The UN secretary general has ruled out any immediate cut in the number of proposed sustainable development goals with the launch on Thursday of his synthesis report, The Road to Dignity by 2030 (pdf).
In the report, Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed the 17 goals and 169 targets proposed by the UN open working group that will come into force after the millennium development goals expire next year.
Some member states, including the UK and Japan, have expressed concern that the large number of goals and targets would prove a challenge to implement, particularly in poorer countries, and sell to the public. Many people would be unable to recite the contents of the eight MDGs, which have been in place for almost 15 years.
In September, David Cameron told the audience of an event at the UN general assembly that he wanted a maximum of 12 goals, saying there was “a real danger they will end up sitting on a bookshelf, gathering dust” if there were 17.
Ban told reporters that the final decision on the number was up to the member states but gave no hint that he expected the number to change. “The possibility of maintaining the 17 goals, with some rearrangement, is up to member states,” he said. “I am encouraged that my report received very positive and favourable responses.”
When asked if the name of the goals could be changed to something more snappy, Ban said there were no plans to adopt something new, but added there was “still a nine-months negotiation process awaiting”.
Ban did acknowledge the difficulty governments could have in effectively communicating the content of the goals. In an attempt to help governments, the secretary general has banded the goals into six “essential elements”, which he hoped would help guide member states in their negotiations on the final targets.
Ban said the elements – dignity, people, planet, prosperity, justice and partnership – “were not an attempt to cluster or replace the SDGs, rather they are meant to offer conceptual guidance for the work ahead”.
The report highlighted the importance of the internatioal conference on financing for development, taking place in Addis Ababa in July next year, for agreeing commitments for paying for the implementation of the goals.
Other key moments next year will be the special summit on sustainable development at the UN general assembly in September, where the goals are expected to be adopted, and the UNFCCC meeting in Paris in December, where member states have pledged to adopt an agreement to tackle climate change.
Ban said adequate resources, the technical know-how and the political will were crucial to create a transformative vision for the future. “I continue to urge member states to continue to keep ambitions high. We must do all it takes to provide hope for people and the planet,” he said at the report’s launch in New York.
Helen Dennis, senior adviser on poverty and inequality at Christian Aid, called the report a “rallying call to governments to aim high with the new global development goals. It rightly makes it clear that business as usual is not an option, and puts proper emphasis on the importance of equitable and sustainable development. The secretary general emphasises the shared nature of challenges like inequality and climate change and underlines the need for universal goals which will apply in all countries, including the UK.”
Michael Elliott, president the advocacy group ONE, said: “The UN secretary general’s report is a welcome drive to kickstart the global effort to end extreme poverty by 2030, and we echo his calls for an ambitious plan to finance the next chapter for development.”
Margaret Batty, director of global policy and campaigns at WaterAid said: “Today’s report takes us one step closer to a landmark agreement for a world where extreme poverty has been eliminated and safe water and sanitation are available to all.
“We welcome the inclusion of water, sanitation and hygiene within the six elements identified by the secretary general and emphasise how important it will be to achieve universal access to these essential needs.”
However, Stephen Hale, Oxfam’s deputy advocacy and campaigns director, criticised the report for not presenting a stronger message about climate change and inequality.
“Oxfam is disappointed that the UN has not made far stronger proposals to address extreme economic inequality and climate change in its new report. The under-emphasis of both issues is a grave missed opportunity,” he said. “These are two major injustices that are guaranteed to undermine the efforts of millions of people seeking to escape poverty and hunger over the next 15 years.”
Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, head of Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, said the report captured many of the key issues raised by his members. “The central place given to tackling inequality is a great step forward, there’s an admirable attempt to bring climate change concerns into the development agenda and the need to protect civic space is underlined,” he said. “The key challenge now will be to get governments to agree to ambitious, game-changing targets for the new goals and, importantly, to put in place robust accountability mechanisms.”
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>