The Millennium Development Goals expire at the end of 2015, and in their place, a new development structure will take over to scale the progress registered with the MDGs. This new development agenda is referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs are the new, global set of 17 goals and 169 targets that UN member states will be expected to refer to when designing their national agendas and political policies for the next fifteen years – until 2030.
The sustainable development goals follow and expand on the MDGs, and have been structured based on a lengthy negotiation process led by the UN Statistical Commission and involving governments and development actors from across the globe to agree on the main priorities beyond 2015.
Why another set of goals is necessary
The MDGs lead to many achievements towards ending extreme poverty and improving the living standards of those disadvantaged by age, race, gender, and other factors. The MDGs also provided a focal point for member governments, around which they could formulate policies and overseas aid programs intended to free humanity from poverty and hunger and promote sustainable patterns of production and consumption. However, they were also viewed as being too narrow.
The eight MDGs failed to put into consideration the root causes of poverty, and also overlooked gender inequality and the all-inclusive nature of development. The goals did not make any reference or mention of human rights, and did not directly try to address economic development. In addition, the MDGs were designed for application in all member countries, though they were often considered targets for developing economies to achieve with aid or finance from the wealthy nations.
The SDGs, on the other hand, are designed to get all countries to work towards achieving the targets. As the end of 2015 approaches, as well as well the MDG deadline, there are still one billion people in the globe living on less than $1.25 a day – which is the World Bank’s measure on poverty – and over 800 million facing hunger and starvation. Girls and women continue to fight for their rights, and die in childbirth.
So, the proposed sustainable development goals are:
- GOAL 1: Eradicate poverty in all its forms everywhere
- GOAL 2: Eradicate hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
- GOAL 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing 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 industrialisation and foster innovation
- GOAL 10: Reduce inequalities 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, 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 revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development
Within each of these goals are specific targets set to be achieved by 2030, as well as strategies that should aid in the achievement of those targets. For instance, to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030, it will be necessary to create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional, and international levels based on gender-sensitive and pro-poor development strategies.
How the SDGs were established
While the MDGs are said to have been compiled rather haphazardly, the SDGs were drawn up following the largest consultation programme in the history of the United Nations. The proposed post-2015 goals were deduced during the Rio+20 summit in 2012, which demanded that an open working group with representatives from 70 nations be created to come up with a draft agenda.
The first meeting of the open working group was held in March 2013, and published its final draft with the 17 goals or suggestions in July 2014. This draft was then presented to the UN general assembly in September 2014 for member states to negotiate and create the final wording of the goals and targets. They reached a consensus in August 2015.
In addition to the discussions by the open working group, the UN also conducted a progression of “global conversations”, including door-to-door surveys, 11 thematic consultations, 83 national consultations, and an online survey asking people to prioritise the sections they would like addressed in the goals. These results were fed into the open working group’s discussions.
Governments taking on the proposed goals
Most governments and NGOs are happy about the 17 goals, especially since they now include targets on good governance, women’s empowerment, and peace and security. Some developed nations, however, like the UK and Japan, would prefer fewer goals that are easier to sell to the public or implement.
The goals should be funded by the 0.7 percent of GNI (the UN target on aid spending established over 40 years ago.
The SDG indicators should be finalised in March 2016, after the official adoption of the SDGs at the New York UN summit in September 2015.