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Dear members of the SDSN,

Welcome to the first edition of the SDSN Members’ Bulletin, which provides in-depth updates from SDSN members as well as recent developments with the SDSN. This Bulletin includes a spotlight on the post-2015 development agenda.

1. SDSN blog: next steps on Post-2015
2. This month’s spotlight: the post-2015 processes

a. What are the post-2015 issues?
b. The main post-2015 processes
c. The roadmap for adopting the post-2015 goals
d. The role of the SDSN in the post-2015 process

3. Recent SDSN updates
4. News from SDSN members
5. SDSN in the media
6. Upcoming events

We hope you will find this Bulletin of interest. Since this is the first edition of the Bulletin we would be particularly grateful for feedback on how useful the content and format are for SDSN members. Please also share with us information to be included in the next edition, which will focus on the SDSN’s work on climate change. It will be ready in a little over a month. We have set up a separate email address for all inquiries from members: members@unsdsn.org.

With best wishes,

GST signature

Guido Schmidt-Traub
Executive Director


SDSN blog: next steps on Post-2015
By Guido Schmidt-Traub

It was never going to be an easy process to agree to the next generation of development goals, but just over one year after the Rio+20 conference and the formal launch of the post-2015 process, the skeptics and even some optimists have been surprised by progress made so far and the growing consensus on the key contours of the post-2015 agenda. This emerging consensus includes broad agreement on: (i) building on the MDGs and finishing the job of ending extreme poverty in all its forms; (ii) using sustainable development as the operational and normative framework, and (iii) the universality and applicability of the new goals to all countries, while taking into account countries’ differing needs. This year’s reports by the High-Level Panel, the SDSN, the Global Compact, and the SG all show that it is possible to construct a compelling agenda that combines the major needs and aspirations of every region in the world.

In addition to progress on the substance and framing, member states have just approved a roadmap at the special event on September 25. A heads-of-state summit will adopt the post-2015 agenda and the goals in September 2015 following a process of intergovernmental negotiations starting in September 2014. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deserves enormous credit for the agreement on an open process and the convergence on the agenda’s substance.

On the road towards a successful September 2015 summit many complex issues still need to be addressed. Four stand out for being important and in need of more attention. First, and perhaps most importantly, a successful post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must ensure that all countries see the benefit of the new framework.  For poor countries the benefit will be the world’s commitment to ending extreme poverty by 2030 and promoting economic transformations.  What will be the benefits seen by today’s middle-income economies (MICs), including the emerging economies and their subset, the BRICS?

The MICs include nearly 70 percent of the world’s population and an even larger share of its economic dynamism. There is simply no way in which the world can become more inclusive, more environmentally sustainable, and better governed at the international level, unless the MICs play a leadership role in sustainable development. The importance of ensuring that the SDGs are positive and relevant for the MICs therefore is of utmost priority.

With this importance in mind, the SDSN proposes to make countries’ right to develop a central pillar of the post-2015 agenda.  Specifically, the agreement should ensure that MICs have an open road to become high-income countries. This right to development, which responds to the MICs concern that protectionism and environmental constraints must not stall their economic progress, needs be balanced by a shared commitment of all countries to live within the planetary boundaries. We have outlined these ideas in the Action Agenda for Sustainable Development and a paper on sustainable development and planetary boundaries.

More work is planned on mapping out the economic, technological, and political pathways towards sustainable development with a particular focus on MICs. We hope that our work will help craft a narrative and framework that all countries, including the MICs, consider important for their development efforts.

A second constituency that must become an integral part of the post-2015 agenda is the private sector. As the Action Agenda and other post-2015 reports make clear, the end of poverty and sustainable development cannot be achieved without the leadership by the private sector. In addition to leadership from the markets, governments need to change the rules of the game to better align private incentives with the societal objectives of sustainable development. Such changes are welcome by some companies and strongly resisted by others, but they will need to be part of post-2015 if the world is to move towards a sustainable development path.

The SDSN and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) will soon publish a “business case for sustainable development.” The SDSN is also exploring new public private partnerships as part of its Solution Initiatives and how they can be scaled up under a post-2015 framework.

Third and closely related, is the issue of public and private financing. A consensus exists around the need for vastly more resources, for example to scale up sustainable infrastructure, but there’s no clarity on how the funds can be mobilized, and sometimes the complementary roles of public and private finance are confused. On the public finance side, the post-2015 agenda is an opportunity to look beyond marginal improvements in the mobilization and disbursement of official development assistance (ODA), and to ask instead what fair and efficient modalities of ODA might look like. Preliminary thoughts on transformational changes that the post-2015 agenda can consider have been published in an SDSN paper to the High-Level Panel and will be explored further in coming months. On the private finance side, the SDSN and the WBCSD will work with leading private financiers to outline how the required volumes of private finance can be mobilized, in significant part through more dynamic and creative public-private partnerships.

A fourth and final challenge concerns the need for integration across the economic, social, and environmental objectives of sustainable development. Virtually every post-2015 report highlights the need for integration, but most proposed goals tend to be organized along sector lines. In response the SDSN report proposes several integrated goals that focus on key integrated systems: cities, agriculture and rural development, or the energy system. The SDSN’s urban group has launched a campaign for an urban SDG – such a goal strikes us as an essential component of an integrated post-2015 agenda. Similarly, the proposed health and education goals include challenges that are outside the purview of the traditional education and health sectors. In coming months we will outline indicator and monitoring frameworks for such integrated goals.

While difficult, the international community can address questions in time for September 2015. Success will require intense debates among member states and engagement of the scientific and technical communities. By providing technical input into the various post-2015 processes, launching Solution Initiatives, and building national and regional networks of knowledge centers, the SDSN aims to make an important contribution towards a successful summit in 2015. In the coming months, we will contribute to the intergovernmental processes in several ways, and will keep members alerted to those events through the SDSN calendar.


This month’s spotlight: the post-2015 processes
Each SDSN Members’ Bulletin will focus on a major element of the SDSN’s work. To kick of this series we are reviewing the various post-2015 processes. The next Bulletin will focus on climate change.  

What are the post-2015 issues?
Since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have become the world’s shared goals for ending extreme poverty in all its forms. Substantial progress has been achieved towards the MDGs (which are to be achieved by 2015), but some countries and regions are lagging behind on several goals (see here for the latest MDG progress report and here for the data portal).

The MDGs have become the organizing framework for the world’s fight against extreme poverty, providing coherence and a rallying point for action. To the surprise of many, the legally non-binding Goals have become increasingly visible over the years, and many countries use them to chart ambitious national objectives for ending extreme poverty in all its forms. The Goals have established themselves as a central tool for fostering international cooperation. Civil society groups and businesses align their action with the MDGs, and the Goals are being taught in schools as a shorthand summary of the development challenges. The SDSN report describes the importance of the MDGs and the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals.

There are many views on what should replace the MDGs, but, as underscored in the report by the Secretary-General “A Life of Dignity for All”, many points regarding the post-2015 Development Agenda are widely shared:

  • The world needs a single post-2015 framework and one set of goals.
  • The post-2015 agenda needs to “finish the job” begun by the MDGs by ending extreme poverty in all its forms no later than 2030.
  • The normative and operational framework for the post-2015 agenda is sustainable development, which combines the societal objectives of economic development and ending extreme poverty, promoting social inclusion, and maintaining environmental sustainability – all underpinned by good governance, peace and security.
  • In contrast to the MDGs, post-2015 goals will be universal and apply to all countries. They must also apply to and mobilize business, civil society, and science.
  • Any new set of development goals must be the outcome of a public and transparent consultation process involving UN member states and other actors.

The main post-2015 processes
Last year the UN Secretary-General and Member States launched a number of processes to chart out a course a new set of goals for the period through to 2030 and possibly beyond. The most important initiatives are summarized in this graph prepared by the UN Foundation.

post-2015 processes

  • The Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals: At the Rio+20 conference in 2012 member states agreed to launch an inter-governmental “Open Working Group” to put forward suggestions for a set of post-2015 “Sustainable Development Goals”. The group was constituted in early 2013 and is chaired by the Governments of Hungary and Kenya. It will deliver its final report before the September 2014 session of the General Assembly. The group has published an interim progress report and its work program.
  • The High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: In mid-2012 UN Secretary-General asked 26 eminent development leaders to propose a framework for the post-2015 Development Agenda and to highlight priority areas for post-2015 goals. The panel, which was chaired by the President of Indonesia, the President of Liberia, and the Prime Minister of the UK, submitted its report to the Secretary-General in May 2013.
  • High Level Political Forum (HLPF): Another outcome of the Rio+20 conference, the HLPF is designed to follow-up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments. The Forum replaces the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD).

In addition, many civil society and business processes are underway in support of the post-2015 development agenda. These include the Independent Research Forum, the Southern Voice on the Post-2015 MDG Development Agenda, and a large number of thematic groups. Good overviews of ongoing discussions are available are provided on post2015.org (hosted by the Overseas Development Institute) and worldwewant2015.org (hosted by the United Nations).

The roadmap for adopting the post-2015 goals
On 25 September 2013 the member states of the United Nations adopted a document urging faster progress towards achieving the MDGs and outlining the roadmap for adopting the post-2015 goals: The Open Working Group will propose a post-2015 framework, and the Secretary-General will issue a synthesis report in the second half of 2014. Subsequently, negotiations about the post-2015 framework and the goals will commence in the UN General Assembly. These negotiations will conclude in a heads-of-state summit in New York in September 2015, which will adopt the post-2015 goals and targets.

The role of the SDSN in the post-2015 process

The SDSN is supporting the post-2015 processes in a variety of ways:

  • The SDSN and its Thematic Groups are providing background documents and briefings to the Open Working Group, including a December 16 event on the role of science and technology for sustainable development;
  • In early 2014 the SDSN will publish a report on possible indicators for tracking progress towards the sustainable development goals; and
  • The SDSN has also provided background documents to the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. 

Recent SDSN Updates

Thematic Group Reports Launched
On September 18th, the co-chairs of several SDSN Thematic Groups launched their reports at Columbia University, New York:
• Achieving Gender Equality, Social Inclusion, and Human Rights for All: Challenges and Priorities for the Sustainable Development Agenda
• Harnessing Natural Resources for Sustainable Development: Challenges and Solutions
• Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Development
• Why the World Needs an Urban Sustainable Development Goal

Two draft reports were released for public consultation:
• The Future of Our Children: Lifelong, Multi-Generational Learning for Sustainable Development
• Health In The Framework Of Sustainable Development

Third Meeting of the SDSN Leadership Council
On September 19th and 20th the Leadership Council of the SDSN met in New York to discuss progress thus far and future work. The event included a discussion with H.E. Csaba Kőrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN and Co-Chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals on how the SDSN can support the OWG. Isabella Teixeira, Minister of the Environment from Brazil, also addressed the Leadership Council highlighting the importance of ambitious solutions for sustainable development in all countries and keeping positive momentum on the MDGs as we work on the SDG agenda.

3rd SDSN LC3rd SDSN LC event

Event on Short-Termism in Business Held in New York

Short-Termism in Business
Widespread “short-termism” in business and investment decision-making is a critical barrier to addressing sustainable development challenges. For this reason, on September 17th, 2013, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the SDSN convened business leaders, investors, and academics to discuss the key levers that will allow longer-term perspectives in business and investment decision making. Participants expressed their views and practical suggestions for action, some of which will be followed up on by the Thematic Group 12: Redefining the Role of Business for Sustainable Development.

Indonesia SDSN and Southeast Asia SDSN Launched at APEC Meeting
On October 6, 2013, H.E. Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, launched the Indonesia SDSN and a regional SDSN for SE Asia. The launch event took place during the APEC meeting and was attended by SDSN Leadership Council members Mari Pangestu and Cherie Nursalim. The United in Diversity Forum working with the University of Indonesia will be a Regional Center for the SDSN in SE Asia. The President’s speech is available on the SDSN website. You can also read coverage of the event in the China DailyAntara News, and Jakarta Post.

Thematic Group on Health Meets in New York
On September 18th, 2013, the Thematic Group on Health for All convened in New York, NY, to discuss outreach and the public consultation for their report Health in the Framework of Sustainable Development.

PLASTIC-BUSTERS in the Mediterranean Solutions Initiative Launched!
The first expedition was carried out in the historic vessel Amerigo Vespucci, made available by the Italian Navy. The beautiful vessel crossed the Pelagos Sanctuary (Italy – Monaco – France) over a period of 5 days following a route from Leghorn (Italy) to Toulone (France). The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals is a marine protected area extending about 90,000 square kilometers in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea. Eight species of remarkable cetacean fauna, including the baleen whaleBalaenoptera physalus (fin whale), coexist in the sanctuary despite high levels of human pressure. Coastal tourism, recreational and commercial fishing, marine vessels and marine industry are all sources of plastic litter that can directly enter the marine environment, posing a risk to the fauna and flora of this precious region. During this first trip of the Plastic-Busters project, the researchers on board took a set of samples to analyze the presence of plastics in the sea. Click here to see more pictures from the trip or to read coverage by the Italian press.

Meeting of the Thematic Group on Good Governance of Extractive and Land Resources
On September 17th, 2013, TG10 met in New York to discuss potential Solutions Initiatives, including projects in Chile, Ghana and Mozambique, and plans for sharing the findings of their report, entitled Harnessing Natural Resources for Sustainable Development: Challenges and Solutions.

TG10 meeting

New Members Welcomed to the SDSN
On September 19, 2013, the Executive Committee appointed the United in Diversity Forum, Indonesia, as a Regional Center, and Universiti Sains Malaysia as a National SDSN Center for Malaysia. They also approved membership for the following institutions:

Association for Sustainable Innovation in Tunisia
Bocconi University, Italy
Boğaziçi University, Turkey
Center for Agricultural Economic Research, Israel
Myanmar Development Resource Institute
Centre de Recerca en Economia Industrial I Pública, Spain
Consorzio ARCA, Italy
Consorzio IPASS Scarl, Italy
DesertNet International, Germany
Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria
Federal University, Kashere, Nigeria
Fondazione Achille Sclavo ONLUS, Italy
Indian Institute for Human Settlements
IRRI, Philippines
ISPONRE, Viet Nam
Laboratoire d’Excellence OT-Med, France
National University of Laos
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), USA
OGS (Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale), Italy
Penang Institute, Malaysia
Politecnico di Bari, Italy
Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences
Sciences Po, France
Stockholm International Water Institute, Sweden
Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation
The Cyprus Institute
UNIMED – Mediterranean Universities Union, Italy
United Nations University, Japan
Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italy
Università degli Studi di Sassari, Italy
Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia
University of Cambodia
University of Ferrara, Italy
University of Southampton, UK
Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC), USA
Venice International University, Italy
Viet Nam National University
Water and Environmental Studies Institute, Palestine


News from SDSN members

Seventy-nine organizations have joined the SDSN so far, and we are on track to exceed 100 members by the end of 2013. In this section we highlight news from our members. Please email us (members@unsdsn.org) to have your news included.

Norman Borlaug Institute: On 13 September the Norman Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University hosted a meeting for North American members of the SDSN and other special invitees interested in the role of agriculture in development and the post-2015 agenda.

MOOC on sustainable development: As part of the SDSN’s education initiatives for sustainable development, several members of the SDSN are launching a MOOC (massively open online course) on sustainable development in early 2014. The course, offered in partnership with the Masters of Development Practice Consortium, will comprise online lectures by Jeffrey Sachs and will be co-taught locally by each university. If all goes well, this course will be one of the most widely offered online courses for credit.

University of Siena: The University has formally launched the Plastic Busters Solution Initiative, which will be implemented by the Mediterranean SDSN.  The project will have three components: (i) measure and document the nature, prevalence and impact of marine plastic litter by tracking a number

of sentinel organisms in different ecological compartments across the entire Mediterranean basin; (ii) to sequence the genome of bacteria living on the plastic in order to understand pathways for the microbial degradation of plastic and key chemicals contained in plastic; (iii) to support organizations and campaigns in Mediterranean countries advocating for policies to reduce the inflow of plastic into the Mediterranean. The Italian navy made the Amerigo Vespucci, a historic sail boat, available for the launch of Plastic Busters which took place at the end of September.

German Development Institute: The institute has recently presented the Cost of Non-Europe in Development Policy: Increasing Donor Coordination to the European Parliament.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and TERI University are offering a three week course called “Integrated approach towards sustainable development” from 31 March – 18 April 2014.  The course is being offered as part of the Indian Technical and Economic Co-operation (ITEC) program under the Ministry of External affairs, Government of India.  The course is a three-week long residential program conducted in India, attended by participants from other developing countries. The course is designed to meet the needs of senior and mid-level government and non-government officials from ITEC/SCAAP countries.


SDSN in the media


Upcoming events

  • SDSN Deep Decarbonization Kick-off Workshop: Seoul, South Korea. October 12-13.
  • Korea SDSN Launch: Seoul, Korea. October 14.
  • Dubai Launch: Dubai, UAE. October 22.
  • SDSN Education Thematic Group Meeting (@ Wise Summit). Doha, Qatar. October 29-31.
  • Rio Sustainability Initiative Workshop: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. October 24.
  • Regional SE Asia workshop on Sustainable Development Goals organized by the Malaysia SDSN and the Australia/Pacific SDSN: Kuala Lumpur, November 7-8.
  • COP19 of the UNFCCC: Warsaw, Poland. November 11.
  • Open Working Group:
    • Sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy, infrastructure and industrialization: November 25-27.
    • Means of implementation, global partnership, needs of countries in special situations, human rights: December 9-13.
    • Science and Technology for Sustainable Development: December 16  – event organized by the SDSN