After years of debates and discussions, 193 countries agreed to develop a set of Global Goals in 2015. It was a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that everyone lives in a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable environment. These 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations, are built on the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); which were set back in 2000 to eradicate poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy, and expired at the end of 2015.
SDGs covers new areas which were not a part of MDGs such as; climate change, economic equality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice among many other goals which are interconnected. Therefore, they work in the spirit of partnership and practicality to make the right choices in a sustainable manner, to improve life in the present as well as for the future generations.
MDGs & the Criticism
Considerable progress has been made over the past few years under MDGs. Especially regarding the goals of eradicating poverty and improving access to education. However, that progress has been uneven as the improvement was observed to be focused on specific countries and social groups. The MDGs helped establish some priority areas of focus in international development as they were concrete, precise and assessable. However, a major criticism they faced was the relatively narrow targeting as well as the overlooking of other equally critical issues. The 8 goals set under MDGs were: –
- Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality & empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Global partnership for development
While MDGs provided a framework for the governments to develop policies and international aid programmes to tackle poverty; they were still criticised for being too narrow. At the end of 2015, about 1 billion people were still living on less than $1.25 a day (World Bank measure on poverty). Also, women were still fighting hard for their rights and millions of women were still dying during childbirth in many developing countries. Thus, the 8 goals under MDGs failed to consider the root causes of poverty and disregarded gender inequality as well as the overall nature of development. MDGs also made no reference to human rights, nor did it specifically target economic development.
Development of SDGs
In response to the criticism received on MDGs; the SDGs are set to tackle a wide range of issues under 17 goals and 169 targets which aims at eradicating poverty in all its forms. Another criticism regarding the MDGs is that they were formed by a group of people; hence, not incorporate opinion from all of the member countries of the United Nations. In response to this, the UN conducted the largest consultation programme in its history to gather opinions and point of views from all over the globe. Development of SDGs was an inclusive multi-year consultation process involving civil society, governments, the private sector and academia. In total, 5 million people from across 88 countries all over the world took part in the consultation, and share their vision for 2030.
So, let’s look at these 17 goals under the SDGs:
SDGs came into effect in January 2016 and consists of 169 targets in all. For example, targets under goal one include reducing the number of people living in poverty by half by 2030; and eradicating extreme poverty (people living under $1.25 a day). Goal five includes targets for eliminating violence against women; while goal 16 promotes equal access to justice for all. Goal 17 goes into detail about how the UN plans to achieve this comprehensive list of targets and goals. It allows for financial support, debt relief, transfer of technologies amongst nations and establishment of a non-discriminatory and equitable trading system to increase exports.
Challenges & Successes So Far
The first ever progress report on these Global Goals was published by the UN in July 2016; providing up-to-date statistics on challenges such as poverty, education, hunger, sanitation etc. that the world needs to address . Progress reports are expected to be published every year till 2030. The reports are to be presented to the United Nation’s central platform for follow-up and assessment of the SDGs. For many countries, financing has appeared to be the key issue in implementing the SDGs. Also, countries are also struggling with a lack of reliable data to work from to plan and achieve targets. Below are some of the successes and challenges faced by a selection of developing countries: –
- The Ministry of Education has contacted private sectors to produce braille books to be distributed among the visually impaired children attending the government schools from January 2017.
- NGOs in the country are modifying their programme priorities to include climate change, extreme poverty reduction and considering disability as a cross-cutting issue.
- A civil society group has been formed with expert professionals to monitor the progress of achievement of the SDGs in the country.
- The government’s health, water and sanitation activities have a reduced budget this year due to funding issues.
- There is no noticeable progress in improving governance, steps to ensure decent, secure and inclusive workplace and economic growth.
- The SDGs are being aligned with sectoral and local health policies.
- A scientific committee has been put in place for the transition process from the MDGs (2000-2015) to the SDGs (2015-2030).
- Five strategies on development interventions have been positioned to work towards meeting the SDGs in the period 2016-2020.
- Increased financing is needed to meet sustainable development objectives, and there’s a need to ensure the availability of data for regular monitoring.
- A new national body, the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) commission was created in January 2015, and has been given responsibility for implementation of the SDGs. It has already completed a process mapping the ministries and Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) of the central government against the SDGs.
- There are still very low levels of awareness about the SDGs regarding eye health and disability.
- Measures have been taken to control and eliminate the Neglected Tropical Diseases in the country which will significantly improve the health and wellbeing of most communities, improving economic outcomes and contribute to the broader development goals and the achievement of Goal 3.
- There is poor government funding for the control and elimination of NTDs.
Things We Can Do
As the lead development agency, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been placed to fund and implement all initiatives in 170 countries and territories under the SDGs. UNDP continues to provide support to governments to integrate the SDGs into their own national development policies. UNDP has the track record and expertise to work on multiple goals across multiple countries; but requires support and partnership of governments, private sector, civil society and citizens to create a sustainable planet for upcoming generations. Here’s a list of some out of many things that we, as citizens can do, to help the UN achieve targets set under SDGs and make this world a prosperous place: –
- Plug appliances into a power strip and turn it off when not in use, including your computer, to save electricity;
- Save paper and reduce printing or better yet make digital notes;
- Let your clothes and hair dry naturally instead of running a machine. If you do wish to use a dryer for clothes, make sure your load is full;
- Save food and money by freezing fresh produce or leftovers. You can also do this with takeaways;
- Compost food waste and reduce climate impact while recycling nutrients;
- Reduce landfills by recycling paper, plastic, glass & aluminium;
- Support local businesses by buying and promoting local produce. It would keep people employed and would help prevent pollution by reducing vehicle fumes used for long distance deliveries;
- Whenever possible, bike, walk or take a public transport. Car-pooling/lift sharing can help reduce the number of cars on the roads;
- Use a refillable water bottle and coffee cup/tumbler to cut down waste and save money;
- Maintain and service your car regularly to keep your car environmentally friendly.