For the benefit of academics, NGOs and observers outside the government circles, let it be known also in this e-discussion forum: Governments in all countries of the world have been today (24 Feb) busy reacting to a letter (http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3272cochairsletter.pdf) and report (http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3276focusareas.pdf) sent to them on Friday 21 February 2014 by the Co-Chairs of the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG-SDG).
At the end of its "stock-taking phase" the OWG published a document that identifies the following 19 "focus areas for further consideration" in the next phases leading to the setting of the global Post-2015 development goals: 1. Poverty eradication; 2. Food security and nutrition; 3. Health and population dynamics; 4. Education; 5. Gender equality and women's empowerment; 6. Water and sanitation; 7. Energy; 8. Economic growth; 9. Industrialization; 10. Infrastructure; 11. Employment and decent work for all; 12. Promoting equality; 13. Sustainable cities and human settlements; 14. Sustainable consumption and production; 15. Climate; 16. Marine resources, oceans and seas; 17. Ecosystems and biodiversity, 18. Means of implementation; 19. Peaceful and non-violent societies, capable institutions.
A simple list like this does not do justice to the careful and balanced thinking of the OWG in their 8-page document. In their letter the Co-Chairs underline that the document "does not constitute a zero draft" of the OWG's report and that "the focus areas identified here are not exhaustive (and) do not preclude inclusion of other issues". The OWG is going to present its Final Report to the UN in September-2014, leaving one full year time for inter-governmental dialogues and negotiations before the next global development agenda for years 2015-2030 is going to be fixed by the UN-Summit in Sep-2015.
A question arises, however, when looking at this list of 19 Focal areas - from the point of view of a development policy maker: A list of 19 topics is already very long for bureaucratic ministries and agencies to swallow. If an important focus area such as e.g. the right to social protection floors for all is excluded from this list now, how likely is it that it can be lifted onto the list of the "ten or so" final SDGs by September-2015?
Should we advocate for a stand-alone SDG on Social Protection Floors? This was the key question discussed a week ago in an event organized in New York by the SPIAC-B (Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board).
UN-insiders were somewhat hesitant, arguing that even without being mentioned as a stand-alone SDG, social protection is surely going to feature very strongly among the SDG-targets and indicators: Social protection is one of the most direct and effective policy measures that governments can use e.g. to reduce inequalities and food insecurity, protect people against catastrophic health care costs, promote social inclusion, meaningful participation, decent work, sustainable livelihoods, aggregate demand and inclusive growth, as well as to empower women as individual holders of the right to social protection (not just as "dependants" of their husbands). All these benefits of social protection are also implied in the OWG's report – but should be articulated much more strongly and clearly.
On the other hand, as convincingly argued by the "Global NGO Coalition for Social Protection Floors" (http://www.ilo.org/newyork/events-and-meetings/WCMS_235025/lang--en/index.htm) if only very few focus areas can ultimately be selected to be SDG, why not select "Social Protection Floors for All" as a stand-alone SDG? By achieving that goal governments could achieve several other goals at the same time?
Besides, a lot of political support could surely be raised in support the "SPF-for-All" as a SDG. Excellent global advocacy materials and arguments already exist, and advocacy networks are in good shape, as a result of the successful advocacy campaign to establish the Social Protection Floors Recommendation (No. 202) at the International Labour Conference 2012 (http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_INSTRUMENT_ID:3065524).
I agree. Social protection for all is a good goal, as well as a smart means. What do you think?
Senior Adviser for Global Social Policy and Decent Work
Development Policy Department, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland