Moving Forward in Inclusive, Sustainable Development
The simple fact is that the world’s global, grand challenges cannot be solved overnight. As a result, maintaining inclusive, sustainable development is truly a process that can be accomplished to varying degrees in the short-time, medium-term, and long-term. For many, this process is codified in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the infamous set of 17 goals that will carry the international development community into the year 2030. With (almost) the first five years of the SDG-era behind the world, where does international development stand and what can the world look forward to, both leading up to and beyond 2030?
This course has demonstrated the power of the international community to convene, identify, and quantify development goals. As such, the international community can expect to welcome a new set of goals in 2030, the SDGs 2.0. As with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), these new goals will draw upon the progress made by the SDGs, attempting to compensate for where the SDGs failed and enhance areas where the SDGs succeeded in moving the international community towards identified targets and indicators. I personally feel there will be a concentrated effort to enhance the lives of minority groups around the world. Much like persons with disabilities in the MDGs, references to minority groups specifically are somewhat lacking. In general, goals are framed with a regard towards “all” regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, etc. In light of global crises like the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the growing polarization, division, and radicalization of many societies, and the continued presence of many major ethnic groups throughout the world, I feel that ethnic and minority rights in development will be a major issue advocated for in the next set of global goals.
In an age of global technology and the modernized “knowledge economy”, I feel that technology and closing the digital divide will also be key issues in the next set of development goals. As established by the Missing Link report and Falling Through the Net, there exist major disparities in telecommunication access between the both the global north and south and rural and urban areas. This has further manifested in disparities in internet access, a tool essential for education, employment, leisure, and many other aspects that contribute to development. Again, I think to the Romanian educational context as it is the one I am most familiar with. Despite a dedicated effort to support the use of the internet and technology in the classroom, over half of rural teachers surveyed in a 2008 study conducted by the University of Bucharest lacked access to a reliable internet connection compared to 80% of urban teachers who did. This deeply impacts teaching pedagogy, access to materials, and ultimately the type of skills that students develop as a result. In an age where internet knowledge is a prerequisite for many things, this disparity disadvantages those lacking access. As such, I feel that these disparities will continue to be a major focus of development efforts, particularly bringing everyone into the modernized, knowledge economy.
While these two examples are by no means exhaustive and civil society groups, coalitions, and alliances are working diligently to uphold the current SDGs and prepare for the expected new goals in 2030 everyday, it is important that we all look to the future in anticipation. Much like the MDGs, the SDGs were not without flaw. The continuous progress towards realizing a developed, equal, and fulfilling life for all is a process that will take many years. However, little by little, policymakers and advocates will learn from past decisions, bringing new areas of concern to the forefront. The next decade is truly going to be an interesting one as the world pushes towards inclusive, sustainable development.