “But the sustainable development goals must go further to integrate more comprehensively environmental sustainability,” he stressed.  “The sustainable development goals should contribute to transformative change, in support of a rights-based, equitable and inclusive approach to sustainability at the global, regional, national and local levels.”

The Open Working Group is mandated to submit a report proposing a set of sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action by the Assembly’s sixty-eighth session, due to start in September 2013.  By late 2014, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić said, “Member States should be in a position to promulgate the sustainable development goals — the single most important element of the post-2015 agenda.”

Representatives of many countries expressed the idea that nothing short of humankind’s future was at stake.

“Your task is truly daunting,” Mr. Jeremić told the Open Working Group, adding that its report would help frame much of the efforts by the United Nations for decades to come.  “If we are to survive on this planet for more than just a few generations, we have to be bold, audacious and visionary in the goals we set,” he emphasized.  “The time for half measures has passed and the business-as-usual ways need to be put aside, for inadequate action today will inevitably lead to harsh judgment and recrimination tomorrow.”

Participation in the 30-member Open Working Group entails an innovative regional rotational procedure that allows for the actual participation of 70 countries.  However, all 193 United Nations Member States, as well as representative of civil society major groups, can attend meetings.

Member States emphasized that the Open Working Group’s process must be open, transparent and include all voices.  There was broad agreement that poverty eradication remained the highest priority and must be central to the sustainable development goals.  Other areas of concern should include employment, sustainable consumption and production, gender equality, food security, water and energy.

Developing countries stressed that the means of implementation (finance, technology, trade, capacity development and cooperation through partnerships) must be addressed systematically in formulating the sustainable development goals.  Many suggested that each goal should be matched with corresponding means of implementation.

Many speakers underlined the need for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda, with a concise set of sustainable development goals at its centre, while a few cautioned that that aim should be achieved only gradually.  There was also agreement that the new goals should not divert attention from accelerating progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals.  Several speakers said the Open Working Group should engage civil society and the scientific community.

The Co-Chairs said they intend to convene the Open Working Group’s next meeting in one month’s time, adding that it was tentatively scheduled for 18-19 April.

Work is also proceeding on other areas of the Rio+20 follow-up, including preparations for the establishment of a new high-level political forum; the winding down of the Commission on Sustainable Development; advancing action on the 10‑year programme for promoting more sustainable patterns of consumption and production; and moving towards the development of a sustainable development financing strategy as well as options for a mechanism to promote the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies.

For more information on the session and Rio+20, visit and

The report of the Secretary-General as an initial input to the Open Working Group can be found at

For interviews and more information, contact Dan Shepard, Department of Public Information, tel. +1 212 963 9495, or e-mail:

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.