Civil Society Responds to UN Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report
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Major Groups and other stakeholders have issued reactions to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's synthesis report, ‘The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet,' an advance version of which was released on 4 December 2014.

Responses address: financing; the relationship between the six "essential elements" and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); human rights, peace and security; climate change; national ownership; and next steps.

While many describe the report as a balanced synthesis of the process and issues, others suggest it does not go far enough in integrating issues on means of implementation (MOI), or on accountability, among other critiques.

syntesis-proposalDecember 2014: Major Groups and other stakeholders have issued reactions to the advance version of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s synthesis report, titled ‘The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet.’ Responses address: financing; the relationship between the six “essential elements” and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); human rights, peace and security; climate change; national ownership; and next steps.

While many describe the report as a balanced synthesis of the process and issues, others suggest it does not go far enough in integrating issues on means of implementation (MOI), or on accountability, among other critiques. An advance version of the report was released on 4 December 2014.

Countries need to converge around three breakthrough global political agreements in 2015, according to Homi Kharas and John McArthur in a Brookings blog. These agreements are: 1) establishing minimum basic services for all, including education, health care and infrastructures services like energy, roads and water, variously referred to as ‘global social floors’ or ‘leaving no one behind’; 2) developing global mechanisms for infrastructure investments to boost prosperity, reduce carbon emissions and ensure resilience; and 3) defining accountability standards for governments and businesses, including compacts between governments and citizens and application of country specific targets. Kharas and McArthur note that planet-friendly infrastructure investments will require the most financing in the post-2015 agenda, primarily from domestic sources and at the municipal level.

“Ban Ki-moon has stuck his neck out on some issues,” a Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) blog observes, while stressing he has not gone far enough on other issues. Noting that the report proposes six essential elements but does not suggest clustering the 17 proposed SDGs under these elements, CAFOD questions whether the elements are a communication tool, or something of greater significance. CAFOD welcomes, inter alia, the report’s: recognition of the need to include all 17 proposed SDGs; integration of development, human rights, and peace and security; emphasis on a universal agenda; commitment to human rights; participatory approach, including in review mechanisms and on the role of people and civil society; call for private sector regulation; and bringing together of the post-2015 and climate change processes. CAFOD criticizes the report for its: “softer calls” for monitoring and review; diminished, weakened treatment of inequality; misinterpretation of the importance of ensuring that everyone is counted versus that everyone matters; contradictory approach to economy; and financing considerations.

Welcoming the synthesis report, the Climate Action Network (CAN) says that it “keeps the door open for a standalone goal on climate change” and for aligning the SDGs with climate action.

Molly Elgin-Cossart’s reaction on Global Dashboard calls the report a “fine effort” in the face of challenges, but says it “fails to effectively deliver key messages,” and is too lengthy, mixing solid, thoughtful messages with “seemingly hastily constructed ones.” She highlights challenges in the report’s treatment of national and local ownership, including: an implication that the agenda will be crafted in New York; a failure to articulate how the agenda will reflect national and local priorities and strategies and government accountability to citizens; and an implication that target timelines will be determined at the global level rather than taking into account varying country circumstances and contexts. She describes the financing section as “a long list of potential actions” that lack conceptual unity and technical rigor.

William New of Intellectual Property Watch notes that the report calls for, inter alia: applying intellectual property rights (IPR) at all levels of development in ways that do not detract from human rights; creating a technology platform; establishing modalities for cooperation and cost sharing for Research, Development, Demonstration and Diffusion (RDD&D) for new technologies; and ensuring that the intellectual property regime creates the right incentives for the technological innovation needed for sustainable development, particularly for low-carbon technologies.

Oxfam expresses disappointment at the “under-emphasis” on extreme economic inequality and climate change, and calls for stronger proposals and stand-alone goals on these issues.

Noting that the report only lists consultations driven by the UN system, Participate expresses disappointment and “some traces of anger” that initiatives driven by people are not included. The synthesis report does “not present citizens as active participants in the development process,” Participate observes, suggesting the approach treats people as recipients of development rather than drivers of change. Participate highlights the participatory research processes initiated by civil society that included and engaged people who live in poverty, asking what happened to their voices in the synthesis report.

In an official press release, Plan International welcomes the report’s emphasis on the contribution of children and young people in the future of development, and its recognition of the right to education for all. Plan International recommends furthering strengthening child rights issues in the post-2015 development framework, particularly on issues such as child marriage, violence against children, the rights and needs of girls, and civil registration and vital statistics systems.

Saferworld observes that the report calls for strong institutions, rather than accountable, inclusive, fair and responsive ones, emphasizing the importance of focusing on outcomes for people. Larry Attree and Thomas Wheeler, in an additional blog post, welcome the Secretary-General’s endorsement of the integration of peace, good governance and human rights in the framework, suggesting this inclusion means “there is no turning back on the inclusion of these issues in the months ahead.” The authors observe that the report does not promote addressing aspects of organized crime, apart from corruption and financial flows, describing this omission as the only clear weakness of the report on these sets of issues. They also welcome the report’s suggestion for a technical review process to fine-tune goals and targets and suggest the report could better promote shared global indicators and conflict sensitivity.

Citing a lack of specificity in the report’s proposals, Kitty van der Heijden, Peter Hazlewood and Sonya Suter of the World Resources Institute (WRI) highlight six challenges Member States could face in negotiating the post-2015 development agenda, including that the six proposed elements for delivering on the SDGs are not explicitly linked to the SDGs, leading to uncertainty about the relationships between these elements and the goals. The Secretary-General also could have gone further in providing finance recommendations, WRI argues, suggesting that his report could have more clearly and forcefully articulated priorities, regulations and mechanisms for raising additional resources. They also raise concerns related to: technical tightening of the existing 169 targets; catalyzing, organizing and scaling up partnerships; introducing broader measures of progress; accountability; resources to collect baseline data; and the inclusion of the private sector.

The UN Non-Governmental Liasion Service (UN-NGLS) and Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) created an online mechanism to facilitate feedback from Major Groups and other civil society stakeholders on the report. The website lists organizations that have issued responses to synthesis report. [Brookings Blog] [CAFOD Blog] [CAN Press Release] [Global Dashboard Blog] [Intellectual Property Watch Blog] [Oxfam Statement] [Participate Blog] [Plan International Press Release] [Saferworld Blog] [Saferworld Comments] [WRI Blog] [UN-NGLS/DSD Submission Form] [UN-NGLS/DSD Responses Spreadsheet] [IISD RS Story on Synthesis Report]


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