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November 20, 2015
United Nations adopts ambitious sustainable development goals – Part two

by Maxwell Haywood

In my previous article, I provided an overview to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In this article, I highlight briefly just a few of the challenges to implement these goals. There should be no illusion of the requirements for meeting the SDGs. The challenges are many but they can be overcome, especially if the will exists.{{more}} The ambitious words of the SDGs will have to prove themselves on the ground in countries.

Every nation has to be accountable for the implementation of the SDGs. It is important to note that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are not legally binding on countries. However, they are politically and morally binding on countries. Implementing the SDGs is a voluntary and state-led matter.

Financing development

One of the major challenges is to finance the implementation of the SDGs. The commitment and efforts to address social ills and climate change are necessary but expensive. It is estimated that the cost of the new goals between now and 2030 will cost about US $2.5 trillion per year until 2030. The Addis Abba Agenda of the International Conference on Financing for Development states: “developed countries committed to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources to address the needs of developing countries”.

To play their part in this global movement, countries will have to find the extra resources that are already scarce for most of them. Unless they receive the needed support they will incur high debts as they strive to reach the SDGs by borrowing the necessary money. International cooperation and partnership such as Official Development Assistance (ODA), debt relief, and fair trade rules are important ways that financially poor developing countries could be assisted to achieve the SDGs.

Shift in thinking

Bringing about socio-economic and ecological changes in human behaviour is never an easy challenge. In regard to the new global development agenda, the hope is that international development thinking and practice will shift more to the spirit of the SDGs. The old way will have to give way to this renewed course of thinking and action. The policy making process at the international level cannot remain the same. The SDGs has become the focus of development activities, policies and projects at the global level, and increasingly at the national and regional levels.

The essence of the shift presented by the SDGs is that while we seek economic progress, we must at the same time ensure equality and prosperity for all and at the same time protect and preserve the natural environment. This principle of sustainability appeals to us to do everything in our means to ensure we achieve social inclusion and productivity without destroying the natural environment and jeopardise the well-being of present and future generations. This principle applies to all nations.

For us to realize the SDGs, it will acquire a change in our lifestyles and behaviour. The 2030 Agenda and SDGs call for changes in consumption and production patterns in order to achieve sustainable development. This demands changes in behaviour which would not happen overnight. It will take protracted and focused efforts by all sectors of society for this to happen. Values and attitudes will have to change considerably. The call for these changes is coming up against the current dominant world-view, which dictates that human beings must exploit the earth’s resources to their fullest for their own use.

Raising awareness is essential to achieving the SDGs. Human beings must be critically aware of the root causes of poverty, inequality, and war, as well as being critically aware of the negative impact of human activities and consumption and production patterns on the natural environment. High public awareness of the solutions is necessary to effectively combat issues such as: inequality, poverty, social exclusion, unemployment, undemocratic governance, violent conflicts, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, climate change, desertification, greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation.

Evidence based

Data collection, analysis and dissemination are key aspects of the SDGs. The MDGs had 44 indicators to measure its 19 targets. Now the SDGs will have even more indicators to measure its 169 targets. This process of measuring performance towards reaching the SDGs goals, targets, and indicators will be very challenging.

A wide-range of timely, reliable, and accessible data covering the social, economic, and environmental spheres is essential to measuring progress on sustainable development. National statistical systems will be a key part of the global follow-up and review process, which means that statistical offices will have to develop their capacity to measure national targets within this new framework.

Strategic focus ahead

This 2030 Agenda must be brought home to the people in their villages, towns, constituencies and diaspora. They must own it and help to shape the outcomes to their own liking, in their interests and for our collective sustainable future. The SDGs gives more meaning to the “global village” concept.