How sustainable are the SDGs? Wednesday December 9th, 2015
By Pradeep Baisakh
Can we look at ending poverty without looking at the structural reasons and dimensions of poverty and inequality? Pradeep Baisakh looks at this and at other objectives within the UN SDG framework and analyses how realistic their achievement would be.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are a set of development goals framed by the United Nations in 2000, to be achieved by 2015, is now set to be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2016.
The MDGs aimed at addressing extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, combating various forms of disease, promoting gender equality, protecting the environment and developing global partnership.
The performance of the MDGs so far has been mixed. The United Nations claims that 700 million people have come out of extreme poverty globally between 1990 and 2010, access to education has increased and the gender gap in access to primary education has been substantially reduced. However, on child and reproductive health, the achievement has not been encouraging.
Learnings from the implementation of MDGs and the changing developmental realities have guided the formulation of the SDGs – another set of goals for the next 15 years – that is from 2016 to 2030. It promises a developmental framework, which is ‘sustainable’ and equitable, and one that will ‘leave no one behind’.
The biggest criticism of the MDGs was its exclusivity and the reductionist approach in shaping them. It is alleged that a handful of people sitting in the UN office framed those goals, which were eventually adopted by the member nations. Keeping these criticisms in mind, the formulation of the SDGs involved representation from several sections, including civil society, and saw phases of inter-governmental negotiation before the draft was actually finalised.
A little over two years of consultation resulted in the framing of a set of 17 goals and 169 targets to achieve. The goals were adopted by the heads of states of 193 member nations in a deliberation held from 25-27 September 2015 in the United Nations Summit, which was convened as a high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly. It may be pointed out that the SDGs are not legally binding on the member nations though they certainly influence the national laws and policies.
The SDGs cover a range of important issues: socio-economic, political and environmental. They embrace energy and governance, ending poverty and hunger, achievement of food security and of sustainable economic growth and productive employment.