Global leaders, think tanks and development practitioners are working tirelessly to agree “a truly transformative agenda” in a new set of development goals that will improve the lives of all people. These new global targets will replace the millennium development goals (MDGs), which reach their deadline at the end of this year. But, how are we moving in achieving a grossly agreed [consensus based] development agendas? Will the new sustainable development goals [SDGs] have the strategic focus and necessary strengths, which could benefit almost 1 billion people, still living in abject poverty; would the hundreds of thousands of women, dying each year during pregnancy and childbirth be able to overcome this? Could it be able to provide clean cooking and lighting to 3 billion people, who have been still relying on traditional biomass for cooking and heating and 1.2 billion have no access to clean lighting? Similar questions also go for the global health, sanitation, education and human rights. Indeed, a draft set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), with 169 targets have been developed. The proposed goals cover the broad themes of the MDGs – ending poverty and hunger, and improving health, education and gender equality – but also include specific goals to reduce inequality, make cities safe, address climate change and promote peaceful societies. It is hoped that the goals will encourage a more holistic approach to development at national and international level, and offer a chance for more partnerships and collaboration. However, unfortunately, we have not yet seen a universal buy-in of the SDGs by national governments as well as international donor’s communities. There is a general perception that the goals are too many and ‘having too many targets means no targets’. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop a consensus on the targets and goals. Crucially, the next set of goals should be universal, which means all countries would be required to consider them when crafting their national policies. Indeed, this will be a major challenge. We will also need endorsement of bilateral donors, philanthropists and private sectors on the proposed SDGs and perhaps, private sectors will also be interested to see a focus on market externalities, resources and/or capital. We must not forget that the real test of UNs, global leaders, think tanks, donors and governments’ commitment isn’t the loftiness of the goals; but, it is what they are prepared to do to reach them!
Keshav C Das Senior Advisor SNV Netherlands Development Organisation Kathmandu, February 03, 2015