As the Millennium Development Goals approach their final benchmark year of 2015, heads of state and key players in the development community meet at the United Nations Wednesday to talk about what comes next. They will address both the need to accelerate progress toward the goals, and how to set up a new framework for the post-2015 development agenda.
Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs, a key advisor on the goals for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has been working with many others to define a new set of Sustainable Development Goals: a list of priorities that would continue the fight to end extreme poverty and integrate environmental, social and economic challenges, from addressing climate change to improving governance and social justice.
He described the task ahead in an oped piece in The New York Times on Wednesday, and in two pieces published by The Economist and The Lancet over the past week.
“Standard economic policies aim for growth, full stop. Sustainable development aims for growth that is broadly shared across the income scale and that is also environmentally sound,” Sachs wrote in a Sept. 21 article in The Economist. “Mainstream economics divorces the short term from the long term. There may be big problems ahead—climate change, food scarcity, demographic shifts and poorly trained young people—but macroeconomists prefer to improvise today and worry about the future later. That approach also suits politicians, aligning the policy cycle with the electoral cycle. But it is not a recipe for producing robust, inclusive growth.”
Sachs also wrote about the transition from Millennium Development Goals to a new set of Sustainable Development Goals in The Lancet.
“The MDGs have been the most successful global undertaking in history to coordinate action to fight extreme poverty in all its forms: income, hunger, disease, lack of schooling, and deficient basic infrastructure,” he wrote.
World leaders meeting at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development last year “contemplated a dire reality: The gains in fighting poverty, and indeed generations of economic gains, are at serious threat of reversal unless deep structural crises of rising social inequality and rapid environmental degradation are finally addressed.”
The leaders gathered in Rio “concluded … that only by committing the world to ending extreme poverty while also placing social and environmental concerns into an expanded set of [Sustainable Development Goals] would there be the chance to mobilize urgent global action by governments, business, and civil society.”
The eight Millennium Development Goals include cutting in half extreme poverty and hunger; halting the spread of HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases; reducing child mortality and improving maternal health; promoting gender equality and empowering women; providing universal primary education; ensuring environmental sustainability; improving the financial and trade system, and addressing the aid and debt needs of the least developed countries.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society and the private sector to develop workable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. For a look at the latest round of reports on their work, visit the SDSN website.