Did the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals Deliver for Children?

What does the world that you want to live in in 2030 look like? Is it safer and cleaner? Are all people happy, healthy, well-educated, and treated equally and with dignity? Do they have enough to eat and access to clean water? Do they have jobs? Do they know their rights? Do they have hope?

In pondering these questions about what “the future we want” would look like, we must also consider the fundamental building block for achieving that future – and that is an investment in the rights of all children, in every place in the world – no matter the child’s gender, ethnicity, race, economic, disability or other status.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2004-0999/Pirozzi

© UNICEF/NYHQ2004-0999/Pirozzi

The future, if we do not make this investment, will be bleak. When a child is not healthy, is chronically malnourished, does not receive a quality education, does not feel safe in his or her home, school or community, or lacks the opportunity to have his or her voice heard, this child will not be best equipped to fulfil his or her full potential as a parent, employee or entrepreneur, consumer or citizen.

That not only denies the individual child his or her rights, but also deprives the entire human family of the intellectual, social, moral and economic benefits that derive from the fulfilment of these rights.

On the 19th July, a historic report was released by the UN Member-State led Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The future SDGs to be negotiated over the next year will build on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that have set a course for global development since 2000, while also covering new ground and issues not part of the MDG framework.

Reaching agreement on this report was a watershed moment: never before have all the aspects of sustainable development – the social, the economic and the environmental – been articulated in one place. At UNICEF, as the UN organization that serves as the custodian for child rights, we welcome this report which contains much to celebrate for children.

The Open Working Group has clearly considered the views of many stakeholders, including people from around the world who have engaged in the consultations, discussions and debates on the new agenda over the past 2 ½ years. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been particularly important in this process and child-focused CSOs have been a critical force in ensuring that children’s voices are heard and heeded.

The Open Working Group report puts forward an ambitious set of goals which have the potential to be transformative, improving the lives of people from every part of the world, of all ages and from all walks of life.

At UNICEF we’ve worked on an analysis and review of the Open Working Group proposals from a child rights perspective. This year, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the review examines the critical goals and targets for children proposed by the Open Working Group that must be included in the final SDGs Framework and highlights areas that could be further reinforced.

In some places there may be room for further refinements and improvements to strengthen the links between the SDGs and children’s rights – ranging from small but important refinements in language, to areas where there is scope for greater ambition and specificity. For example: how can boys and men also be involved in promoting and achieving gender equality? Or, what is an ambitious but achievable numerical target for reducing and eventually eliminating preventable newborn and child deaths?

Additionally, the deliberate focus on making sure that the poorest and most vulnerable children are prioritized in the pursuit of all goals must be maintained.

Through their report the Open Working Group has made a powerful commitment to children, all of humanity and the planet. UNICEF stands ready to assist Member States in this next phase, working towards the passage and implementation of a transformational agenda that will leave no one behind, forging a path towards a more sustainable, equitable and bright future for all.

UNICEF’s paper, A Post-2015 World Fit for Children: A review of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals Report from a Child Rights Perspective is now available.

Shannon O’Shea is a programme specialist working in UNICEF’s on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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