Beyond 2015 in South Asia

By Senashia Ekanayake

Upon the dawn of the new millennium, one of the most looked forward to propositions was the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In 2000, the United Nations established eight international development goals that 189 countries and 23 international organisations committed to work towards to achieve by 2015. They included:

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality and empower women
  4. To reduce child mortality
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

Despite the target dates for the individual goals, the MDGs have attracted criticism for being without direction and often difficult to measure. Analyses in 2013 proved that international development goals were not being achieved and were not being worked towards with equal commitment and enthusiasm in the developing world due to conflicts in the development agendas of certain countries.

Why are MDGs important to us?

While the MDGs form an overview of the proposed agenda of the developing world, each goal has one or more sub-targets that help define it. Goal 07 that focuses on ensuring environmental sustainability includes:

  1. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources.
  2. Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
  3. Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
  4. Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

Beyond 2015

One of the biggest questions prevailing in both the developing world and among civil society actors is that of what takes place beyond 2015. One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 UN Conference in 2012 on Sustainable Development included the process to form Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the formation of Open Working Group on SDGs, the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing and the High-level Political Forum. It was decided to establish an “inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly”. As part of the Rio+20 outcome, it was agreed that the SDGs must be also be:

  • Action-oriented
  • Concise
  • Easy to communicate
  • Limited in number
  • Aspirational
  • Global in nature
  • Universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

As opposed to the eight MDGs proposed in 2000, there are seventeen SDGs proposed (and sub-goals under each proposition) by the Working Group that are useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development; contribute to the achievement of sustainable development and that serve as a driver for implementation and mainstreaming of sustainable development as a whole and address priority areas for the achievement of the same.

These include:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere;
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all, and promote sustainable agriculture;
  3. Attain healthy life for all at all ages;
  4. Providing equitable and inclusive quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all;
  5. Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere;
  6. Secure water and sanitation for all for a sustainable world;
  7. Ensure access to affordable, sustainable, and reliable modern energy services for all;
  8. Promote strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all;
  9. Promote sustainable industrialisation;
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries;
  11. Build inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements;
  12. Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns;
  13. Promote actions at all levels to address climate change;
  14. Attain conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas;
  15. Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems and halt all biodiversity loss;
  16. Achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law, effective and capable institutions;
  17. Strengthen and enhance the means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development.

Why are SDGs important to us?

Running on the lines of “lessons learnt” the SDGs, compared to the MDGs are more comprehensive and are not exclusive to the developing world. Further, the SDGs have also taken into consideration more specific concerns, i.e.- climate change, in the context of broader issues, such as environmental protection. Moreover, the SDGs have also proved to be a better measure of the goals set out such as the definition of extreme poverty being “those living on less than $1.25 a day.”

This has enabled countries to be more focussed when mapping out their development agendas in the context of international commitments, thus also empowering civil societies to work on more specific thematic areas and contributing to the process.

Importance of South Asia

Two of the most anticipated events of 2014 in the UN calendar are the Climate Summit and the Fifth High Level Panel Meeting on Post 2015 Development Agenda,  both which are to take place next month in September, in the UN Headquarters in New York. Country heads and those from the developing world are looking at both meetings as opportunities to set out country commitments for the post-2015 agenda and also as means of drafting their respective development plans.

CANSA has been working towards recognising CSO initiatives in the region organised to mobilise for the upcoming Climate and SDG summits. Two such events that have been so far identified are programmes from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

i) Bangladesh Summit on Sustainable Development

The Global Citizen Forum for Sustainable Development in Bangladesh will organise the third Summit on Sustainable Development from August 17-19, 2014. This Summit intends to identify indicators to monitor the SDGs progress in all partner countries and map participation for the Climate Summit in September. For details visit their website on www.bangladeshsummit.org

ii) Negotiator Training on Sustainable Development Goals

A session on SDGs and the importance of the country commitments in the post-2015 development agenda would be conducted as a follow up to the series of Negotiator Trainings conducted for the Climate Change Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy in Sri Lanka prior to the upcoming Climate Summit in New York.

References:

http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/

About The Author:

Senashia Ekanayake is a writer, an advocate of Arts, Education and climate change activist. She read for her degree in English, dabbled in the corporate world and is now involved with CANSA Communications.