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Kenya: UN General Assembly agrees landmark deal as curtain comes down on MDGs

Efforts to combat poverty have received a new historic boost with the UN General Assembly’s decision to agree on a set of three development targets to be known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The three-pillar-focused SDGs, will effectively replace the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have set the pace for global efforts to cut poverty by half by 2015 and improve the welfare of the world’s population drastically.

The world’s latest effort at cutting poverty, whose negotiations kicked off in 2012 at the UN conference on sustainable development, also known as Rio 20 Summit in Brazil, was jointly chaired by Kenya and Hungary, with the final outcome endorsed on Friday.

Kenyan Permanent Representative to the UN, Macharia Kamau, said the deal was agreed after more than one-and-a-half years of intense discussions by the Open Working Group of the General Assembly tasked with formulation of global Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs encompass a broad spectrum of the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and also a goal on “peaceful and inclusive societies”.

The new SDGs report contains a set of 17 goals and 169 targets. It was adopted by acclamation at the Assembly, after what has now been called the most difficult and prolonged negotiations in UN history. 

Kamau, who presided over the final session, said the last intensive consultations started on 18 June and lasted through to 19 June when the text was agreed after a record 36 hours of non-stop negotiations.

“Unlike the MDGs which were designed by the UN system for the developing countries, the SDGs have been designed by UN Member States themselves in close consultations with all relevant multi-stakeholders,” the Kenyan foreign ministry said in a statement sent to PANA.

The 17 new goals are the product of an all-inclusive intergovernmental consultative process.

They offer all the 193 countries with a historic opportunity to pursue an internationally agreed set of sustainable development goals for a transformative sustainable development agenda, the Kenyan foreign ministry stated.

The adoption of the report marks the end of the mandate of the Open Working Group co-chaired by Kenya and Hungary. 

The report will be submitted to the current session of the General Assembly for appropriate action. 

Once adopted by the Assembly, the new goals will be integrated in the post-2015 development agenda as the successor goals to the MDGs, expiring December 2015. 

They go beyond the unfinished business of the MDGs, cover economic growth and sustainability of the earth and its life support systems, as well as targets on issues that underpin good governance and peaceful societies. 

“The implementation of the goals is expected to cause a revolutionary shift from the business as usual model of economic and social development to a more transformative people centered and environmentally conscious sustainable development pathway,” Kenyan officials said.

The new document makes efforts at addressing the shortfalls of the MDGs by offering new perspectives on the goals such as “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”.

It also focuses on improving inequalities within and among nations as well as tackle urgently, climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as protect and restore degraded ecosystems.

The SDGs revive targets such as ending the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other tropical diseases, ending hunger and achieving food security.

They also focuse on eliminating gender inequality with an elaborate approach and extends the goal of achieving these targets by 2030.

Analysts say those likely to stimulate socio-economic welfare and sustainability of the ecosystems and of life support systems include goals on economic growth, infrastructure, industrialization and innovation, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, ecosystem management and reducing inequalities.

“The goal on “reducing inequalities within and among nations” is of particular importance given the universal nature of the post-2015 development agenda,” the Kenyan foreign ministry statement noted.

Both developed and developing countries will have to undertake domestic and international commitments across the goals but based on their common but different responsibilities, national capabilities, priorities and circumstances. 

“The goal on ‘strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing global partnerships’ is undoubtedly one of the key achievements for the developing world,” Kamau said. 

“It was one of the most difficult to agree on given that its full spectrum is unclear in light of the forthcoming negotiations at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in July, 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” he added.

Consensus finally emerged on the goal with components specific to each goal and as well as a standalone goal to address it, Kamau said. 

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, will compile a report containing the proposed SDGs, their possible financing mechanisms and options for technology facilitation mechanisms as the basis for discussions of the post-2015 development agenda. 

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