current affairs development sustainability

Drafting the Sustainable Development Goals

As you may remember, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) run until 2015. I’ve been watching the development of a new set of goals to replace them, and we’re a step closer. After several rounds of consultation and recommendations, yesterday the working group released its ‘draft zero’ of proposed Sustainable Development Goals. Here they are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all, and promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. Attain healthy life for all at all ages.
  4. Provide equitable and inclusive quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all.
  5. Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere.
  6. Secure water and sanitation for all for a sustainable world.
  7. Ensure access to affordable, sustainable, and reliable modern energy services for all.
  8. Promote strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.
  9. Promote sustainable industrialization.
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.
  11. Build inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements.
  12. Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  13. Promote actions at all levels to address climate change.
  14. Attain conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas.
  15. Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems and halt all biodiversity loss.
  16. Achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law, effective and capable institutions.
  17. Strengthen and enhance the means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development.

What’s particularly positive to my mind is the way that the UN’s development work and sustainability work have integrated over the course of this process. The original MDGs had sustainability as a broad goal number 7, which included forest loss, biodiversity, and several other sub-goals. The 2012 Rio summit concluded with the suggestion that there should be sustainability goals, and that’s been rolled into the post-2015 agenda. UN process being what it is, I don’t quite understand how formally they’re integrated, but it’s good to see sustainability woven through the whole list above.

It’s also interesting to see inequality addressed. There has been a heated discussion about whether or not it should be included and it may not survive to the final draft, but it’s good to see it get this far.

Growth, I see with some dismay, gets a point to itself. This is despite the UN being a thought leader on the limits of GDP as the Metric to Rule Them All. It also leaves us with some mutually exclusive goals. Without a miracle technology or two and/or a second planet, infinite economic growth isn’t compatible with goals 12, 13 or 14. But I’m in the minority here. The Rio document is thoroughly in hock to GDP growth. As George Monbiot wrote last week, questioning growth is “the 21st Century’s great taboo”.

Back on the plus side, we didn’t get the proposed (albeit tongue in cheek) Millennium Consumption Goals, but there’s plenty here for developed countries to get on with too. That includes sustainable energy and consumption patterns, and also other things tucked away in the sub-goals. Sustainable agriculture includes food waste. Providing adequate nutrition includes tackling obesity.

As usual, the full text reveals a whole lot more detail and is well worth browsing.

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