Monitoring the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established in 2015 as a way to unify the international community and guide UN member states objectives. As such, it’s a multi-stakeholder objective including states (with countries from both the global north and global south) and non-states (including the private sector, IGOs, and civil society). The UN charter’s preamble states that the UN pledges “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person… to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”. This was reaffirmed in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Through the creation of 17 Global Goals with 169 targets, the UN persists in following these ideals. These include everything from quality education to gender equity to economic growth.

One prominent SDG is Goal 4, or “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, with ten targets and eleven indicators. Some targets are easier to measure than others, such as “4.2.2: Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age), by sex”. Others are more vague and harder to measure like “4.7.1: the extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development, including gender equality and human rights, are mainstreamed at all levels…”. These indicators are supposed to increase monitoring and accountability capacities from the preceding MDGs, but this ability depends more on the clarity of the targets and indicators themselves rather than the mere presence of them. The 2017 SDG 4 progress report addresses areas where the world is still lacking, specifically attacking efforts “in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia and for vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, indigenous people, refugee children and poor children in rural areas”.

The HLPF, or the high level performance forums, is yet another way to monitor progress. This body of heads of states implementing the SDGs meets annually under ECOSOC and every four years under the UNGA- it is known as the most inclusive and participatory forum at the UN as the MGOS (major groups and other stakeholders) are able to hold side events, attend and intervene in all official meetings of the forum; have access to all official information and documents, make recommendations, and more. These major groups are women, children, farmers, indigenous people, local authorities, businesses, civil society, and workers and trade unions- this framework is broadened by the more recent addition of other stakeholders, like persons with disabilities. However, this inclusivity is still limited to those with ECOSOC accreditation. Rimmerman, the author of Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, argues especially that persons with disabilities still are limited in participation both in UN function and in society worldwide. The HLPF and other monitoring measures must remember to take into account the lived experiences of individuals rather than keep working on such a macro scale.

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