IDEAS For Us | March 18, 2014

Nicholas Stampar on MGCY Open Working Group

In light of the on-going discussion of the prospective Post-2015 agenda, and the development of Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations’ Major Group on Children and Youth (MGCY) has constructed a draft of SDG focus areas through participation in an open working group on SDG planning. This draft is notably comprehensive, including a diverse array of topics ranging from poverty eradication and gender equality to sustainable production/consumption and capable institutions. Despite the diversity between the 19 focus areas discussed, the significance and centrality of the Five Pillars of Sustainability (Energy, Water, Food, Waste, and Ecology) is evident throughout the draft, and it is consequently important to briefly highlight these features.



The topic of energy is understandably extensive, however several major points are present. First is the goal of “increasing the share of renewable energy in the global mix,” which draws attention to the need to provide policy space and incentives for renewable energy, as well as increasing the deployment of low or zero-emissions energy technology. While general accessibility to these cleaner energy technologies is paramount in shifting systematically towards sustainable practices, the draft also notes the need to increase energy use efficiency in buildings, industry, agriculture, and transport. There is also mention of phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies, increased investment in modern energy infrastructure, knowledge sharing regarding effective regulatory frameworks and enabling environments, and promoting sustainable energy partnerships.


The focus area on water and sanitation touched on the goal of balancing the use and supply of freshwater resources, as well as protecting ground and surface waters from contamination by pollution and invasive species. These points on conservation, effective use, and protection of our water resources are integral in the sustainability of human water use, however the most significant aspect of the focus area on water were the details given regarding future water use, including a critical element of waste management. For instance this focus area calls for extending wastewater treatment systems to greater populations as well as ensuring access to safe drinking water systems for households, schools, health facilities, workplaces, and refugee camps. On top of these provisions, there is mention of enhancing effective water governance including but not limited to integrated water resource management and trans boundary cooperation networks.


The issue of food security and nutrition was impressive in its inclusivity, and incorporated several points on waste as well. Main points on the topic of sustainable food include improving food systems, reversing land degradation/deforestation, improving water use in agriculture, and strengthening the resilience of food systems and supply chains to the effects of climate change. Within these goals is a series of equally important subsidiary issues including but not limited to ag.-extension services eliminating use of toxic chemicals in agriculture, and economic diversification of rural areas through increased non-farm employment. Meanwhile, this section also touches on a few major issues of Waste management, specifically the reduction of post-harvest crop losses and food waste among supply chains. While these are inherently related to the topic of food, this emphasis on waste management is nevertheless vital to sustainability efforts.

– Nicholas Stampar