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UN General Assembly Decides to Establish OWG on SDGs, Agrees on Membership

22 January 2013: The UN General Assembly has adopted by consensus the draft decision on the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The first meeting of the group is expected to take place in early February.

The draft decision (A/67/L.48, Rev 1) was agreed on 9 January 2013, and announced by the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN, who chaired the consultations.

Before the Assembly took action on the draft, the Secretariat announced that it does not entail financial implications for the programme budget (PBI) for 2012-2013. This is because any resource requirements have already been included in the report of the UN Secretary-General on revised estimates resulting from decisions taken at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), which called for the OWG's establishment.

In his remarks, UNGA President Vuk Jeremic said it is hard to imagine achieving needed global transformations without clearly defined development benchmarks. He stressed that the work of the OWG would remain at the center of his attention, and he called for a single post-2015 agenda.

In explanations of vote, Peru called for a single agenda reflecting that “development is one” and to ensure participation of civil society and all Member States. Venezuela appealed for the OWG to be "truly open" to any State, and for its negotiations process to be transparent, open and inclusive. Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and Colombia took the floor to urge an immediate start to substantive work of the group. 

Following these comments, Jeremic explained that he will travel to Africa to consult with regional leaders about the work of the Group, and will convene the first meeting upon his return. He noted that additional conversations on procedural matters are needed before the work of the Group can begin in earnest.

According to the annex to the decision, six seats are held by single countries, as follows: Benin, Congo, Ghana, Hungary, Kenya and Tanzania. Nine seats are held by pairs of countries, as follows: Bahamas/Barbados; Belarus/Serbia; Brazil/Nicaragua; Bulgaria/Croatia; Colombia/Guatemala; Mexico/Peru; Montenegro/Slovenia; Poland/Romania; and Zambia/Zimbabwe. Fourteen seats are held by trios of countries, as follows: Argentina/Bolivia/Ecuador; Australia/Netherlands/ UK; Bangladesh/Republic of Korea/Saudi Arabia; Bhutan/Thailand/Viet Nam; Canada/lsrael/US; Denmark/Ireland/Norway; France/Germany/Switzerland; Italy/Spain/Turkey; China/ Indonesia/Kazakhstan; Cyprus/Singapore/United Arab Emirates (UAE); Guyana/Haiti/Trinidad and Tobago; India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka; Iran/Japan/Nepal; and Nauru/Palau/Papua New Guinea (PNG). Finally, one seat is shared among four countries: Algeria/Egypt/Morocco/Tunisia.

The decision is part of item 20 (a) on the UNGA's agenda, "Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development." [Letter from UNGA President on Draft Decision[Draft Proposals of UNGA 67[Draft Decision A/67/L.48/Rev.1[IISD Story on Agreement in Consultations] [UN Press Release] [Meeting Summary] [IISD RS Sources] [Statement of UNGA President]