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23 January 2013

General Assembly creates group to work on sustainable development goals

The United Nations General Assembly on 22 January 2013 established a working group that will focus on the design of a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

The 30-member working group, which will consist of countries from all regions, will prepare a report containing a proposal on the SDGs that the 193-member Assembly will consider and act on at its 68th session, which begins in September. Participation in the working group will be facilitated by a rotational procedure within the regions.

The working group is a direct result of the commitment made by governments at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June to establish a set of action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate goals to help advance sustainable development. The Rio+20 outcome document, entitled “The Future We Want” also calls for the goals to be integrated into the UN’s development agenda beyond 2015.

The SDGs seek to guide countries in achieving targeted outcomes within a specific time period, such as on universal access to sustainable energy and clean water for all, and will build on the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after their 2015 deadline.

The MDGs have been instrumental in driving down poverty rates and increasing access to education, healthcare, water and sanitation, but progress has not been uniform and the UN is currently ramping up efforts to help countries achieve the goals by the target date.

“The Future We Want has broadened the scope for global action for people and the planet,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo. “Sustainable development goals that build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, and that apply to all countries can provide a tremendous boost to efforts to implement sustainable development and help us address issues ranging from reducing poverty and creating jobs to the pressing issues of meeting economic, social and environmental aspirations of all people.”

Assembly President Vuk Jeremic said he would engage closely with Member States to ensure that the process to create the SDGs becomes a top priority and that the work of the newly established group is at the centre of the Assembly’s attention.

“This is a moment for us to imagine the future, and to decide on new ways to address global challenges – to truly define the ‘world we want,’ and at the UN we need to make such a vision a reality,” Mr. Jeremic said.

In December, the Assembly passed a resolution outlining a series of steps to implement other aspects of the Rio+20 outcome document, including preparations for the establishment of a new high-level political forum, advancing action on the 10-year programme for promoting more sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and implementing steps to develop a sustainable development financing strategy, among others.

[Note: This article has first been published by the UN News Centre on 22 January 2013 here.]

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