Thursday, November 19, 2015

Scrutinizing the Sustainable Development Goals

by Maddie Shiff 

At the turn of the millennium, leaders from around the world convened to commit their intentions to solving what they deemed as the world’s most pressing, transnational problems. The resulting set of objectives, known as the Millennium Development Goals, is set to expire at the end of 2015. While progress was made towards many of these goals, not nearly all of them were achieved. These goals have now have been replaced by a brand new list of aims, labeled “Sustainable Development Goals.”

A link to the Sustainable Development Goals can be found here:

The 17 SDGs include:
  •         End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  •         End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
  •         Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
  •         Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  •       Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  •        Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  •        Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  •        Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
  •         Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
  •       Reduce inequality within and among countries
  •        Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  •       Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  •       Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum)
  •       Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  •       Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
  •       Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  •         Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

These goals were created to “follow and expand on the millennium development goals” (The Guardian). What makes these goals more sustainable than the previous set of goals? How can they be more effective?

First of all, these goals were created by an open working group rather than a group of leaders at the Headquarters of the United Nations. The SDGs were born from the UN’s “largest consultation program in its history” to gather “opinion[s] on what the SDGs should include” (The Guardian). Additionally, these goals incorporate first world countries in a much more comprehensive manner than the MDGs by making rich countries “sites of development themselves” (The Guardian). These goals apply to all countries rather than just acting as “targets for poor countries to achieve” (The Guardian). The creators of the SDGs also recognized that, although the MDGs” provided a focal point for governments,” they “were too narrow” (The Guardian). Further, these goals do appear more detailed than the Millennium Development Goals, for they each incorporate specific targets under each main heading, adding up to 169 targets overall.

Major aspects of the SDGs remain up for debate, however, including sources of funding and measurement indicators. Both these goals and the international collaboration that it took to create them are promising, but only time will tell if they are truly sustainable and successful.   

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