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Participate with the Open Working Group on SDGs
At Rio+20 - the UN Conference on Sustainable Development - countries agreed to establish an intergovernmental process to develop a set of “action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate” sustainable development goals (SDGs) to help drive the implementation of sustainable development. The Rio+20 outcome document, “The Future We Want,” also calls for the goals to be coherent with the UN's development agenda beyond 2015.

A 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly is tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs. The Group has established a 8 sessions schedule of work that cover several areas that could be included as SDGs. Major Groups and other stakeholders can contribute to the debate by participating in the OWG meeting and/or in the Morning Hearings with the Co-Chairs of the OWG or its preparation.

Major Group Position Papers

Participating in the Open Working Group meetings, and the Morning Hearings with the Co-Chairs

The Open Working Group sessions are open to participation by representatives from accredited entities (such as those NGOs in consultation with the UN Economic and Social Council). Participants may access the premises using their annual UN grounds pass, in the usual way.

Like all sustainable development processes convened under the UN, the OWG interfaces with non-state actors using the Major Groups structure defined in Agenda 21. Representatives from each of the nine Major Groups sectors are seated as official observers to the OWG sessions, and can flag the Co-Chairs to intervene in the discussions accordingly. Observers are usually given the floor to speak after political groups and governments have had a chance to intercede. Stakeholder interventions must be coordinated through the major groups organizing partners. The full program of the upcoming sessions is available here

Participating in Morning Hearings with the Co-Chairs

As co-chairs of the OWG, the Permanent Representatives of Hungary and Kenya to the UN have requested to hold open and inclusive meetings with major groups and other stakeholders from 9:00 to 10:00 each morning before each OWG session. Each morning meeting is organized around the specific themes being taken up by the OWG on that day.

To facilitate the inclusive and transparent planning of these meetings, interested stakeholders are encouraged to join an open steering committee to organize each session. The work of the steering committee includes selecting two panellists to make brief presentations to frame the issues, and compiling a speakers list for those who wish to follow up with reactions and brief interventions. Each steering committee should have a clear organizational structure that avoids conflict of interest between the steering committee and panellists. It is essential that the steering committee is formed well in advance of the meeting to develop a transparent and balanced process for selecting these speakers, with the objective of streamlining inputs wisely during the one-hour session.

The format of these meetings is structured around two brief presentations to frame the topic, followed by interventions from the floor reacting to the information or supplementing it with different points of view. Some useful guidance for presenters is included below.

Organizations interested in contributing to any of the upcoming sessions (each day will be organized by its own steering committee), can enter information online using the following links:

(please note deadlines for expressing interest below)

The intergovernmental process on SDGs known as the open working group, or OWG, is open to participation by representatives from accredited entities (such as those NGOs in consultation with the UN Economic and Social Council). Participants may access the premises using their annual UN grounds pass, in the usual way.

(please complete as online forms and click ‘Submit')

Fifth session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

View responses

  • 9 December: Means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building)
  • 10 December: Global partnership for achieving sustainable development
  • 11 December: Needs of countries in special situations, African countries, LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS, as well as specific challenges facing the middle-income countries, and the right to development
  • 12 December: Human rights
  • 13 December: Global governance

Click here to express interest for 7th session (6-10 January 2014) - View responses - Summary of responses - Financial Aid

  • 6 January: Sustainable cities and human settlements
  • 7 January: Sustainable transport
  • 8 January: Sustainable consumption and production (including chemicals and waste),
  • 9 January: Climate change
  • 10 January: Disaster risk reduction

Click here to express interest for 8th session (3-7 February 2014) - View responses - Summary of responses - Financial Aid

  • 3 February: Oceans and seas
  • 4 February: Forests and biodiversity
  • 5 February: Promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women's empowerment
  • 6 February: Conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and the promotion of durable peace
  • 7 February: Rule of law and governance

Sample questions fromt he co-chairs
(based on previous meetings)
  • Does the North-South divide still exist?
  • How should SDGs be adapted for countries with aging populations? Or for countries in population decline?
  • How can we finance the skyrocketing costs of universal heath care and education?
  • What should be the ideal national budgetary allocation to public health care?
  • Is there such a thing as unwanted population growth?
  • How should we harness the data revolution for sustainable development?
Guidance and best practices for steering committees

As this is an evolving process, it has been found that steering committees should follow certain criteria in the selection of speakers—two panellists making brief presentations to frame the issues under discussion, followed by a short list of speakers offering reactions and brief interventions from the floor:

  • All speakers should come from organizations with a global/regional focus that work actively in the specific themes under discussion, and must represent the results of broad and inclusive research, having consulted thoroughly with other partners.
  • In order to advance quickly and make efficient use of the time, all participants must express flexibility in collaborating with others who intend to make similar presentations. Steering committees must give speaking priority to those groups that show willingness to join forces.
  • Facilitators from each steering committee must set up a mailing list to enable good advance coordination, and each steering committee will hold at least one face-to-face meeting between facilitators and panellists in New York to finalize all outstanding issues before their morning meeting with the OWG co-chairs.
  • All participants should disclose the content of their presentations to the steering committee in advance so that the presentations showcase a broad compliment of perspectives.
  • Participants should represent good regional and gender balance.
  • Facilitators from the different steering committees should communicate regularly about their progress and what types of proposals are emerging from their participants. This helps to ensure good balance of representatives among the different themes under discussion, as well as promote transparency across the bottom-up organizing process.
  • Interventions must advance recommendations of goals, targets and indicators relevant to the SDG process.
  • As these are meant to be interactive dialogues, all speakers should stand prepared to answer on-the-spot questions from the co-chairs.
  • All presentations should aim to directly address any guiding questions provided by the co-chairs in advance of the session. Such guidance material would be made available to all stakeholders online well in advance of the meeting.
  • Participants taking the floor should tailor their interventions to react appropriately to the information presented by the two panellists, or supplement it with different points of view.
  • Speakers should strive to present their ideas from an outline of notes rather than reading a prepared statement.
  • The final order in which speakers will take the floor should be decided based on consideration of all the aforementioned criteria.

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