Many countries today have adopted the concept of Sustainable Development in their development agenda. According to the Brundtland Report, Sustainable Development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
17 Global Goals
The United Nations has compiled 17 Global Goals, known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on the success of the earlier Millennium Development Goals. These 17 goals have 169 targets between them to be achieved by 2030.
The SDGs are as follows:
Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Goal 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Goal 6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Goal 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
Goal 10 Reduce inequality within and among countries.
Goal 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Goal 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Goal 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Goal 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Goal 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.
Goal 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.
Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Achieving the above goals is not an easy task. The comprehensive and all encompassing agenda requires commitment from not only governments, but from all people.
The 2030 agenda for sustainable development is woven around five key aspects: People, Planet, Prosperity, Partnership and Peace. The three pillars of sustainability: People, Planet and Profit are the social, ecological and financial aspects of development.
Even though the welfare system in Sri Lanka has contributed substantially towards reducing poverty, enhancing healthcare and increasing the level of primary education, there are several areas of development that are lagging behind in the country. Some of the more prominent of these are: regional disparities, gender inequality, incorporating environment in development activities and lack of energy usage.
The Western Province has contributed the highest to Sri Lanka’s GDP in the past but has been reversed somewhat during recent years. The problem however is that the reduction in the contribution of the Western Province has not been translated to other provinces. Similarly, there is a high incidence of poverty in the estate sector. Further, there is sharp contrast between the poorest and richest deciles, highlighting the unequal distribution of income.
The contribution of females to the economy is not duly recognized, there is exploitation and abuse at workplaces, and employment opportunities available to females are inadequate. This is unsatisfactory owing to the large educated female population in the country.
Although the country receives enough sunlight throughout the year, use of solar energy by individuals as well as institutions are still low amidst the low cost of installation. Depletion of resources and carbon emission is high with new infrastructure and development projects. Sri Lanka is still planning to utilize wind as an energy source. At present, the forest cover is only 20 per cent of the country’s surface area. Thirty percent of Sri Lankans live in coastal areas. There is over extraction of natural resources and land development, especially in coastal areas is carried out in a large scale. The sensitive areas of the island are hugely affected due to even minor changes in topography. Unfortunately, many people do not seem to be aware of the unique bio-diversity the country possesses.
Sustainable Development is a broader concept than the materialistic development of a country. It is not an easy task to commit to the concept, given the priority given to high growth targets and numbers. Enlightened leadership is key in order to achieve SDGs. Sri Lanka’s commitment to SDGs also requires the support from developed countries, both commercial and non-commercial. There must be a continuous dialogue between Sri Lanka and the rest of the world. Leaving no one behind is the ultimate target of sustainable development goals.