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Have the sustainable development goals mitigated the loopholes associated with millennium development goals?

Tejas Sateesha Hinder

Issue 7 | August 01, 2020

Both the MDGs as well as the SDGs were introduced with a common aim and perspective, which is sustainable development. This development was aimed to be brought out so as to ensure minimal environmental degradation in the process of development. With the MDGs having expired, and the SDGs having taken their place, it becomes imperative to analyse whether the loopholes associated with the MDGs have been substantially mitigated by the SDGs.


Coming to the comparative advantages that the SDGs have put out comparatively, the first one clearly is that the SDGs involve a consensus among a larger group of nations and organizations, and thus assures a much greater interest met, than the MDGs. This is because the MDGs were drafted by countries of the OECD and some international donor agencies, while the SDGs have involved a series of negotiations between the developed, developing and underdeveloped economies.


Speaking of the substantive goals set, and the multiple targets set out to meet each of these goals, the MDGs have had 8 goals, 21 targets and 60 indicators, while the SDGs have had 17 goals, 169 targets and 232 indicators, thus broadly and clearly substantiating their areas of efforts, and recognizing the means to achieve them. Further, while the MDGs in addition to the short-sighted efforts, focussed mainly on development of underdeveloped and developing countries, the SDGs focussed on a ‘common but differentiated responsibility’, and cleared the significant threats to development that developed countries faced in terms of restrictions and loss of aid networks, as they mutually, on the basis of development parameters, differentiate the extent of responsibilities with a common aim and nature.


To further ensure less pressure surmounted on the progress towards sustainable development, separated the issue of poverty from hunger and, food and nutrition security while MDGs treated them as a common goal, without realizing the distinct efforts that had to be made for the same. In addition to this, the private players that the SDG involves and employs such as the UN Global Compact to meet its aims consistently, is something that the MDGs have completely neglected.


Speaking of the quality and rate parameters, which ought to go hand in hand, a key issue of literacy pops up, for which the MDG aimed to merely work on the improving rates of literacy, while the SDGs aim to ameliorate the quality, and this improvement shall automatically bolster increase in rates to a certain extent by bringing out the importance of learning and literacy. The SDGs aimed at “education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”


Finally in terms of the impact, assessments reveal that on expiry, not even 40% of the expected success was achieved out of MDGs, with only rates of extreme poverty drastically reducing in developing countries and some advances in nutrition rates, being observed successes. As of now, (before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak) with the SDGs, significant rates of success have been observed in key concerns under SGDs, 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), 13 (Climate action), SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy) and SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), in most countries, as significant improvement has been observed on the respective world indexes in terms of comparative scoring. This path towards success can be attributed to clear and substantial planning, exploring every possible option and outlet.


Exploring a counter-narrative, it must be understood that though the SDGs expanded multiple horizons, it came with multiple costs, that were not allocated properly, and the sources of this funding were ineffectively allocated. For the purposes of SDGs, an amount of $4.5 trillion per year in state spending, investment, and aid is required, and the infrastructure to sustain such growth alone is estimated to require $7 trillion in funds per annum. This completely outruns their aim of sustainable and inclusive economic development. The MDGs instead riled on lower funding, and put out reasonable economic aid that could be provided in furtherance of pollution emission rate deductions imposed, by higher end developing countries and developed countries. As per the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, estimates for the aid required to fulfil the SDGs within 15 years is as low as $700 billion.


In addition to this, the SDGs failed as a whole to accelerate an already accelerated mobilizing international community, due to new obligations created without effective policy guidance, something that the MDGs associated themselves with when formulated, to the contrary.


The need of the hour is to simply make open funding avenues for the SDGs, so that the status quo further proceeds in an orderly manner. This can be through the private players involved, the UNDP, the UNICEF and the WHO for SDGs dealing with what these organizations work for, wherein the funding need not be monetary in all cases, and can be increased welfare activities, in areas requiring the same. Equity, human rights, and broad discrimination should be mitigated with immediate effect, because the same for certain issues coming under their ambit, such as racial discrimination, practices of hierarchical discrimination, etc. merely require social messaging and spread of awareness, and not a financial or monetary investments. That being done and specific areas of focus being laid down under each issue targeted being laid down, there should be an attempt to make better things  in the status quo due to the adverse impact that COVID-19 has created on the economy as well as development. The specific areas of focus under each goal should be identified, and the manner in which the same can currently be worked on through restricted means available should be figured out, and on the basis of the feasibility of its implementation available to countries, they must be put out as temporary model suggestions, to ensure no compromise on development to the maximum extent possible.

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