The long-awaited synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda from the Secretary General of the United Nations (U.N.) was released yesterday. This report ushers in the final chapter of the post-2015 development agenda-setting. This rather flowery 47-page report seeks to capture hearts and minds of member states with a vision for the future. While it doesn’t provide much clear and concrete direction on next steps, it does capture the work accomplished thus far and point member states in the direction of building off previous reports and utilizing the expertise within the U.N. system to adopt well-informed, measurable, and implementable goals, targets, indicators and financing.


What does the report say?

The Secretary General leads with a narrative that “young people will be the torch-bearers” of our new sustainable development paradigm. He affirms the need for that term to represent all three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental, and he declares that “transformation is our watchword.”

The report also echoes the narrative of the High-Level Panel Report and other documents which have identified the need for a “transformational and universal post-2015 agenda, buttressed by science and evidence, and built on the principles of human rights and the rule of law, equality and sustainability.”

Those in the midst of climate negotiations in COP20 these weeks are pleased to see the explicit recognition that climate must be incorporated into the sustainable development agenda. We applaud the Secretary General for his continued leadership on climate change, which was featured prominently (29 mentions) in the report. And we hope to see the post-2015 process continue to support and complement the effort for a legally-binding agreement coming out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process culminating in Paris next December, with a stand-alone goal on climate.

Women’s health also received an important acknowledgement in the statement that “the agenda must …. realize women’s reproductive health and rights.” However, despite the emphasis on youth elsewhere, the report includes no mention of the importance of adolescent reproductive health or comprehensive sexuality education.

Overall, the report emphasizes the need to continue fulfilling the unfinished work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to “use them as a springboard into the future we want.”

What about the goals, targets and indicators?

As expected, the Secretary General acknowledges the 17 goals of the Open Working Group, pointing to the fact that member states had agreed to work off of that the agenda as the main basis for the post-2015 intergovernmental process. He goes on to “note the possibility of maintain[ing] the 17 goals and rearrange[ing] them in a focused and concise manner” to facilitate their understanding and implementation. He also notes that the next step may include the input of the United Nations System, academia and the scientific community, “on evidence for attaching specific global target levels.”

The report also affirms that the United Nations System may be tasked with developing a set of indicators, in consultation with other relevant experts.

What does the Secretary General see as essential for achieving the post-2015 development goals?

The report also puts forward the Secretary General’s six essential elements (shown below) for delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, planet and people. This set of integrated elements will help facilitate member state negotiations in the next year and “frame and reinforce the universal, integrated and transformative nature of a sustainable development agenda.”


This graphic, explaining the six elements, was included in the Secretary General’s report.

What’s next?

There are three big moments in 2015:

1. July: the International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, where there is hope for the adoption of a global financing partnership.
2. September: the Special Summit on Sustainable Development at the United Nations when the General Assembly will adopt and confirm the new SDGs.
3. December: UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris where parties will adopt a legal framework to tackle climate change.

See more events in the post-2015 process in our interactive timeline below: