SDGs Highlights Agenda for Historic 70th U.N. General Assembly
In the last few weeks, the world’s attention has been riveted on the crises in China and the upheaval in the emerging markets. We have all felt the consequences of the global economic turmoil. The moral of this story: What happens abroad has significant ramifications here at home. It would behoove the American public to take note of this fact.
This story is no different than the one that will soon play out at the United Nations at the end of September. Heads of State and other well-known dignitaries will descend upon New York City for the 70th U.N. General Assembly. This is no ordinary meeting of the General Assembly; this year it will pay tribute to the global institution’s 70th anniversary of its founding. The post-2015 development agenda will take center stage at this year’s historic gathering as leaders will mark the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will lead the way forward for the next 15 years.
How do they work? Why should I care?
As with the global economic turbulence we continue to witness on a daily basis leaving none of us unscathed, the SDGs will play a similar role in that all sectors of global society will be touched in some way. From ending poverty and hunger to ensuring the health and well-being of all; to providing education and access to clean water and energy; to growing economies in a sustainably responsible manner to galvanizing the world to act on climate change; to preventing conflicts and promoting peace and ensuring post-conflict peacebuilding, everyone is affected in some way by these goals.
The interconnected and interdependent world in which we all live and work requires each of us to contribute as global citizens and to be good stewards of the environment and the world around us. We are dependent upon one another to make it work; apathy can play no role moving forward if these goals are to succeed.
These goals are guidelines for the world to follow. The criticism of the MDGs were they were too narrow in scope; the SDGs have expanded upon them to include areas such as human rights and economic development.
In addition, it is now incumbent upon every State to follow and achieve these goals, not only developing or poor nations. The focus now is upon getting to the root causes of global poverty, something the MDGs did not adequately do.
Data shows the arrow is pointing up as a result of U.N. efforts
There has been a great deal of criticism levied against the U.N. regarding the MDGs. The SDGs has its share of critics as well. The criticisms have been levied at the number of goals – 17 - and the amount targets – 169. However, when one takes a closer look at the numbers there has been some remarkable success achieved due to their efforts.
To compare, 50 years ago 20 million children under the age of five died. In 2011, according to the founder of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, the world saw a 33% decrease to 6.9 million – still far too high – but nonetheless an overall significant drop.
In 1970, the number of infants vaccinated against diseases such as measles, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, and polio was only 5%. When the MDGs began in 2000, this number increased to 85% which had the positive effect of saving three million children. Vaccines have proven to work and be effective against a multitude of illnesses.
In the area of education, the number of children that are not attending school is estimated to be below 10%; over fifty years ago that number was more than 30%. With respect to global poverty, there has also been a dramatic decrease in the number of people determined to be below the poverty line. Based on figures from the World Bank, “…in 2011, 17 percent of people in the developing world lived at or below $1.25 a day. That’s down from 43 percent in 1990 and 52 percent in 1981.”
Where do we go from here?
What these statistics show us is that the U.N., through its efforts, plays a vital role in transforming the lives of people around the world. It is now incumbent upon the global community to build upon the successes the U.N. achieved through the MDGs. The SDGs are the next set of ambitious goals the global body has laid out for the next fifteen years. It is vital that the world takes heed of what can be accomplished if we all work together for a shared common purpose.