Following the conclusion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on Sunday, concerns have emerged as to whether global leaders are moving in a wrong direction now that the Millennium Development Goals set out in 2000 have expired. The new 17 Sustainable Development Goals look to achieve three things in the next 15 years: ending poverty, fighting inequality and fixing climate change. However, the consensus among world leaders —193 of whom have signed onto these goals— ignores the fact that they fail to see the greater picture. We consistently fail to translate great theories on paper into practices that can produce real-world solutions. The cycle is perpetuated over and over again; the national agenda shifts only for a few countries. Instead of focusing solely on customized or even regional goals, we must establish a practical iron-clad standard and develop the resources necessary to meet that standard.
Financing the Sustainable Development Goals will be an arduous task. Humanitarian assistance and international development happens only when there are enough resources. Without them, state and non-state actors are unable to undertake such grandiose goals, and countries in the global south already struggle with their debt burden. These countries scramble around for money and borrow from richer, more developed nations, perpetuating this debt problem. Countries should be given flexibility when it comes to prioritizing which of the goals they want to achieve. It would be impractical for any country to expect to achieve all of their targets by 2030, especially since the language of the SDGs is loose and ambiguous. In order for these goals to be effective, the language not only needs to be honed, but some goals must be more country-specific.
I still believe that there could have been revisions to the MDGs, which did see some success. Before we forget the MDGs, the UN must identify these key areas of success, and decide how best to replicate that success under the new framework. Several countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have achieved some form of universal primary education or are working towards it. Others have seen a dramatic reduction in the prevalence rate of communicable diseases such as malaria HIV/AIDS, an increase in women participation in government and an overall decline in maternal mortality rates. This is because the older framework put more pressure on national agents to focus on key primary issues in areas affecting the masses. That said, the new ideals offer and encourage cross-sectoral collaboration among stakeholders and practitioners, something which has been a serious challenge in modern international development.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 28 print edition. Email Tegan Joseph Mosugu at [email protected]