Analysis of proposals in the SDGs e-Inventory related to the themes of the Sixth Session of the Open Working Group on SDGs

By David Kroeker Maus and Jack Cornforth, Stakeholder Forum

December 2013

Introduction The Sustainable Development Goals e-Inventory is an interactive online tool which enables stakeholders to outline their visions for new post-2015 global goals. This may be in the form of fully formed proposals, which include detailed targets and indicators, or simply principles and themes that should be applied to the goals. The e-Inventory also enables stakeholders to search existing proposals.

The UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG) on SDGs was mandated by Member States at Rio+20 to propose a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) by September 2014. The Sixth Session of the OWG (9-13 December) will consider the thematic areas of: Means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building), and global partnership for achieving sustainable development; Needs of countries in special situations (African countries, LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS, as well as specific challenges facing the middle-income countries); Human rights, the right to development, and global governance.

In order to inform the deliberations of the December OWG meeting, Stakeholder Forum has conducted an analysis of the proposals currently housed within the SDGs e-Inventory which relate to the thematic areas of the Sixth Session. For most of these topics, the SDG e-Inventory already contains a diverse range of proposals, from a wide variety of stakeholders from all global regions. It is hoped that this analysis will be a useful resource for the OWG members, as well other stakeholders involved in discussions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, whether working specifically on the themes of this OWG meeting or otherwise.


Using the search function of the SDGs e-Inventory, relevant proposals were identified using the thematic labels applied to the proposals when they were uploaded. For example, proposals which were categorised under the thematic areas of ‘Human rights,’ and ‘Governance (global/regional)’ have been analysed in the section of the same name, whilst proposals tagged with thematic areas such as ‘Technology/knowledge transfer’ and ‘Partnerships for development’ were analysed in the ‘Means of Implementation’ section.

Frequency of OWG 6 thematic areas in the SDGs e-Inventory

Several of the thematic areas being considered at OWG 6 were among the most popular topics within the e-Inventory. Human rights and Governance (global/regional) were both within the top 10 (out of 55) most selected thematic areas.

As there are a number of thematic areas are subsumed under ‘Means of Implementation’ (MoI), no single thematic area ranked particularly high: ‘Technology/knowledge transfer’ is 28th; ‘Finance for sustainable development is 33rd; ‘Partnerships for development’ is 35th; and ‘Science and research’ is 47th.

Capacity building does not feature as a standalone theme within the e-Inventory, as capacity building is deemed to be an enabler for addressing specific thematic areas, rather than being a thematic area in its own right.. Nonetheless, a keyword search reveals that the term features across proposals in a broad range of thematic areas, ranging from biodiversity conservation to climate change adaptation to agriculture. This would appear to support the assertion that capacity building is not viewed as a goal or theme unto itself, but as a tool which enables stakeholders to take action on particular issues.

Table 1: Top ten most common themes addressed by proposals in the SDGs e-Inventory

Rank Theme No. of proposals that discuss theme
1 Governance (national) 79
2 Gender equality 75
3 Social protection 73
4 Education 67
Human rights
6 Health 65
7 Governance (global/regional) 63
8 Employment and labour 62
9 Food security 60
10 Equality 59

Analysis of proposals

Means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development

The Technical Support Team (TST) issues brief defines MoI as:

‘the interdependent mix of financial resources, technology development and transfer, capacity?building, inclusive and equitable globalization and trade, regional integration, as well as the creation of a national enabling environment required to implement the new sustainable development agenda, particularly in developing countries.’

As several of these issues have already been addressed in previous OWG meetings, we have chosen for the purposes of this analysis, to focus on proposals within the e-Inventory that were tagged under the thematic areas ‘Finance for Sustainable Development,’ ‘Partnerships for Development,’ ‘Technology/Knowledge Transfer,’  and ‘Science and research.’ There were a total of 58 proposals in the e-Inventory tagged with at least one of these three thematic areas (see Figures 1-4 for number of proposals related to each individual thematic area). As with most thematic areas, the largest share came from NGOs, and the most common ‘location of author’ was ‘International,’ followed by, in order, Africa, Europe and Asia. Of the 58 proposals, 19 included specific goals, targets or indicators (GTIs) related to MoI.

Finance for Sustainable Development

Three of the proposals which deal with finance for sustainable development restated a version of the Pearson Target: 0.7% of Gross National Income given as Official Development Assistance (ODA) by rich countries. The proposal entitled “Asia-Pacific Aspirations: Perspectives for a Post-2015 Development Agenda” submitted jointly by ESCAP, ADB and UNDP does not set a numerical target for ODA, but proposes that “Access to traditional ODA should be supplemented by innovative finance.” Tax Justice Africa, on the other hand, argues for accountability in the tax system, rather than traditional aid as a means of financing sustainable development, arguing that malpractice denies developing countries more money in tax revenue than they receive in ODA. Taking a different approach, the proposal from Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, calls for a standalone goal on finance for sustainable development which includes specific targets on microfinance for the poor that are excluded from mainstream development efforts.

Figure 1: Share of proposals related to ‘Finance for SD’ within the e-Inventory

OWG6 Figure1

Partnerships for Development

The MDGs contained a stand-alone goal (#8) on Global Partnership for Development, but as Mark Weinstein’s (USA) proposal points out, it was too focused on state-to-state partnerships, not on grassroots partnerships that are nevertheless global. There is a need, then to insure that any stand-alone goal covers a wider array of partnerships for development. Many proposals referring to partnerships for sustainable development within the e-Inventory were lacking in detail on the sort of partnerships they envisaged. The ones that did offer specifics, however, proposed a wide range of partnerships: Save the Children proposed a stand-alone goal: ‘By 2030 we will have robust global partnerships for more and effective use of financial resources,’ which included targets on, inter alia, transparency and resource mobilisation. ESCAP, ADP and UNDP also propose a stand-alone goal for ‘Strong Development Partnerships,’ with target areas related to different global public goods. The UNCSD Youth Caucus calls for public and private sectors to cooperate in order to make the benefits of new technologies widely available.

Figure 2: Share of proposals related to ‘Partnerships for SD within the e-Inventory

OWG6 Figure2

Technology/Knowledge Transfer

As with ‘partnerships’, details were lacking in many of the submissions that proposed GTIs related to technology transfer. Most proposals seemed to imply transfer technology between countries; for example the French Foreign Ministry proposed a target to ‘Encourage transfers and distribution of clean, environmentally friendly technologies,’ the Centre for Environment and Policy Advocacy (Malawi) called for a goal on technology transfer within countries, ‘including [to] socially excluded groups such as women, children, the elderly and people living with disabilities.’ A proposal by CAST- CIC/WFEO- Digital LIN Chao Geo-museum- CODATA_PASTD envisions an open science environment where technology transfer could be accomplished through an open information network. Marian Deblonde (Belgium) on the other hand proposes a goal in which: ‘Initiatives to transfer technology and knowledge become obsolete since appropriate knowledge is co-constructed by relevant stakeholders and, hence, demand for particular technology and knowledge already exists before it is supplied.’ This proposals sets a target of budgeting money for initiatives to involve stakeholders in the development of appropriate technology rather than mere technology transfer.

Figure 3: Share of proposals related to ‘Technology/Knowledge transfer’ within the e-Inventory

OWG6 Figure3

Science and Research

For the most part, this thematic tag was selected for proposals that addressed issues being discussed in other OWG meetings, such as chemical pollution, oceans and low carbon development. There were only a few proposals which had GTIs specific to science and research. International Movement ATD Fourth World propose a goal entitled ‘Introduce people living in poverty as a new partner in building knowledge on development’ which includes targets on creating new forms of shared knowledge and improving qualitative knowledge and measures of development. Marian Deblonde (Belgium) proposes the goal: ‘Applied science and research is performed in the service of the public good,’ with targets on separating Research & Development (R&D) from short-term financial imperatives.

Figure 4: Share of proposals related to ‘Science and research’ within the e-Inventory

OWG6 Figure4

Comparison with official Post-2015 Development Agenda process inputs

The reports of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the High Level Panel (HLP) also both include the Pearson Target on ODA, suggesting that 0.7% of GNI remains for many the gold standard for development assistance. Significantly, they both also include targets on taxation, with the HLP calling for a target to reduce tax evasion (similar to the proposal by Tax Justice Africa), and the SDSN calls for rules on taxation (among other things) to be reformed to support sustainable development. Whilst the language of the SDSN is somewhat vague, several proposals in the e-Inventory were quite explicit about the sort of progressive taxation that could support sustainable development – a number of which providing specific targets. Interestingly, the UN Global Compact does not propose targets on either ODA or taxation.

Although there is some ambiguity around the concept of partnership in stakeholder proposals in the e-Inventory, official process inputs seem similarly opaque on the matter. The UN Global Compact, does not spell out the functions of its proposed partnerships, and the HLP seems to use the term ‘partnership’ to refer to the entire post-2015 process. This suggests that simply invoking the concept of partnership for sustainable development in the SDGs will be insufficient. Further clarification will be needed on who are envisioned as partners, and what role the intended partnerships will play in the sustainable development process.

Only the SDSN propose a target on technology transfer, just as only a few stakeholder proposals call for traditional technology transfer. The HLP on the other hand includes a target to ‘Promote collaboration on and access to science, technology, innovation, and development data,’ which is perhaps closer to the targets envisioned by many stakeholders’ proposals in the e-Inventory.

Needs of countries in special situations

As stated in the TST Issues Brief on the subject, the MDGs have helped many countries in special situations (African countries, LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS, as well as some middle-income countries) make notable progress on development in recent years. Yet these countries continue to face a wide range of significant and specific challenges that must be addressed for a new global goals framework to be effective.

The nature of this topic and the focus of the e-Inventory mean that it has not been possible to analyse it to the same level of detail as the other issues being discussed at OWG 6. The apparent purpose of OWG 6 is to address the special needs and interests of these countries across a broad range of thematic areas – many of which are being discussed separately at other OWG meetings – rather than a discrete theme. Furthermore, the e-Inventory solicits proposals for a global goals framework rather than those on the specific needs of individual or groups of countries.

Nevertheless, the e-Inventory contains proposals from 23 Field Hearings Partners (FHPs), who are part of the Initiative for Equality (IfE), a partner project that engages stakeholders from around the globe in a range of countries, including those that are Least Developed, African, and landlocked (such as Nepal, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda and Chad), providing them with a platform to voice their recommendations on a broad range of sustainable development issues. Proposals from FHPs therefore provide a useful resource for deliberations on the needs of countries in special situations. Although the FHPs have drawn on their own unique experiences, several trends have emerged.

Inequality was a priority concern for many of the FHPs, something which is relatively unsurprising given the high Gini coefficients in most LDCs. Aide aux Familles et Victimes des Migrations Clandestines (Cameroon) described socio-economic inequality as one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable development. Rev. Jonas Garba (Chad) noted the facade of prosperity in unequal societies and stated that ‘the gap of inequality must be bridged to have a sustainable community.’ This sentiment was echoed by Proclade Cameroon, who argue that ‘A separate stand-alone goal is needed for equitable development and equality so that attention can be focused on this urgent topic,’ which should be accompanied by clear, and measurable targets. Action on Youth Empowerment (Uganda) proposed perhaps the most ambitious goal: ‘Economic inequalities between individuals, communities, groups, and nations must be reduced to the minimum level feasible.’

Perhaps owing to the heightened awareness of resource scarcity in LDCs, several FHPs suggested GTIs aimed at reducing waste. The Charles and Doosurgh Abaagu Foundation (Nigeria) proposed targets on reducing food waste. Similarly, the Grassroots Development Organisation (Rwanda) reiterate the High Level Panel’s targets on reducing post-harvest losses and food waste. Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, emphasises that for microfinance for sustainable development to be effective, it should avoid activities that waste natural resources.

Other notable and perhaps more obvious priority areas emerging from FHP proposals include the elimination of hunger, tackling conflict and instability, strengthening national institutions and the rule of law, empowerment of local communities, gender equality, and building resilience to climate change.

Human rights and global governance

The TST Issues Brief argues that: ‘Since human rights and sustainable development objectives are closely linked and mutually reinforcing, addressing these human rights gaps [in the MDGs] will be essential for truly sustainable development,’ and thus must be addressed in the SDGs. The importance of human rights to sustainable development is reflected in the massive number of submissions in the e-Inventory that address this theme. Over one-quarter of proposals selected human rights as a thematic area (See Figure 5), and it is identified as a cross-cutting issue for almost every other thematic area.

If the amount of attention given to a particular thematic area by stakeholders is indeed an indication of its importance to sustainable development, then global governance is similarly crucial; this thematic area is also addressed in over a quarter of the proposals in the e-Inventory (See Figure 6). The TST Issues Brief notes that ‘International arrangements for collective decision making have not kept pace with the magnitude and depth of global change. The increasing interdependence of the global economy and integrated decision making call for better mechanisms of global governance for tackling sustainable development challenges.’

Figure 5: Share of proposals related to ‘Human Rights’ within the e-Inventory

OWG6 Figure5


Figure 6: Share of proposals related to Global/regional governance within the e-Inventory

OWG6 Figure6

Human Rights

Of the 61 proposals which selected ‘Human rights’ as a thematic area, 16 proposed specific GTIs. The percentage of these proposals is slightly lower than for other thematic areas. This is primarily because human rights have been viewed as an overarching issue, with it often argued that all sustainable development goals should take a rights-based approach. Thus, many proposals that suggested GTIs related to, for example, water, sexual and reproductive health or governance, situated their proposals within the context of the realisation of human rights.

Although for most thematic areas, NGOs account for more proposals in the SDGs e-Inventory than any other stakeholder type, their share of proposals related to Human Rights is exceptionally disproportionate, with NGOs accounting for more proposals than all other stakeholders combined. Although this disparity is striking, it perhaps should not be too surprising, given the significant role played by civil society organisations in human rights campaigns. The geographic distribution of proposals was roughly consistent with other thematic areas, with the largest share of proposals coming from International authors, followed by, in order, Europe, Africa and Asia.

It is also notable that many proposals which were labelled with the thematic are of ‘Human rights’ deal with gender equality, suggesting that many stakeholders shared the view of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights.’ As the Eighth Session of the OWG will be considering gender equality, we will not be analysing these proposals in this paper; nevertheless, it is worth noting that many stakeholders do not separate these two issues.

There were a significant number of process-related GTIs relating to human rights – although within some conceptualisations of the issue, a change in laws or treaties could potentially be considered a human rights ‘outcome.’ For example, the Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives proposes targets for anti-discrimination laws. International Movement ATD Fourth World calls for ‘Align[ing] development targets and their implementation with human rights norms and standards.’

Proposals addressed a broad spectrum of human rights, but there were several commonalities. A number of proposals offered GTIs related to access to justice systems. The African Youth Conference on Post-2015 Development Agenda proposed a target of ‘equal and unrestricted access to an effective justice system both in urban and rural areas that is not respective of status and financial background.’ The CONCORD European Task Force proposed a similar goal using slightly different language: ‘Universal access to an independent justice system and no impunity.’

Freedom of information featured in proposed GTIs from Save the Children, the Civil Society Reflection Group, and the Beyond 2015/GCAP/IFP national deliberations. The Arab NGO Network for Development proposed a goal entitled ‘An End of Occupation’ arguing that ‘The Post-2015 development agenda should include a clear goal with regards to the right to self-determination.’

Global Governance

Of the 57 proposals which selected ‘Governance (global/regional)’ as a thematic area, 25 included specific GTIs related to this theme. Once again, NGOs accounted for the largest share, but 10 different stakeholder types were represented, higher than for any of the other thematic areas in this analysis. Surprisingly, then, there was less geographic diversity among the authors of these proposals, with Africa accounting for a smaller share of proposals than in other thematic areas, and North America accounting for none.

Three different kinds of proposals related to global governance can be distinguished within the e-Inventory:

  1. Proposals that attempt to improve ‘global governance’ through an aggregate improvement in national governance. For example, Save the Children propose the target, ‘Ensure all countries have transparent governance, with open budgeting, freedom of information and holistic corporate reporting.’
  2. Proposals that distinguish between different levels of governance and propose GTIs to improve both national and intergovernmental governance or governance ‘at all levels’. For example, International Movement ATD Fourth World propose, ‘Ensure that national and international structures encourage participatory governance.’
  3. Proposals that suggest new mechanisms of global governance. For example Geetha Iakmini, an Initiative for Equality Field Hearing Partner from Sri Lanka proposes inter alia, ‘Targets on reducing the dumping of waste, oil, and other water pollutants, with clear international institutional mechanisms for this.’

The majority of proposals discussed in this section identified global governance as a cross-cutting issue. There were, however, proposals which called for stand-alone goals on global governance.
The most common sub-theme within global governance was corruption, with eight proposals for GTIs on corruption, usually in connection with GTIs related to transparency or accountability, but also in connection with strengthening institutions and the rule of law. David Lee (Australia) proposes creating a ‘new global blacklist of companies known to be engaging in corruption.’ Other proposals that do not propose specific GTIs also highlighted the need to combat corruption in order to achieve sustainable development.

The Campaign for Peoples’ Goals for Sustainable Development (CPGSD) proposed a stand-alone goal entitled ‘Democracy and Good Governance’ which, in addition to targets similar to those proposed by Transparency International, includes a target on compliance of business and industry with international human rights norms and mandatory reporting requirements, and another target on access to remedies for victims of human rights violations, displaying that stakeholders also see a close link between these two OWG themes.

The International Poverty Reduction Centre in China proposes a goal entitled ‘Improve global governance for international development,’ which includes targets on the accessibility of global public goods. There were only slight differences in the language used for other stand-alone goals on this theme, with some proposals entitled ‘Good Governance,’ and others ‘Just Governance.’ The more significant variations were among the targets and indicators, which are discussed below.

As noted above, there were also proposals for new mechanisms of global governance for issues that are sometimes beyond the scope of individual national governments. For example, the Participate Ground Level Panel in India proposed a goal to ‘Enforce mechanisms to prevent tax evasion by corporates: This tax should be rightfully paid to Governments who can in turn use this for the development of the poor.’ The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) proposed a goal entitled ‘Universal social protection’ which proposed ‘Implementation of a universal social protection floor based on ILO Recommendation No.202’ and the ‘Creation of a global fund to help the poorest countries implement a social protection floor.’

Comparison with official Post-2015 Development Agenda process inputs

Human rights

Just as many of the proposals within the e-Inventory addressed human rights and gender equality jointly, the SDSN report proposed a goal entitled ‘Achieve Gender Equality, Social Inclusion, and Human Rights for All.’

The HLP report does not propose a stand-alone goal on human rights, but similar to many e-Inventory proposals suggests that the post-2015 framework should be rights-based. The UN Global Compact, in contrast to both the HLP and the majority of proposals within the e-Inventory, puts the realisation of human rights together with good governance in a stand-alone goal.

Global governance

There was significant overlap between proposals in the e-Inventory and the goals proposed in official Post-2015 Development Agenda inputs on the issue of global governance. Of the five targets in the HLP Report’s proposed goal entitled ‘Ensure Good Governance and Effective Institutions,’ only one – ‘Provide free and universal legal identity, such as birth registrations’ was not taken up in any of the e-Inventory proposals. Variants of the other four targets – related to fundamental freedoms (speech, press, association, etc.); public participation in governance; and freedom of information – were all included, often in multiple proposals. Indeed, Development Initiatives (UK) calls for ‘Access to information as a goal in its own right.’

The targets listed under the SDSN report’s goal to ‘Transform Governance for Sustainable Development’ are echoed by many proposals related to global governance in the e-Inventory. This includes numeric targets for monitoring and evaluation systems for both governments and businesses, and finance for sustainable development. Interestingly, however, most of these were not categorised under the ‘Governance (global/regional)’ thematic area. Similarly, the CPGSD proposes a goal entitled, ‘New Trade, Monetary and Financial Architecture,’ which contains several targets similar to SDSN’s. Whilst the CPGSD proposal is categorised under ‘global governance,’ many similar proposals in the e-Inventory are not. It seems that, even where there is agreement on which issues need to be addressed in the SDGs, there are different understandings of which can or should be considered matters of global governance.

More information

Stakeholder Forum will be publishing briefing papers with an analysis of proposals in the SDGs e-Inventory related to the themes of each of the remaining two Open Working Group meetings (OWG 7, Jan 2014 and OWG 8, Feb 2014).

Stakeholder Forum will also be undertaking a comprehensive analysis of all proposals housed within the e-Inventory to coincide with the second Intersessional Meeting between Major Groups and other stakeholders and the Open Working Group which is set to take place towards the end of the OWG’s input phase of work in February 2014.

For further information, to search existing proposals, or to submit your vision for new global goals visit: or contact Jack Cornforth – [email protected].

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The SDGs e-Inventory is supported by:

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