FLORENCE, S.C. — In 2000, experts representing some of the world’s most powerful nations finalized the Millennium Development Goals. As a global development effort set forth by the United Nations, these guidelines were constructed with one primary goal – helping the world’s poor.
In addition to addressing extreme poverty, the Millennium Development Goals established specific targets for alleviating global issues like hunger, health, security, education, shelter, gender equality and environmental sustainability. The targets were to be met by 2015.
As the deadline quickly approaches, however, several stipulations of the Millennium Development Goals have still yet to be reached. The rates of extreme poverty and global child mortality are half of those recorded in 1990, but the level of development in health and education has been unbalanced across different regions of the world. Health standards have also lowered in some parts of Africa. Nevertheless, the Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny notes that the international effort to meet the goals has been significant because they were “a bunch of completely non-binding, legally unenforceable aspirational targets.”
In response, the United Nations plans to implement a new set of Sustainable Development Goals when the 2015 deadline expires. The General Assembly within the United Nations will gather to finalize the specifics of the new guidelines this summer.
The Sustainable Development Goals, projected to cost approximately $1 trillion per year, are designed as a “more inclusive, participatory and sophisticated approach” to addressing global issues. Unlike its predecessor, the collection of Sustainable Development Goals will involve the guidance of more global leaders, aligning ongoing international objectives to the national priorities of individual countries. In addition, the new goals will “target the entire world, not just its poor,” reducing climate change, supporting societal peace and strong governments and promoting jobs for all.
U.N. diplomats have met 11 times this year to plan and discuss the Sustainable Development Goals, which will likely have a deadline of 2030. Using feedback from more than 2 million people in 294 countries, a global poll has been conducted to determine the world’s most pressing challenges and priorities. Paul Ladd, the leader of the U.N. Development Program’s Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, states that the new set of goals puts less emphasis on the “good governance and Western-style democracy” that many developing countries distrust.
Since the Sustainable Development Goals address issues concerning the social, economic and environmental spheres, some of the new guidelines will likely be more difficult to implement. Fighting climate change in particular has been a noteworthy challenge. Homi Kharas, senior fellow and deputy director for the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution, says that no country has been able to achieve “a sustainable development path that can be replicated by others without overburdening the environment.”
Kenny has noted that the Sustainable Development Goals are “about tracking progress, not declaring what utopia would look like.” Experts agree that simply setting new goals will not guarantee success, but in light of the current severity of global sustainable development challenges, the international community could benefit from promoting these ambitiously revised guidelines.