Erica Carroll, Policy Analyst, Christian Aid
The proposal, and general acceptance of, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a universal and more holistic approach to development, has been an important force in progressing the sustainable development dialogue, as well as serving to highlight the shortcomings of the MDGs. A clear understanding of the successes and failures of the MDGs is vital to the formulation of a comprehensive set of goals for sustainable, equitable global development beyond 2015.
Among civil society groups there are distinctly different opinions on how to move forward with these processes. Among those who are pushing for SDGs, there is concern that aligning with the post-2015 discussions at this point will impact civil society legitimacy (as the MDGs process had very little civil society consultation and participation), and the 20 years of work that have gone into what are now coming together as a comprehensive of goals for sustainable development. There is also fear that the post-2015 agenda will just be an MDG+.
On the other side, the post-2015 groups are afraid that moving forward with SDGs now will lead to a weaker post-2015 development framework. There is a fear that the amount of political will and momentum necessary to continue with MDGs and the formulation of SDGs means there will be no energy left to ensure a comprehensive post-2015 agenda. The concern is that the SDGs, as they are being discussed right now, do not adequately address poverty eradication and that social outcomes are only a by-product of the focus on environment. To sum it up, there is clearly an 'us and them' mentality at the moment.
Christian Aid published a paper in 2010 analysing progress on the MDGs and looking critically at what must be included in the framework or set of goals that succeed them in 2015. The main messages that emerged from the analysis were that the next framework must have equality, sustainability, and democratic and participatory governance (accountability of all actors) at its heart. We believe this to also be the case with sustainable development goals. We have the opportunity now to work together to ensure we have the best possible framework for equitable and sustainable development in the context of a constrained world.