SDGs and HLPF

There is a lot of debates about the successes of the MDG’s. Supporters argue that the earlier development agenda did create an international movement against poverty, it played a role in lifting more than one billion people from extreme poverty, reducing the number of people suffering chronic hunger, preventable death and illness, and enabling more girls and boys to attend school than ever before. However, critics argue that the specific targets have been both regionally and thematically unbalanced.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an inter-governmental commitment and ‘a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.’  It is a universal call for action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. It consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s ), which focus on three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

Unlike the MDG’s, The SDG’s are a result of what is arguably the most inclusive process in the history of the UN. First of all, they are universal- they apply to all nations in the world, sectors, publics and everyone in the community, thus removing various distinctions. They are inclusive in nature and are meant to include all marginalized groups. such as older generations, people living in conflict, various minorities, as will as, persons with disabilities.  For example, in the MDG’s, persons with disabilities were not included and consequently excluded from many development initiatives and funding streams. However, now they are addressed specially in the SDG’s target goals.

However, while the SDG’s seem promising and encouraging there are definite challenges: first of all, there is the challenge of successfully implementing the SDG’s as nations governments can choose to focus on one goal over the other (the implementation of goals is fully up to the government and will depend on the resources and government goals). Then, there are obvious challenges with data and monitoring, as access to data can be limited by the government and in result will impact the recommendation policies.

The HLPF is the main UN platform on sustainable development and its main role is to follow-up and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDG’s at the global level. It meets every year for eight days under the ECOSOC committee.  It facilitates the sharing of experiences: failures, successes and lessons.  It is the ‘most inclusive and participatory’ forum at the United Nations. One of the main features of the HLPF are the voluntary national reviews, which provide a platform for partnerships including major groups and other relevant stakeholders.

Development Theory and Actors

All nations aspire to develop and yet what is the criteria in deciding which country is developed and which is less developed? What determinants can accelerate development? And why are some countries more developed over others? The answers to these questions lay in the way we understand the concept of development. The theory and concept of development is complex and as discourse shows there is no single definition on what development is, or what specific measurements it implies. According to the book International Development Studies, development has three inter-related definitions: as a long term process focused on processes of structural societal change; as a a short-to-medium term outcome of desirable targets, which is related to evaluative or indicator led policy (MDG); or as a dominant ‘discourse’ of western modernity, which is related to westernized ethnocentric notions. Robinson and Acemoglu argue that the key to development is the inclusivity of economic institutions, which essentially is the combination of the state and the free market in which the state creates incentives, rewards innovation and allows everyone to participate in economic opportunities. Thus, economic success is due to the government becoming accountable and responsive to its population,

However, the theoretical work of Amarty Sen published in his book Development as Freedom has greatly influenced the contemporary concept of development (which is in accordance with other definitions). According to Sen development is a process of expanding capabilities, creating opportunities but mainly it is the process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy.  From his perspective real development cannot be just about increasing basic incomes or GNP, but rather that is one of the determinants of expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the society. Other factors such as social, economic, political and civil rights are also important. Thus, he argues that in the end development is about expanding those freedoms and removing the barriers that prevent expanding these sets of freedom. Health, education, housing, freedom of action and belief are no less important for developing nations as growth GDP. These factors are the key factors for inclusive institutions, alleviating poverty, providing economic opportunities and abolishing repressive regimes- that act as barriers to freedom.

Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges are big ambitious problems that face the society. Usually they tend to focus on the sciences and technology. While these goals don’t have a solution and are ambitious- they are not unachievable. Instead, they act more as motivational and require multi-disciplinary collaboration. An ‘iconic example’ of a grand challenge is when president Kennedy challenged the scientific community to achieve spaceflight in a given timeline. The science community had to use moon shot thinking in order to complete the impossible at that time task. Now, many years later this is why many refer to using ‘moonshot thinking’ when thinking about breaking intractable goals.

Grand challenges relate to a wide variety of issues such as new energy sources that are clean, affordable and reliable, cures for cancer, improving health care delivery and reducing the cost and others. Another grand challenge that is relevant today and closely linked with the 2030 global agenda are the new ways of teaching and learning, particularly that are inclusive in nature to excluded communities, such as persons with disabilities.  Disability and development is a grand challenge for the world: more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, which is 10% of the world’s population. Unlike many, persons with disabilities are the ones that face many barriers in accessing transportation, ICT’s, education, employment, political representation.  And these barriers are not the individual’s problem, but they are societal problems also. It is the society that created these barriers and it is our responsibility to help get ride of them.  This sort of exclusion isn’t just a moral rationale but it also has economic rationales. PWD have the potential to benefit everyone, by adding onto the labor market and economic development opportunities. In addition, incorporating people with disabilities is also now a legal responsibility thanks to the adaptation of the CRPD, which is designed to protect the rights and freedom and insure inclusion for persons with disabilities. Thus, it is up to our society to help incorporate inclusive educational policies. An example of a solution to this particular grand challenge is collabotory.