Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 12, No. 5, May 2016
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Home Page
Front Page


Advances in Sustainable Development


This supplement attempts to be a radar screen for recent/emerging/forthcoming advances in sustainable development. In selecting items for this supplementary page, priority is given to information about publications and tools with an educational and human-centric focus. This update includes the following reminders that sustainable development has a human face:

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action
2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences
3. Advances in Sustainable Development
4. Advances in Integral Human Development
5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development
6. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases
7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators
8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation
9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community
Note: Items in this page are updated as information is received and as time permits. If the reader knows about new pubs/tools that should be announced in this page, please write to the Editor.



2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Finalized text for adoption, United Nations, 1 August 2015

Historic New Sustainable Development Agenda Unanimously Adopted by 193 UN Members, United Nations, 25 September 2015

Libraries and Implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda, International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), 8 December 2015

An Action Plan for the Sustainable Development Goals, Douglas Frantz, OECD, 27 April 2016

For the latest on the SDGs, visit the Post-2015 and Future Goals Tracker and DELIVER2030 websites, and the SDG Targets Tracker.

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action


Meditation on the Creation

"I saw three properties in the world.
The first is that God made it.
The second is that God loveth it.
The third is that God keepeth it.
But what beheld I therein?
Verily the Maker, the Keeper, the Lover."

Mother Julian of Norwich (+ 1461 AD)


Urban Sustainability in the Global System


State of the World:
Can a City Be Sustainable?
Worldwatch Institute
May 2016

SUMMARY: Cities are the world’s future. Today, more than half of the global population—3.7 billion people—are urban dwellers and that number is expected to double by 2050. There is no question cities are growing; the only debate is over how they will grow. Will we invest in the physical and social infrastructure necessary for livable, equitable, and sustainable cities? In the latest edition of State of the World, the flagship publication of the Worldwatch Institute, experts from around the globe examine the core principles of sustainable urbanism and profile cities that are putting them into practice.



Local Action for Global Change

Source: TURN21, 18 February 2016

2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences



Sustainability Science (PNAS)

Science of the Anthopocene

The Anthropocene Review


Environmental Research Letters

Progress in Industrial Ecology

Environmental Leader

Sustainable Development Magazine

Monthly Energy Review

The Environment Nexus

Energy and Climate News

BURN Energy Journal

Environmental News Network

Planet Ark
World Environmental News

Mother Earth News

Climate Action News

Sustainable Development Media

World Pulse


Environmental Science & Technology


WiserEarth News

New Internationalist

The Global Journal

Trade & Environment Nexus

Yes! Magazine

Human Development News

Science Daily
Earth & Climate News
Sustainability News
Science & Society News

International Institute for
Sustainable Development (IISD)
Reporting Services

Policy-Strategy Coverage

Sustainable Development Policy & Practice
Sustainable Development - Small Islands
Biodiversity Policy & Practice
Climate Change Policy & Practice
Energy Policy Issues
Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Theme Coverage

Sustainable Development
Biodiveristy & Wildlife
Chemicals Management
Climate & Atmosphere
Forests - Deserts - Land
Human Development
Intergovernmental Organizations
Trade & Investment
Water - Oceand - Wetlands

Regional Coverage

Lating America & Caribbean
Near East
North America
South West Pacific

Rio+20 Coverage

Sustainable Development Conference
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4-6 June 2012

United Nations News Service
Rio+20: Making it Happen
UN Sustainable Development News
UN Gender Equality News

Value News Network

Catholic News Service

Anglican Communion News Service

Ekklesia Christian News Bulletin

Religion News Service

LiveScience News

Inter Press Service (PSI)

Triple Bottom Line
CSR News

The Progress Report

Global Health News

Kosmos Journal

Environment & Technology
Scholarly Journals

Environment & Society Section
American Sociological Association


Eldis Development Newsfeeds

General - all subjects

Newsfeeds by Subject

Ageing populations
Aid and debt
Children and young people
Climate Change
Climate adaptation
Corporate responsibility
Finance policy
Food security
Health systems
ICT for development
Influencing policy
Jobs, Events and Announcements
Manuals and toolkits
Trade policy

Newsfeeds by Region

East Asia and Pacific
Latin America and Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa
South Asia



Global Trends in
Renewable Energy Investment

UNEP, March 2016

Next Generation Earth System Prediction
NAS, March 2016

World Happiness Report
UNSDSN, 20 March 2016

One Humanity: Shared Responsibility
UN Secretary General
World Humanitarian Summit
May 2016 (Draft)

Global Trends & Opportunities
2016 and Beyond

SustainAbility, February 2016

World Economic
Situation and Prospects

UNDESA & UNCTAD, January 2016

Automation & Connectivity:
The Fourth Industrial Revolution

UBS/WEF, January 2016

Digital Dividends
World Development Report 2016

World Bank, January 2016

Global Risks Report 2016
World Economic Forum (WEF)
January 2016

Dirty Toys Made in China
Global Labor and Human Rights
December 2015

Call for an Ethical Framework for Climate Services
WMO, 12 November 2015

2015 Energy Trilemma Index
World Energy Council, November 2015

Global Wealth Report 2015
Credit Suisse, October 2015

The Challenge of Resilience
in a Globalised World

Joint Research Centre, EU, October 2015

Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector
US Department of Energy, October 2015

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization
UN SDSN, October 2015

Playing to Win:
The New Global Competition
for Corporate Profits

McKinsey Global Institute, September 2015

America's Future:
Environmental Research and Education
for a Thriving Century

NSF, September 2015

2015-16 State of the Future
Jerome C. Glenn, Elizabeth Florescu, et al
Millennium Project, 2015

Transforming our World: The 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development
Finalized text for adoption,
United Nations, 1 August 2015

World Water Development Report
United Nations, July 2015

World Population Prospects
United Nations, July 2015

Climate Change: A Risk Assessment
Centre for Science and Policy
Cambridge University, July 2015

Democratic Equality, Economic Inequality,
and the Earth Charter

Steven C. Rockefeller
Earth Charter, 29 June 2015

Climate Change in the United States:
Benefits of Global Action

EPA, June 2015

Renewables 2015
Global Status Report

REN21, June 2015

Demographic Vulnerability Report
Population Institute, June 2015

FAO and Post-2015:
Nourishing People,
Nourishing the Planet

FAO, May 2015

Global Financial Stability Report
IMF, April 2015

World Happiness Report
United Nations, April 2015

National Footprint Accounts
Global Footprint Network, March 2015

Health & Fracking:
Impacts & Opportunity Costs

MEDACT, March 2015

Global Sustainable Investment
Clean Technica, 26 February 2015

World Report 2015
Human Rights Watch, 12 February 2015

Short-Term Renewable Energy Outlook
U.S. EIA, 10 February 2015

Global Risks Report 2015
WEF, January 2015

World Energy Outlook 2014
IEA, 12 November 2014

Beyond Downscaling:
A Bottom-Up Approach
to Climate Adaptation
for Water Resources Management
AGWA, October 2014

2014 Global Hunger Index
IFPRI, October 2014

The New Climate Economy
United Nations, September 2014

Living Planet Report 2014
Global Footprint Network, September 2014

Sustainable Development Goals
and Inclusive Development

UNU-IAS, September 2014

Sustainable Development Goals
and Indicators for a Small Planet
Part II: Measuring Sustainability

ASEF, August 2014

The Plain Language Guide
to Rio+20: Preparing for the
New Development Agenda

Felix Dodds et al, 28 July 2014

Human Development Report 2014
UNDP, 24 July 2014

Millennium Development Goals
Report 2014

UNDP, 7 July 2014

Global Sustainable Development
Report (GSDR)

UN DSD, 1 July 2014

Agreeing on Robust Decisions:
New processes for decision making
under deep uncertainty

World Bank, June 2014

Early Childhood Development:
The Foundation of
Sustainable Human Development
for 2015 and Beyond

UN SDSN, 4 May 2014

What’s In A Name?
Global Warming vs Climate Change

Yale Environment, May 2014

World Health Statistics 2014
WHO, 2014

The Arctic in the Anthropocene:
Emerging Research Questions
, National Academy of Sciences, 2014

Annual Energy Outlook 2014
US EIA, 30 April 2014

Global Trends in
Renewable Energy Investment 2014

UNEP-Bloomberg, April 2014

International Human Development Program
Annual Report 2013

IHDP, April 2014

Momentum for Change 2013
UNFCCC, 2014

Global Gender Gap Index 2013
WEF, April 2014

NAPAs and NAPs in
Least Developed Countries

Gabrielle Kissinger & Thinley Namgyel
ECBI, March 2014

Water & Energy 2014
United Nations, 21 March 2014

Inclusive and Sustainable
Industrial Development

UNIDO, March 2014

What We Know:
The Reality, Risks, and Response
to Climate Change

AAAS, March 2014

The State of Natural Capital
UK NCC, March 2014

Women's Lives and Challenges:
Equality and Empowerment since 2000

USAID, March 2014

Climate Change: Evidence & Causes
NAS/RS, 27 February 2014

Beyond 2014 Global Report
ICPD, 16 February 2014

World Youth Report 2013:
Youth Migration and Development

UN-DESA, 14 February 2014

State of the World's Children 2014
UNICEF, January 2014

Global Land Use:
Balancing Consumption
with Sustainable Supply

UNEP-IRP, January 2014

Sustainability Investment Yearbook 2014
RobecoSAM, January 2014



Input-Output Tables for
Regional Footprint Analysis

NTNU/TNO/SERI, January 2015

Sustainable Society Index 2014
SSI, 17 December 2014

CAIT Equity Explorer
WRI, October 20114

WBCSD Tools Box

Post-2015 SDGs Target Database
Project on Sustainability Transformation
Ministry of the Environment, Japan

Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA)
Sustainable Development Evaluation Tool

UNDP, 16 September 2014

2014 Global Peace Index (GPI)
Institute for Economics and Peace, 2014

UN CC: Learn Climate Change
United Nations, 2014

Global Consumption Database
World Bank, 2014

LEAP Scenario Explorer:
Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning

Stockholm Environmental Institute, 2014

Momentum for Change Interactive
UNFCCC, 2014

Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI)
IFMR LEAD, Tamil Nadu, India

Environment & Gender Index (EGI)

Livelihood Strategies
Knowledge Bank

Development Cafe

Global Forest Watch System
World Resources Institute

WomanStats & World Maps
WomanStats Project

Scenario Modelling and Policy Assessment Tool

European Union

OPEN EUOne Planet Economy Network
European Union

Constitutional Gender Database
UN Women

OpenGeoSci Maps
GeoScience World

Earth Data Website


2013 Legatum Prosperity Index
Legatum Institute

Global Slavery Index 2013
Walk Free Foundation

Food Policy Network Resource List
School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University

Water Change Modelling System

Earth Charter Virtual Library
Earth Charter Initiative

Resource & Documentation Centre
European Gender Equality Institute

Climate Justice Research Database
Mary Robinson Foundation

Distribution Centre

Climate Data, Simulations, and Synthesis
Data on Related Socio-Economic Factors

Nitrogen Footprint Calculator
ECN & Oxford University

Exploring Oil Data
Open Oil

Sustainability SWOT (sSWOT) Analysis Tool
World Resources Institute

CAIT Climate Data Explorer
World Resources Institute

Sustainable Technologies Databases
EWBI International

Renewable Energy Interactive Map

Global Transition to a New Economy
Interactive Map

New Economics Institute

Map of Climate Think Tanks

Energy Access Interactive Tool

Long Range Energy Alternatives
Planning System (LEAP)

SEI Energy Community

Industrial Efficiency Policy Database

Technology Cost Database for Renewables

Mapping the Global Transition
to a New Economy

New Economics Institute

Open Source Software for
Crowdsourcing for Energy Analysis


Adaptation Support Tool

Terra Populus:
Integrated Data on
Population and Environment

NSF & University of Minnesota

Environmental Performance Index
Interactive Map & Database

EPI, Yale University

Environmental Data Explorer

Clean Energy Information Portal

Mapping the Impacts of Climate Change

Eye on Earth
Global Mapping


Database of Actions on Adaptation
to Climate Change


Climate Scoreboard
Climate Interactive

Calculator of the
Carbon Footprint of Nations


Geospatial Toolkit (GsT) for
Integrated Resource Assessment


Climate Impact Equity Lens (CIEL)
Stockholm Environment Institute

Global Adaptation Index
Global Adaptation Institute

Gridded Population of the World
CIESIN, Columbia University

The New eAtlas of Gender
World Bank

Statistics and Tools
for Gender Analysis

World Bank

Gender Statistics Database
World Bank

Live World Data
The Venus Project

Clean Energy Analysis Software

RETScreen International

IGES CDM Methodology Parameter Data

IGES Emission Reductions Calculation Sheet

OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit

OECD Family Database

OECD Social Expenditure Database

Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services
and Tradeoffs (InVEST)

Natural Capital Project

Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)
NASA & Columbia University

IGES GHG Database

Emission Factors Database

Forestry Industry Carbon Assessment Tool
Green Resources, Tanzania

Agent-based Computational Economics
of the Global Energy System


Climate Hot Map
Union of Concerned Scientists

Solar Thermal Barometer


Forest Monitoring for Action

Water Evaluation And Planning System

Global Land Tool Network

UN-Energy Knowledge Network
Multi-dimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI)
and Energy Development Index (EDI)

Measuring Energy Poverty
Visualization Platform


United Nations Data
UN Statistics Database
UN MDG Indicators
UN Human Development Index (HDI)

Humanity's Footprint Data
Ecological Footprint
Footprint for Nations
Footprint for Cities
Footprint for Business
Carbon Footprint
Personal Footprint
Footprint & Biodiversity
Footprint & Human Development

Earth Policy Institute Data Sets
Population, Health, and Society
Natural Systems
Climate Change
Energy Resources
Transportation Systems
Food and Agriculture
Economics & Development

World Bank
World Development Indicators (WDI)
World Bank

Sustainable Society Index
StatPlanet Interactive Map

Interactive Mapping of
Population and Climate Change

Population Action International

Global Advocates Toolbox
Population Action International

Teaching and Learning
for a Sustainable Future:
Dissemination and Training Toolbox


Economic Input-Output
Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA)

Green Design Institute
Carnegie Mellon University



Conference Alerts
Find Conferences Worldwide
by Topic, Country, or Keywords.

Calls for Papers
Find Calls for Papers Worldwide
by Specialization, Country, or Keywords.

Journal Articles
The latest Tables of Contents
from thousands of scholarly journals
Search by journal title, ISNN, or keywords

Selected Announcements

The Greening of Religions:
Hope in the Eye of the Storm

University of South Carolina
1-4 April 2016
Contact: Wendy Griffin

From Innovation to Social Impact

EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
2-4 May 2016

Gender & Migration
International Conference

Gediz University, Izmir, Turkey
11-14 May 2016
Contact: Nursel Aydiner Avsar

12th Annual Global Solutions Lab
United Nations in New York and
Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA
19-27 June 2016
Contact: Medard Gabel

ISEE 2016
Transforming the Economy:
Sustaining Food, Water, Energy and Justice

Washington, DC, 26-29 June 2016

34th International Conference
of the System Dynamics Society

Delft, Netherlands, 17-21 July 2016
Contact: Roberta Spencer

5th International Conference
Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity

Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary
30 August – 3 September 2016

Habitat III:
World Cities at Crossroads

UN Habitat, Quito, Ecuador
October 2016
Contact: Eugénie L. Birch,

Sixth World Sustainability Forum
WSF2017, Cape Town, South Africa
27-28 January 2017

3. Advances in Sustainable Development

Five Steps Towards Implementing the SDGs

Róisín Hinds

Originally published in Deliver 2030, 17 March 2016

In September 2015, world leaders came together at the United Nations to agree on an ambitious new set of commitments that aim to end poverty and hunger, and secure the future of our planet within a generation.

The resulting agreement, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, contains a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goalsand 169 targets that together form a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity and peace.

Reaching agreement on the 2030 Agenda was the first step to creating a more inclusive and equitable society, in which no one is left behind. But the success or failure of the 2030 Agenda will hinge on how it is implemented.

Why do the Sustainable Development Goals matter?

The 2030 Agenda builds on and goes beyond the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), a set of eight development goals that were adopted in 2001 and include quantitative targets to reduce key dimensions of poverty, among other development imperatives, by 2015.

While it is difficult to isolate their impact from other development trends, it is clear that the goals became an important reference point for development policy and helped to channel funds into key thematic areas.

Looking back over the last 15 years, it’s clear we’re able to achieve much for children all over the world. The number of people living in extreme poverty has decreased significantly, and under-five mortality has halved since 1990.

But despite these achievements, there is still much work left to do. Significant numbers of people across the world remain excluded, with many children being left behind. Considered approaches and coordinated efforts are needed to reach the most excluded groups, and the 2030 Agenda provides the framework to make this happen.

The 2030 Agenda has a broader scope than the MDGs, encompassing the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and with a stronger focus on issues such as peace and governance, inequality, and global public goods such as the climate and oceans. It includes commitments to ‘get to zero’ on critical areas, such as ending child mortality, and commits to universal access to services.

If the Agenda is to be as transformative in practice as it is on paper, governments and other stakeholders need to take immediate action.

So what should governments do?

Save the Children has set out an action plan for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Our new report, From Agreement to Action: Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals, draws on evidence from across the Save the Children family, including inputs from 12 countries. It draws lessons from the MDGs, to provide guidance to governments and other stakeholders as they design strategies for implementing the SDGs.

The report is primarily aimed at governments – who have the main responsibility for implementing the 2030 Agenda – but also includes lessons for other stakeholders, including donors, UN agencies and the private sector.

As UN Member States begin their journey on the road to 2030, here are five issues that Save the Children would like to see on top on their to do lists:

1 National plans, budgets and strategies

Integrating the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda into national priorities, actions, plans and budgets is a critical first step towards national ownership and implementation. Experience from the MDGs shows us that where goals were integrated in national plans and aligned with existing priorities, they had more traction.

2 Institutions and coordination mechanisms

To translate plans into progress, strong institutions and coordination mechanisms are essential. Public institutions must be given the necessary resources to deliver the SDGs, while coordination mechanisms, particularly within key political ministries, can help drive change.

3 Ensuring no one is left behind

Making sure that everyone benefits from development progress demands targeted approaches, such as stepping stone equity targets to ensure equitable progress across all goals.

4 Data

To eradicate poverty we need to know who is living in poverty, where they live and what they need. Strengthening data systems and producing high-quality disaggregated data is essential for tackling group-based inequalities and ensuring no one is left behind.

5 Accountability

Successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda depends on governments being held to account for goals and targets, and people, including children, having an active role in accountability processes. Governments must report on progress in open, accessible and participatory ways, supporting the active engagement of all, including children and marginalised groups.

Róisín Hinds is a Senior Policy and Research Adviser at Save the Children. This piece first appeared on the Save The Children blog.

4. Advances in Integral Human Development

2015 Human Development Report

Launched 14 December 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ehiopia

From a human development perspective, work, rather than jobs or employment is the relevant concept. A job is a narrow concept with a set of pre-determined time-bound assigned tasks or activities, in an input-output framework with labour as input and a commodity or service as output. Yet, jobs do not encompass creative work (e.g. the work of a writer or a painter), which go beyond defined tasks; they do not account for unpaid care work; they do not focus on voluntary work. Work thus is a broader concept, which encompasses jobs, but goes beyond by including the dimensions mentioned above, all of which are left out of the job framework, but are critical for human development.

Work is the means for unleashing human potential, creativity, innovation and spirits. It is essential to make human lives productive, worthwhile and meaningful. It enables people to earn a living, gives them a means to participate in society, provides them with security and gives them a sense of dignity. Work is thus inherently and intrinsically linked to human development.

But it is important to recognize that there is no automatic link between work and human development. Nor does every type of work enhance human development. Exploitative work, particularly exploitation of women and children, robs people of their fair share, their rights and their dignity. Likewise, work that is hazardous - work without safety measures, labour rights, or social protection - is not conducive to human development.

More importantly, the linkages between work and human development must be seen in the context that over time the notion of what constitutes work has changed, areas of work have shifted and the modus operandi of work has evolved. What used to mean work three decades ago is no longer valid, and work is defined differently now. Now, some of these changes may contribute positively to various dimensions of human development, but some aspects of these new phenomena may have negative impacts for human development.

In the context of all these changes, time has come to relook at the issue of work in its various dimensions and dynamics through a human development lens. Thus the 2015 Human Development Report (2015 HDR) will be on Rethinking Work for Human Development.

To be launched in December 2015, the Report will zoom in on the fundamental question – how work can be rethought for human development –– to enrich human development. Given this broader perspective, the focus of 2015 HDR will be based on five building blocks:

  • Rethinking the linkages between work and human development identifying the positive intrinsic relationship between work and human development - Work provides livelihoods, income, a means for participation and connectedness, social cohesion, and human dignity - but also those situations where linkages are broken or eroded - child labour, human trafficking, etc.
  • Revisiting the new world of work, where the notions of work, areas of work and modus operandi of work have changed and the implications for human development. ICT and mobile devices are revolutionizing work. People can work anywhere. There is an e-economy. We ask the question – are these changes enhancing human development? And how may they best be harnessed to promote equitable opportunities?
  • Recognizing the worth of care work and its impact on human development. For instance care for those who cannot care for themselves is important in itself for human survival but there are other connections to human development: from an intergenerational perspective, care work is crucial for the cognitive development of children.
  • Refocusing on the notion of sustainable work to be incorporated into the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. This will include, among other issues, the environmental value of green and low carbon emission jobs and so on. And also the quality of work that can be sustained over long periods.
  • Recommending policy options for reorienting, reinventing and reorganizing work so that it enriches human development

Several targeted issues will be taken up throughout the report– youth employment, gender aspects of work, agriculture and rural development, the informal sector, and work during crisis and in post-crisis situations. In realizing the post2015 international agenda it will be critical to enable youth, who make up 50 per cent of the global population, and women, holding up half the sky, to find work opportunities that enable them to participate constructively, creatively and equitably in society.

Source: Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office, UNDP

5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development

Integral Human Development and Subsidiarity

The Principle of Subsidiarity

Source: EZFord, YouTube, 23 February 2013

See also

"An issue or problem should be dealt with by the people who are closest to it"
Rudy Carrasco, PovertyCure Voice, 20 March 2012

Cardinal Reinhard Marx on Subsidiarity vs. Solidarity
Berkeley Center, Georgetown University, 20 June 2012

Integral Human Development and Subsidiarity: A Closer Look
Matthea Brandenburg & Carolyn Woo, Poverty Cure Voice, 10 January 2013

An Integrated Framework for Sustainable Development Goals
David Griggs et al, Ecology & Society, 19(4): 49, 2014

Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development
Planning and Implementation

Capacity Building Workshop, United Nations, May 2015

6. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases

The nexus approach to the sustainable management of water, soil, and waste integrates environmental management and governance across sectors and scales. This approach requires a holistic understanding of the interlinkage of all related environmental processes, while also taking into consideration global change and socioeconomic aspects.

Exploring these interlinkages and advancing a nexus-oriented management approach requires integrated modeling tools. However, no single modeling tool is available or conceivable that can cover all processes, interactions and drivers related to the management of water, soil and waste resources.

To help overcome this challenge, the UNU Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) has developed an interactive Nexus Tools Platform (NTP) for comparison of existing modelling tools related to the water-soil-waste nexus. Currently, the NTP database consists of 60 models from around the world. The platform provides detailed model information and advanced filtering based on real-time visualizations, and will continuously grow with the input and feedback from model developers and model users.

For more information see the UNU-FLORES website and the Nexus Tools Platform.

7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators

Sustainable Development Goals ~ Targets Tracker

Source: Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the guiding framework for international development until 2030 and are intended to provide a reference for setting national policy priorities.

This unique, searchable database provides a snapshot of what those national priorities are. Users can compare existing national targets with the ambition of the SDGs. We intend this to be a living document, supplemented and kept up to date by crowdsourcing, and we encourage others to send us new information on national goals to update the tracker.

This research report: Mind the gap? A comparison of international and national targets for the SDG agenda, ODI, June 2015, documents the gaps and data issues that must be resolved if the SDGs are to be attained by 2030.

Please send any new information on national level targets in any of the areas covered by the SDGs to


Global Footprint Network's National Footprint Accounts 2015 Public Data Package

Ecological Footprint Infographics

Footprint Calculator


Links to Global Partnership Data for the SDGs:

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability of water and sanitation
7. Ensure access to affordable and clean energy for all
8. Promote economic growth and decent work
9. Build resilient industrial infrastructures
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change
14. Conserve the oceans and marine resources
15. Protect terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity
16. Promote peace and inclusive societies
17. Strengthen global partnership for sustainable development

8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation

Integrated Model for Sustainable Development Goals Strategies (iSDG)

Millennium Institute, 13 January 2016

"C-ROADS is an award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It allows for the rapid summation of national greenhouse gas reduction pledges in order to show the long-term impact on our climate." For more information, click here.

Click here to view a larger version of the video.
Visit Climate Interactive for updates and announcements.

9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community

A Short History of the Sustainable Development Goals

Paula Caballero

Originally published in Deliver 2030, April 2016

Note: These are brief and informal reflections on a long and complex process. No attempt is made to capture the full complexity of the negotiations. I merely seek to share a few highlights of the SDG journey. Only a few names are mentioned as it would be impossible in this short space to give full credit to the many friends and colleagues who made the SDGs a reality.

Shortly after joining the Colombian government as Director of Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2010 I started to think about Rio+20. It was such an historic opportunity to galvanize global political will around a renewed commitment for an agenda on sustainability and equity. For better or for worse, I was concerned that the entire Conference was to focus on green economy– a concept mired in controversy – and a new international architecture for sustainable development. Neither were particularly compelling for a broad audience. Most importantly, neither had the potential for incentivizing the deep transformations at scale so urgently needed on a planet that is breaching so many boundaries all at once, while remaining stubbornly inequitable at many levels.

Early Days

So in early January 2011 I convened a small group of government colleagues to a brainstorming session. In the midst of the discussion I suddenly said, “I’ve got it! Here’s what we can do.” Despite shortcomings that have been endlessly analyzed, the MDGs have brought about widespread changes in approaches to development. I suggested that Colombia propose a new set of goals, but one that would encompass the many dimensions of development. The idea resonated and a short while later I went upstairs to Vice Minister Patti Londoño’s office. She immediately grasped the idea. “You will have all the support you need, now go write it”. Over the weekend I drafted a first version that I showed to a few friends. On Monday I shared it with Vice Minister Londoño who promptly pinned it on her otherwise bare wall. A few days later, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, María Angela Holguín, also expressed her unconditional support.

A few weeks later, using the opportunity of being in NY for other negotiations, I started to share the proposal. It was largely met with skepticism - and in all truth, a healthy dose of derision. Few colleagues were willing to even discuss the proposal, and among those that did two stand out: Jimena Leiva of Guatemala and Ye-Min Wu of Singapore. In their personal capacities they diligently went over the proposal and recommended that it be linked more explicitly with Agenda 21 to demonstrate that it was fully embedded in Rio 1992’s legacy.

So I went back to hotel and wrote a revised version that posited the SDGs around the chapters of agenda 21. This was the first of many versions and SDG-related documents that were drafted at The Pod hotel on 51st street. As I often joked, we should put a plaque outside the hotel that would read “The SDGs were born and raised here.” This was truly the first version of the SDG proposal as it was the basis for Colombia’s advocacy over the next 7 months.

During those early months I used every opportunity around other negotiations in New York to discuss and explain the SDGs. I spent hours and hours sitting in the Vienna Café on the second floor of the UN New Lawn Building (NLB), talking to anyone who was willing to listen. There was initially little interest, and often, fierce resistance. Arguments that would gain strength, traction and advocates over the next months were tabled. Many – both from developed as well as developing countries – saw the SDGs as an attempt to undermine the MDGs and to detract attention from the “core” development issues. It was insistently pointed out that the MDGs still had a few years to run and that a new set of goals could marginalize them. Why start advocating for a new set of goals when the MDGs were still “unfinished business” and unlikely to be fully met by 2015? Why think about Post-2015 when it was still early 2011? Much better to roll over the MDGs after 2015, with a few minor adjustments. This is what came to be known as MDG+.

Colombia always underlined that the SDGs were building upon the MDGs. Colombia had fully committed to achieving the MDGs, and believed profoundly in their importance and continued relevance. However, the fact was that the full achievement of the MDG targets could never be achieved with an agenda that did not include energy, or governance, or food security (beyond hunger), or connectivity –to cite just a few issues. Much has been written about the fact that the gains in poverty eradication were largely achieved in China and India. Continued poverty eradication in the future, in a planet facing natural resource degradation and scarcity, climate change and climatic variability impacts, rapid and often unplanned urbanization, and increasing landscapes of insecurity will be much more challenging. For that an agenda that embraces the complexity of development in needed. A telling anecdote is a conversation I had in those early days with a colleague from an African country who emphatically affirmed that Africa would never agree to merge the three MDG health goals under a single health goal. We had an interesting conversation because he did not realize that non-communicable diseases are actually the greatest and growing public health care burden today for developing countries - and were not included in the MDGs.

Moreover, the fact that what was being proposed was a universal agenda – applicable to all countries and for which all countries were accountable – raised deep concerns on all quarters. The concerns were varied. Some felt that a universal approach undermined the tenet of differentiation around which key negotiations, like UNFCCC, were structured. Others felt that only developing countries had “real” issues related to development, and that the agenda should therefore focus exclusively on them. And others still queried what development targets could mean for developed countries. I remember an early exchange with an outstanding negotiator and good friend from the US delegation who encouraged me early on to desist, noting that the US Congress would never accept the national application of targets set by the UN. (Fast forward to the last days of negotiations in Rio+20 where the US played a uniquely decisive and constructive role that ultimately helped to deliver the SDGs.)

Many questioned with a dose of exasperation why Colombia was even bothering to prepare for Rio+20 when “it was still so far away”. And many asked “Why Colombia? Why is Colombia leading on a global agenda?”

One interesting fact that stood out is that often there were completely different positions within the same government. Some government agencies and delegates saw the SDGs as the stepping stone towards an agenda of integration and change whereas others, in the same government, would see these as a threat. I often noted that at some level, Colombia did not negotiate the SDGs with 193 governments but with hundreds of delegates and constituencies.

Indeed, as the preparatory process got underway, civil society, private sector and academia started to play an increasingly visible and influential role. Colombia always worked with the same energy and commitment with these constituencies as with governmental colleagues. One proud achievement for the Colombian government was the recognition that was often given by civil society organizations of the best practice that we created in our many productive and rich exchanges with non-governmental stakeholders. All the international consultations Colombia organized had a place at the table for NGOs and CSOs. And we participated in innumerable side-events organized by these colleagues.

Despite the challenges and minimal traction, the Colombian government was undeterred and persisted. To us it was clear that business as usual is not tenable given that the development trajectories and economic models that have prevailed over the past decades have set in place trends that are both unsustainable and inequitable – as Minister María Angela Holguín often put it, within nations, between nations and between generations. There is an urgent need to rethink what growth and prosperity and well-being mean. In a small and fragile planet development consists of an array of parameters - including on sustainability and equity – which constitute a spectrum along which all countries are to be found– both developing and developed. Shrinking planetary boundaries and the refugee crisis are bringing home the fact that our human and natural systems are profoundly interconnected and that no one nation or people can either develop or maintain high development standards separate from others. The most controversial manifestation of this is the discussion around a global carbon budget, but analogies could be made about other planetary resources and systems. This means that only by working together towards a shared agenda of inclusion and sustainability can we avoid approaching development as a zero sum game.

The MDGs were simply not up to the task. They had played a decisive role in galvanizing action around fundamental development issues, and had changed how many approached these. The MDGs stood out in the landscape of development assistance. But they reflected a minimalist agenda that was unable to deliver the deep system-wide change and broad structural transformations that are needed.

Another driver was precisely the need to create a platform around which all – public and private sector, developing and developed, civil society and others - could converge. We were working against a backdrop of contentious and at times seemingly intractable negotiations in other fora – ranging from WTO to UNFCCC - that pitted different national perspectives and made it difficult to find a common landing ground, let alone consensus. Colombia is a G77+China country that aspires to join the OECD. We are bridge builders. The SDGs were therefore an offering we put forward to create a single common agenda that entailed collective responsibility and at the same time, collective empowerment. We wanted to catalyze a sense of shared destiny.

The Beginning

On 27 May 2011 the very first informal intergovernmental consultation on the SDGs took place at the Colombian Mission on 57th street. About 20 people came, a small but representative group from all the UN regional groups. The proposal was met with friendlier skepticism but there was no clear support. A few colleagues affirmed that it was interesting but considered that it would be in impossible to get agreement around it. I was reminded yet again that the themes for Rio+20 had been defined in a UN resolution, and that it could not be modified. A few, however, said that Rio+20 definitely needed a higher level of ambition.

This meeting was a first milestone in a long journey where the Colombian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, under Ambassador Nestor Osorio as Permanent Representative and Camilo Ruiz as Deputy PR, and with the support of David Rodriguez, our delegate to the Second Commission, played a decisive role. The Mission was endlessly supportive, facilitating negotiations, organizing events, and maintaining high levels of advocacy in New York.

In June during the UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn, I continued Colombia’s advocacy work. Among the many I talked with was Andrei do Lago, head of delegation of Brazil. He expressed interest but at the time was still unclear as to how Brazil could formally support the proposal. Other colleagues also started to come up to me in the hallways to express informal support for the idea, affirming that Rio+20 desperately needed to deliver concrete and tangible results. This seemed to be the only option on the table given that discussions around the two agreed pillars had minimal traction: “green economy” had not advanced and was the subject of acrimonious discussions around the very definition of the concept; discussions on the International Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD) in the end proved to be the most difficult to resolve of all.

By then, we had our sights on the upcoming consultations hosted by the Government of Indonesia on the International Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD). Financing was available so I submitted my request which was soon approved. The meeting in Solo, Indonesia was the very first time the SDGs were presented at a UN event. Colombia was not given the opportunity to discuss the SDGs, but we formally presented the proposal. However, what was really exciting, a watershed in fact, were the conversations in the hallways. There were many bilaterals with countries from various regions who wanted to understand the proposal better and who had started to see this as a real possibility for Rio+20. I remember a very rich and long conversation with the entire EU delegation. And it was during one of these meetings that the representative of Guatemala, Rita Mishaan, confirmed her Government’s interest in supporting this proposal. Many CSO's and NGOs were warmly encouraging and asked that Colombia hold the course. It was the first time that there was a real sense of hope that the proposal might prosper.

The following month, Brazil held the first of two informal consultations they were to host in the run up to Rio+20. I asked for permission to present the proposal and it was confirmed that participants could present any contribution they wanted. So on 21 August, in the first morning session, I presented the SDG proposal - still the version linked to Agenda 21. There were other topics on the agenda but the entire meeting started to refer to the SDG proposal. It was incredible to see delegates from Cuba to Norway welcoming the proposal, keen to explore its dimensions and implications. However during the day I realized that the linkages to Agenda 21 were more confusing than helpful and that a simpler proposal that focused only on the SDG concept itself was needed. So that night I wrote out a new proposal in my hotel room describing the SDGs and what they offered. I shared the draft with Vice-Minister Londoño and with Rita Mishaan from Guatemala. I got clearance from the former and agreement from the latter that the Government of Guatemala would co-sponsor it.

I came in early the next morning to Palácio Itamaraty in Rio de Janeiro, and requested permission to use their printer. As participants came in for the second day’s sessions they were handed a copy of the new version of the proposal, now with two governments supporting it- Guatemala and Colombia. This is the version that is widely considered the basis of the SDG proposal. The rest of the meeting centered mostly on the SDG concept. These were rich and substantive exchanges, and even though many voiced concerns about the implications for the MDGs, there was a broad sense of emerging support from several quarters. I distinctly remember Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo of Brazil saying towards the end of the meeting that Rio+20 could not focus only principles and that concrete deliverables were also needed. He made no explicit reference to the SDGs, but his words seemed to imply tacit support for a very tangible proposal.

At the time, my team was struggling to support work on the SDGs as it became ever more demanding and intense. UNDP generously agreed to finance a dedicated professional to support this work. Alicia Lozano joined the core SGD team at that time, and together with Angela Rivera, Claudia Vasquez, Heidi Botero, Isabel Cavelier, Carolina Aguirre – and David Rodriguez in the NY Mission - provided indefatigable support throughout the long road ahead. The UNCSD Bureau had set 1 November 2014 as the deadline all Parties and constituencies to submit their inputs for the so-called “zero draft” that would constitute the basis for the negotiating text for Rio+20. Colombia knew that garnering sufficient support for the SDGs was critical. This became the backdrop to our efforts over the following two months.

The next milestone on the journey was the regional meeting on Rio+20 held in the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ( ECLAC) in September 2011 in Santiago, Chile. Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, was an early and energetic supporter of the SDGs. She had immediately gauged the potential. I recall rich discussions in her office about how the SDGs could be structured, what they could encompass, how they could be explained. For Colombia, this regional meeting was a unique opportunity to substantively discuss the proposal for the first time in a formal UN setting, even if a regional one. Colombia submitted the proposal well ahead of time so that it would be an official conference document. As always Colombia’s objective was to get widespread support from all countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region so that it could be presented as a regional contribution to Rio+20. Colombia always aspired to having this be a proposal from the entire region, not just a few countries and not just Colombia. Unfortunately, despite strong support from many delegations, this proved ultimately impossible. In the end the final decision text referred to the SDG proposal but did not endorse it.

While Colombia continued advocating and lobbying for the proposal through a steady stream of communications, Vice Minister Londoño and I, with the support of Minister Holguín, decided that it was important to have a formal international consultation on the SDGs. We are still deeply grateful to the Government of Netherlands whose generosity made this meeting possible.

October was a flurry of activity as we continued to drum up support for the SDGs while organizing for the consultations, set for 4-5 November. Meanwhile the deadline of 1 November drew closer and although we sensed growing momentum we had no way of gauging whether enough support for the SDGs would materialize to get them into the zero draft.

The SDGs are in!

On 1 November, as proposals started coming in and were uploaded onto the UNCSD website, my team was glued to their computers checking to see who was including the SDGs in their submissions. In the end over 50 States and international organizations, including CARICOM, mentioned SDGs as a tangible result for Rio+20. As the submissions came in we contacted the Secretariat, and were happily informed that the SDGs “were in”. Enough support had been evidenced. This was the decisive moment. What had been deemed impossible just months earlier was now fast becoming a reality. The SDGs were slated to be part of the negotiating text, and were therefore formally a part of Rio+20 preparations. Although the road ahead was challenging, the first historic step had been achieved.

The meeting in Bogotá hosted by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and chaired by Vice Minister Londoño, kicked off with great dynamism and expectation in the impressive Salon Simon Bolivar where the Libertador himself had worked. Over 40 delegates from a wide range of countries, including representatives from Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya, India, Chile, United Kingdom, Norway, United States, and Australia were present together with those from international organizations, UNCSD Secretariat and NGOs. As always Colombia invited civil society and NGOs to the table. The conversations were deeply probing and surfaced both strong support for the proposal from many countries as well as sharp concerns about the proposal from others.

The consultation was held under Chatham House rules, but the discussions were so informed and rich that I was authorized to prepare a chairman’s summary, which was ultimately tabled as “Insights from the Informal Consultations on the SDG Proposal”. The linkages between the MDGs and the SDGs were a subject of intense discussion, but other aspects were also explored. A few excerpts provide a good sense of the depth of the discussion:

“There was no consensus on an approach but it was agreed that there is a need for further consultations on this issue. Some considerations that were iterated were:

  • The MDGs are widely acknowledged as a highly/ successful and key approach for enabling international cooperation at all levels.
  • There is full consensus that the MDGs must not be in any way undermined by any other process and that they should be amply supported. The MDGs must continue their planned trajectory to 2015.
  • There were suggestions that the SDGs could provide a useful input to the MDG review process and to the definition of the post-2015 framework. Some noted that the MDGs do not sufficiently address underlying economic and environmental issues and drivers.”

“In addition to the relation between the SDGs and the MDGs, other concerns were voiced regarding issues that will need to be addressed in further elaborating the proposal. Among the most salient:

  • How to reconcile the universal dimension of the SDGs with the fact that these will need to be tailored to specific national circumstances, i.e. one-size-does-not-fit all.
  • How to approach issues of implementation, recognizing that implementation includes not just financial resources but also institutional and governance capacities at national level, as well as issues such as absorptive capacity for new technologies, dissemination of best practices, and inclusion of key stakeholders ranging from youth to private sector for effective implementation.
  • Linking up with private sector and IFIs.”

During that meeting strong friendships were forged, that would prove decisive in the long journey ahead. This group slowly coalesced over the coming months, and even after Rio, when we were already in the Open Working Group discussions, would meet regularly to strategize on how to achieve a high level of both ambition and common sense. We also agreed to work on a series of informal consultations to enable stakeholders to better understand and mature the idea, thereby garnering support. The SDG friends included Kitty van der Heijden of Netherlands, Farrukh Khan of Pakistan, Jimena Leiva of Guatemala, Chris Whaley of UK, Victor Munoz of Peru, Majid Hasan Alsuwaidi of UAE, Yeshey Dorji of Bhutan, Franz Perrez of Switzerland, Damaso Luna of Mexico, Marianne Loe of Norway, Anders Wallenberg of Sweden and many others. Sometimes, when the negotiations were particularly challenging, it was a space for collective catharsis. In the long preparatory process, Surendra Shrestha of UNEP provided permanent support. (Fast forward to Rio, it was he who mobilized the necessary support to make the buttons we handed out in Rio on “SDGs – People and Planet”.)

In mid-December 2011 – right after the UNFCCC Cancun COP - the UNCSD Secretariat held consultations in NY in preparation for the upcoming negotiations. At this juncture, building on the discussions and exchanges of the previous 4 months I sensed that there was a need to focus more strongly on the process ahead and the deliverables. Therefore, back at The Pod hotel, I prepared a new version of the proposal that I shared with Vice Minister Londoño. As always she was fully supportive. This time it was endorsed not just by Guatemala but also by Peru. This was presented at a second international consultation hosted by Colombia in Room 3 of the NLB which was attended by 114 countries. We know this because we counted. We could still not quite believe how far we had come. It was a short affair, a 2 hour side-event with little opportunity for a proper discussion. But momentum was growing.

Back in Bogota, conversations that had been ongoing since the November consultation picked up. Many of the growing coalition around the SDGs felt that the meeting in Bogota had been so rich that it was important to have another 2 day international consultation but with much broader participation and in New York. And it had to take place before the formal negotiations started in February. By now we were just days away from the Christmas holiday when many were leaving. But we somehow came together and once again generous donors, including Norway and Netherlands, confirmed their support. We were able to secure the venue of Tarrytown and issued invitations for a consultation on 22-24 January 2012. We tasked a small, diverse and dedicated group of colleagues in New York to relentlessly follow up on each invitation. At this this juncture the World Resources Institute (WRI) –a global research organization at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being, became a part of the informal SDG support group and prepared 3 briefing papers for the consultations.

In the meantime, on 10 January, the UNCSD Secretariat issued the zero draft of the Conference’s negotiation document “The Future We Want”. The SDGs were included in Chapter V “Accelerating and measuring progress”. From that moment onwards the SDG proposal – now formally endorsed by Colombia, Guatemala and Peru - was officially integrated to the negotiations.

On 21 January, ahead of our second international consultation, I arrived in Tarrytown Estate together with Heidi Botero from my team. We wandered the imposing grounds covered in fresh snow, holding on to over 60 name cards and wondering if or how the SDGs would ultimately see the light of day. Although many questioned the format, I organized the meeting around a huge rectangular table that seated 80. We had a full house, with a widely representative group of delegates from all regional groups as well as representatives from the UNSG’s office, UNCSD Secretariat, several UN agencies and several NGOs and CSOs. The format worked wonders. The fact that everyone could see each other created a sense of purpose and openness. The discussions were intense, often contentious, and they surfaced the many diverse takes on the MDGs, the MDG+ option, and the SDGs. There were difficult conversations around universality and differentiation, about the unfinished business of the MDGs, about the need to “prioritize people”.

Again, given the richness of the discussions and how enlightening they were as we collectively matured the SDG concept, I got agreement to be allowed to issue a Chair’s Summary. The following excerpts give a sense of how much this meeting contributed to the process:

“There was broad agreement on four core aspects:

  • Rio+20 is a milestone event and the international community should strive for a high level of ambition, with clear and robust outcomes in the form of a renewed and focused sustainable development agenda.
  • Sustainable Development Goals are understood in the context of the post-2015 development framework. SDGs have a definitive added value and will be further elaborated and completed within the post-2015 process.
  • There should be a single unified process leading to the definition of the post-2015 framework, building upon government consultations as well as inputs from stakeholders, and expert and scientific advice.
  • There should be a single set of international development goals with sustainable development and poverty eradication the overarching focus.

There was strong support for including SDG guiding characteristics in the Zero Draft, including:

  • Poverty eradication as an overarching goal;
  • Universal relevance of the SDGs, but allowing for varied country and regional circumstances and priorities and capacity for implementation of specific voluntary targets;
  • Action-oriented;
  • Strongly linked to Agenda 21 and JPoI;
  • Effectively address and integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development;
  • Enable articulation of the nexus between the different issue areas covered by the SDGs;
  • Voluntary application, in keeping with national realities, priorities, and capacities;
  • Time bound and measurable, with targets and indicators; and,
  • Few in number and easy to communicate and understand.
In addition, the following considerations were reiterated throughout the discussions:

  • There was a clear understanding that the formulation of SDGs should not divert or in any way undermine the focus of the international community on achieving the MDGs by 2015.
  • SDG should build upon and complement the MDGs, and reflect lessons from MDG implementation.
  • In line with keeping the SDGs simple, succinct and few, many underscored the need for the SDGs to set clear and focused priorities, which was a key strength of the MDGs.
  • In addition to the definition of themes or issue areas for the SDGs, it is equally important to define cross-cutting issues. These issues are no less important than those to be captured in an SDG, and indeed are critical given their prevalence and relevance. Cross- cutting issues could include aspects such as technology transfer, capacity building, means of implementation, climate change, equity and gender.
  • In the development of the SDGs, consideration must be given to the institutional and governance arrangements required for their implementation, taking into consideration the current mandate and work of existing agencies, as well as gaps and future requirements. It will equally be important to work with an understanding of relevant existing agreements and programs.
  • The capacity of developing countries for managing information and data, and for reporting, will need to be strengthened.
  • Implementation will require the support and commitment of all stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector, so their participation in the process is fundamental.”

The discussions also already evidenced strongly differing views on the process beyond Rio for defining the SDGs that “reflect differing levels of ambition for Rio as well as different understandings of the required process for defining the SDGs…”

This was exactly what was needed ahead of the negotiations, which started the following day, on 25 January. The consultation enabled us to fully understand the political economy of the SDGs for the first time, the baseline as it were. Over the coming months the SDG concept continued to evolve through substantive and continuous exchanges. In those early days one could sense delegations grappling with the concept, and exploring it in the context of their positions on many other negotiating fronts in many other parallel negotiations. But gradually the SDG concept was framed with increasing clarity, and as the discussions matured, came into its own.

The Negotiations Begin

Up to that point, Colombia had tried several times to get endorsement from the Latin America and Caribbean region so that it would be a regional proposal for Rio+20. The latest attempt had been by then Minister of Environment Frank Pearl at the Latin American and Caribbean Environment Ministers Forum on 31 January 2012 where the region registered support for the proposal, but not full endorsement.

As the negotiations were about to start, the Colombian Government decided that it was time to formally present the proposal to G77+China. Vice Minister Londoño travelled to New York for the sole purpose of doing so. She did not do it at Ambassador’s level as the negotiating responsibilities were in the hands of G77+China delegates who covered the Second Commission. The Colombian Mission requested that a G77+China Second Commission meeting be convened, and Vice Minister Londoño explained the proposal. She also met with several regional groups. That a Vice Minister would undertake this task personally caused a deep impression and signaled the decided commitment of the Government to take the proposal forward.

This mission to New York also marked the first of many invigorating meetings with Sha Zukang, then UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary General of UNCSD. He was supportive of the SDG concept from the start and helped our delegation to mature the concept. Others in the Secretariat and in UNDESA were also incredibly supportive including Nikhil Seth, Brice Lalonde and David O’Connor.

With negotiations about to start up, G77+China designated coordinators for each of the main negotiation strands. The fact that the SDGs were adopted in Rio owes enormously to the designation of Farrukh Khan from Pakistan to lead these discussions. Farrukh is an astute, seasoned and innovative negotiator who had a deep knowledge of countries’ positions and an acute capacity to steer negotiations. The SDGs found a truly unique champion in him.

January was eventful as President Santos of Colombia convened a meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia to discuss the SDGs. The President was enthusiastic in his support of the proposal and instructed me to get it approved at Rio in June “no matter what”. That decided and unwavering support from the Colombian Government, at all levels and agencies, was decisive in enabling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the proposal forward.

The start of negotiations signaled for me the beginning of endless trips between Bogota and New York. The agenda for Rio+20 was quite dense, and the number of items and paragraphs rapidly spiraled. This meant that there was insufficient time to discuss the SDGs both informally and formally. David Rodriguez from the Colombian Mission was the Colombian representative to the Second Commission, and worked tirelessly to advance the negotiations. But the negotiations quickly became very difficult which meant that I started coming to NY both for the formal negotiations as well as the informal negotiations within G77+China. This was particularly challenging as these informal negotiations had moving agendas and it was never entirely clear when the SDGs would be discussed.

We also started organizing side-events and participating in innumerable side-events and sessions in order to advance the understanding of the proposal, and to mature the proposal as it was discussed and explored. A key aspect of the SDG concept is the degree to which it was the product of endless dialogues, discussions, meetings. The SDGs are truly, from the beginning, a collective construct. Inputs from countless engagements enabled Colombia to gradually fine-tune and mature the proposal, both in terms of the concept as well as the process.

In February Colombia organized another international consultation at our embassy in Nairobi during the UNEP Administrative Council, and also hosted an event with civil society representatives. By now momentum was really growing. Everyone wanted to talk about the SDGs. No one asked any longer “Why Colombia?” There were endless bilaterals with Ministers from developed and developing countries, high-level dinners, meetings with leading NGOs. We had a particularly rich conversation with Minister Isabella Teixeira of Brazil who was supportive of the proposal. Later in the month, Colombia was invited as a special guest to the United Nations System Experts’ meeting on Río+20, to present the SDG proposal. The UN agencies were increasingly interested and supportive of the proposal too.

The negotiations however, were off to a difficult start, even if at an informal level. Concerns about the impact of the new proposed framework on the MDGs came to the fore. Many from both developed and developing countries insisted that the MDGs were not going to be met by 2015 and that therefore they should be rolled over, with minor adjustments, for another period – the MDG+ version. The broad agenda being proposed would detract from core development priorities. The inclusion of the three dimensions in the SDGs – economic, environmental and social – was also questioned by many who considered that “real development issues” – that is economic and social issues - would be undermined by bringing in environmental considerations. Not all negotiators appreciated the linkages between functional, resilient natural systems and long-term human wellbeing. Both developed and developing country representatives fretted that funding for the MDG’s core priorities would be diverted. There were real concerns that key MDG targets would be waylaid. Many G77 delegations were concerned that the SDGs would be turned into conditionalities that would constrain developing countries “policy space”.

At this time another challenging alternative proposal emerged that called for two completely separate sets of goals, one for rich countries and another one for poor countries. This proposal undermined some of the greatest strengths of the SDG option, and would have locked countries into a static system that did not recognize the evolution of countries’ development trajectories, the fact that both resources and responses are often shared. At the same time, deep concerns about universality surfaced. The idea that development targets could be relevant for all countries was rejected both by those who clung to a vision that was MDG- centric as well as by those who did not welcome implementation (as opposed to only financial support) responsibilities for developed countries.

Today is difficult to remember how much resistance there was to the SDGs and how improbable their adoption often seemed. On the margins of the negotiations an array of initiatives –side-events, consultations, dinners and breakfasts - took place to create spaces for discussion, for explaining the SDGs, for building up trust. One suite of initiatives that stands out was orchestrated by Franz Perrez of Switzerland. We organized dinners with both donor and recipient countries, for frank discussions about continued financing for the MDGs to demonstrate that the SDGs would not undermine commitment to the MDGs. I remember one particularly memorable exchange one night, when a G77 colleague spoke bitterly about the fact that the 0.07 target had not been met and questioned the commitment of donors. Marianne Loe of Norway gently responded that her country was supporting the SDGs precisely in order to better deliver on the promise of the MDGs but that Norway was committed to the MDGs and would remain committed. He looked at her thoughtfully and replied, “You know what? I believe you. Norway has always delivered”.

Colombia drafted a third concept paper on the SDGs which detailed the SDGs and the process forward, which was endorsed by Guatemala and Peru. In March Vice Minister Londoño decided it was important to explain the proposal to the Indian Government which initially had serious reservations about it. Together we travelled to Delhi where we met with a wide array of government officials and spent any fruitful hours in deep and substantive conversations. In the end the Government of India understood the merits of the proposal and its potential contribution to both the sustainability and equity dimensions of development. The rich discussions helped Colombia to further mature the proposal. The

Government of India committed to supporting the proposal. A few weeks later, in G77+China negotiations, one delegate who had participated only marginally in the drawn out negotiations informed the Group that the SDG language agreed to that point – so painstakingly crafted - would never be accepted by his government. There was deep silence and I sensed the gains of weeks evaporating. Then the Indian delegate spoke up, and with characteristic thoroughness and diplomatic verve pulled out the exact text that had been already agreed to, invoked the principles that should govern G77+China discussions, and in an instant resolved the matter. When I thanked Vivek Wadekar afterwards he looked at me with a smile and said “India said we would support this proposal. India always keeps its word”. The SDGs continued to pick up advocates as the negotiations advanced.

As the rounds of negotiations evolved, however, progress was often illusory. Dozens and dozens of paragraphs were added to the text. I remember one paragraph that had something like 27 different options to it at one point. This limited enormously the time allotment both within G77 as well as in the formal negotiations for tackling the SDGs. Agreement on text made at one meeting was undermined at the next. But gradually G77+China came around to generally supporting the concept of the SDGs, and to broadly characterizing them.

In parallel, Colombia continued to host side-events and consultations. Another major international consultations was organized in Tarrytown with generous support from donors and WRI. WRI was a dedicated partner throughout the negotiation process and helped to organize a suite of consultations during that period – and then over the coming years as the Open Working Group process was underway. In March with the generous support of the Ford Foundation we hosted a consultation for G77+China in the morning to which many Ambassadors came, and for all governments in the afternoon. A total of 63 countries participated. These aimed to give delegates the space to explore options, to understand what the SDGs implied, to have the difficult informal discussions that are needed to advance negotiations. Colombia also continued to participate, as special guest, in multiple events organized by civil society, international NGOs, MDBs and others to present the proposal.

As the concept of the SDGs gained traction, I became increasingly concerned about what I termed Rio+1 – that is, what would happen the day after Rio. I knew that unless we got agreement in Rio on a specific and detailed process for defining the SDGs, we could easily spend the years until 2015 just agreeing on this. (My concern was well founded: after Rio it took Member States 7 months to agree on who would sit on the Open Working Group on the SDGs). Colombia had three deliverables it wanted to see come out of Rio: agreement on the concept, agreement on a “tentative, indicative, demonstrative, potential list” of SDG goals, and agreement on the process. At that juncture, the first had essentially been achieved, and the latter was the most important.

Therefore during the third round of negotiations in April Colombia prepared a fourth paper that focused more on the actual process going forward. This paper marked a watershed because it was endorsed not just by Latin American countries – Peru in the event, but also by United Arab Emirates (UAE). This was a strong signal of how deeply the proposal had advanced. During that week, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) informally expressed support for the proposal, and agreed that Brazil would lead on it. Brazil, the Conference’s host, stated that for President Rousseff one of the key results of Rio was to launch a process to develop the SDGs. In parallel, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia, Frank Pearl, participated in a ministerial consultation on the SDG proposal hosted by the Swedish government in a “Stockholm+40” event.

At the end of May a final informal negotiation round was convened to attempt to reduce the negotiating text which at that point was a sprawl of over 270 paragraphs. Ahead of the negotiations, I decided that another paper was needed, focusing exclusively on the process after Rio. Given the broad scope of the negotiations negligible time was being devoted to this key issue. Isabel Cavelier, a member of my team who was part of the UNFCCC delegation, suggested that the Transitional Committee under the UNFCCC which had delivered the Green Climate Fund be used as a model. It seemed a perfect fit. So we prepared a paper suggesting that a small open (not open-ended) technical working group be convened, based on the Transitional Committee model. Colombia shared the proposal informally and the idea gained traction and adepts – this was the genesis of the Open Working Group.

My small core team – Angela Rivera, Alicia Lozano and Carolina Aguirre - arrived in Rio for the informal preparatory segment of what was formally the Third Preparatory Committee Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The full Colombian delegation arrived over the coming days, led by President Santos with Minister Holguin, Minister Pearl and Vice-Minister Londoño, and which included representatives from key line ministries. We immediately entered into high stakes, intense negotiations both within G77+ China as well as in the formal plenary. Farrukh Khan did a stellar job of managing the negotiations, keeping to the highest possible ambition while respecting the very diverse views and concerns within the Group. It is to no small degree thanks to Farrukh’s skillful management of the negotiations that the SDGs were ultimately reflected in the final text, and included paragraphs on the process going forward.

Substantial progress had been made already on the SDG concept and characterization, so these negotiations were tractable. However, there had been little time or space to discuss, let alone negotiate, the process after Rio. And there were bitter and deep divisions around this. There were a number of perspectives on how to formulate the SDG’s. For the EU and the US, it meant a technical working group appointed by the Secretary General. For many in the G77 and China, the technical working group meant a working group comprising experts and negotiators with significant political oversight and consistent with United Nations General Assembly rules.

This would have meant a political body, negotiated by the established groups including G77+China and the EU. It would have meant a replay of the political wrangling that characterized the Rio+20 negotiations. Colombia and others insisted that what we were agreeing to was a metric with far-reaching implications for humanity and our planet, and that it could not be beholden to political considerations. We envisaged a technical body that could bring in experts on the daunting array of issues and themes that would need to be addressed, and that would submit its technical (and therefore hopefully structured, evidence-based) recommendations for approval to the UNGA. The discussions were contentious. After a few days of incredibly difficult discussions, Farrukh and I convened a small group of G77+China colleagues. After long hours we finally reached agreement on the concept of an open working group, in the understanding that its work would be fully transparent. It would deliberate in an open space so that all delegations who wanted to sit in could do so, and it would be transmitted via internet so anyone in the world could key in.

Later, Farrukh and I drafted language to submit to the Brazilian hosts who were preparing a revised negotiation draft. At that point, the discussions on the modality had been so protracted and difficult that we had not had a chance to widely discuss many of the working details of the group. As time was running out, Farrukh and I considered the composition of the group. After some analysis we concluded that as a starting point, the text could call for a total of 30 representatives – 5 x 6 regional UN groups. And that was the number that was submitted. 30 seemed sensible because we knew that in the ensuing negotiations the number would spiral upwards, closer to 60 or more. So 30 was a good starting point. We did not know that Brazil would essentially present “take-it-or-leave-it-texts” that were not open for negotiation. And it is for this reason that the Open Working Group that emerged from Rio had only 30 slots. (The process after Rio however, proved us right. In the end groups of countries ultimately agreed to share the 30 slots and the OWG ended up with over 60 countries sitting in it. However the proposed model delivered. There were several OWG groupings that included countries that were not all members of the same political groups such as EU or G77. And I would submit that this was a key element in enabling the success, the ambition, the clarity of the final SDG agreement.

The Brazilian delegation did a masterly job of managing what could have been intractable negotiations. I remember the refrain from their delegates at all the meetings during the days of negotiations: “If you cannot agree, if you cannot come to consensus text, you are leaving us no option”. And then in fact they presented a single consolidated text which was open for minimal discussion for a short time, and then a final text. They held marathon informal discussions and negotiations with key delegations and produced text that broadly reflected viable consensus. It was an astonishing and incredibly effective process.

The SDGs were never a done deal however, until the very end. Just 12 hours before the text was due to be finalized, progress in the negotiations started to regress – just as the Heads of Delegations started arriving. There was a new mixed political signal and this allowed latent concerns with the SDGs to surface again. Just as we were about to close the deal, it was unraveling all at once. I remember sitting late that night in the hallway with a close colleague wondering if the SDGs would be undermined or derailed. He just shook his head and said, “I honestly don’t know.” This is when diplomacy and trust amongst the core interlocutors came to rescue, catalyzed by the sharp negotiating skills of Farrukh Khan and the dedicated leadership of Brazil. And the proposal ultimately prevailed.

In the morning of 19 June, the Brazilian Presidency of UNCSD presented the final text to delegates who had been up most of the night waiting for it. It was a masterly construct of maximum consensus and ambition. The Brazilian Government had delivered a new development framework. Although a few delegations still had issues related to the international framework for sustainable development (which were not ultimately resolved until the Plenary session), there was a long round of deeply felt and relieved applause. As we were all standing around in blissful exhaustion, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Antonio Patriota, called Viceminister Patti Londono and myself up to the crowded, overflowing podium where everyone was celebrating. He pulled us aside and said that on behalf of his Government he wanted to thank Colombia for what we had delivered for Rio+20 - for the SDGs.

After the SDGs were formally adopted in a moving and historic Plenary, and as Heads of State spoke, the Secretary General of the UNCSD, Mr Sha Zukang came down from the podium and walked to the Colombian seat in the Plenary to greet President Santos. He congratulated him and said, “Colombia, it is not a big country. But it has big ideas that can change the history of development.”


After months of discussions as to the composition of the Open Working Group, it finally kicked off in March 2013. Colombia had the privilege of sharing a seat with Guatemala, where we continued to work closely on a fully shared agenda. Colombia continued to advocate for an agenda that overcame sectoral and temporal silos, and presented several proposals including “The Integrating Approach” and “The Dashboard Proposal”. Ultimately the dedication and vision of two outstanding co-chairs, Ambassadors Macharia of Kenya and Csaba of Hungary, the discipline and commitment of 193 countries and innumerable CSOs, NGOs, think-tanks, private sector organizations and scientists, and a unique format that had never before been used at the UN, delivered a metric that truly has the potential to be transformational1). It delivered a platform that can bring all countries around a shared agenda for sustainability and equity. Today the fact that the Nationally Determined Contributions under UNFCCC were approved after the SDGs, means that these two agendas should naturally converge and serve to catalyze each other. But the story of the journey of the Open Working Group process would need another chapter.


1 Many have strongly criticized the SDG framework agreed in July 2014, and consider that 17 goals and 169 are excessive. However, the fact is that at the outset of the process, the dynamics of the group could have resulted in over a hundred goals, and an exponential list of targets. Every constituency, every UN agency, every sector considered that there should be a goal to reflect their specific issue or area. I used to joke that we would have goals “from breast milk to nuclear waste” –these were in fact 2 of the goals that were proposed at one point. So the fact that in the end 193 countries (because in the end all Member States did participate in the Open Working Group), and innumerable, very dedicated and informed constituencies agreed to only 17 goals is remarkable. And consider this: the High Level Panel on the Post 2015 Agenda convened by the Secretary General recommended 12 goals. But the fact is that at one point, the draft report included 16 goals. These were later reduced to 12, but the HLP report – which marked a watershed in the Post 2015 negotiations and introduced such key concepts as “Leave No One Behind” to the process – did not include key issues in the goals. For example, it did not include a goal on cities and human settlements. So if one considers that an eminent group of 23 experts at one point came up with 16 goals, the fact that the most participatory intergovernmental process in human history ended up with 17 goals is nothing short of a most remarkable miracle.


Page 1      Page 2      Page 3      Page 4      Page 5      Page 6      Page 7      Page 8      Page 9

Supplement 1      Supplement 2      Supplement 3      Supplement 4      Supplement 5      Supplement 6

PelicanWeb Home Page

Bookmark and Share

"The ultimate gated community is
a human being with a closed mind."

Christopher Fowler, The Sand Men, 2015


Write to the Editor
Send email to Subscribe
Send email to Unsubscribe
Link to the Google Groups Website
Link to the PelicanWeb Home Page

Creative Commons License
ISSN 2165-9672

Supplement 1      



Subscribe to the
Mother Pelican Journal
via the Solidarity-Sustainability Group

Enter your email address: