TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Jul15/20)
31 July 2015
Third World Network

Post 2015 Development Agenda draft of 30 July inches towards the finish line

New York, 31 July (Ranja Sengupta and Bhumika Muchhala) – The end seemed almost in sight with the release of yet another Draft of the Post-2015 Development Agenda on Thursday afternoon (30 July).

The revised draft agenda was generally well received by the developing countries who acknowledge the end of the long negotiations is near. However from the short plenary session that commenced at 8.30 pm and ended at 10.30 pm on 30 July, the response from the developed countries was less than warm and evoked fears that the negotiations may be drawn out beyond the stipulated deadline of Friday, 31 July.

(The new text is available here)

Ending the palpable tension all around, the Co-facilitators issued the new draft titled “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” yesterday afternoon. With the “Outcome Document for the UN Summit to Adopt the Post 2015 Development Agenda”, the two Co-facilitators Ambassadors Kamau of Kenya and Donoghue of Ireland, made their message to Member States very clear: expect to adopt this within the next 24 hours or so.

The new draft is marked by some important wins for the South as they hung on to some of their core demands, in particular on the treatment of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), the Outcome Document of the Third Financing for Development Conference that took place on 13-16 July. In a strong and unified position, the developing countries had wanted the AAAA only as supportive and complementary to the Post-2015 Means of Implementation (MOI) and not incorporated into the main document, not even as an annex. The specific mention of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) in paragraph 12, inclusion of MOI goals and targets in Chapter 2 along with the whole set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) endorsed by the UN general Assembly in 2014, and retaining key paragraphs on MOI issues of substantial interest to developing countries in the MOI chapter (instead of in the declaration in Chapter 1 of the outcome document), are other notable gains for the South.

The adoption of the Agenda by the deadline of 31July had seemed almost impossible as late as Tuesday (28 July) when the previous draft (26 July) had continued to elicit long responses and proposals with substantive changes, especially from the developed countries who were clearly unhappy with the 26 July draft. Among the substantive proposals were aggressive ones by the USA, which wanted the agreed SDG-MOI targets to be replaced by the Financing For Development (FfD) Outcome Document, and from the EU, that had suggested new language for a global partnership.

However, initial responses from Member States during the two-hour plenary on 30 July shows that the developing countries are largely satisfied. The G77 and China said that the current draft is not perfect and does not meet all our aspirations, expectations and concerns. But we can reach that point where an agreement is possible. The Group cautioned against making extensive changes to the text and said “perfection is the enemy of the good”.

The USA was the only Member State to show strong dissatisfaction with the draft. In the last statement of the night, the USA said the new text still speaks of divisive political issues; it’s our job to rise above this, find the discipline to streamline, take it in the opposite direction and take us to greater heights.

The last few iterations of the Post-2015 Development Agenda draft document comprise of a preamble, a declaration in Chapter 1, the SDG goals and targets in Chapter 2, the Means of Implementation framework in Chapter 3, ending with Follow up and Review in Chapter 4.

Starting with the work of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in January 2013, the two and a half years had seen their fair share of conflicts among Member States, with North-South divisions dominating the discourse. The Southern positions displayed considerable unity given the complexity and diversity among the G77 countries. Other Southern groupings such as the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were also on the same page on most issues.

A visible shift towards accommodating key developing country concerns was clear from the 26 July draft. Though the draft had represented a compromise position between that of the developed and developing countries, key Southern demands such as the inclusion of an explicit reference to CBDR, keeping MOI goals and targets in Chapter 2 along with the OWG-SDG set of Goals and targets, and including the Chapeau of the OWG-SDG Report as an annex were all accommodated, albeit with compromises. The Chapeau did not go in with the SDGs as the G77 and China had wanted, but was at least included in the Annex 2. The CBDR sentence was tempered with an added reference to the 1992 Rio Declaration Principle 7.

(For more of the 26 July draft please see: Post-2015 Development Agenda: New draft out for final negotiations by Ranja Sengupta, TWN Information Service 28 July)


The near final Agenda includes an alternative new preamble, a much shorter one compared to the Preamble of the 26July version. Initial responses show that developing countries are still opposed to the Preamble. The G77 categorically stated we “do not see any reason for inclusion of the preamble”. AOSIS and CARICOM said that they did not feel the preamble is necessary. But if one had to be chosen, AOSIS chose the shorter version while CARICOM said it is looking at the shorter draft, which has both advantages and disadvantages, especially in losing some important element such as climate change.

The EU, Japan and the USA also showed unexpected support for the shorter tighter version considering the developed countries had been supporting the long Preamble of the 26July draft with its conceptualisation of the five Ps: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership (articulated in the Secretary-General’s Report of September 2014).

The developing countries had made it clear that they saw no relevance for the preamble at all. In particular they argued that the preamble was undermining the role of the agreed SDGs and bringing in non-agreed issues, often at conflict with the Declaration and the SDGs themselves.

For example, the paragraph on “Peace” is problematic given the history of developing country arguments that a focus on institutions and rule of law perpetuates the 'good governance' agenda that is based on a rather prescriptive agenda from the Bretton Woods Institutions, and in particular the multilateral development banks of the World Bank Group.  As Brazil has pointed out numerous times in past negotiations on the SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda, this good governance agenda runs counter to national policy space and autonomy in the formulation of national development pathways. Some analysts reminded that the term “rule of law” which the paragraph on Peace refers to was not agreed on during the SDG negotiations on Goal 16.

The paragraph on Peace reads:"We want to strengthen governance and to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels as well as to strengthen the rule of law, to ensure equal access to justice for all and to protect the human rights of all men, women, boys and girls.”

However most civil society groups have shown support for the longer version of the preamble, which they feel take more of their issues on board.


The current draft retains the same language on CBDR in Paragraph 12 (earlier 13). Even though the last draft’s added reference to Principle 7 is seen to potentially limit the application of CBDR to the entire agenda and was used as a move to appease the developed countries, Principle 7 also clearly mentions historical responsibilities and therefore gives certain advantages to developing countries. The G77 and China, and other developing country groups continued to ask for the deletion of the reference to Principle 7, while the EU and the USA wanted the deletion of CBDR altogether or referenced only under paragraph 31 on climate change.

The reference to Human Rights in paragraph 20 with the suggested language “all internationally recognized” before the term human rights is emerging to be a key area of disagreement.  While this qualification has been welcomed by the southern countries, the developed countries including the EU and the USA want this qualification deleted.

The reference to the Right to Development, which had faced challenges from the EU, USA and other developed countries, is still retained in paragraph 10 and also in paragrah 34. However the USA asked for its deletion saying there is no binding agreement on this.

Paragraph 30 which says “States are strongly urged to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures (emphasis added) ...” is retained in this draft as it was in the 26 July draft. However the EU and USA both opposed this paragraph and asked for its deletion.


Paragraph 31 on climate change will surely continue to pose a challenge for the Co-facilitators. The document provides an alternative formulation of paragraph 31, namely 31alt. According to experts, paragraph 31 needs further clarification on “support” as it must include adequate financial, technological and capacity building. It is especially important to add the CBDR principle, which is now in brackets as the paragraph covers “all parties”.  CBDR clearly applies to climate under the legally binding UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and years of decisions by the Conference of Parties including the 2014 Lima decision and this has already been acknowledged by the developed countries time and again.

According to an expert on the ongoing UN climate change negotiations, paragraph 31alt is unclear at best and there is no clarity on what the emissions gap is that is referred to in the text given there is no consensus on this gap; and which emission pathways they are talking about (whether it is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or some agency like the UNEP or other independent scientific sources that has come to this conclusion, but in any event it is not agreed UN language).

The current paragraphs are as follows:

“31: We will address decisively the threat posed by climate change and environmental degradation. The global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible international cooperation aimed at holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and through addressing mitigation, adaptation and support to developing countries. We acknowledge that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. Further to the Lima Call to Climate action, we will work for a comprehensive, ambitious agreement at COP21 in Paris applicable to all Parties [and reflecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances].

31alt:We will address decisively the threat posed by climate change and environmental degradation. We note with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of UNFCCC Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 ฐC or 1.5 ฐC above pre-industrial levels. Further to the Lima Call to Climate action, we will work for a comprehensive, ambitious agreement at COP21 in Paris applicable to all Parties [and reflecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances].”


However, the big win for developing countries could be the continuing exclusion of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) from the Post-2015 Agenda as an annex and limiting its role, thereby preserving the FfD process as independent and distinct. This also serves to recognize the primacy of the MOI targets of the Post-2015 Development Agenda that are more specific and actionable as they are in the form of targets. In the final 30 July draft, the AAAA is referred to in paragraph 40 as being supportive of and complementary to the SDG MOI goals and targets, which are held as the primary MOI for the Post 20156 Development Agenda.

Paragraph 40 says; “At the core of the new Agenda are the means of implementation targets under goal 17 and under each SDG. These are complemented and supported by the concrete policies and actions outlined in the outcome document of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa from 13-16 July 2015. We welcome the endorsement by the General Assembly of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and we recognize that its full implementation is critical for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets”. Though the last line gives the AAAA more weight than developing countries had wanted, the paragraph still reflects their main position.

Additionally paragraph 57 under the MOI section says “The means of implementation targets are complemented and supported by the concrete policies and actions as outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda” (footnote 3).  Footnote 3 says “Resolution A/69/313 The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa Action Agenda), adopted by the General Assembly on 27 July 2015”.

However there is considerable opposition from developed countries who have pushed hard to get the AAAA superimposed on the Post-2015 Agenda, thereby weakening both. While the EU and several developed countries had asked for it to be annexed and to be “welcomed and fully endorsed” as in the 7 July draft, the USA had gone one step ahead and asked that the AAAA actually replace the MOI goals and targets in the SDGs. In Thursday’s discussion, the EU, Japan and USA were both visibly unhappy and suggested changes to the treatment of AAAA.


The developing countries succeeded in their determination to ensure the sanctity of the SDG goals and targets is maintained and that the MOI goals and targets be placed in Chapter 2 with the other goals and targets. This is now more or less established and is not likely to be challenged.

Moreover, contrary to the suggested deletion by the developed countries of a few paragraphs (mainly paragraphs 41-46 of the 26July draft) in the MOI segment of Chapter 1 on the declaration, the said paragraphs have been moved to the substantive MOI section.

Paragraph 45in the 26July draft on policy space and systemic issues has however not been carried forward to the MOI section of the 30 July version. The paragraph had said “We acknowledge the need for international financial institutions to respect the policy space of each country, in particular developing countries. We agree to work to increase the voice and participation of developing countries – in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small-island developing states and middle income countries – in international economic decision-making, norm-setting and global economic governance”.  

This was pointed out by the G77 and China and the African Group, who asked for this paragraph be reinstated.

There are additional attempts to dilute language on policy space. Paragraphs 22 and 58 have the following qualifying language in reference to policy space: “… while remaining consistent with relevant international rules and commitments.”

A proposal to include additional language from the AAAA on the agreed Technology Facilitation Mechanism had been forthcoming from developing countries for some time. They wanted the full language as agreed in Addis Ababa inserted into the MOI section, after paragraph 68. This proposal has found support from Japan who said on Thursday, “we believe we should honor the AAAA and include the full language even if long”.

The MOI chapter still continues to raise several other concerns for development activists. Foremost among them is the lifting of language from the Addis Ababa text into the MOI section, thus making it impossible to keep the two processes as distinct and complementary. The AAAA language also dilutes the MOI paragraphs whenever they are incorporated. Interestingly, where the Addis language would have helped is on the Technology Facilitation Mechanism where it is still not incorporated.

There is concern also over the global partnership. Paragraph 55 in the 30 July draft includes additional language that says “the revitalized Global Partnershipwill facilitate an intensive global engagement in support of implementation of all the goals and targets, bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors and mobilizing all available resources.” (Emphasis added.)

However, this is a set back as the language above does not include the original language for global partnership: “The global partnership for development is an international development cooperation framework that affirms an understanding of North-South cooperation as well as the global drivers and determinants that shape national policy space for development.

Moreover the sentence in the 26 July draft “This Partnership will work in a spirit of global solidarity, in particular solidarity with the poorest and with people in vulnerable situations” that could ensure the global partnership works for and with the people, has been deleted.

There is also a whole new para on the private sector from AAAA that says “Private business activity, investment and innovation are major drivers of productivity, inclusive economic growth and job creation. We acknowledge the diversity of the private sector, ranging from micro-enterprises to cooperatives to multinationals. We call on all businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges. We will foster a dynamic and well-functioning business sector, while protecting labour rights and environmental and health standards in accordance with relevant international standards and agreements, such as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the labour standards of ILO, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and key multilateral environmental agreements, for parties to those agreements”.

Though this para recognises the diversity of the private sector, an important differentiation in the current context, it unnecessarily promotes the role of the private sector and fails to recognise the exploitative role of big corporations that directly threatened development objectives across the global south. Though some mention of “protecting labour rights and environmental and health standards in accordance with relevant international standards and agreements” is included, strong regulation language on activities of corporations has been missing throughout this agenda.

Paragraph 64 on international trade says, “International trade is an engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction, and contributes to the promotion of sustainable development. We will continue to promote a universal, rules-based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as meaningful trade liberalization”.

The second sentence is riddled with problems especially with regard to the word “open”. Developing countries need the policy flexibility to remain open or closed based on their stage of development. The term “meaningful trade liberalization” is borrowed from the Addis Ababa text and actually advances the cause of unfettered trade liberalisation by failing to point out what will make trade liberalisation “meaningful” and never articulating the need for socio-economic impact assesment of gains and losses.

In the 30 July text the mention of “technology transfer” is attached to “mutually agreed” in every reference. However, paragraph 38 (the first paragraph of the MOI segment of Chapter 1 on the declaration) has an elaboration “on favorable terms, including preferential terms for developing countries” which is important to retain. On Thursday night, the USA went out of its way to seek deletion of this paragraph.


Compared to the last draft, the current document reflects a loss for developingcountries in the area of the Chapeau to the SDGs. The Chapeau, in spite of being the framework/context and attached to the agreed SDGs in the OWG Report, has been left out not only from the SDG chapter itself but is finally not even included as an annex to the Post-2015 document.

There is however a reference to the Chapeau in paragraph 50 which says “Following an inclusive process of intergovernmental negotiations, and based on the Proposal of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (footnote 1), which includes achapeau contextualising the latter, the following are the Goals and targets which we have agreed”.

Footnote 1 adds “Contained in A 68/970 ‘Report of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals’ (which was welcomed in its entirety)”.

The loss of the Chapeau was perhaps not surprising as the developing countries appeared to have had to pay the price for keeping out the AAAA, according to observers. A complex discussion on annexes had ensued during the last two days where it was argued by developing countries that there was no need to annex a document if it is referenced. However the developing countries on the whole did not raise this issue during the Thursday night negotiations except for Nigeria who asked for the Chapeau and the reservations to the OWG-SDGs to be added.

The developed countries had wanted the Chapeau out of the document altogether. Early this week, Canada was one Member State to aggressively call for a boycott of the Chapeau. It said, “We cannot accept its inclusion anywhere in the final outcome document. We agree with others who have pointed out its redundancy, given that it covers ground that is already included in the declaration”. The current document reflects this position though the reference is included in paragraph 50.


The issue of the problematic “x”s in the 17 SDGs (indicating no specific quantifiable targets) has been solved with Member States accepting “significantly” or “substantially”. In the 26July draft, the “x” in some targets, e.g. targets 4.4 and 4.6 had been replaced by “all” implying a high level of ambition which several developing countries had felt was unrealistic for them. These have been replaced by “substantial” in the current document.

Earlier this week the G77 and China, AOSIS, CARICOM as well as several Member States (speaking in their national capacity), had strongly asked that they will accept such language in place of the “x”s only if additional language on lack of known baselines and data was incorporated. Now there is added language in paragraph 52 that says “We recognize that baseline data for several of the targets remain unavailable, and we call for increased support for strengthening data collection and capacity building in Member States, to develop national and global baselines where they do not yet exist. We commit to addressing this gap in data collection so as to better inform the measurement of progress, in particular for those targets below which do not have clear numerical targets”. This incorporation was appreciated in several country groupings’ statements.

The proposed revision to Target 14.c has been accepted in this draft. The revision had  suggested the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS) should apply to all States by suggesting removal of “for States parties thereto” after the mention of UNCLOS. This had generated quite a passionate discussion among Member States but there seemed to be an aceptance in the room for the final formulation. AOSIS said it can “live with it”.

The proposed additional tweaking to 5 targets to include land locked developing countries or LLDCs (for example where LDCs are mentioned) in the 26 July draft was however not included in the 30 July version of the outcome document. Several developed countries had earlier opposed this addition, saying it was not agreed under the criteria set for tweaking. During Thursday’s plenary, the LLDC group made a passionate plea for this inclusion.

Among other key changes a controversial paragraph on “family” (numbered patagraph 44 in the 26July draft) was deleted, much to the relief of gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights activists.

References to “Mother Earth” and that there are different approaches to sustainable development was included at the request of Bolivia and a few other Member States in the Preamble and in the substantive chapters, for example in paragraph 54 which says “We recognise that there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities, to achieve sustainable development; and we reaffirm that planet Earth and its ecosystems and are our common home and that ‘Mother Earth’ is a common expression in a number of countries and regions”.+

(Edited by Chee Yoke Ling)