The road towards the Sustainable Development Goals

Setting the future global development framework

The Sustainable Development Goals are the successors to the Millennium Development Goals, which expire at the end of 2015. The SDGs will be adopted by world leaders at a summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York in September. The SDGs are accompanied by two other events this year, crucial for international development cooperation: the Finance for Development summit in Addis Ababa in July and the UN climate change conference in Paris, in December.

Leaving no-one behind

The proposed Sustainable Development Goals currently comprise 17 goals and 169 targets. The new Sustainable Development Goals will be universal, meaning that the goals apply to all the countries in the world and not just developing countries are expected to achieve them. Amina Mohammed, special advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, perceives the world as a global village, wherein no-one is left behind, she said during her keynote speech at the Think Global Day: it must always be about the smallest and most vulnerable member of the family. Ms. Mohammed spoke about the urgency of a new SDG agenda. The UN really needs to think and act over the next 15 years, to enable us to end poverty within that timeframe. According to her, the Sustainable Development Goals are the last opportunity to do something meaningful about climate change.

Lessons learnt from the Millennium Development Goals

How do we make this new framework happen? The new integrated agenda takes lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into account. A truly integrated agenda means it involves new stakeholders, such as parliamentarians, academics, knowledge institutions but also responsible businesses. Furthermore, Ms. Mohammed emphasized that commitment to Official Development Assistance is necessary and addressed the importance of taxes. Both are essential forms of income for developing countries, crucial to achieving sustainable development. We need to be able to unlock the resources that are in the hands of people, in order to make prosperity inclusive. As a concluding remark, Ms. Mohammed sees an important role for civil society to make the SDGs a part of everyone’s lives. It is about actions, she said, about trusting each other and investing in partnerships.

One of the things the MDGs were criticized for is not sufficiently covering the environmental dimension of sustainable development. In order to improve this, the SDGs are expected to adopt an approach that fully integrates the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. This, obviously, also calls for greater attention to policy coherence for development, the principle to make sure that policies do not conflict, but reinforce each other.

Policy Coherence for Development in the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals are organised into 17 targets, each with their own sub-targets. While the first 16 targets focus on topical themes such as poverty, education and gender equality, the 17th target attends to the so-called ‘systemic issues’. The first of the systemic issues that is addressed is policy and institutional coherence, suggesting a sense of priority. SDG target 17.14 calls to ‘enhance policy coherence for sustainable development’. It is a crucial target to achieve, since the effects of climate change, trade agreements, agricultural policies and tax avoidance are all interlinked. European ministers should be committed to the achievement of the SDGs and take this into account in the policies they make, as well as collaborate together. PCD is a key tool for the implementation of the post-2015 framework. In 2014, MEP Joachim Zeller already called for the EU to ‘ensure to include the necessary guidelines, impact assessments and monitoring and reporting mechanisms in the post-2015 development agenda’ in order to make PCD a reality. The European Union has an important role to play, as it has institutionalized PCD, and appointed a standing rapporteur on PCD in the European Parliament (MEP Cristian Dan Preda, EPP). We, as Fair Politics, argue Policy Coherence for Development is a vital instrument to have a successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and thus should be included within the post-2015 framework.

What’s next for the SDGs?

As stated in the introduction, the SDGs will be adopted by world leaders at a summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York in September. Governments, international organizations and the broader civil society have actively participated in the process of designing and negotiating the goals. After the adoption of the SDGs in September, it will probably take until January 2016 for the SDGs to become active global goals. The Sustainable Development Agenda, of which the SDGs are part, will most likely run until 2030. This gives the world’s policy makers 15 years to achieve its goals, as did the Millennium Development Goals.

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