Throughout the past couple decades, our world has been through significant changes, both positive and negative. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a group of 8 goals and comprised of a set of time-bound and quantifiable targets, came to an end in 2015. The MDGs were the first major declaration from the world on tackling some of the most systemic travesties, with the eradication of poverty being the primary focus. In 1990, almost half the global population was living in extreme poverty; today, that number stands at 14%. In 1990, 76% of the global population didn’t have access to an improved drinking water source; today, that number is 91%. Since 2000, primary school enrolment in the developing world has risen from 83% to 91%, affecting millions of children, while the enrolment gap between females and males continues to lessen. A few other achievements include reducing the under-five child mortality rate by half, increasing women representative in parliaments, and reducing the prevalence of HIV. There has been life-changing progress that has affected millions of people around the world. View the entire Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 for a detailed analysis.
However, despite all the positive that has happened, the world still faces a myriad of problems. Even ignoring the global threats to peace, the abuse of human rights, and the growing consensus and concern over the effects of climate change, the global commitment of the MDGs fell short in its promise. While progress was made against the previous goals, many fell short of the envisioned targets. Child mortality rates still remain unacceptable, millions don’t have access to proper sanitation facilities, income inequality continues to grow, and gender equality has not been realized. The 14% who still live in extreme poverty represent roughly a billion individuals. Clearly, there’s more work to be done.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the agreed upon vision for the world by member-states of the United Nations for the next 15 years. Comprising of 17 individual goals, the SDGs have both expanded and refined global development priorities. It’s no coincidence that the eradication of poverty remains goal number 1. The goals are ambitious and some targets are even higher than previously unmet targets by the MDGs.
There has been some criticism of the SDGs, with some arguing that they are idealistic and others questioning the larger number of goals when the 8 MDGs were not achieved. These challenges should not be ignored, as when it comes to achieving the SDGs, the task ahead of the world is incredibly difficult. Additionally, the increase in the number of goals could possibly take away meaningful resources from other goals. With 169 indicators for measuring progress against the 17 goals, there will be further complexities in collecting data and monitoring progress.
However, the process for arriving at what we now call the SDGs was not taken lightly. Taking place in 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development launched the process to develop the strategy for global sustainable development. Next, an Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals was established in early 2013. Following many rounds of input from experts, governments, civil societies, and other organizations, the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Post 2015 Development Agenda began in early 2015, which led to the adoption of the official SDGs document, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in late 2015. The process that went into formulating the SDGs was extensive, transparent, and embodies the vision of a world working together.
The goals laid out in the SDGs are all relevant to the future of our world. Take a closer look at the goals and see for yourself whether or not they matter. Are the goals somewhat idealistic? Probably. Are we on track to meet the targets by 2030? No. Does that mean that citizens, governments, and all representations of people should give up? Not a chance. With a globalized and a technologically connected world, everyone who can, should advocate for a better world. For eradicating poverty. For access to the basic necessities of life. For care of our Earth. For universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, religion, or other orientations. Of course there are challenges ahead and all sorts of intricate global problems, but that has always been the case and most likely always will be. But, let’s keep moving forward. There’s still more work to be done.
Daniel is the Blog Manager for Beyond Violence. He also works for the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh as a Planning and Monitoring Analyst. He holds a B.A. in International Development with a concentration in Disaster Recovery. He plans to pursue a Masters in Statistics and work internationally for the majority of his career.
Written by Daniel Winstanley and published on 16-May-2016