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CAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS SUBSTITUTE THE MDGs?

MDGs foto

Yesterday (6th of July 2015) The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015  was launched in Oslo, Norway by the Secretary-General: “The report provides a final assessment of global and regional progress towards the MDGs since their endorsement in 2000. It shows that significant progress has been made across all goals and that the global efforts to achieve the MDGs have saved the lives of millions and improved conditions for many more around the world. The report also acknowledges uneven progress and shortfalls in many areas, which need to be addressed in the new universal and transformative post-2015 development agenda.”

http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/Resources/Static/Products/Progress2015/English2015.pdf

What are the proposed SDGs?

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

http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/post-2015-development-agenda.html

In the post-2015 agenda the SDGs will substitute the MDGs set to be reached by 2030. At the moment there are 169 proposed targets grouped in 17 goals among which donors gladiate to fulfill their own special agenda. They loved so much the MDGs that they want more, 148 more indicators to which each lobby group advocates their interest. The good news is that the proliferation of SGD´s means that finally the international community acknowledges that it cannot tackle the sophisticated dynamics of poverty without looking at it in an integrated way looking at phenomenon such climate change or urbanisation. The bad news is that the more ambitious this exercise gets the messier it becomes, particularly if we increase 149 indicators! For those acquainted with troikas or councils negotiations it is known that the well intentioned virtues of these discussions are often fade away in ruthless elbow policies driven by institutional egos of competing donors. The altruistic view of global prosperity is often dampened by collusions, power relations, underground agendas and erratic pledges making it a much more chaotic than constructive process.   Furthermore sometimes these fora are not usually capable to address issues that are complex or multidisciplinary promoting pointless discussions that lead to superficial outcomes. Indeed truth is that up to September, when governments are to approve the final SDGs, donors will be still running around their tales discussing elusive concepts such as multi-stake partnerships, resilient infrastructure or sustainable tourism/industrialisation.  But we shouldn´t destroy great missions just because humans have difficulties in putting it in practice. No doubt the MDG’s and now the SDG’s exercise is important for humankind: once we set a goal and measure it half way to achieve it has been accomplished. And if for some reason that fails at least it has set a global vision that drives government’s purposes. Most of all the great achievement of SGDs will be to finally include the climate change in poverty analysis merging both concepts into an integrated development approach. That is already a great step forward.

But we should be cautious about what it may trigger. For example it should be said quite frankly that developing countries should erase from their minds the misconceived idea that the more goals the more aid available. They will be deceived if they think that the SDGs unfeasibly expensive  indicators that will cost $2 trillion-3 trillion a year over a period of 15 years representing 15% of annual global savings will be met by donors that can hardly cope with their minimum commitments of 0,7% of GDP in aid.

The SDGs agenda will surely be a serious and fundamental exercise to eradicate poverty at the global level providing commandments that will lead the path, but we also need to tame our expectations with a realistic twist. For example the spectacular reduction of global poverty has much more to do with growth in China than from setting global goals. Also we hope that in the future the SDG´s will not be only simplistic top-down targets when one of most important lessons of development is that everywhere is different and that the local context is vital: one thing that works in one place may not work in another. The MDGs have been vague and open enough to accommodate these niceties of development policies so while the SGDs are being narrowed down until September we hope they will not be conceived only as good intentions or they will be doomed to be only a bureaucratic distraction.

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