As it has now become the norm, at the end of the every 15 years, the global community, under the cloak of the United Nations, comes together and formulates another ‘to-do list’ that should span over the next one and a half decades.
The script wasn’t any different this time around when on September 2015 the international community converged and approved a global agenda consisting of a series of 17 goals to be achieved before 2030.
The agenda, dubbed as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) takes over from the almost expired Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were drafted at the turn of the century.
An ambitious initiative
At the top of the 15-year blueprint, that some critics have lauded as overambitious and exorbitantly costly, is the initiative to ‘end global poverty in all its forms’ ( sic) and combat emerging issues such climate change.
The sustainable development goals come at a time when the world is sinking in a myriad of 21-st century problems such as environmental degradation, extreme poverty, famine, disease, etc. In particular, the goal to eradicate poverty comes at a time when the gap between the rich and poor, the wealth and the despicable has never been greater.
But even then, world leaders congregated on September and discussed how best to tackle such pertinent global issues in a budget that would cost between $3.5 to $5 trillion annually from now until 2030.
Unlike other UN sessions, the September 2015 meeting was highlighted with an exceedingly rare unanimous support that saw presidents, UN diplomats, prime ministers and other high-ranking officials stand up and applaud rather jubilantly as the General Assembly President, Mogens Lykketoft approved the newest global development roadmap.
Other than that, to show their approval, world leaders including US President Barack Obama and China’s Xi Jinping gave speeches on how best to implement the Sustainable Development Goals that are expected to be the global focus point for the next 15 years or so.
The three summit also saw Pope Francis – leader of the Roman Catholic Church – address the UN assembly as the 193 UN member nations adopted 17 goals meant to make the world a better place by 2030. However, compared to other developmental plans proposed and formulated in the past including the millennium development goals, the sustainable development goals aims at improving the lives of people without risking the health of the globe.
Transforming our world – The dossier
The 17 clearly laid out goals, backed up by 169 other specific targets, although diverse and unrelated in some way, have a common undertone and that it is to reduce the poverty, inequality via sustainable means. If these rather ambitious and broad-based goals are met, then there’s no doubt that they would significantly improve human welfare.
On retrospect, the outgoing Millennium Developments Goals which expire by the end of the year were barely met. In fact, only one – halving the population of the destitute living in extreme poverty – was achieved. And this was mainly as a result of the Chinese economical growth spurt.
Fast forward to this year and the new global goals have already started receiving criticism for being ‘too numerous and rather vague’ to have any practical and pragmatic value. For instance, Steven Radelet, one of the directors of the Global Human Development Program at Washington DC’s Georgetown University says, and we quote, ” I’m a bit worried that the new SDGs are a little too many of them”. He then added, ” the possibility of the project falling prey to the adage that ‘too many priorities make no priorities at all’ is quite high.”
One of the facilitators and vocal critics of the project, Kenya’s U.N Ambassador, one Macharia Kamau said that the September 2015 development goals are ‘un-attainable’ since an enormous chunk of the budget needed to effect and implement some of the agendas in the project will be raised in the member countries and not from external aid and assistance.
Bill Gates – Microsoft co-founder – also cast his doubts on the feasibility of the project by adding that there is ‘ certainly no possibility of allocating around $3.5 to $5 million per year towards the attainment of the SDGs before 2030.’
Nonetheless, Gates said that there is a likelihood of meeting some of the goals (to some extent) with the aid of ingenious scientific innovation. However, he still maintained that meeting all goals to their entirety was still ‘very, very hard or almost impossible.’
Eradicating poverty, being the first goal on the list, forms the foundation of what the second quarter of the 21st-century will be all about. And if you take some time to go through the entire proposed development blueprint you’re likely to notice that the rest of the Sustainable Development Goals revolve around reducing poverty or related ideologies. The same applies to addressing other fundamental issues such as the availability of quality education, access to clean and renewable energy, clean water availability and even basic sanitation services.
It is estimated that over 56% of the world’s general population are presently living in squalid and extremely poor conditions. And the recent global recession didn’t help matters either. One of the most striking targets from the proposed SDGs is that by 2030, UN member nations should have eradicated poverty for everyone, everywhere, and no one will be living on less than $1.25 per day by then.
In comparison to the expiring MDGs adopted in late 1999, the ambition to eradicate poverty with the Sustainable Development Goals in question looks a bit far fetched. But this is only because that this time around, it is not just a question of improving the lives of people or increasing their earning potential. It is more or less the issue of reducing the world’s poverty level while at the same time not jeopardising the steps taken towards saving the degradation of the environment.
Other than that, the SDGs advocate that by 2030 all women and men (vulnerable or otherwise) should have equal rights and access to basic resources regardless of their social-economical level.
Supporters of 2015’s SDG on eradicating poverty
While critics have not held back their opinion that the current SDGs are too broad and lack accountability, supporters, on the other hand, have not shied away from expressing their overwhelming approval for their development roadmap.
If anything, most of them have elicited concerns that the new blueprint are not ambitious enough to tackle emerging issues brought about by a rapidly expanding and developing planet.
According to some SDGs supporters including Pope Francis himself, there is no choice but to combat pertinent concerns raised by dwindling resources, a sky-rocketing population and the threat of global warming.
As the end of the year draws to a close, and the outgoing MDGs gradually expire, it will only be a matter of time before we can see whether the new Sustainable Development Goals will bear any fruit.