This September, the UN General Assembly will adopt the post-2015 development agenda. In the center of this agenda are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 objectives such as, for example, combatting hunger and climate change, promoting education and sustainable economic growth. An event organized by FNF Europe in Brussels brought together experts from the development community to discuss the potential and the feasibility of these goals, which will succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000. The MDGs represented the first global, systematic “to-do list” to eradicate poverty, but were mainly targeted towards the developing world. The SDGs, in contrast, can be seen as a universal program, “a program for the future of our world” said moderator Patrick Leusch from Deutsche Welle (DW). Its success will heavily depend on three factors: successful communication, a strong sense of ownership and effective implementation.
Why communication? – Because the mere adoption of political papers does not produce food or provide for vaccinations. However, much of the communication about development is using technical jargon and the wrong forums to target younger audiences, said Gang Badoy, founder of the education organization “Rock Ed Philippines.” In the past 10 years, her organization has successfully raised young Filipinos’ awareness and knowledge about the MDGs by alternative means such as rock concerts. “We go where the young are,” she explained smilingly. For Human Rights Day, Rock Ed Philippines hosted eight rock concerts for the eight MDGs in eight train stations. Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General Policy and Thematic Coordination, DG International Cooperation and Development, confirmed that a huge communications effort is needed: “If we don’t do what you do every day – bringing the SDGs to the public – it’s going to be difficult,” he said to Badoy. Asked whether she feared the increase from 8 to 17 goals and what it meant for her work, Ms Badoy remained confident. Communication has massively changed in the past 15 years and the new technology will be a great asset in explaining the new goals, she said.
All panelists agreed that the SDGs should not be seen as promises from richer countries to poorer. Rather, everyone in the developed and developing world should feel a sense of ownership. Civil society needs to be on board, Mr Rudischhauser affirmed, as, for example, consumer decisions can often be more effective than government decisions. In order for governments to play an effective role, transfer of data and knowledge would be essential, said Gudrun Kopp, Member of the Political Board of the European Network of Political Foundations (ENoP) and former German State Secretary for Economic Cooperation and Development. With regards to ownership she complimented the high number of people involved in the SDG consultations process. Over 17 million people took part in the first round, voicing their opinions, priorities and hopes – online and offline, in all parts of the world, she explained. Mr Rudischhauser warned that despite this all-encompassing, universal approach the fulfillment of the goals was everything but certain. “The SDGs are achievable if we get a good agreement on how to do it,” he explained.
Successful implementation is not only a question of money, Mr Rudischhauser pointed out, but also a matter of putting the right policies and institutions in place as well as a strong sense of good governance and respect for human rights. One major challenge in the process will be to find coherent policy approaches: We need to step up agricultural production to end world hunger, Mr Rudischhauser explained, but we need a climate-smart agriculture. We need to phase out fossil fuels subsidies, but should not forget that they are provided to the poor as part of social policy. Yet, the SDGs might be able to trigger this exact change and give policy coherence a big push worldwide, becoming a necessity in every policy making process.
For more information read also the latest edition of our magazine “global & liberal” on the MDGs and SDGs.