This is an overview about the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, about the what, why and where to from here and why should we care about them. Please note that the information in this article is largely derived from the resources and links quotes in it.
The UN set up a very comprehensive website about the Goals which is complex and quite confusing. It shows just how difficult it is to break down positive sustainable development meaningfully.
What are the sustainable development goals – the basics
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) are a set of 17 goals with 169 associated targets designed and guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The SDG’s replace and build on the Millennium Development goals (MDG’s). The major difference to of the SDG’s are that they are broader in scope and go much further in addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.
The new Goals are universal and apply to all countries, whereas the MDGs were intended for action in developing countries only.
What do the SDG’s mean?
Over the next 14 years, countries intend to make a collective effort to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change using 3 core elements – economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.
Countries are expected to take ownership and establish a national framework and have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review at the national, regional and global levels, with regard to the progress made in implementing the Goals and targets over the next 15 years. (The Sustainable Development Agenda).
Like the MDG’s, the SDG’s are NOT legally binding. Therefore it all depends on the political will of each government and the resources allocated to implement the goals.
How will the SDG’s be monitored?
The SDG’s will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators (The Sustainable Development Agenda).
The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General.
How were the SDG’s chosen?
The goals came about as a result of the Rio+20 Summit, which mandated a working group with representatives from 70 countries to come up with a draft agenda, which was then presented to the UN in September 2015.
The SDG’s were agreed at a meeting at the UN HQ in New York in September 2015 and came into full effect on 1st January 2016. (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)
What will the SDG’s cost?
Let’s just say, implementation of the SDG’s are expensive, very expensive.
Rough calculations from the intergovernmental committee of experts on sustainable development financing have put the cost of providing a social safety net to eradicate extreme poverty at about $66bn (£43bn) a year, while annual investments in improving infrastructure (water, agriculture, transport, power) could be up to a total of $7tn globally. (The Guardian: Sustainable development goals: all you need to know).
The UN Conference on Trade and Development says the SDGs face an annual funding gap of about $2.5 trillion. Resolving tax fraud is seen as crucial to closing the funding gap: developing countries lose nearly $1 trillion a year to ‘illicit financial flows,’ according to the NGO Global Financial Integrity. (Sustainable Development Goals).
Is everyone happy with the SDG’s?
Far from it. Many representatives of organisations have voiced criticism. According to the business magazine, the Economist: “they are so sprawling and misconceived that the entire enterprise is being set up to fail” and “the SDGs are unfeasibly expensive. Meeting them would cost $2 trillion-3 trillion a year of public and private money over 15 years” (The 169 commandments).
Some expressed a desire for fewer goals but there appears to be a broader sentiment that 17 goals which include objectives like women’s empowerment, good governance, and peace and security, for example, are better than fewer goals which omit issues perceived to be important. (The Guardian: Sustainable development goals: all you need to know).
How can the SDG’s work?
With a strong focus of collaboration and integration with other related initiatives and activities. Global leaders have met at the Annual World Economic Forum under the theme ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution’.
We need political will matched by appropriate resources to prepare and implement sound country plans to achieve the SDG’s. The private sector needs to align business practices with the goals including relating to environmental, taxation and executive salary issues. (WEF 2016 Year of Implementation on Climate Change, SDG’s).
Huge progress was made: hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, maternal mortality has been reduced by almost half, and millions more children are now in school. Quoted from The World Economic Forum website about the MDG’s.
Each country needs to emphasise particular goals and targets at distinct times and the SDG’s need to be sufficiently flexible to allow this. (How can we ensure the success of the SDGs?)
What can we do to further the SDG’s?
Learn more about the goals, join in the conversation on social media, follow the developments, anything to educate ourselves and others about the SDGs. The Global Goals website provides many leads and resources for inspiration for individuals and organisations.