A Process to Identify the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012 launched an intergovernmental process to define the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It called for the establishment of an open working group with the view to developing global sustainable development goals which will be agreed by the UN General Assembly.

The 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) was established in January 2013 and includes representatives nominated by Member States from the five UN regional groups. Member States decided to use an innovative, constituency-based system of representation which means that most of the seats in the OWG are shared by several countries.

The OWG met in eight sessions that covered a large number of issues, ranging from poverty eradication, food security, water and sanitation, employment, health, macroeconomic policy questions, means of implementation, sustainable consumption and production, to human rights, gender equality and conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding. In September 2014, the OWG submitted its report to the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, with a proposal for the SDGs.

The Rio+20 outcome document specifies that the SDGs should:

  • address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) as well as their inter-linkages;
  • build upon commitments already made and contribute to the full implementation of the outcomes of all major summits in the economic, social and environmental fields, including the Rio+20 outcome document;
  • be action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries; and
  • be coherent with, and integrated into, the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.

The UN Secretary-General provided the initial input to the work of the group, in consultation with national governments. To support the OWG, an inter-agency technical support team on SDGs was established under the umbrella of the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda (also called the UN Task Team). The UN Task Team prepares issues briefs on the topics that are being discussed by the OWG. UN Women is a member of the Task Team.

In Focus: Women and the environment

As part of UN Women's Beijing+20 campaign, this editorial package focuses on one of the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, and how women can and do make a difference in environmental decisions, responding to natural disasters and managing natural resources.