The SDGs and Development Progress

The sustainable development goals are a set of 17 goals that serve as a guide for the world for solving development-based challenges. Each individual goal has its on set of targets and indicators that are clearly measured. The SDGs focus on a wide range of topics, such as, eradicating poverty, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities, and clean energy. The other goals focus on improving the environment and providing quality education and working to provide other basic development needs. These goals came out of the Millennium Development Goals, which were a more generic 8 set of goals. The SDGs are more encompassing and have targets and indicators written within them and allows for states to have a clearer timeline of when they should be finding success in achieving the SDGs.

The SGDs were created by the UN and fall under the supervision of the HLPF or the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development, and it is up to the HLPF to oversee the implementation of the SDGs. Within the HLPF there are the Major Groups, which is a set of nine different groups who represent different constituency groups. The nine Major Groups are Women, Children and Youth, Indigenous Peoples, Non-Governmental Organizations, Local Authorities, Workers and Trade Unions, Business and Industry, Scientific and Technological Community and Farmers. In addition to these nine groups the UN lists “other stakeholders” who are able to attend and participate in the meetings and make recommendations, as so long as they are ECOSOC accredited. The structure of the Major Groups has its upsides and downsides, especially when it comes to the “other stakeholders,” who are more limited to what they are able to accomplish within the HLPF. These nine major groups—of which persons with disabilities are neither one of the major groups nor an additional stakeholder—enjoy more power within the HLPF, as they are able to advocate for this own constituencies. Additionally, the fact that there are only nine major groups makes coming to conclusions slightly easier than if there were to be more major groups that come from the additional important stakeholders.

Overall the SDGs have been worthwhile in advancing the rights of people all over the world. The SDGs are important measurements that provide the world’s governments with a pathway to completing development goals. The SDGs all promote a more inclusive world and it is up to NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders to come together to make sure that world becomes a reality.


Defining Development

According to Sen, development is the expansion of what he calls freedoms to all people. This contrasts with more traditional views of development, which consider increases in income and GNP as clear indicators of effective development policies. These two different approaches to development highlight which indicators are given preference when it comes to designing policies. Sen’s approach is to focus on freedoms and unfreedoms. That is removing barriers so that development can be achieved. Examples of unfreedoms are poverty, tyranny, limited economic and educational opportunities and social deprivation. Sen argues that in the process of reducing the unfreedoms, inputs like increasing income or GNP becomes more valuable. This alternative approach to development stresses that traditional methods take on a new role as a means to expanding freedoms instead of being their own separate solutions for achieving development.

There are three inter-related views of development that these two different approaches can use for their framework: long-term, short to medium-term, and development as discourse. These three different views are all different approaches to development policy. Sen’s approach fits into two of the three categories: long-term and development as discourse. The alternative approach challenges the standard perceptions of development and pushes the development community as a whole to consider different methods. By thinking of development in terms of Sen’s freedoms and unfreedoms, policy makers are able to create more innovative solutions to development challenges.

The level of development can different between countries in a specific region and even within a country itself. Cities often receive most of the development, industrialization and innovation in the developing world, and it is then hoped that the benefits of the urban development will then spread out into the rural areas. The wide range of development makes it difficult to enact any one-blanket policy and hope all aspects of the issue will be solved. Different regions of a country have different development challenges that need their own nuanced solutions. The same is true for similar areas in different parts of the world. The communities might earn the same amount of income and perform similar work, but what works in one area might not work in another. This could also be another challenge of thinking of development policy in terms of income or GDP. While Sen’s idea of unfreedoms and capabilities might not be a traditional approach, it could allow for policy makers and other actors to find more realistic solutions to solving development problems.

Grand Challenges in Development

Grand challenges are large-scale problems and challenges that require multifaceted approaches to solve. One famous example of a grand challenge is the moon landing, hence where another name for a grand challenge (a moonshot) derives its name. Grand challenges are not just extremely difficult problems the world needs to solve, there are issues so large it seems that no solution is possible. That is why a unifying factor for all grand challenges is the use of science and technology as a means to help solve these enormous problems. The global aspect of the grand challenges allows for increased innovation when it comes to attempting to solve them. Normal problem solving methods won’t make the cut where grand challenges are concerned. Researchers, scientists, and other “non-traditional” solvers must come together to think beyond what they believe to be possible to find solutions that can be applied to some of the must confounding problems the world faces today.

Science and technology are not only useful in terms of solving these grand challenges; they also spur innovation, creativity and job creation along the way. Through the process of solving grand challenges, an overall community of innovation can grow, which can them be applied to a wide variety of problems, grand challenges or not. One grand challenge that is now becoming more and more necessary to solve is the search for new energy resources. Other important grand challenges are cures for cancer, developing improved ways of teaching and learning, eradicating or finding vaccines for deadly diseases and improving food security.

In terms of development, USAID has come up with nine grand challenges. They believe that science and technology can lead to exceptional breakthroughs for the world as different organizations and disciplines come together to attempt to solve the grand challenges.

Development focuses grand challenges are all in the same domain as the grand challenges listed above. They focus on food security, eradicating diseases that plague the developing world, and finding different energy resources that can be used to provide fuel for people to power their homes and businesses. Grand challenges and the people that devote their careers to solving them are especially important as they allow for increased innovation in not just their own domain but in others as well as people are able to take ideas and apply them to their own area of focus. The innovation and creativity that come out of the attempts to solve grand challenges help make the world a more diverse and compelling place.