11 May 2015
Defining the Post-2015 Period
Photo by IISD/ENB
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From the back of the negotiating rooms at the United Nations and further afield, IISD's reporting teams have witnessed a flurry of meetings aimed at defining the key 2015 outcomes, and we are not even half way into the year.

From the back of the negotiating rooms at the United Nations and further afield, IISD’s reporting teams have witnessed a flurry of meetings aimed at defining the key 2015 outcomes, and we are not even half way into the year.

In statements at the beginning of the year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Sam Kutesa highlighted important connections among the climate change, post-2015 development agenda and Financing for Development (FfD) summits and conferences that are taking place during the second half of 2015. They also noted linkages with the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which convened in March. The discussions that have taken place on these issues demonstrate delegates’ awareness of the overlaps and complexity of the relationships among these processes. Their challenge will be to capitalize on the opportunity to craft complementary goals, recommendations, commitments and decisions while keeping the momentum going from one meeting to the next during the rest of 2015. This policy update offers a synthesis of the discussions to date for each process, to help reveal the directions in which each might be headed.

Post-2015 Development Agenda

We begin this update with a review of progress to date in developing the post-2015 development agenda. The “post” in the name of this process refers to the fact that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were meant to be achieved by the end of 2015, and so the international community has embarked on defining the goals that will shape their collective efforts from 2016 until 2030. According to UNGA Resolution A/69/L.46, the agenda could include four components: a declaration; a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets; their means of implementation (MOI) and a global partnership for development; and a framework for follow-up and review of implementation. On the SDGs component, a decision taken in 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) set forth the procedure through which the SDGs would be developed, and the resulting Open Working Group (OWG) concluded its 13th meeting in July 2014 with a proposal for 17 SDGs and 169 targets. Intergovernmental negotiations are convening seven times between January and July 2015, with the goal of agreeing on all four components by 31 July, for adoption during a Special Summit scheduled to take place from 25-27 September, at UN Headquarters in New York.

Discussions in 2015 began with the broad outlines of different actors’ preferences for the outcome components. For example, at a hearing in January, stakeholders called for a rights-based agenda, including recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, and gender equality and women’s rights. To ensure that all countries are able to monitor their own implementation of the agenda, efforts to strengthen national statistics commissions were proposed. And to ensure that all countries can implement the agenda, speakers proposed increasing the official development assistance (ODA) target, both in terms of quality and quantity of aid, and the share of technological development that takes place in, and for, developing countries.

The intergovernmental negotiation process on the post-2015 development agenda officially began on 19-21 January with a stocktaking session. As our Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary indicates, at this meeting, the previously abstract, long anticipated, year of 2015 finally seemed “real” for many participants. This meeting also served to confirm, as noted by the Co-Facilitators at the close of the session, that the proposed SDG and target set rests on a carefully crafted, political balance, and most did not want to tamper with this balance.

In addition to the goals and targets proposed by the OWG, the SDGs eventually must also contain indicators. In March 2015, the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) informed delegates that it had produced a preliminary list of over 300 proposed indicators, which were assigned a “crude preliminary rating” by national statistical agencies. A Group of Friends of the UNSC Chair recommended that the post-2015 “indicators architecture” include a core list of 100-120 indicators for global monitoring, supported by a larger set of national, regional and sectoral indicators. The Statistics Division is expected to provide a briefing to the intergovernmental negotiation process in June 2015 regarding its work on indicators, and to complete its proposed set of indicators by March 2016.

While most negotiators have not demonstrated much willingness to revisit the OWG’s proposed goals and targets, other elements of the post-2015 development agenda outcome have been subject to competing positions in discussions during the first part of 2015. UN Member States exchanged views on MOI in February, during the first in a series of high-level events convened by President Kutesa. Member States discussed elements of a renewed global partnership for sustainable development, as well as infrastructure development, and the role of parliaments, cities and local authorities in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. Some stressed that MOI must be commensurate with the level of ambition of SDGs, and called for all forms of financing to be recognized, while others suggested treading carefully in engaging the private sector.

Discussions have included numerous calls for coherence between the MOI components in the post-2015 development agenda outcome and the outcome of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD 3). The EU and several other developed countries have favored treating the outcomes of FfD 3 as the MOI part of the post-2015 development agenda, while many developing countries have said the two issues must be kept distinct. At the fourth session of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda in April, which was organized as a joint meeting with the FfD 3 preparatory process, negotiators from many developing countries said the relationship between the outcome of the FfD 3 meeting and the post-2015 development agenda could not be decided until the FfD 3 outcome has been finalized. FfD 3 will convene in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, about two months before the post-2015 development agenda is set to be adopted.

Financing for Development

FfD 3 is a successor to the previous FfD conferences, held in Monterrey, Mexico, and Doha, Qatar. This time around, the close timing of the process with the post-2015 development agenda has expanded the context in which development financing is being negotiated.

The FfD 3 discussions first focused on the Co-Facilitators’ “indicative elements” text released at the beginning of the year, which included building blocks on: domestic public finance; domestic and international private finance; international public finance; trade, technology, innovation and capacity building; sovereign debt; and systemic issues. The elements paper also included a section on monitoring, data and follow-up, and emphasized that the success of the post-2015 development agenda, including the SDGs, “will hinge on reaching an ambitious agreement on policies, financing, technology transfer, capacity building and systemic issues” at the Conference.

The second meeting for the FfD 3 outcome, in April, focused on a zero draft that was released in March. The draft “Addis Ababa Accord” contains two main sections, setting out a global framework for financing sustainable development, and defining an Addis Ababa action agenda. The draft outlines a “threefold” task for the Conference: following up on commitments made in Monterrey and Doha; further strengthening the framework to finance sustainable development and the MOI for the post-2015 development agenda; and ensuring that the actions agreed are implemented and reviewed in an appropriate, timely and transparent manner. The second section includes eight sub-sections, with the building blocks from the “indicative elements” text adjusted so that there are separate sections on “international trade for sustainable development” and “technology, innovation and capacity building,” and debt is addressed in terms of debt sustainability.

Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of the discussions on the zero draft indicates that the Group of 77 and China wanted to begin line-by-line intergovernmental negotiations on the draft, but other Member States and groups supported a general discussion on the zero draft at this session, followed by a revised draft. A reading of the entire zero draft was carried out over the course of the week, and for future meetings, a document compiling all submitted comments is being prepared, in addition to a revised draft by the Co-Facilitators.

A revised draft outcome and a compilation of views and comments provided by delegations were circulated to delegates the week of 4 May, with negotiations expected to begin on 12 May, during the additional two to three weeks of informal, intersessional talks that have been added to the FfD 3 preparatory schedule. The added sessions mean delegations will be in almost continuous negotiations on elements of the FfD 3 outcome between now and the July Addis Ababa meeting.

Climate Change

About two months after the post-2015 development agenda is to be adopted, international diplomats will gather in Paris, France, for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Like the post-2015 agenda, the incoming Presidency of the Paris Climate Change Conference has suggested that there will be four pillars in the outcome: an agreement; ambitious intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs); finance and technology; and the role and contributions of non-state actors. And like the FfD 3 process, this negotiating track has a zero draft: as Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) Co-Chair Daniel Reifsnyder invited delegates at the February Geneva Climate Change Conference to do, the group has worked to develop a draft negotiating text that “fully reflects parties’ positions.” Unlike the other two processes, however, the links between the climate agreement, on one hand, and the FfD 3 and post-2015 agreements, on the other, have not been explicitly discussed to ensure that overlapping elements are addressed in a complementary fashion.

The challenge for the climate process will be in moving from the large compilation of positions in the “Geneva negotiating text” to a succinct text that fulfills the mandate to develop a “protocol, another legal instrument or an outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.” During the first few days of the upcoming June meeting, delegates will conduct a first reading with a view to identifying ways to “consolidate and streamline the negotiating text with a view to reducing duplication, overlap, and repetition,” and delegates will be encouraged to avoid substantive debate. ADP delegates’ heavy lifting will then begin, with substantive negotiations on a compromise text occupying the remainder of the meeting.

Among their expected debates will be how to raise the level of ambition of efforts to address climate change. During March and April, countries began announcing their INDCs, with Switzerland making the first announcement. When the ADP resumes its work at the ninth part of its second session during the first half of June, representatives from the approximately 40 countries that have submitted INDCs to date will be given the opportunity to informally present them and share their experience with their preparation. As currently anticipated, all INDCs submitted by 1 October will be synthesized and the Secretariat will release an assessment of their aggregate effect around 1 November. The status of INDCs, if and what role market mechanisms would play, and how climate finance will be addressed are among the issues that ADP will seek to develop compromise text on during their three meetings leading into Paris. As with the linkages between the FfD 3 and post-2015 development agenda outcomes, some have suggested that the outcome on climate change finance will be critical for the success of the Paris Climate Change Conference. But they note that the absence of an agreed definition of climate finance may prolong the negotiations, and that the definition also will affect discussions on linkages among the FfD 3, post-2015 and climate change negotiations.

Nearing the Midpoint

The meetings during the first part of 2015 have allowed governments to share their initial positions on the full set of issues under each decision making track. The next stage for each process will require that delegates take what they learned about each other’s preferences back to their capitals, to be assessed against their own government’s preferred outcome. In their preparations for negotiations, countries also will be mindful of the overlaps among the processes. FfD 3 topics such as debt sustainability and debt relief initiatives, as well as science, technology and innovation, will have important implications for whether and how the SDGs will be implemented, for example. And if climate change is not addressed globally, the achievement of many of the SDGs will be “hard, if not impossible,” according to a minister at the UNGA’s MOI debate.

The March disaster risk reduction conference in Sendai was anticipated as a bellwether of sorts for the other 2015 processes. After the meeting, one commentary suggested that Sendai had generated political momentum by setting out strong language on international cooperation and technology transfer. However, negotiators removed references to both the SDGs and the UNFCCC agreement in all sections on implementation in the outcome document, which the commentary attributed to a desire by Group of 20 (G20) countries to avoid committing “too much too soon.”

Negotiators’ delicate art of concession and convergence will be put to the test during the final half of 2015, as they monitor their negotiating counterparts’ preferences within each negotiating track and across the tracks. One delegate at the joint meeting of the FfD 3 and post-2015 processes said the partnership among the Co-Facilitators of those processes will be an important partnership for the successful outcome of both negotiations. The extent to which the Co-Chairs of the climate change process are engaged in this partnership will also contribute to the international community’s efforts to successfully coordinate the agreements on the overlapping issues and reach the most ambitious outcome possible for each track, and the sustainable development regime as a whole.

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