Good Indications for Standalone Oceans Goal at the 12th Session on Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals

GlobalOceansForum-EUCC-UNPhotoMagdalena A K Muir

Last week was a significant step in the development of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and  importantly from the perspective of the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) makes it likely that a standalone oceans goal will continue to  be included in the  SDGs.

The chairs of the Open Working Group of Sustainable Development Goals (OWG SDG) filed the first draft document of those goals on June 2, 2014 (the June 2nd  zero draft found here), and this meeting was the first formal and scheduled opportunity for  UN member states and civil society to discuss and comment upon these proposed goals.

The OWG SDG and SDG themselves are the followup to the Rio + 20 process on  sustainable development, which was an open and inclusive process. The SDG will inform and guide UN and national actions for sustainability after 2015 (what is also referred to as the post 2015 agenda), and address important issues like energy and water access, and sustainable use of the oceans. Within  the UN, civil society is a broadly defined term that includes everyone other than UN member states and UN agencies. Over 330 civil society representatives traveled at their own expense to attend the 12th session of the OWG SDG in New York.


On the morning of  Monday June 16th 2014 during the first day of the meeting, the Chairs of the OWG SDGs held a brief discussion, and  based on those discussions decided to close the meeting to civil society.  This followed an earlier week of informal discussions by the OWG SDG  where civil society was also excluded. This civil society exclusion was important as signaled that civil society was not a full participant at the SDG discussions. More practically, it resulted in civil society not being aware of the scope and evolution of the discussions of the goals at this and the prior informal meeting.


Due to the informal nature of the 12th session, there was no web broadcasting of the meeting and also no subsequent reporting of the session. The June 2nd zero draft  was changing throughout the meeting, but only OWG member states were fully aware of scope and nature of these changes. The first indication of all changes will be in next draft of the SDGs, which is expected be released soon.


As a result of the decision of the chairs on June 16th, representatives of civil society spoke and filed an open letter in the 9 am morning session of Tuesday June 17th. Throughout the week, civil society organizations were allowed to attend and make scheduled statements in the morning  between 9 and 10 am. All those civil society statements  throughout the session took place then are found here.


The Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) was attending the OWG SDG under the auspices of the Global Oceans Forum  and through a Fulbright Scholarship with the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of Delaware and with the Columbia Climate Center at the Earth Institute of Columbia University and this support is gratefully acknowledged. A photo is attached that depicts most of the members of the team.


On the morning of Thursday June 19th, WWF made a statement on the oceans goal on behalf of Beyond 2015, Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC), DIVA, The Global Ocean Commission, the High Seas Alliance (representing 29 NGOs and the IUCN), PEW Charitable Trusts and the Womens Major Group.These  submissions on the oceans goal are found here. They are based on the June 2nd zero draft and predominantly focus on environmental aspects of an ocean goal. It is hoped hat this civil society statement will influence the next draft, given the breadth of the organisations behind the statement.


Given the evolving nature of all the SDGs, the next version of the oceans goal and related targets may be quite different from the June 2 zero draft.  Any final oceans goal will have to reflect all the economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainability, and also be globally applicable. The  targets for an oceans goal will only be apparent after the next draft is issued, and will be the means by which the goal will be implemented globally and by UN member states. For example, the June 2 zero draft for the oceans goal includes a target on ocean acidification and a requirement that acidification be addressed.


Fortunately the exclusion of civil society was not always enforced during the 12th session of the OWG SDG. The Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) and oceans colleagues, such as the Global Oceans Forum, were able to attend the informal discussions on the oceans goals on the afternoon Wednesday June 18th. This attendance assisted in understanding the growing acceptance of a standalone oceans goal by member states of the OWG.


Some important outcomes of the 12th session of the OWG SDG meeting are as follows:


Based on the June 2, 2014 zero draft, the submissions and increasing support for an oceans goal by OWG member states on June 18th, and informal and side meetings on oceans occurring during the 12th session, it appears likely that oceans will be included as a standalone goal in next draft of the SDGs.  This is a distinct evolution from the earlier uncertain status of an oceans goal in this process.

It appears likely that next draft of the SDG will be released by June 30, 2014. Once that occurs, the next draft will be examined and reported upon here in terms of relevance and impact for coasts and oceans.

From civil society organizational meetings on Wednesday June 18, 2014, it appears that written submissions of civil society will be sought prior to the 13th session of the OWG SDGs(July 14th to 18th, 2014). The Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) will participate with the Global Oceans Forum and other oceans colleagues in this written submission process.

The scope of civil society in the 13th session of the OWG SDGs still needs to confirmed.


Further information on the 12 Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals


June 2, 2014 Zero Draft


Open letter to co-chairs from Major Groups (17 June 2014)


Submission on Oceans Goal 14 (18 June  2014)


WWF, Beyond 2015, Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC), DIVA, the Global Ocean Commission, the High Seas Alliance (representing 29 NGOs and the IUCN), the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Women’s Major Group


Submission on Oceans Goal 14 (18 June  2014)

Goal 14: Ocean: WWF, Beyond 2015, Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC), DIVA, the Global Ocean Commission, the High Seas Alliance (representing 29 NGOs and the IUCN), the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Women’s Major Group

Video feed  from 16.25 to 23.20  minutes on the civil society statement on oceans and response of Chair at the video recording of the 4th Discussion with Major Groups and other Stakeholders – OWG 12 – June 19, 2014 at


Next Steps in the OWG SDG Process


Videofeed from 2nd meeting, OWG12 – June 23, 2014

Consideration of the zero draft , Discussion on the way forward ,Concluding remarks by the Co-Chairs and Closure of the twelfth session