MDGs Give Way to SDGs

by Connie Ray

The end of September 2015 came with the deadline for the United Nations’ Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) established in 2000. They will be replaced by new Sustainable Development Goals, which have received mixed reaction.

The MDGs incorporated eight goals to improve living conditions and health in developing countries. These goals included cutting in half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, those suffering from hunger, and those without access to safe drinking water; reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters; reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds; and achieving universal primary schooling.

A summary report published by the United Nations delineates the MDGs’ successes as well as their failings. This month, these discrepancies were recognized by the United Nations and became the foundation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the product of several years of work by specialized UN committees.

The Sustainable Development Goals include seventeen goals with 169 sub-goals, or “targets.” Unlike the MDGs, which focused primarily upon the developing world, the SDGs aim to unite both developed and developing nations to focus on economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

Included are goals to “end poverty in all its forms;” achieve universal healthcare; eliminate all preventable maternal, infant, and child deaths; and “achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all men and women.” Other goals focus on ending gender discrimination, expanding access to education, improving sanitation, and promoting clean energy.

Worldwide reactions to these new goals have varied, from derision to endorsement, from skepticism to enthusiasm. Filmmaker Richard Curtis, for example, started an organization called Project Everyone, which is aimed at increasing global awareness of the SDGs. The organization’s website, www.globalgoals.org, features a video collaboration of hundreds of international celebrities offering their support. The SDGs have been praised by some for their idealism and comprehensiveness.

On the other end of the spectrum, critics have called the SDGs overly idealistic, too broad in scope, and too impossible to measure, let alone achieve. The Economist recently called the SDGs “worse than useless.” The 169 targets of the SDGs cover seemingly everything, from promoting sports to valuing domestic work. Critics claim that having too many “top priority” issues defeats the purpose of prioritization and muddles the true focus.

Further criticism targets funding for the goals, or rather, lack thereof. With an estimated cost of $3 trillion to implement, there is no plan to raise the money as the SDGs currently stand.

Amidst a sea of criticism and praise, the UN Statistical Committee now has until March 2016 to further finalize a plan for monitoring progress and to define global indicators of success.

All of the SDGs and their targets can be accessed at sustainabledevelopment.un.org.

Connie Ray is a first year MNSP student at the Friedman School. She currently lives in Virginia, where she raises her two sons and teaches yoga.

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