With the start of the new year, the UN on Friday ushered in the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals that aim to end poverty, hunger and assure gender equally while building a life of dignity for all over the next 15 years.
The 15-year cycle of the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end with 2015 paving the way for the SDGs, an even more ambitious set of goals to banish a host of social ills by 2030.
“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted unanimously by 193 Heads of State and other top leaders at a summit here in September.
“They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success,” he had said of the 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.
The official ushering in of the new 15-year cycle takes place over a 24-hour period, coming into effect in each region of the planet at the stroke of midnight Thursday.
India is seen as critical for the success of the SDGs, given that improving the lives of 1.4 billion Indians would make a major dent in the goal of improving the lives of all humanity. Even before the SDGs came into effect, India told the UN that it is already implementing the new goals in the form of several initiatives launched by the Indian government.
“We believe that the SDGs are in themselves a strong endorsement of the developmental vision articulated by the Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” India had said on the adoption of the outcome document of the Agenda 2030 at the final session of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda in August.
“In fact, most if not all the initiatives launched by Prime Minister Modi can be related to one or more of the SDGs. In this sense, the SDGs are already being implemented in India,” it said.
Ambitious programmes launched by the Indian government like ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Smart Cities’ and the ‘Skills India’ initiative aim at boosting economic development and manufacturing in the country and help lift millions out of poverty.
The Paris Conference on climate change in December is seen by many as the first test of political will to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“The Paris Agreement is a triumph for people, the planet, and for multilateralism. For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb their emissions, strengthen resilience and act internationally and domestically to address climate change. By addressing climate change we are advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Mr. Ban had said.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on countries to begin efforts to achieve the 17 SDGs over the next 15 years.
The goals address the needs of people in both developed and developing countries, emphasising that no one should be left behind. Broad and ambitious in scope, the agenda addresses the three dimensions of sustainable development — social, economic and environmental, as well as important aspects related to peace, justice and effective institutions.
The mobilisation of means of implementation, including financial resources, technology development and transfer and capacity-building, as well as the role of partnerships, are also acknowledged as critical.
The 17 SDGs build on the eight MDGs, which specifically sought by 2015 — to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.
While the MDGs have accomplished a lot, progress has been uneven across regions and countries, leaving millions of people behind, especially the poorest and those disadvantaged due to sex, age, disability, ethnicity or geographic location.
The SDGs are expected to plug the holes left by the MDGs and accomplish more.
They stress everything from zero poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy, to decent work and economic growth, innovation, reducing inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, unpolluted oceans and land and partnerships to achieve the goals.