SDGs and HPLF: Acronyms for Progress?

The Sustainable Development Goals, often referred to as the SDGs, are a set of universal goals designed to meet the urgent environmental, political, and economic challenges of our world today. To quote UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, “The… Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people. They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.” Composed of 17 goals and 169 targets, the SDGs were designed to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. They seek to fill the gaps left by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and address the conditions that have remained, worsened, or arisen since the MDGs were put forth. To clarify, sustainable development is a development buzzword that can be interpreted by many people in many different ways. The best definition by my standards is that as put forth in the 1987 Bruntland Report that says,

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the UN’s attempt at ensuring the inclusion is so wishes, but continually fails, to support. As described by the UN, the HLPF is the “central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the [SDGs]…”   While this marks a great step towards more participatory decision-making in UN agendas, the HLPF still has several flaws that need to be address if the UN really wants the SDGs and their other work to truly be inclusive. The main challenges, to be brief, have mostly to do with the prevailing bureaucratic nature of UN conferences that benefit those with resources and experience in this arena.

The Sustainable Development Goals will continue to serve as a guiding framework in global development for the next 14 years and the HLPF will continue to meet regularly to assess and discuss the ongoing successes and failures of the SDGs. While it is easy to criticize and point out the flaws of these processes, it is important to still recognize the potential positive change that these transformations in agendas and policy-making could contribute.