By Pooja Parvati:
As the 70th UN General Assembly readies for the historic adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on September 25, 2015, the star-studded fest being put together for the three-day special event promises to rival the best of Hollywood premieres in glamour and show.
A curtain raiser curated by the Global Goals Campaign funded by British filmmaker Richard Curtis set the ball rolling on September 22 that saw the UN Headquarters illuminated by images representing the 17 SDGs and those commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN. On September 25, a potpourri of celebrities will take centre stage and ring in the SDGs.
Commencing with the Pope Francis’ address at the UN in what has already got the social and conventional media abuzz, the casting coup also includes performances by Shakira, who is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and fellow ambassador and singer Angélique Kidjo. One of the event’s highlights will be an address by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. Interestingly, a previous blog post foretold the exact theme of this event, including the address by the young Yousafzai!
The 17 SDGs that will be adopted will come to define the global development agenda for 15 years till 2030. This marks the end of a long process of open (and at times closed) negotiations.
The draft outcome document, accompanied by a letter from the President of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa dated August 12, 2015 to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, outlines the promise to transform the world by focusing on people, planet, prosperity and ensuring that the drivers of peace and (global) partnerships are central to Agenda 2030 (as the post-2015 development agenda is now being termed).
A quick review of the 17 SDGs shows that they carry forward some of unfinished agenda from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as blend the additional transformative aspects necessary to attain sustainable development.
• Goals 1 to 4 and goal 6 form the primary goals covering key human needs, such as ending poverty, ensuring food security, healthcare, education, water and sanitation.
• SDGs 5 and 10 address the crucial issue of inequality; while goal 5 is about ending gender inequality; goal 10 focuses on reducing inequality within and among countries. From an Indian civil society standpoint, there has been a concerted push towards strengthening language around all of these goals. It is heartening that, in most cases, the draft outcome document reflects these changes in terms of strengthened articulation.
• Goals 7 to 9 are seen as the fundamental building blocks for the attainment of human development (i.e. affordable and modern energy, inclusive economic growth, productive employment and decent work, and resilient infrastructure and industrialization).
• SDGs 11 to 15 address the issue of sustainable development and climate action (i.e. safe sustainable cities, sustainable consumption and production, action against climate change, sustainable use of oceans and terrestrial ecosystems).
• Goals 16 and 17 are seen as the transformative aspects for the new development frame to be effective. While Goal 16 underscores the need to ensure rule of law, access to justice and promoting peaceful societies, goal 17 identifies myriad options to promote global partnerships to implement the SDGs. Some of these options include technology transfer, facilitating trade, private and innovative financing mechanisms, data monitoring and institutional strengthening. It is worthwhile to note that Goal 17 is the revitalized MDG 8, which was considered by many as the weakest among the MDGs.
However, it is crucial that the theory framing the goals, is reflective of the realities on the ground. For instance, it is imperative to ensure that the “voices” of the most marginalized communities are “heard” and acknowledged even as we adopt such global commitments. It is in this context that the next stage of framing and agreeing on the indicators for each of the 169 sub-targets and 17 goals would become critical. Once the heads of nations return home and initiate work on compiling indicators, it would be vital for civil society to push for more concrete, robust and ambitious indicators that are not just a sleight of numbers.
For some of us who have, for more than two years, been closely following this complex yet interesting process to arrive at Agenda 2030, it seems like the lines are slowly blurring. Be it the lines between the private sector and the civil society, or the lines between media activism and mass activism. It is also reflected in the festive nature of this historic summit, almost bordering on a public relations blitzkrieg. Some might think of this as an effort by a 70-year old organization trying to make itself relevant in changed times and contexts. Whether this blurring of lines is a welcome development or not is something only time will tell. For now, suffice to say that the arc lights are on and we are waiting with a bated breath.