This Monday, the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the international community to step up efforts to meet the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Secretary-General stressed that many regions worldwide are lagging behind with their sustainable development efforts. Guterres warned that without stronger commitment to the SDGs and cooperation, the world will not meet the 2030 SDG deadline.
What are the SDGs?
The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 ambitious goals that, among other things, aim to end global poverty and encourage development in struggling regions. These goals were agreed upon in 2015 and implemented the following year, and are meant to be fulfilled by 2030.
Despite the admirable intent of the SDGs, they suffer from the same critical issue that stymies other U.N. projects: they lack enforcement. Because the national governments of each member state are responsible for the organization and implementation of programs, they can easily ignore their commitment to the goals. Even worse, the SDGs are not legally binding and therefore countries around the world have little to no reason to ensure their realization.
The SDGs have only been in action for a little over a year, yet Guterres’ call to action indicate that the relatively new program is already struggling. As of now, the SDGs are well-intentioned but inconsequential.
Perhaps countries around the world hesitate to contribute because they believe the SDGs are too ambitious and ask too much, too soon. However, their hesitation is not justified.
At the very least, ending global poverty (the first goal out of the 17) is indeed possible. Since 1990, the number of people living off of the equivalent of $1.25 a day has been reduced by more than half. While 836 million people still live below the poverty line, it is not at all impossible to end poverty once and for all in the next few decades. Even if it is difficult to determine whether or not this goal can be achieved by 2030, this should not discourage countries around the world from refusing to try.
The Necessity of Commitment
In order for the world to end global poverty and encourage universal development by or around 2030, the international community needs to prioritize SDGs and cooperation. They cannot write off the SDGs as another romantic notion proposed by the idealistic U.N.; instead, they should seriously think about the benefits they can reap from a better world in 2030. That better world can be theirs, but they need to work for it first. The SDGs provide the guidance to get there.
Also, the international community needs to facilitate cooperation in order to more effectively tackle global poverty and inequality. As Peter Thompson, President of the U.N. General Assembly expressed, there must be “effective collaboration and partnerships between governments, private sector, civil society, local authorities, schools, universities and our communities.”
Streamlining cooperation between the public and private sectors is particularly important for the development and execution of on the ground development solutions. In the US, the proposed Economic Growth and Development Act (HR 2747) hopes to allow more opportunities for the private sector to contribute to foreign assistance programs. If the bill receives enough support to become a law, it could bolster U.S. efforts in the fight against global poverty.
Hopefully, the Economic Growth and Development Act will become a part of the U.S.’s toolkit in ending global poverty. Other countries around the world should encourage similar legislation so that the international community can further promote the importance of SDGs and cooperation in creating a better world.
– Isidro Rafael Santa Maria