The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were the first of their kind as a global framework, goals approach for global development. Created in 2000, the MDGs sought to eradicate poverty, hunger, achieve primary education, promote education gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat common disease, ensure environmental sustainability and develop global partnership to achieve the MDGs. All the MDGs were grand challenges that were measurable, timebound, and pushed forward by the United Nations. However, the MDGs had extreme limitations, marked by the fact that by the year 2015 none of the goals were achieved. Although the MDGs were good intentioned, had widespread international support and multilateral engagement, as well as targets that were comprehensive it simply did not have the power of sanction to achieve these goals. They also did not change the discourse on development.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the predecessor to the MDGs. There are 17 SDGs that build upon the MDGs and are more comprehensive, inclusive, as well as timebound, quantifiable and measurable targets and indicators, and forwarded by the United Nations. In many respects the SDGs built and learned from the MDGs failings to try and achieve these grand challenge goals. The support for the SDGs is widespread from countries, nongovernmental actors, and industry actors as well however, the same issues of achieving the goals, sanction to achieve the goals, and changing discourse on development may not be attainable. Arguable, the SDGs have started new discourse and reshaped how development discourse is being formulated but achievability and the authority to do so are still not in reach. According to the 2019 UN SDG Progress Report, all 17 SDGs are not on track to be achieved by the year 2030 and the UN still lacks the authority to go about achieving these goals in every country.
So is it just better to have more timebound, grand challenge goals rather than no global framework at all to address these grand challenges? I would argue that is better to have something rather than nothing. We must keep in mind that this goals approach framework from the UN is relatively new, since 2000 and would feasibly require a learning curve of some sort to increase desired results for success. The MDGs were a test run and the SDGs are the better next steps to the MDGs. If the SDGs are not achieve another set of goals will precede it filling in the gaps were the SDGs did not succeed and so on. With nothing in place there would be no framing for the world to look to and address these grand challenges together and I believe that even if slow it is vital to keep and have to forward sustainable development of any sort.