Bonn, 19 January 2015. Today,
diplomats in New York kick off negotiations on a new universal agenda
for sustainable development that is to be finalized in September this
year. The envisaged set of new sustainable development goals (SDGs) for
the post-2015 agenda
will be at the heart of the foreseeable wrangling and haggling, and
rightly so: it will shape the global development agenda for years to
come. Indeed, the SDGs stand out as the most ambitious project of international development policy in 2015.
The Open Working Group (OWG) of the UN General Assembly, which proposed a list of 17 SDGs in July 2014, has paved the ground for focused intergovernmental negotiations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his comprehensive Synthesis Report of December 2014, has underscored the utility of the OWG proposal and its transformative potential. It is now up to governments to rise to the occasion and harness a consolidated set of SDGs for a comprehensive global agenda that can be considered ambitious as well as fair. The new agenda must be universal in scope, effective in its adaptability to different country circumstances and authoritative in holding all countries – rich and poor – as well as non-state actors accountable in their pursuit of the agenda's objectives.
Critics inevitably deplored that the Secretary-General did not take a more radical stance, provided a more rigorous analysis, or offered stronger leadership on formulating more ambitious goals and targets. Yet, he rightly threw back the ball to governments. As of today they will meet monthly to overcome their remaining differences – which are considerable – and to finalize the new agenda. Indeed, as the Secretary-General writes, “The stars are aligned for the world to take historic action to transform lives and protect the planet”. Yet, the SDGs must not be pie in the sky! This is the time for governments to bring a universal agenda down to earth to translate lofty aspirations into feasible policies for the better of all of humanity and the planet it happens to inhabit.
Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) (The Current Column of 19 January 2015)
*This article originally appeared in The Current Column (2015), and is granted permission to be republished on MUNPlanet.