UNITED NATIONS, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Countries on Tuesday completed a first round of global discussions aimed at articulating a set of new sustainable development goals that will shape the United Nations development agenda, UN officials said here.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday opened a two-day inaugural meeting of the new General Assembly working group tasked with proposing new universal sustainable development goals that should build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) and inspire and galvanize action.
The MDGs are a set of eight anti-poverty targets to be reached by its deadline of 2015. At present, the United Nations, together with its member states, are working hard to hammer out a program for the post-2015 development.
At last June's Rio+20, also known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, countries agreed that a set of "action- oriented, concise and easy to communicate" goals could help drive the implementation of sustainable development.
The Rio+20 outcome document, "The Future We Want," also calls for the goals to be integrated into the UN's development agenda beyond 2015.
"The MDGs have united the world and inspired action," Ban said. "We must do our utmost to focus attention and accelerate progress. "
The secretary-general said that the focus of the Millennium Goals, the eradication of poverty and promotion of health, education and economic and social development would retain their prime importance and would need to be addressed in sustainable development goals.
"But the sustainable development goals must go further to integrate more comprehensively environmental sustainability," he said. "The sustainable development goals should contribute to transformative change, in support of a rights-based, equitable and inclusive approach to sustainability at global, regional, national and local levels."
The General Assembly working group is mandated to submit a report, containing a proposal for sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action to the 68th Session of the General Assembly, which would start in September 2013.
By late 2014, the president of the 67th General Assembly session, Vuk Jeremic, said, "member states should be in a position to promulgate the Sustainable Development Goals -- the single most important element of the post-2015 agenda."
Many countries expressed the idea that nothing short of the future of human-kind is at stake in the process.
"Your task is truly daunting," Jeremic said, adding that the report will help frame much of the UN work for decades to come. " If we are to survive on this planet for more than just a few generations, we have to be bold, audacious and visionary in the Goals we set."
"The time for half-measures has passed and the business-as- usual ways need to be put aside, for inadequate action today will inevitably lead to harsh judgment and recrimination tomorrow," Jeremic said.
Participation in the 30-member working group involves an innovative rotational procedure within the regions that allows for the actual participation of 70 countries. But all 193 member states, as well as representative from civil society major groups, can attend the meeting.
Countries emphasized that the working group's process must be open, transparent and include all voices. There was broad agreement that poverty eradication remains the highest priority and must be central to the sustainable development goals, but that other areas of concern include employment, sustainable consumption and production, gender equality, food security, water and energy.
Developing countries stressed that the means of implementation (finance, technology, trade, capacity development and cooperation through partnerships) need to be addressed systematically in formulating the sustainable development goals.
Many suggested that each goal should be matched with corresponding means of implementation.
Many speakers highlighted the need for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda, with a concise set of sustainable development goals at its center. A few speakers cautioned that this should be achieved only gradually. There was agreement that the new goals should not divert attention from accelerating progress towards the MDGs. Many said that the General Assembly working group should engage civil society and the scientific community.