[Opinion] As the 193 United Nations member countries prepare to ratify the new Sustainable Development Goals, the question has to be asked, are these new goals truly commendable, or simply crowd-pleasing.
Three years in the making, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the United Nations’ natural successor to the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which failed to achieve its 2015 target.
Expected to be ratified by the 193 member states of the United Nations later today, as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015, the 17 goals set out by the Sustainable Development Goals, up from the 8 goals of the MDGs, set out a framework for a better future. Those 17 goals, further broken down into targets – 169 in total – are expected to be achieved by 2030, in order to create a better world.
According to a United Nations mission statement, on their website for the new goals, the Sustainable Development Goals are set to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all”.
So the question becomes, are these Sustainable Development Goals really a commendable effort to right all that is wrong with the world, or simply a crowd-pleasing effort destined to fall as dramatically short of their aim as the Millennium Development Goals did?
Simply put, I feel it can only be the latter.
However, it would be gravely naive to simply write off the Sustainable Development Goals without truly assessing the feasibility of their objectives. And by that sense, I do truly believe that they could be achieved – not in their entirety, but far closer than I would give them the credit to do on a whole. The issues with the Sustainable Development Goals, as fell with the prior Millennium Development Goals, are simple.
Firstly, he timeframe for the achievements targeted is just too small. Expecting to achieve the goals that the United Nations has laid out, by the year 2030, is just frankly ludicrous. Irrespective of the effort and funding put into achieving these goals, I do not believe that anywhere near the progress necessary for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals can be made in such a small timeframe.
On the contrary, if this catastrophically underestimated deadline was removed, I do believe that slow but effective progress could be made to not only achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but also assimilate the core principles of the goals into societal values, irrespective of culture or tradition, and so maintain the goals that we, as a single, collective people, had worked so hard to achieve.
The second issue with the Sustainable Development Goals, and the reason I do not believe that they could ever be achieved, unless given an infinite amount of time, resources and influence, is the sheer inclusiveness of the goals. While inclusiveness is an absolute dream for anyone who wants to see the world improve, sometimes it needs to be understood that it is simply unachievable and unrealistic.
Equality is a driving factor for almost all motivation for change, in the terms of global development, and from a moral standpoint, that is brilliant. However, from a practical sense, and these Sustainable Development Goals have been drafted with the desire to achieve them in practice, there needs to be a step back from this total inclusiveness. I am most certainly not insinuating that we discriminate against certain individuals, ones that provide less benefit to the global capitalist market than others, but rather we aim for far more achievable goals.
Rather than aim for total inclusiveness, we should aspire for first 75% inclusiveness, followed by 80%, then by 90% and et cetera. That way, these changes can be made in a far more achievable and sustainable manner, as we would be able to monitor impacts of the changes, as well as start to incorporate the core values of the Sustainable Development Goals into the cultures of these societies, creating a perpetually greater force that pushes the world towards that ultimate goal of full inclusion.
In summary, I can draw no further conclusion from the evidence than the fact that, while the Sustainable Development Goals were drafted undoubtedly with a moral impetus on equality and good intention, the practical and sustainable implications of the Sustainable Development Goals appear to have been a second thought throughout.
Therefore, I cannot see the latest Sustainable Development Goals draft, if ratified, being little more than an effort of crowd-pleasing, a gentle reminder to the world population that the governments of the world’s nations do remember the poverty problem, and wish to change it, even if their method of doing seems like it will have little practical implication.