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Country representatives attend the UNGA session on sustainable development in New York

Although some countries argue that there are too many goals and targets, this development agenda seems to address most aspects of sustainable development

A new set of globally accepted development goals was adopted during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit held in New York during the last week of September 2015. These goals, known as ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ and also as ‘Global Goals’ will be the core of the future development agenda of the world.

These development goals have links to the Millennium Development Goals, which were globally accepted in 2000 as the global development goals and, were the base of the development agenda for the period up to 2015. Several programs were implemented in the world to achieve these targets. However it was obvious by early 2010s, that the achievement of these goals and the targets may be significantly different from country to country – some countries were on track to achieve at least some of the goals while some weren’t. It was clear some of the targets weren’t achievable, such as the target on biodiversity loss. Also there were few major setbacks from the onset – as MDGs were considered as targets to be achieved mainly by the developing countries and the fact that they overlooked vital areas that required attention in a development agenda, such as economic development and rights issues.

In this backdrop, the establishment of a new post-2015 development agenda was discussed during the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20 Summit) in 2012. An open working group aimed to draft a new development agenda and a set of development goals was also created at Rio+20 Summit. The process of this working group is known as one of the largest discussion processes and the present set of goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a result of this activity.

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena addresses country representatives at the UNGA session on sustainable development in New York
Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena addresses country representatives at the UNGA session on sustainable development in New York

The SDGs consists of 17 goals and 169 targets that detail the achievable targets under each goal (See box). The SDGs have certain advantages when compared to the MDGs. SDGs target a wide variety of areas that are related to development; SDGs are a set of universal goals designed for all countries. Since these are a fresh set of goals, it can provide a re-start of the development process of the countries.

The SDGs are applicable from January 2016 and the targets are to be achieved by 2030, within a 15 year period. These goals cover almost all vital areas of development agenda – poverty, hunger, health, gender, education, water, energy, economic growth, inequality, environmental challenges including biodiversity and climate change. Although some countries argued that there are too many goals and targets, the SDGs seem to address most aspects of sustainable development. These are not just a set of goals and targets set by an external organization, the UN, but contain crucially important achievements which the policy makers of any country may wish to accomplish, for the benefit of the citizens of their countries.

It is obvious that the path towards the achievement of these goals and targets is not an easy and simple task. There will be numerous challenges in the path towards their fulfillment. The main issue of achieving SDGs will be the financing. Some of the targets require huge investments and most of the developing countries – specially the poor countries – may not be able to find funds on their own initiative. There are some estimates of the possible amount of funds required – for instance, the cost of providing a social safety net to eradicate extreme poverty is estimated to be about US $ 66billion a year.

As it is said, the main funding source will be the public money generated within the countries itself. Also funding from private sector through taxes, and also combating illegal financial flows and corruption within those countries. Loans and aid from other countries as well as from multi-lateral banks and other financial agencies will be available for achievement of the SDGs. These agencies will adjust their policies to SDGs and some such agencies have already expressed their interest. This will benefit the developing countries, but they will be entangled in the trap of loans.

It is true that Sustainable Development Goals can create the momentum required for the world to move forward towards a development which is more sustainable. But it depends on how the countries face the challenge.
(Pics courtesy Presidential Media Unit)
Visit https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics for full set of SDGs – goals and targets. (ENDS)

Sustainable Development Goals

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 industrialization, 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

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 revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development