Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, 193 UN member states unanimously endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals, which set the framework for sustainable human development until 2030.

The Millennium Development Goals did not improve the lives of everyone - DR Congo (Bunia) © Nick Hannes

The ‘Post-2015 Development Agenda’ and the associated Sustainable Development Goals were established after the Rio+20-summit in 2012 decided to combine the agendas for sustainable development and poverty reduction into one agenda.

The document ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development’ bundles 17 goals with 169 set targets. The text is generally found to be strong and the least to be said is that the stated intentions are fine: should we, as a global community succeed in accomplishing the agenda, then by 2030 the earth and its inhabitants would indeed be better off than today. The ambition is, after all, to accomplish a transition towards a sustainable society in which all poverty is banished, in which life for everyone is better, and in which the limits of what our planet earth can offer its inhabitants are respected.

Also strong about this Statement is that it is the fruit of a long and global consultation process: between the end of 2012 and the end of 2014, anyone who wanted to contribute to it was allowed to do so. In 2015 the member states negotiated the collected ideas and perspectives of the Open Working Group, resulting in a final document, which has been unanimously approved.

This agenda should not be considered as a successor to the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which had as a main goal to alleviate poverty. The SDG-agenda is universal and has the ambition to eliminate inequalities: the agenda is aimed at each country and is to be implemented by each country. Also, everybody needs to be aboard a sustainable and prosperous community: it’s an inclusive agenda. Each country and everybody will have to cooperate, and everyone will have to co-finance.

Because the 17 goals, which have to be implemented indivisibly, constitute a difficult communication exercise for a wide target audience, the preface bundles the ambitions in P’s. The classical 3 P’s of sustainable development People, Planet and Prosperity (remarkable is that Prosperity is chosen over Profit), supplemented with the P’s of Peace and Partnership.

The Achilles tendons of this agenda are undoubtedly the P’s of Peace and Partnership in combination with the F of Financing. If big parts of the world remain torn up by wars and conflicts with all the consequences thereof, this agenda has little chance of succeeding. For the financing of this agenda a partnership between everyone is considered: the developed countries as well as the growth countries and developing countries have to contribute from public budgets collected through taxes and fees. Also, with respect to the private sector, high financial expectations are cherished. Rightly so? This remains to be seen.

Protos is pleased that there is a separate goal for water with 6 specific sub-goals and 2 implementation methods for meeting the goal on a global scale.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The Millennium Declaration of 2000 by the United Nations was the previous framework, but this was principally aimed at alleviation poverty. It described 8 concrete goals, consisting of a total of 18 target goals and 48 measurable indicators. The 7th goal was aimed, among other things, at halving the population who, by 2015, has no sustainable access to safe drinking water or essential sanitation.

Since 1990, a lot of progress has been made: 2.3 billion people now have access to drinkable water and 2 billion got a clean toilet or latrine in their neighborhood.

Did the world, by 2015, achieve the Development Goal concerning safe drinking water and sanitation? Yes, and no. The goal for safe drinking water was already achieved in 2010, yet today there are still 663 million people who do not have access to safe drinking water in their neighborhood. The aim for sanitation was missed by about 1 billion people. 2.5 billion people or 1/3 of the global population does not yet have access to a clean toilet.