The MDGs, which came into force in 2000, are scheduled for retirement this year. As a result, world leaders meeting for the 70th UN General Assembly are expected to give formal confirmation to a draft document laying out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – as well 169 additional targets – to come into force on 1 January 2016.
‘The finalisation of the SDGs have exceeded our expectations,’ said Susan Nicolai, Head of Development Progress at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). ‘The process has been much more inclusive than the process to define the MDGs, not only bringing the voices of different countries to the table, but also different groups of people within those countries.’
This, combined with the breadth of issues the SDGs aim to cover – spanning all areas of critical importance to humanity – could have meant that the tricky process of reaching global agreement on the goals dragged on for years. ‘Instead, we are launching – on time – a set of goals that could be said to represent the closest humanity has come to establishing a common agenda – one which reflects a shared hope for our future where no one is left behind,’ said Nicolai.
Unlike the MDGs, which focused only on the ‘developing world’, the SDGs – with global targets such as ending poverty, ending hunger and achieving gender equality – will apply to all countries. They also expand well beyond the narrow fields targeted by the Millennium Goals, addressing central factors such as sustainability and economic growth, which, over the past 15 years, became increasingly recognised as essential components to consider when planning such large-scale, long-term development targets.
‘The SDGs are ambitious,’ admitted Nicolai. ‘However, ambition is necessary to address some of the world’s most serious challenges: deeply ingrained poverty, inequality, violence and environmental degradation. Goals by their very nature are set to raise ambition and inspire change. Case studies from Development Progress have shown time and time again that progress over and above the norm is possible: a glimpse at the top-performing countries from the MDG era can give us cause for hope.’
This article was published in the October 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine