The new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Political will was lacking to mainstream human rights throughout the document

The International Movement ATD Fourth World welcomes the latest set of sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations Open Working Group, but goals could better emphasize reaching the most marginalized and political will was lacking to mainstream human rights throughout the document.

The sustainable development goals are a historic agreement and are much more ambitious and comprehensive than the preceding Millennium Development Goals. The International Movement ATD Fourth World congratulates Ambassadors Macharia Kamau and Csaba Kőrösi in their expert co-chairing of this group and looks forward to the opportunity to further engage in the design and implementation of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

The document’s affirmation of the centrality of people in achieving sustainable development is to be applauded, as are the text’s references to rights instruments and internationally agreed human rights. International human rights instruments, like the Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, written with the participation of people living in extreme poverty, provide solid guidance for countries seeking inclusive development.

“Unfortunately though,” said Quyen Tran, head of international advocacy at ATD Fourth World, “political will waslacking to mainstream human rights throughout the document. Almost all uses of the term ‘access to’ could be effectively replaced with’right to.’ This would have significantly enhanced the power of people to claim their rights. The absence of such language is perhaps the most important shortcoming of the Open Working Group’s document.”

With regards to poverty, “While the title of Goal 1, ‘End Poverty in all its forms everywhere,’ is ambitious,” said Isabelle PypaertPerrin, director general of ATD Fourth World, “target 1.2 – to reduce by at least half the proportion of men women and children ofall ages living in poverty according to national definitions – falls short. With no clear reference to prioritising those living in the greatest poverty, it could lead governments to target only those easiest to reach. This would contradict the principle of leave noone behind.”

Moreover, findings from ATD Fourth World’s recent international participatory research project on sustainable development, which included the voices of over 2,000 people worldwide, the majority living in poverty, indicate that it is critical to move towards multidimensional and participatory measures of poverty. Perrin continued, “This is reinforced by language like ‘in all its forms’ (in the goal title) and ‘in all its dimensions’ (target 1.2),both of which point toward measures that go beyond income. Unfortunately, however, the inadequate only income-based measure for extreme poverty has been further entrenched under target 1.1.”


After six days of heated intergovernmental negotiations that stretched into Saturday afternoon of 19 July 2014, the outcome document containing a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was adopted by the Open Working Group mandated to work on this at the 2012 Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.

The document will now be sent to the UN General Assembly and at a later point, opened up to all Member States.

The Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) concluded its 13th session (14-19 July) after over one and a half years of discussions and negotiations.  The 11th hour of negotiations stretched through the night of 18July, finally leading to an adoption on Saturday afternoon.

The adopted text of the SDGs contains a set of 17 goals that span the three pillars of sustainable development, that of economic, social and environmental issue areas.  Each goal is accompanied by a set of targets and means of implementation (MOI).  One of goals is an MOI thematic goal divided into the structural areas of trade, finance, technology, capacity building, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and data, monitoring and accountability.

The other 16 goals, encompassing fundamental issues in economic, social and environmental policies, are as follows:

  •  (1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere;
  • (2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture;
  • (3) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages;
  • (4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all;
  • (5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;
  • (6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all;
  • (7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all;
  • (8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;
  • (9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation;
  • (10) Reduce inequality within and among countries;
  • (11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable;
  • (12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns;
  • (13) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (with the following words preceding the targets: (acknowledging that the UNFCCC is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change);
  • (14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development;
  • (15) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss;
  • (16) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The full text can be accessed at:

The next step is for this text to be presented to the General Assembly in September, after which intergovernmental negotiations among all the countries in the United Nations will take place in the context of the Post-2015 development agenda, with the current text serving as the basis from which to work on.

The Post-2015 development agenda is the successor of the Millennium Development Goals, and will be the official global template informing international development policy, and to some extent national development planning.

Extract from the Third World Network newsletter from July 21st (