By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - The U.N.’s much-ballyhooed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), unanimously adopted by over 150 world leaders at a three-day summit meeting, which concluded Sep. 27, has been touted as the biggest single contribution to humanity since the invention of sliced bread. [P18] ARABIC | BHASA INDONESIA | GERMAN | ITALIAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | NORWEGIAN | PORTUGUESE | SPANISH | SWEDISH
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Summit, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the 17 SDGs as an integral part of a post-2015 development agenda to end poverty in all its forms.
“The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation. We need action from everyone, everywhere. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our guide. They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success,” said Ban.
But what does it really take to ensure the SDGs are implemented over the next 15 years so that the world will witness a radical transformation of global society, including the elimination of poverty, hunger, gender discrimination, spreading diseases and environmental degradation — all by the year 2030.
Political will? Increased domestic resources and official development assistance (ODA)? A rise in private sector investments? Or all of it?
Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya, one of the co-facilitators of the SDGs inter-governmental consultative process, told reporters last month the implementation of the agenda could cost a staggering 3.5 trillion to 5.0 trillion dollars per year.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International said: “The new Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious on paper – and they could be historic in their impact. They seek to go beyond band-aid solutions by setting out to eradicate – not just reduce – extreme poverty and hunger in every country.”
“The key is to welcome the richest people back in touch with the rest of society, rather than allowing them to exist on the margins of privilege,” she added.
Leida Rijnhout, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau, (in New York) said the 17 goals have the potential to push for higher ambitions and more coherence in policymaking, although the goal of ‘sustained economic growth’ could undermine the others.
“It is clear that the Earth’s carrying capacity is not increasing and that some countries need to substantially decrease their resource use to achieve more equitable sharing of resources and to allow other countries to develop and meet basic needs.”
“We are massively over-consuming in Europe at the expense of the climate and the development of poorer countries – a trend that is causing increasing conflicts over ever scarcer resources.”
The European Commission, she said, has the perfect chance when it reviews the Europe 2020 Strategy and the EU Sustainable Development Strategy to come up soon with an action plan for the implementation of the SDGs that shows it has understood the goals and the need to change track.
Asked if SDGs are realistic and implementable over the next 15 years, Zubair Sayed, Head of Communication and Campaigns at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, told IPS the SDGs are much wider in scope than the MDGs and are also universal in scope which means they apply to both developed and developing countries.
There are two issues, however, with regard to their implementation, he pointed out.
“Do states have the means and more importantly, do they have the will to implement them,” he asked.
What will be common in all contexts is that their success will depend on the political will of governments to take them seriously, to include transformative targets in their national development plans, to put the necessary resources behind them and to include citizens and civil society in all aspects of the design, implementation and monitoring, he noted.
“It’s also important that relevant indicators are identified by the international community to underpin the targets.”
Asked what is most needed through 2030, Sayed told IPS the success of the SDG’s will depend on the extent to which decision makers take them seriously and commit to their implementation through the setting of transformative national targets and committing financial resources to achieve them, the full and meaningful involvement of citizens in setting targets, reporting, and monitoring progress, and the inclusion of civil society as an equal partner in multilateral forums and processes.
The mobilisation of public opinion to ensure meaningful implementation of the goals by leaders will also be critical, he added.
Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International, said “most importantly in the coming months, countries need to figure out how they’re going to contribute to achieving these goals and set benchmarks and indicators so they can report on their efforts.”
“We’re in the race and can finally see the finish line – but we need some runners at the starting line if we’re going to make this happen in 15 years.”
Every country is required to develop national indicators and programmes of implementation through individual development plans, she pointed out.
In March, countries will crucially agree a set of indicators that will allow the UN to report annually on global progress in coming years.
“The indicator question will be challenging, but if countries can unite to solve the financial crisis, they can figure this out. The crucial part will be working together and being as transparent with data as possible,” said Kakabadse.
Manish Bapna, executive vice president and managing director of World Resources Institute said the SDGs are a remarkable achievement that set a bold new agenda for international development.
Reflecting profound changes in the world, the new SDGs apply to all countries and importantly put environmental sustainability at their core.
“The SDGs recognize that we cannot eradicate extreme poverty and ensure lasting economic growth without also caring for the planet,” he noted.
“Fortunately, there are a growing number of examples where poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental protection go hand-in-hand. This includes creating compact cities that focus on people, restoring degraded land, expanding access to low-carbon energy, and many more.
“Of course, it’s not enough to have good goals. Now, it’s up to governments – and others in the private sector, international organizations, and civil society – to follow through on this vision. By setting smart policies, encouraging sustainable investment, and measuring progress, countries can put us on a path to achieve these goals.
“If successful, the SDGs will usher in a radical shift in development. We can move away from today’s imbalanced approach to one that benefits all people and protects the planet at the same time.
Adriano Campolina, chief executive at ActionAid, told IPS the SDGs are a step forward as they identify the causes of poverty, “but unless we change the rules that govern the global system, the same players will keep winning.”
“We need to build a more just future for all people and the planet where it’s no longer just money that talks and the gaps in society are narrower.”
“We need to make sure that people living in poverty around the world benefit from these new development goals. Massive corporate investments alone will not guarantee a reduction in poverty and inequality. Governments must change the rules of the game and stop looking to the corporate sector for all the answers. We urgently need to address inequality if these new development goals are to stand a chance of succeeding in the next 15 years.”
The SDGs, proposed by an Open Working Group comprising all 193 U.N.member states, are the result of a three-year-long transparent, participatory process inclusive of all stakeholders and people’s voices.
The 17 SDGs and 169 targets of the new agenda will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators. The global indicator framework, to be developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, will be agreed on by the UN Statistical Commission by March 2016. (IPS | 28 September 2015)