Monday, July 9, 2018

UN Week. Part 2. Key Critiques of Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reviewed yesterday mark a significant advance in how we approach global sustainability. They have provided a strong framework for measuring, benchmarking, and assessing sustainability around the world. However, there are many critiques of the SDGs. I want to review three of them today.

1. Not everyone is participating. While many countries have stepped up to make a difference in trying to advance the initiatives outlined in the SDGs, many have not. Some of these nations have large impacts (most notably the United States) and it frustrates other nations that some of those with the largest consumption do not engage the world in trying to make it a better place. It is hard to advance sustainability around the world if we do not work together.

2. Human rights are not clearly present in the SDGs. While the SDGs were advanced within a human rights framework, in practice, human rights issues have been somewhat sidelined in the rush to work on SDGs. Some of the goals, like eliminating hunger and developing gender equality have implied human rights initiatives. However, human rights are not front and center. Given the growing concern over human rights around the world, many are worried about this problem.

3. Finally, one of the great things about the development of the 17 SDGs is that they clearly identified that main themes of concern in sustainable development. However, their identification did create a bit of siloing of themes. For example, issues of water and energy are within separate goals. But around the world, energy has a huge impact on water use and management. Many have noted that it is crucial that linkages be made among the goals whenever possible.

There is quite a bit of discussion this week at the UN's High Level Political Forum around concerns related to the SDGs. Are they working? Some are questioning whether or not the SDGs are truly effective given the issues (among others) I outlined above.

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