In September 2000, when the leaders of the world adopted the Millennium Declaration, they made a promise to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to build a “more peaceful, prosperous and just world” based on the “principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level.” The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were subsequently introduced to reaffirm and monitor the implementation of this declaration, have mobilized governments as never before. They have catalyzed dynamic new partnerships and have brought about huge changes at both the national and global levels, helping to set global and national priorities and fuel action on the ground.
With the expiration of the MDGs in 2015, the United Nations and its partners have been engaged in consultations at an unprecedented scale at the country, regional, and global levels to define the blueprint of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. After years of international debate, the United Nations is set to launch its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. This 15 year blueprint offers a once in a generation opportunity for transformational change. The United Nations is halfway through the creation of a multi-decade agenda that will guide sustainable development efforts from 2015 to at least 2030. This is a major undertaking and a follow-up to the important but more limited MDGs, which were meant to be in place from 2000 to 2015.
The core input to the Post 2015 effort is a globally negotiated set of wide-ranging “Sustainable Development Goals,” hammered out by nations of the United Nations over 14 high-level working meetings during the past year. The 17 goals, listed below, contain an additional 169 targets, each with a significant constituency and together meant to give measurability to the goals. They were crafted with considerable deliberation, but some remain contentious.
The UN Secretary-General offers a way forward in organizing the agenda. He identifies six “essential elements” common to all the goals:
- Dignity: to end poverty and fight inequalities;
- People: to ensure healthy lives, knowledge, and the inclusion of women and children;
- Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive, and transformative economy;
- Planet: to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children;
- Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies and strong institutions;
- Partnership: to catalyze global solidarity for sustainable development.
A series of monthly, multi-day working meetings have been scheduled through July 2015 to refine and to finalize the agenda. A special high-level UN summit is scheduled for the end of September 2015 to approve the final product, with plans for it to go into effect in January 2016.
The following is the present status of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2015 forward according to the International Law News, Winter 2015 (Vol 44, No. 1). The full set of Sustainable Development Goals and Targets are available at the link.
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 life-long 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 in Finance, Technology, Capacity Building, Trade, and Systemic Issues such as policy and institutional coherence, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and data, monitoring, and accountability.
This new sustainable development agenda must fulfil its commitments — to the fullest extent possible — to achieving the unfinished business of the MDGs. It will be strongly focused on human development, while addressing the limits of planetary boundaries, economic growth, and social inclusion in an integrated manner. It will reflect universality, integration, and transformative change, backed by accountability and supported by a data revolution.
With such a vital and humanly important range of issues identified and put on the table, the main question is how to effectively implement the Post-2015 SDGs Agenda. Once the SDGs have been fine-tuned, considerations regarding the necessary financing and the timing for implementation come immediately to mind. Though a 15-year term seems a generous time span, it is certainly not for such an ambitious set of goals. Adequate and sufficient financing is a must (speaking of trillions of dollars), as is coordinated implementation.
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