Q&A: Måns Nilsson on current and future support to the SDG process

Written by Caspar Trimmer

Friday, 16 May 2014 12:43



The task of negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will soon pass to the UN General Assembly. SEI Research Director Måns Nilsson discusses how SEI supports the SDG process as a member of the Independent Research Forum (IRF2015), and how IRF2015’s role will evolve.

In two months’ time, the 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) that has been gathering, compiling and evaluating proposals for SDGs wraps up its work. Negotiations on the SDGs, which will shape the post-2015 development agenda, will then shift to the UN General Assembly. IRF2105, a collaboration between 11 leading research institutes around the world, has been engaging directly with the OWG, feeding in independent scientific advice and supporting the drafting process. 

Q: How has IRF2015 been supporting the OWG?

A: Over the past few months, the IRF2015 members, including SEI, have produced a lot of research and analysis tailored for the OWG. At least as important have been the retreats IRF2015 has organized for OWG members. In the first three of these we unpacked some key terms for the SDGs: “transformative”, “universal” and “integrated”. The most recent retreat took place on 3 May, and focused on finance in the context of the SDGs, and included input from SEI Research Fellow Clarisse Kehler Siebert.

I’m happy to report that OWG members say these retreats are the best, even the only, opportunities they have for free and open discussions on matters of substance; once they’re back at the UN they have to be in negotiation mode. So the retreats are one side of the IRF’s work that we can be particularly proud of.

We've also just released a tool to help OWG negotiators assess proposed goals and targets, and identify gaps. This tool, and the findings of an assessment by IRF2015 of the current OWG Working Document, are included in a new paper I co-authored.

Q: What does the future hold for IRF2015?

A: Well, the next retreat will be in June. And of course we’ll be preparing background papers for it, writing blogs and publishing other SDG-related research in the mean time. But we’re already looking at what IRF2015’s research agenda should be after July. Our focus will be on how you connect this global document to real action on the ground, and measure success.

We also have case studies ongoing – SEI has one in Africa looking at food security. It has proved quite a challenge to get countries – both developing and developed – to see what a transformative agenda means for them. And IRF2015 will keep supporting the post-2015 development process, including with knowledge support to SDG implementation and monitoring, whether at international or country level.

Learn more about IRF2015 (external link to IRF2015 website)»