On Track Toward Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development Goals, formally adopted by the UN General Assembly during the Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, carry on and expand the MDGs.   The UN Conference on Sustainable Development – or RIO+20 – which took place in Rio de Janeiro, 20-22 June 2012, approved a focused political document with clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development. At that time UN Member States decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda.

As is clear from the Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, published by the UNDP, much has been accomplished but much remains to be done. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has also stated that despite significant achievements in many of the MDG targets worldwide, progress has been uneven in countries and across regions: Gender inequality still persists. Big gaps exist between the poorest and richest households, and between rural and urban areas. Climate change and environmental degradation undermines progress achieved, and poor people suffer the most. Conflicts remain the biggest threat to human development. Millions still live in poverty and hunger, without access to basic services.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals will strive to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and carry out the missed Millennium Development Goals by 2030. Each of the goals has several targets which are meant to “stimulate action over the next fifteen years in . . . areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet,” with the goal of equality and justice for all persons with the pledge to “Leave No One Behind”. Indicators to measure the success of these goals are still under discussion and will likely be adopted by March 2016.

As the United Nations celebrates its 70th Anniversary many important meetings are moving toward positive outcomes. At the United Nations in New York, in July 2015, the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development convened to have discussions with input from the private sector, civil society and member States in preparation for its coordinating and implementing the SDGs.   In Addis Ababba, Ethiopia, also in July 2015, the Conference on Financing for Development has adopted a framework for financial support for SDGs. In Paris, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met in December 2015 to adopt a set of actions to reduce global warming and the impact on climate change. There is great hope but there is still much to be accomplished by governments and grassroots organizations.