Read, Debate: Engage.
Read, Debate: Engage.
map tooltip
Humans · Nature · Economy

Sustainable Development Goals: What’s really in it for the developing world?

September 29th, 2015
in:Humans, Nature, Economy
by:Bob Koigi
located in:Ethiopia, USA, China, Russia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Brazil
tags:Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals, The United Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

The 193 member states of the United Nations have officially approved the new set of development goals that address global hunger and poverty.

Dubbed the Sustainable Development Goals, the post-2015 targets meant to drive the global development agenda, consists of 17 goals and 169 targets, and have been hailed as more proactive and focused than their predecessors, the millennium development goals (MDGs).

Experts argue that the role and impact of the MDGs, especially in addressing biting problems in developing countries, cannot be gainsaid. From taming extreme poverty, fighting HIV and other world health threats to improving gender equality, the goals have been key in galvanizing world action in improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.

For instance through goal numbers, one on the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, the world has been able to scale down the number of people living on less than a dollar a day from 1.9 billion in the early 90s to 836 million in 2015. In education the dream of universal access to primary education for all has inched closer to reality, with enrollment levels climbing from 83 per cent in early 2000 when the goals were set to 91 per cent in 2015.

The number of under five-year-olds dying has dropped by half over the past 25 years, buoyed by access to timely medical intervention. Since the 90s, over 2.1 billion people have had access to improved sanitation, reducing cases of open defecation which have been blamed for fanning the spread of waterborne diseases, especially in developing countries.

However, even with the celebrations, concern has been raised that despite achievements, implementation has been sluggish, which has made most of the goals unattainable.

For example, even as the world celebrates cutting down on the number of globally hungry, there are still an approximated one billion people who are still living on less than $1.25 a day while more than 800 million don’t have enough food to eat according to the World Bank measure of poverty.  Despite a commendable drop in child mortality, the drop hasn’t yet reached the MDG’s target of two thirds of all dying children with over 16,000 children still dying daily from Malaria, Pneumonia and Diarrhoea.

On the other hand, although considerable efforts have been made in improving human sanitation, up to 2.4 billion people in developing countries, about a third of the global population, are still struggling with access to improved sanitation facilities, with 946 million of these practicing open defecation.

Such a yawning gap between intent and targets has given rise to the sustainable development goals. The 17 goals expected to be applicable from January 2016 with a deadline of 2030, target an end to poverty in all its forms everywhere, achieve gender equality and make food security a reality for everyone in the world, among others.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his synthesis report on the SDGs categorized them generally into what he called six essential elements including dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, planet, and people. “This is the People’s Agenda, a plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere, and leaving no one behind. It seeks to ensure peace and prosperity, and forge partnerships with people and planet at the core,” said Mr. Ki-moon.

But the goals haven’t been without criticism. Countries like Japan and the UK argue that 17 goals are too many to implement successfully and want them trimmed. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in an earlier interview expressed his desire to have the goals reduced to 12. So have a couple of NGOs. But beyond the question of manageability of the goals is the trillion dollar question on the financing of the goals. The United Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that it would require up to $2.5 trillion a year to fund the SDGs.

The UN’s Third Financing for Development conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July this year therefore tried to explore ways to fund the targets while strategizing how to rope in more industry players. The over-100 countries represented at the conference agreed to mobilize domestic resources like leveraging private investment, focusing more on taxes and channeling foreign assistance.

This was corroborated by calculations by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing that argued that public finance and aid would be central to supporting the implementation of the SDGs with all the 193 member states expected to mobilize domestic sources to assist in the realization of the goals.

But the body also posited that the money generated from the private sector, through tax reforms, and through a crackdown on illicit financial flows and corruption was equally vital. Industry players, however, insist that for the goals to reach the intended targets, thorough accountability coupled with solid investment in data collection and use which would equip citizens with the information they needed was crucial in keeping the readers on check in meeting their obligations.

Read also:
One small step for the UN, one giant leap for mankind 
Changes that will make - or break - the world in 2015

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Current Map: Our coverage
The Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York City on the 27th September 2015
On eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, the world has been able to scale down the number of people living on less than a dollar a day from 1.9 billion in early 90s to 836 million in 2015.
However even with the celebrations of the success on the hunger problem still 16,000 children are dying daily from Malaria, Pneumonia and Diarrhoea.

Related & recommended articles

Signup for our monthly newsletter
The Best Picks from Our Editors
Send