From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals: A new joint commitment to create progress for everyone

29 Sep 2015

From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals:  A new joint commitment to create progress for everyone

Today, most people live a better life than what their parents and grandparents experienced. There are many reasons for this, but one important factor is our global efforts for human development. It has worked! But in spite of good results so far, there are many remaining challenges and we know we can do better. One thing we know has worked is the focus of our common energies on jointly agreed goals, and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are giving us that new, joint focus.

The 17 new Sustainable Development Goals and its corresponding 169 targets are meant to build on and succeed the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and serve as the foundation of the post-2015 development agenda. Although some of the MDG targets were reached, others, such as halving the number of people affected by hunger, or the target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015, has not been met. The SDGs will continue to build on the achievements of the MDGs and has declared ambitious targets in three highly interlinked areas, namely, to end poverty through inclusive and equitable economic growth, transform lives with broad-based social inclusion, and protect the planet and environment through sustainable practices. They are the culmination of a unique and worldwide, participatory consultation process that includes stakeholders from all levels, governments, civil societies, NGOs, businesses and most importantly, the people they are meant to serve.

The SDGs are radically different from the MDGs because they are universal targets that apply to all 193-member states of the UN General Assembly, unlike the MDGs, which applied only to developing nations. It is every person’s right to aspire to, and be able to enjoy a better life. This better life means different things for people who live in vastly different national contexts. The needs of a developing nation are not identical to that of a developed country. However, the SDGs have taken into account of, and embraced the national contexts of all the member states, and provided a set of unifying development goals relevant to everyone.

The SDGs have also moved away from the North-South, Donor-Recipient paradigms that have dominated the international development agenda previously, to new SDG goals that truly highlight our common humanity and shared responsibility in stewarding the resources of our world. The SDGs are designed to allow everyone to be included in sustainable, resilient growth.

Even though the MDGs were more narrowly focused, they had still succeeded in saving millions of people from abject poverty and uplifting the lives of entire generations of people, in ways previously unimaginable. MDG targets were met on poverty reduction, increasing access to improved drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary schools. In Timor-Leste, infant and under-five mortality have declined by approximately 50% since 2001, meeting the MDG the target for this indicator. Timor-Leste has also achieved the targets for the number of tuberculosis cases detected and cured. In another notable initiative, the Ministry of State Administration and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment, with support from the UN, are addressing the impact of climate risks through climate resilient Small Scale Rural Infrastructure initiatives, which are expected to benefit 70,000 people.

For indicators such as reducing malnutrition, proportion of the population with access to a clean water source and coverage of ante-natal care, there have been noteworthy improvements even if the MDG targets have not been met.

Globally, in the last 20 years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been reduced by nearly 50% and maternal mortality ratio has dropped by nearly half. More people than ever before are receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection. More than six million deaths from malaria were averted. Enormous progress was made during the era of the MDGs, demonstrating the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets.

However, in spite of the remarkable progress, a significant proportion of the world’s population still lives in conflict and poverty. The inequality is still rising between rich and poor, and as basic needs are not addressed and human rights are not respected for large groups of people, this prevents many from realizing their potential and hence from offering the contribution that they could make to local and global development.

Official development assistance from developed countries did not reach the levels that were pledged as part of the MDGs. But we have learnt that aid financing in itself is not a sufficient mechanism to achieve all the goals. The engagement between developed and developing nations should now shift away from purely focusing on aid, but move towards a broader based engagement, designed to uplift global sustainable development, fueled by resilient and inclusive growth.

For sustainable development to reach all, more resources are needed. But the resources to meet these complex needs will not come mainly from official development assistance. To a rapidly growing extent, resources from domestic tax revenues, domestic private finance and international private finance will become dominant factors in making sustainable development possible. In the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, in the upcoming SDG Summit in New York, and in the COP21 or 2015 Paris Climate Conference, world leaders will continue to explore different paths available to create financing for development, and to broaden the thinking of development, such that public and private sectors, international and global actors, governments, communities and individuals may each play their important and pivotal roles to contribute to development.

Furthermore, to meet the targets of environmental sustainability, peace and stability for all nations, it is essential to address the loss of precious financial resources from illicit financial flows, tax evasion and corruption, and also to leverage the untapped capacities of businesses, domestic or international. We need to seek new partnerships, and develop new innovative ways of collaboration. South-South engagements amongst clusters of thematically and developmentally similar countries, strengthening the abilities of such countries to engage in bilateral or multilateral cooperation, linked by their shared concerns, will also serve to expedite their progress to developed nation status.

With these 17 new SDGs, we renew our commitments to create progress for everyone, ending poverty, hunger and major health problems; reviving strong economic growth, creating new jobs; harnessing energy and resources in sustainable ways, moving away from irreversible damage to the environment, and upholding peace, justice and empowerment for all. In the new highly interconnected world, with the rise of global citizens from developing and developed nations alike, working together to overcome our shared constrains, the world is on the cusp of a genuine breakthrough, and we are ever closer to solving the inequalities and global commons challenges. The SDGs will be our joint vehicle to make this happen.

Mr. Knut Ostby
UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative

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