The Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has finally concluded its work with the “adoption” of a set of sustainable development goals. This lengthy and intense process comprised of 13 sessions, which began in March 2013 and closed its final session on Saturday, July 19 after 26 hours of uninterrupted negotiations. Ultimately, Member States supported a report containing 17 goals and 169 targets. This document will be the foundation of the Secretary-General’s synthesis report (to be released in November 2014) and will serve as the basis of intergovernmental negotiations starting in early 2015.
The OWG is mandated to submit a report to the Assembly at its sixty-eighth session, containing a proposal for sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action. It is important to note that the OWG outcome document is not legally binding, but rather it is only a report, which will be further negotiated by Member States. The OWG outcome document was adopted by “acclamation,” which is only a formality. In other words, Member States adopted the outcome document knowing it was not a final document and further negotiations will take place over the proposed goals and targets. Thus, further strengthened advocacy efforts are necessary for us to maintain the achievements of the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
A complete assessment of the value and importance of this report can only be made in autumn when Member States complete their national assessments/analyses and decide on the process forward. The Secretary-General, the OWG Co-Chairs and likely others (to whom the recent document is favorable) will use the autumn period to convince other Member States to agree to as many as possible of the proposed OWG goals and targets.
Even in the late phase of negotiations, cultural and political points of contention were evident between Member States. One of the most controversial issues was the goal on gender equality, due to references to sexual and reproductive health and rights, early marriage, and access to equal inheritance and property. Proposed goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all” was one of the most challenging for consensus. The reference to peaceful societies, the lack of mention of foreign occupation, and the collision with the Security Council mandate all created problems until the very end of the process.
In regards to references to persons with disabilities, there are 9 explicit references to persons with disabilities in the outcome document:
Chapeau = 2
Goal 4: education = 2
Goal 8: employment = 1
Goal 10: reduce inequality = 1
Goal 11: inclusive cities = 2
Goal 17: Means of implementation, data = 1
“inclusive” was re-inserted into the education goal title
“inclusive and peaceful society” is part of the goal 16 title.
Details of disability-inclusive references in outcome document
Chapeau, paragraph 4: People are at the centre of sustainable development and, in this regard, Rio+20 promised to strive for a world that is just, equitable and inclusive, and committed to work together to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection and thereby to benefit all, in particular the children of the world, youth and future generations of the world without distinction of any kind such as age, sex, disability, culture, race, ethnicity, origin, migratory status, religion, economic or other status.
Chapeau, paragraph 17: In order to monitor the implementation of the SDGs, it will be important to improve the availability of and access to data and statistics disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts to support the support the monitoring of the implementation of the SDGs. There is a need to take urgent steps to improve the quality, coverage and availability of disaggregated data to ensure that no one is left behind.
Proposed goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all
4.5 by 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and children in vulnerable situations
4.a build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all
Proposed goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
8.5 by 2030 achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
Proposed goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
10.2 by 2030 empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
Proposed goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
11.2 by 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons
11.7 by 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
Proposed Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Proposed goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Systemic issues; Data, monitoring and accountability
17.18 by 2020, enhance capacity building support to developing countries, including for LDCs and SIDS, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts
Despite the excellent outcome for persons with disabilities, we still have much work to do. There is pressure to consolidate the 17 goals into 12 with five targets each and thus, we will have to strongly advocate Member States to continue to push for disability-inclusive language in the final document and throughout the processes leading to the post-2015.
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