On January 1, 2016 the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) began.  These development goals replaced the UN’s previous global project, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which came to an end on 31 December, 2015.

The SDGs were ratified by UN member states in New York towards the end of September 2015 and include seventeen goals with 169 associated targets.  The goals and their targets are designed, among other things, to end poverty, aid the environment, and achieve gender equality by 2030.

However, the sheer size and scale of this project has raised concern that many of the goals are unlikely to be achieved.  In particular, there are questions about the adequacy of the funding arrangements that have been put in place.  For example, the intergovernmental committee of experts on sustainable development believes the cost just for providing a social safety net to eradicate extreme poverty will be roughly $66bn a year.  As part of the process of setting-up the SDGs a major conference was held in Addis Ababa in July 2015 to deal with the issue of funding.  Nevertheless, regular income streams have yet to be established.

An additional issue that may hamper the SDGs concerns the reliability of the data that is informing this policy approach.  For instance, the data-gathering systems of some poorer states are limited and underfunded.  In this regard, an SDG target is to increase the availability of high-quality and reliable data on development by 2020.  Indeed, throughout the process of setting-up the SDGs there were widespread calls for a data revolution in order to measure the progress of the SDGs.

Other issues and areas that will determine whether or not the SDGs are achieved by 2030 include:

  • What safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the implementation of the SDGs is open and inclusive?
  • Are there too many goals and targets, and will this make it make it more difficult for the world’s citizens to identify with this project?
  • Are the SDGs founded on a coherent conception of sustainability?
  • Does the political will and commitment exist at the local, national and international level to implement the goals?

For an assessment of these issues and a more detailed analysis of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, see the FPO policy report entitled – ‘The UN Sustainable Development Goals: promises and prospects’ – which can be found by clicking on the cover image below.