Input to Questionnaire related to the development of Sustainable Development Goals
Switzerland has as yet no final position on SDGs and the post-2015 process. However,
Switzerland identifies important principles for such a process and for a future post-2015
framework from previous negotiations, particularly the MDG review and the Rio process,
A convergence of the SDG agenda with the post-MDG agenda into one process (“post-
2015”) and one single set of future goals.
New goals have to be based on the results and assessments of the MDG review, the
Millennium Declaration, the Rio+20 Outcome, as well as on a sound scientific basis.
A balanced consideration and integration of all dimensions of sustainable development
(social, economic and environmental) as well as the dimension of peace and security.
The following key areas must be central elements of a new agenda: poverty and reduction
of inequalities; the necessity to protect the environmental and natural resources, and to
address fragility of states; and the nexus food/energy/water.
Protection of human rights and a peaceful and safe development
Universally applicable goals, which can be used for all countries, but allow for
differentiated approaches or/and country-specific adaptations.
Inclusion of financial flows beyond official development aid, with a special focus on
mobilizing resources from developing countries and from the private sector.
To use synergies with other relevant international agreements and initiatives.
Action and result-oriented framework.
Clear and measurable targets and indicators with a mechanism for periodic review,
accountability and reporting on progress.
Goals that are time-limited, limited in numbers, and clear and easy to communicate.
Switzerland is currently holding national consultation, also with relevant
stakeholders. The answers provided are therefore to be seen as preliminary and
might be further developed in the light of the international discussions.
The Rio outcome document states that the SDGs should be limited in number, and at the
same time focus on priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development.
1. Please list a limited number, preferably between five and ten, of the important
priority areas that must be addressed through the SDGs to contribute to the
achievement of sustainable development.
Switzerland does not yet have a final position on priority areas. However, as a first input,
Switzerland would like to propose 1) some possible criteria to identify SDGs, and 2) some
preliminary thoughts on priority areas. During the Rio+20 negotiations, Switzerland used the
following criteria list to identify SDGs priorities, which might be useful for further
- Importance for countries and global impact: Is the theme equally important for all
countries? Can it be concretized for country groups?
- Relevance: How relevant is a theme for all dimensions of sustainable development?
How does it contribute to the implementation of the JPOI, namely poverty eradication,
changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, managing the natural
resource base of economic and social development? How does it advance the
implementation of the results of all major UN summits in the economic, social and
environmental fields? How does it contribute to equity?
- Leverage: Does the theme provide for significant leverage for promoting sustainable
development in general, and for each of the dimension of sustainable development in
particular? Does it have a good potential for improvement?
- Concreteness: Can the theme be concretized in a country and context-specific
manner? Is it useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable
- Problem-solving competence: Where are the largest gaps impeding effective action at
the level of knowledge, aptitude, means, commitment, or legitimacy? Does it address
an urgent need for action?
- Resilience: Can negative impacts be buffered within socio-ecological contexts, or will
there be lasting damage?
- Reversibility: Can a negative process be reversed and the original state restored?
- Speed of change: How dynamic is the change process? Do changes occur within
hours, days, months, years, or decades?
- Regional disparities: Are there differences between continents or sub-continental
regions in how severely they are affected?
- Impact: Who is affected by negative processes, and how severe and widespread is
- Responsibility: What are the most effective levels of intervention? International,
national, business, community or individual actors?
- Legitimacy: Does the theme have a high legitimacy based on existing international
agreements and commitments?
2. With respect to possible priority areas, there are a range of areas discussed, and
Switzerland cannot offer a prioritization at that stage. These are: Nexus sustainable
energy, food and nutrition security, and sustainable agriculture; water and the efficient
use of resources; (disaster) resilience; urbanization; chemical and waste; biodiversity;
green economy; decent work; economic stability, including financial and
macroeconomic stability; gender education; health, social security and protection.
Governance at all levels, human rights, justice/rule of law, representative and
With regard to the above list, the areas could represent possible future goals of
transversal issues. If a goal is chosen, it should incorporate all three dimensions of
sustainable development and be formulated accordingly.
The SDGs “should address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of
sustainable development and their interlinkages. They should be coherent with and
integrated into the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015, thus contributing to the
achievement of sustainable development and serving as a driver for implementation and
mainstreaming of sustainable development in the United Nations system as a whole. The
development of these goals should not divert focus or effort from the achievement of the
Millennium Development Goals” (The Future We Want, paragraph 246).
2. How might the SDGs strive to balance the economic, social and environmental
pillars of sustainable development?
The SDGs should strive to balance the economic, social and environmental dimension as
indicated in option a). As Switzerland promotes an integrated post-2015 framework, which
also incorporates the follow-up of the MDG agenda, this framework should incorporate
lessons learnt and follow-up of the MDGs as indicated in b). However, approach c) does not
seem to enable an integration of the three dimensions as the environmental pillar is separate
from the other dimensions. We offer the following thoughts for consideration:
a. Reflect social, economic and environmental dimensions within each SDG,
possibly through the associated targets
One example of this approach is the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative. Here we have
different targets in all three dimensions: targets on access to energy (social and development
dimension); sustainable energy production targets (ecological dimension); and efficiency
targets (economic dimension). A similar approach could be envisaged for a water goal or a
goal on food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture. It could be thought through for
sustainable resource-use in general (biodiversity, water, soils, etc.).
b. Integrate the MDGs, suitably modified/updated for post-2015, into a larger
sustainable development framework.
A thorough review of the MDGs, as foreseen in the review 2013, will reveal gaps in
achievements. As equity and the social dimension constitute an important building block for
SDGs, these gaps will then have to be considered in a future framework.
To integrate and modify MDGs is certainly feasible for a range of themes. Specifically:
MDG1 on hunger can be integrated into an enlarged and comprehensive goal on food and
nutrition security and sustainable agriculture. Similar approaches could be envisaged with
health (MDG4, 5 and 6).
A follow-up on MDG2 education could address the relevance of education with regard to the
different dimensions, taking into account the special relevance of the social dimension in the
education field. Switzerland would assume that further goals are based on ongoing
international initiatives such as “Education for All” and” Education First”.
One important element of the MDGs is MDG8 on global partnership. MDG8 lays out the
agenda of policy coherence in the context of sustainable development and addresses
important issues related to the enabling environment for development. A careful
consideration of this agenda and its integration into a future post-2015 framework is
important. Whether it will be a free-standing goal, such as MDG8, or will be integrated into all
goals, will have to be considered carefully.
c. Expand MDG7 (‘environmental sustainability’) into a number of goals with a
natural/environmental resource dimension (water, food, energy, etc.)
d. Other (please describe)
The SDGs must be “global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking
into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting
national policies and priorities” (The Future We Want, paragraph 247).
3. Based on your experience with MDGs or other existing goals, what would be the key
use of SDGs for your country (select at most two)?
a. Defining national policies
b. Influencing national budget allocations
c. Reviewing the impact of national policies
d. Addressing key pressure leading to unsustainability
e. Helping to balance economic, social and environmental pillars in policy making
f. Guiding development cooperation
g. Other (please describe)
Please explain your choices if you would like:
The MDGs were important to guide development cooperation (hence f). Therefore,
Switzerland expects SDGs to be important to guide international cooperation on sustainable
development (hence g “guiding international cooperation on sustainable
development”). Common goals will be an important basis to cooperate at the international
level and to invest in developing countries, particularly LDCs. But Switzerland expects SDGs
to play an increasingly important role in domestic policy and to contribute to increased
coherence between national sectoral policies as well as international cooperation. While they
will probably not define Swiss national policies, they could have an influence on the national
sustainable development strategy (hence a).
4. How can “universally applicable” SDGs be made practically relevant for countries at
different levels of development? (Please refer to your country’s situation as
Switzerland expects goals to address globally relevant themes for all countries. The
“Sustainable Energy for All” initiative serves as an example for this approach: For
Switzerland, the access target is not that important, but the targets “energy efficiency” and
“sustainable energy production” will be relevant for domestic policy. For a developing
country, on the other hand, the access to energy remains important and Switzerland will
support this in the context of its development cooperation. Additionally, in facilitating access
to energy, countries will also have to take into account the other targets of sustainability and
efficiency. Switzerland also expects that a goal on “food security and nutrition and
sustainable agriculture” would have dimensions that are relevant at the domestic and the
international levels, e.g., reduction of food waste and post-harvest loss (see Zero Hunger
In the field of urbanization, the provision of services and basic infrastructure might be key for
developing countries, while addressing urban sprawl might be a priority for a country like
Switzerland. In order to trigger action, the SDGs and the implementation/monitoring process
should be as mandatory and concrete as possible.
5. The SDGs are supposed to be “global in nature”. Should targets associated with
those goals be:
a. common to all countries?
b. defined by each country? or
c. common but differentiated depending on country characteristics and level of
development? If c., please explain how.
Switzerland has no final position on this. However, in order for the SDGs to be global in
nature, each of the overarching goals needs to be broken down in targets which also reflect
global ambitions. As in the case of the MDGs, the goals and targets should outline global
ambitions to be met collectively by the international community (but not necessarily by each
country on its own). It is therefore important that there is some sound guidance and scientific
backing to proposals to be made and that the experience of the MDGs is analyzed
thoroughly. There also seems to be some evidence that complementing the global goals and
targets with a national target-setting process and monitoring could make sense, yet not
necessarily as part of the global process.
The SDGs must be based on Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, fully
respect all the Rio Principles, build upon commitments already made, and contribute to the
implementation of the outcomes of all major summits in the economic, social and
environmental fields (The Future We Want, paragraph 246).
6. Which existing goals and targets (e.g., MDGs, goals/targets in Agenda 21, JPOI) do
you think should be incorporated – perhaps in updated form – in a proposal for
sustainable development goals?
Apart from the mentioned reference to the Rio Principles etc., Switzerland expects SDGs
also to be based on the Millennium Declaration and the Rio+20 Outcome itself.
The current MDGs and particularly the results of the MDGs review will be an important
input to the framework. MDGs already incorporate existing goals in the social dimension; the
review will reveal existing gaps in achievements.
Economic and political governance should be addressed on the basis, or as an update, of
MDG8 and the relative commitments in the field of trade, finance, etc. A careful analysis of
the necessary international and national enabling environment for sustainable development
should form the basis.
Policy coherence for sustainable development should be addressed possibly as an update
and expansion of MDG8.
Switzerland would also like to draw attention to the work of UNEP on “Environmental
Goals and Gaps”. This work constitutes a compilation of internationally agreed goals and
assesses their achievement.
The report could be used to select important environmental goals and incorporate
environmental targets across SDGs.
An extended list of internationally agreed goals is available under: http://geg.informea.org/
In the field of food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture, consideration
should be given to the Five Rome Principles for Sustainable Global Food Security adopted in
2009 as well as to the “Zero Hunger” initiative launched by the UN Secretary General at
For gender, the relevant decisions are the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
Discrimination against Women, as well as Agenda 21 and the Beijing Declaration and
Platform for Action.
For issues related to peace and security and fragile states, the New Deal for Engagement
in Fragile States of the Busan Declaration should be considered.
Generally, we assume that existing international initiatives, such as “Education for All”,
will be evaluated and form a basis to define a program for action.
A systematic overview of existing commitments in all three dimensions (environmental, social
and economic) could form a basis for decision. This could include recent decisions on social
protection floors or considerations concerning gender, etc. For the environmental pillar, such
a compendium can be found on the following website: http://geg.informea.org/
The SDGs “should be coherent with and integrated into the United Nations development
agenda beyond 2015”. (The Future We Want, paragraph 246)
7. What specific steps can be taken to ensure that the SDGs are coherent with and
integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015?
In Switzerland’s view, there should be one coherent post-2015 agenda with one single set of
universal goals by 2015 (see preliminary remarks).
This can only be achieved, if the post-2015 process is structured accordingly and fully
incorporates sustainable development principles. There will be input from the OWG on
SDGs, the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, from countries, as well
as from thematic consultations. It will be important to bring these inputs together at one stage
before 2015 in order to develop a common framework.
“We recognize that progress towards the achievement of the goals needs to be assessed
and accompanied by targets and indicators, while taking into account different national
circumstances, capacities and levels of development.” (The Future We Want, paragraph
8. How should assessments of progress toward the achievement of the SDGs be
carried out at the global level?
Switzerland expects SDGs to include indicators that are based on a conceptual indicator
framework. This framework and the related indicators have to be based on the experiences
made by countries in monitoring sustainable development and on the work done by the Joint
UNECE-OECD-Eurostat Task Force on Measuring Sustainable Development. Capacity
building and supporting countries to measure progress are important. Synergies with other
programs or initiatives like “beyond GDP” could be explored.
At the international level, a global sustainable development report, as foreseen in The Future
We Want, paragraph 85k, might be used as monitoring/reporting tool.
“The Future We Want” states that at the outset the Open Working Group will decide on its
methods of work, “including developing modalities to ensure the full involvement of relevant
stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the United Nations
system … .” (para. 248)
9. What measures should be taken to make the process of developing a proposal for
SDGs inclusive and participatory? How should civil society and other relevant
stakeholders be engaged?
Regarding the work of the OWG on SDGs, there are, in Switzerland’s view, two
- On one hand, the OWG needs some space for discussion and consideration among its
members in order to avoid political confrontation.
- On the other hand, inputs from countries that are not members of the OWG and from
stakeholders are important.
Switzerland expects the OWG to have closed meetings and deliberations. However, there
should be regular information to and consultations with UN member states which are not
represented in the OWG, as well as with stakeholders and the scientific community. This
includes the sharing of information about themes and the agenda of OWG meetings
There is also a clear expectation that the method of work should be constructive and based
on sound proposals. It will be difficult for an intergovernmental negotiation group to elaborate
proposals. A more efficient way would be to discuss inputs which are prepared by a
competent secretariat with support from the UN System.
Meetings should also take place in locations other than New York and consultation should be
organized in a way that stakeholders, especially from developing countries, can give input.
This would require good support from a secretariat to facilitate the information flow and the
The structure developed for the reformed Committee on Food Security could be a useful
example since it includes the participation of all relevant stakeholders.
10. What principles should underpin the development of the SDGs? (the UN TT report,
for example, recommended adding (i) reducing inequalities, (ii) promoting human
rights (iii), and ensuring sustainability);
Switzerland supports all three principles proposed by the UN TT: (i) reducing inequalities, (ii)
promoting human rights, and (iii) ensuring sustainability.
11. How should a new Global Partnership for Development be constructed within or
around the SDGs?
A new Global Partnership for Development will have to be a major ingredient for the post-
2015 agenda. Switzerland expects the following elements to be included in such a
- To encompass all forms of partnerships and all actors, including governments, civil society,
private sector, scientific community
- To have a specific focus on the effects on vulnerable groups and countries (e.g. LDCs,
- To address key areas for global collective action. This includes management of migration,
global health and global environmental challenges, access to knowledge, development and
transfer of technologies, trade or financial regulation and other issues, which are relevant for
an enabling environment
- To be based on the Busan Principles for Effective Development Cooperation, including the
New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States
- To have a clear framework of (mutual) accountability and transparency both towards a
domestic constituency as well as at the international level.
12. Do you have any other observations, ideas or inputs you would like to offer to
inform the initial work of the open working group on sustainable development goals?
1. The process of setting up the SDG framework should ensure that the framework is defined
in a way that makes it measurable with existing official statistics and adaptable in
function of need and possibilities of countries. Switzerland prefers absolute over relative
targets, because the latter are much more difficult to measure and interpret.
2. The UN Task Team report has also referred to the important dimension of peace and
security. This will be particularly relevant to countries in conflict or post-conflict setting.
Additionally, many themes have a potential for conflict if they are not addressed in a
sustainable way; for example, food security and natural resource management (energy,
water, land) are also a source for potential conflict. Switzerland therefore welcomes a
comprehensive approach, which also addresses the peace and security dimension. This
should particularly incorporate the potential of preemptive measures as, for example, the
integration of Disaster Risk Reduction.
3. Furthermore, economic and political governance and policy coherence for sustainable
development should be addressed explicitly, since an addition of sectoral approaches does
not by itself lead to a balance of the economic, social and environmental pillars.
4. Additionally, Switzerland stresses the need to integrate the various key international
agencies, in function with their particular mandate, into the process and for consultation. This
includes UNESCO for education, WHO in the field of health, etc. In the field of “food security
and nutrition and sustainable agriculture”, it should be ensured that the Rome-based UN
Agencies (FAO, FIDA, WFP, Bioversity) are involved in the process in a way that highlights
both their interactions as well as their key role and position on this issues at the international