“Parliamentarians can play a central role in rethinking the way policies are produced and carried out. You can help to orient national programmes towards sustainable development goals. You can bring the views and aspirations of your citizens into the global arena. Through official development assistance and domestic resources, you can ensure that sustainable development efforts receive the financing they need. You can also promote gender equality among your own ranks. In all these ways, parliamentarians can drive our global campaign to usher in a more equitable and sustainable future.
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, 26 Nov 2013
In September 2015, world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly to launch an ambitious new Sustainable Development Agenda. It has been built on progress made since the Millennium Declaration, and seeks to reduce poverty and inequality, improve people’s lives, and promote peace, security, good governance, and the rule of law. Many voices, including those of parliamentarians, have helped shape the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
15 years ago, the United Nations issued its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as its newest initiative to facilitate international development. While a strong sign of commitment, The MDGs were not fully achieved.
As a response to increasing global challenges the United Nations launched one of the biggest consultation programs in its history to find a new solution, resulting in an agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to focus international development along three dimensions – economic, social and environmental.
Originally proposed by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development (OWG) at the United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 (Rio+20), the SDGs are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets that form a new paradigm through which the UN member states seek to secure sustainable development. The 17 goals are a framework for member states in creating policies that assure the betterment of the world and its inhabitants within the next 15 years.
The SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) upon their expiration at the end of 2015. Unlike the MDGs, which focused on developing countries, the SDGs are universally applicable and have undergone intensive work to develop indicators that allow stakeholders to measure the success of SDGs in achieving the ultimate goals of ending poverty and hunger, realizing equality and education, and confronting environmental challenges.
On the 25th of September 2015, during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the member states adopted the SDGs, effective from the beginning of 2016 until 2030, thus paving the path to solving poverty, food security, gender equality and climate change.
While in their theoretical framework the SDGs should be successful, they require the application of a practical mechanism to achieve their targets – a mechanism that member states will decide upon by the end of the year. It will be the responsibility of the national parliaments and the other stakeholders to find a suitable practical agenda to help the UN in its role of monitoring.
So what specifically are these goals and targets? Why are they important? How will they be implemented and carried out? Who are the stakeholders? The following section presents the answers and provides an overview on the work which has been done to date.
1. Common beliefs and Principles: The SDGs were developed after a long consultation phase during which UN member states identified the common beliefs and principles that underpin the goals. These beliefs have not only shaped the ultimate aims and objectives, but are deemed critical for cooperation on the SDGs to be successful.
2. The Sustainable Development Goals as Global Agenda: Whereas the MDGs exclusively targeted developing countries, the SDGs target all countries and individuals indiscriminately. The SDGs also target a much wider range of stakeholders and partners.
3. SDGs and the Role of Parliaments: Parliaments are powerful agents of change. It is by ratifying international agreements, translating the SDGs into enforceable national laws that respond to country-specific development priorities, monitoring their implementation and ensuring government is accountable to the people for national progress on the SDGs, that parliaments can drive that change.
4. Financing the SDGs: For this international agenda to succeed, appropriate financial resources need to be allocated. In July 2015, heads of nations gathered in Addis Ababa and issued an Action Agenda to support the countries in fulfilling the SDGs, including through domestic resource mobilization.
5. SDGs Indicators and Evaluation: The leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network issued a study that maps a framework of 100 Global Monitoring Indicators, based on the expertise from all around the world. The indicators framework aims to turn the goals into management tools and an eventual report card, which should help stakeholders track the implementation and progress of the SDGs.
Parliamentary Action Points on the SDGs
Parliamentarians were among the many voices that helped shaped the global SDGs agenda. Now that the SDGs have officially been adopted, parliamentarians are expected to translate the SDGs into actionable legislation and policies at the national level.
See: Parliamentary Action Points
For resources on SDGs please see UN Global Compact Library