by Aleena Farishta, first year graduate student in Urban Planning at Columbia University currently interning at WEDO as the Post-Rio+20/ Sustainable Development Fellow

The fourth meeting of the intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was held from 17-19 June 2013. On June 17th, decent work and social protection; youth, education and culture  were the topics for the meeting I attended on behalf of WEDO. The meeting started with the presentation of technical notes and the High Level Panel report. The afternoon panel discussion focused around the report and “new jobs, good jobs, and green jobs,” according to the representative from Denmark.

The High Level Panel Report concluded that linkages between the poverty agenda and the environment agenda must be highlighted going forward. The report recommends five shifts to assist in organizing the agenda, which include: leave no one behind, sustainable development should be at the core of the agenda, transform economies and the economic growth agenda to end poverty, build peace and accountable public institutions, and forge a new public partnership. Furthermore, the details of the agenda must be country-led and country-owned, by making specific targets in relation to the context of each country. This point in particular was interesting for me, since I believe that a challenge for the Millenium Developments Goals (MDGs) was that they were too general and the targets were not realistic or not specific to each country’s needs.

In addition, representatives discussed the importance of how social protection is able to address inequalities and the lack of decent wages, and the need to target employment and decent work goals in the new agenda. The Deputy Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) claimed that in transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs, we should determine a social protection floor, look into ways to shift informal work to formal work, expand access to vocational training for youth and marginalized groups, and above all work on ensuring gender equality.

It seems that the discussions on the SDGs and the Post-2015 agenda are still lacking dialogue on the difficult questions such as: Who will help countries develop the capacity to address issues of social protection? Who will define what a “green economy” is? How will structural issues that have the ability to hinder the SDGs, such as the current macro-economic policies or different government structures, be addressed?  Is the reality of climate change actually being included in these goals and the discussions meant to frame them?

Although these questions are being discussed in civil society groups, it is important for those involved in these processes to encourage public participation, especially for marginalized groups. So far there have been various initiatives through social media to involve more stakeholders, and I’ve listened in on meetings where civil society and non government stakeholders are discussing innovative ways to conduct outreach and ensure that more voices are being heard. I am very hopeful that the Post-2015 agenda will take on the recommendations for involvement of more stakeholders and address the difficult questions, and in turn fill the gaps and address the lessons learned from the MDGs.

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