Focus Post-2015

SDGs and the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Background, Issues, Goals


The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 was unprecedented: never before had national governments, within the framework of the United Nations (UN), agreed on a comparable list of such extensive and concrete goals, for the most part with an explicit time horizon. Equally remarkable was the level of agreement between civil society organisations, businesses and international organisations, who pledged their support for the MDGs in a broad alliance. Despite conceptual failures and difficulties of implementation the advent of the MDGs can be considered a milestone of international cooperation.

With the deadline for achieving the MDGs running out in 2015, the debates on what set of goals the global community will use to shape international cooperation over the coming years and decades have picked up speed due to the increasing density of global challenges, the crisis of multilateral institutions and bilateral development cooperation and the search for sustainable development paths. Many of these debates and open questions will be channelled over the next couple of years in the discussion on a Post-2015 Development Agenda conducted by the United Nations.


Building on two debates – the sustainability debate, whose point of departure was the »Earth Summit« in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and the poverty debate, which emerged from the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 – two parallel processes are currently under way within the framework of the UN that hitherto have mainly proceeded separately, but which in the medium term are planned to be merged: the process concerning the evolution of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) resulting from the Joint Declaration of Rio+20 and the Post-2015 MDG process. A successful merger of these two processes in a Post-2015 Development Agenda would not only substantively expand the existing set of goals and make a new, more comprehensive notion of development the basis of social and political action, but above all would be tantamount to a paradigm change due to its global character, defining responsibilities for all countries.

In this re-setting of the agenda the industrialised countries cannot be relieved of their special responsibility, which they bear both because of their economic and political position and the historical developments that led to it and because of their continuingly unsustainable economic practices and ways of life. Rather it is a matter of recognising that the paradigm that has been dominant for decades of allegedly developed industrialised countries and poorer countries that have yet to develop must be revised: if one expands the hitherto dominant goal of economic development into a goal of sustainable development it becomes clear that the industrialised countries also have to develop.

Not only the outcome but also how it is achieved – bottom-up or top-down, transparent or non-transparent, participatory or elitist – will have a decisive effect on the future shaping of international policy. The process of formulating a new global set of goals offers not only an opportunity to go beyond the now obsolete North–South schema and the previous donor and recipient structures of traditional development policy and to properly reflect new realities, but also the possibility that state and non-state actors at international level will jointly set an agenda for sustainable development.

The shaping of the Post-2015 process affects the work of the FES in almost all core areas, whether it be the search for new economic and development models, the question of social justice and participation or a just climate policy. In its activities the FES would like to contribute to the following:

  • defining principles and key elements of a new paradigm of development cooperation as the basis of the post-2015 agenda;
  • supporting the development of SDGs;
  • successfully merging the two processes in a joint list of goals in which the significance of environmental sustainability for human development is reinforced and sustainability is anchored in all goals as a cross-cutting category in all its multidimensionality.


As a political foundation committed to the basic values of social democracy the FES aims to:

  • contribute to a participatory process of formulation by, right from the start, ensuring or enabling and strengthening the involvement of countries from the global South, civil society actors and trade unions;
  • take more account of the aspects of social injustice, redistribution, decent work and social protection in a new set of goals;
  • contribute to developing a global governance system able to implement the set of goals successfully.

MDGs in Least Developed Countries

A dialogue co-organised by FES Bangladesh and the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) discusses delivery of the MDGs in least developed countries and reflects on Post-2015 issues

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What roadmap beyond the Millennium Development Goals and Rio+20?

A two-day forum jointly organized by UNEP and FES brought together stakeholders representing civil society, trade unions and think tanks from all sub-regions of Sub-Saharan Africa to voice their perspectives on the post-2015 development framework, and to ensure that their position will be well reflected in the final document presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2013.

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The Power of Numbers

Human rights cannot only provide guidance as cross-cutting issue or in form of specific goals, but are of prime importance in the formulation of targets and indicators of any follow-up development framework after the MDGs.

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