Review of SG's Synthesis Report on Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda (Part 1 of 2)

SG's Synthesis Report confirms business' priorities for sustainable development agenda as universal and essential

On December 4, 2014, the Secretary-General submitted a synthesis report to the General Assembly, titled "The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet," which set out his views on the key inputs and framework for the coming post-2015 Development Agenda outcomes.

Significantly, the Report emphasizes a number of messages that the Business for Post-2015 community has prioritized, noting that people across the world are underscoring the need "for democracy, rule of law, civic space and more effective governance and capable institutions; for new and innovative partnerships, including with responsible business and effective local authorities; and for a data revolution, rigorous accountability mechanisms, and renewed global partnerships"  (paragraph 23).

Acknowledgment that business already innovating for sustainable development and stands ready to contribute more, given appropriate enabling environments

The report also recognizes that the private sector stands ready to make a significant contribution to the sustainable development project, if the proper governance structures and incentives are put in place.  According to the Synthesis Report, "forward- looking companies are taking the lead by transforming their business models for sustainable development, and that we have only scratched the surface of the potential for ethics-driven investment by the private sector. With the right incentives, policies, regulations and monitoring, great opportunities couldRio abound" (paragraph 31).

Report proposes a new framing of goals and targets that reflects the "ambition of a universal and transformative agenda" and that will inspire partnerships and mobilize essential actors

The Synthesis Report also proposes a new over-arching framing of the Open Working Group's draft Sustainable Development Goals to make them more readily understood and more likely to inspire action, or, as the Report states to "frame the goals and targets in a way that reflects the ambition of a universal and transformative agenda."  According to the Report, 

Success will equally depend on the power of the new agenda to inspire and mobilize essential actors, new partnerships, key constituencies, and the broader global citizenry. For this, we will need an agenda that resonates with the experiences and needs of people, that can be understood, and embraced. The agenda and goals should also be received at the country level in a way that would ensure a transition of the MDGs to the broader and more transformative sustainable development agenda and effectively become an integral part of national and regional visions and plans" (paragraph 61).

Recalling the Rio+20 Outcome document ("A Future We Want"), the Synthesis Report states that the Member States mandate is that the "SDGs should be action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, 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" (paragraph 62, quoting para. 247 of "Future We Want").

To implement this vision, the Synthesis Report proposes the following over-arching framework into which the current draft goals and targets could be organized:

Dignity: to end poverty and fight inequalities 

People: to ensure healthy lives, knowledge, and the inclusion of women and children 

Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive, and transformative economy 

Planet: to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children 

Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions  

Partnership: to catalyse global solidarity for sustainable development 

Report emphasizes the need to stimulate private flows to achieve the post-2015 agenda

The Synthesis Report also offers its views on the essential work of the Finance for Development agenda and emphasizes the crucial need to bring in private flows to fund the SDG process:

"Urgent action is needed to mobilize, redirect, and unlock the transformative power of trillions of dollars of private resources to deliver on sustainable development objectives. Long-term investments, including foreign direct investment (FDI), are needed in critical sectors, especially in developing countries. These include sustainable energy, infrastructure and transport, as well as information and communications technologies. The public sector will need to set a clear direction. Review and monitoring frameworks, regulations and incentive structures that enable such investments must be retooled to attract investments and reinforce sustainable development. National oversight mechanisms such as supreme audit institutions and oversight functions by legislature should be strengthened" (paragraph 92).

The Report also calls for "[e]fforts to increase the effectiveness of development cooperation need to be enhanced based on basic principles of country ownership, results focus, inclusive partnerships, transparency and accountability." (paragraph 93).

In Part 2 of this review (still to come), we review the Synthesis Report's recommendations on Finance for Development, metrics, technology and other elements.