Getting to 2030: Negotiating the Post‐2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

AuthorPamela S. Chasek,Lynn M. Wagner,Nathalie Risse,Faye Leone,Ana‐Maria Lebada
Published date01 April 2016
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/reel.12149
Date01 April 2016
Getting to 2030: Negotiating the Post-2015
Sustainable Development Agenda
Pamela S. Chasek,* Lynn M. Wagner, Faye Leone,
Ana-Maria Lebada and Nathalie Risse
The United Nations Member States set a very high bar
for themselves at the Rio+20 conference in June 2012:
reaching agreement among 193 countries on a broad
post-2015sustainable development agenda that could
enhance international coordination on all aspects of
human and planetary well-being. However, at a point
in history when States were increasingly failing to
reach consensus on key decisions, they made history
by agreeing on a course that could transform our
world, through an agenda of breathtaking ambition
and scope. This article reviews the two negotiating
tracks to develop the post-2015 outcome the work of
the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs), which originated out of the decision
taken at Rio+20; and the agreement to launch a post-
2015 development agenda to replace the Millennium
Development Goals. The f‌inal outcome from these two
processes represents a f‌ine balance among competing
interests and concerns. The article sets the stage for a
closer examination of the results of these negotiations.
We begin our examination of the original intentof the
post-2015 agenda by reviewing the negotiation of the
SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda, with
attention to their similarities and differences. The arti-
cle concludes with a focus on challenges for the imple-
mentation stage, based on the themes that emerged
during the negotiations.
INTRODUCTION
The United Nations (UN) Member States set a very high
bar for themselves at the Rio+20 conference in June
2012: they agreed to negotiate, among all 193 countries,
a broad agenda that could enhance international
coordination on all aspects of human and planetary
well-being in the post-2015 period. At many moments
during the three years that followed, consensus on a
post-2015 sustainable development agenda seemed all
but impossible. However, at a point in history when UN
Member States were increasingly failing to reach con-
sensus on key decisions, they made history on Sunday
evening, 2 August 2015, by agreeing on a course that
could transform our world, through, in the words of
the delegate from India, an agenda of breathtaking
ambition and scope.
1
This article reviews the experience of two negotiating
tracks that developed the post-2015 outcome. The Open
Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs) originated out of the decision taken at
Rio+20.
2
A second track agreed to launch a post-2015
development agendato replace the Millennium Develop-
ment Goals (MDGs), which were drafted following the
2000 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals.
As we argue in this article, the f‌inal outcome from these
two processes represents a f‌ine balance among compet-
ing interests andconcerns between developed and devel-
oping countries as well as between the past and the
future of the sustainable development agenda.
We f‌irst examine several principles that came into play
during the negotiations and that framed the decision
makerschoices. We then review the negotiation of the
SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda, noting
their similarities and differences. We conclude with a
focus on the challenges that remain on the implementa-
tion level, based on the principles and themes that
emerged during the negotiations.
This research draws on the authorspersonal observa-
tions of the 13 sessions of the OWG on SDGs and the
eight sessions of the intergovernmental negotiations on
the post-2015 development agenda, all of which took
place from 2013 to 2015. Our participant observation
method included direct observation of all formal and
informal sessions as writers for the Earth Negotiations
Bulletin, a publication that has provided objective
reporting of sustainable development negotiations since
the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The authors also conducted
informal interviews with negotiators and the UN
Secretariat during the course of these meetings, and
augmented the research with formal interviews of key
* Corresponding author: Pamela S. Chasek.
Email: pam@iisd.org
1
A.M. Lebada et al., ‘Summary of the Seventh and Eighth Sessions of
Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Post-2015 Development
Agenda: 20 July2 August 2015’, 32:20 Earth Negotiations Bulletin
(2015), at 23.
2
Report of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Develop-
ment (UN Doc. A/CONF.216/16, 2012), at paragraph 248.
ª2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
5
RECIEL 25 (1) 2016. ISSN 2050-0386 DOI: 10.1111/reel.12149
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