The new SDGs have seen a manipulation of the 8 MDGs and got an addition of 9 more goals. The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) are broken down into 169 specific targets that each country has committed to try and achieve voluntary basis over the next 15 years.
Unlike the MDGs, defenders of the SDGs argue that these goals have emerged from a genuinely inclusive process that made room for voices from developing countries, which were handed down by technocrats from above.
Nonetheless, the sheer quantity of SDGs is problematic and some of the goals have vague targets along with a lack of independent accountability mechanisms to measure whether individual members states have met the steep benchmarks is a recipe for undermining this new program.
Given the unfeasibly expensive cost of $2-3 trillion per year, which the Economist described at one time “a betrayal of the world’s poorest people.”
SDG drafters argue that eliminating poverty, for example, will require more than charity — it will require reducing inequality, combating climate change, strengthening labor rights, eliminating Western agricultural subsidies, and so on. More importantly, recognizing that poverty is a complex, structural problem.
The SDGs establishes an awareness of the fact that something about our economic system has gone terribly awry – that the mandatory pursuit of endless industrial growth is chewing through our living planet, producing poverty at a rapid rate, and threatening the basis of our existence.
Yet despite this growing realization, the core of the SDG program for development and poverty reduction relies precisely on the old model of industrial growth — ever-increasing levels of extraction, production, and consumption. Goal 8, is devoted to growth, specifically export-oriented growth, in keeping with existing neoliberal models.
The report promotes growth as the main solution to poverty, but this relationship is highly tenuous. Of all the income generated by global GDP growth between 1999 and 2008, the poorest 60 percent of humanity received only 5 percent of it. Given the existing ratio between GDP growth and the income growth of the poorest, it will take 207 years to eliminate poverty with this strategy, and to get there, we will have to grow the global economy by 175 times its present size.
To tackle the irrationality of endless growth head-on, we need to point out that capitalist growth — as measured by GDP — is not the solution to poverty and ecological crisis, but the primary cause. And we need a measure of human progress that gears us not toward more extraction and consumption by the world’s elite, but more fairness, more equality, more wellbeing, more sharing, to the benefit of the vast majority of humanity.
The SDGs locate education more as part of the definition of development than as a means to achieve it and fail to advance discussion of what kind of education is to be valued for what purpose? Keith Lewin asserts that “an opportunity has been missed to dwell more on that which transforms minds, hands and hearts and offer insight into what education designed to promote development that is climate friendly, human rights respectful, and economically advantageous might look like”.
The strategy of building an enlightened citizenry with collective action capacities is the basis of sustainable development. Albeit, there is nothing in the text that really explains how the new goals and targets for education (Goal 4) will relate to all the other SDGs most of which have educational dimensions, or why “reaching the furthest behind first” makes sense where failure to deliver services is systemic, rather than on the margin of fundamentally sound education systems.
The more inclusive process which generated the SDGs has led to less focus, more contradictory goals and targets, and a lack of prioritization or honesty about the costs and tradeoffs of achieving the aspirations.
Bridging the gap between the rhetoric of the aspirations and reality of the actions requires attention of the parties committed on principle to the Agenda of 2030.
The more a country attempts to blindly adhere to the list of 17 goals and “specific” targets the easier it is for her to ignore the inconvenient parts, and the greater the opportunity to arrive at the kind of paralysis by analysis that focuses on measurement at the expense of meaning.
The 2030 agenda provides a framework for greater coordination of efforts to end poverty and diseases with financial support from richer countries. Nonetheless, there is fear that it will lock in the global development agenda for the next fifteen years around an economic model that requires urgent and deep structural changes.
The SDGs agenda is deeply inadequate to support the operational Means of Implementation (MoI) at local level (Individual member states). For example, corporations and private investors expected to play a central role in the implementation of the SDGs, aren’t bound to any specific commitments or accountability mechanisms.