The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play a critical part in the international conversation on development and global interactions. In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 17 goals, “which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership.” The goals cover a variety of issues from education to life below sea; all equally important to the betterment of the planet in both an environmental and human context. Further, what is significant about the SDGs is that they are intended to overlap as all issues are interconnected on some level.
The approach the SDGs takes to accomplish the goals is quite methodical. Each goal has a subset of targets and indicators that all contribute to the overall goal. This process helps makes achieving the goals more manageable. The goals as a whole are very ambitious and it is assumed that they will not all be met; however, the targets and indicators ensure that steps are taken in the right direction.
Compellingly, the SDGs were written in a way that does not call out certain nations and governing bodies. While the key themes of the SDGs are equality, peace, and prosperity, some countries that have explicitly violated human rights terms and aggravated peace are still in support of the goals. There is only one mention of human rights and no mention of democracy in the SDGs. This touches on another aspect of inclusivity that is rarely touched on, and that is the inclusion of those with different beliefs. This is significant because the more actors that work toward achieving the SDGs, the more progress gets made, regardless of what the underlying motives.
The overarching body that monitors the SDGs is known as the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), which was established following Rio +20. The forum meets annually under the Economic and Social Council and every 4 years at the General Assembly. The HLPF has a number of objectives that aim to promote sustainable development internationally, by providing a support system for the best practices. This is a beneficial element of the HLPF that there is a governing body that is aimed to help stakeholders achieve these goals. This is how the SDGs differ from the MDGs, because there are tools put in place that make achievement more accessible and less overwhelming. Without the HLPF, the SDGs would have little accountability within the UN as they would be passed off as the desires of a perfect world.