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IHDP Voices: SDGs, Science and Society

Balgis Osman-Elasha, Germán Palacio and John Dryzek • Aug 1st, 2013
IHDP Voices: SDGs, Science and Society

This article and all images shown here were originally published in the August 2013 issue of Human Dimensions: The magazine on the human factor in the global environmental debate.  See also the related news article here

Three members of the IHDP Scientific Committee members were asked to share their insights from working across a broad section of science and society on what they think needs to be considered for the SDGs.  Below are their reflections on the road ahead. 

Building on experience
by Balgis Osman-Elasha
Climate Change Adaptation Expert Compliance and Safe Guards Division- ORQR3 African Development Bank

“From my own point of view, the idea of SDGs provides a good opportunity to shift sustainability from being a concept to an economic and development reality. However, this necessitates that SDGs possess sufficient power in order to drive all development decisions and policy directions. I think that a number of concerns have to be addressed before SDGs could be seen as the engine for lasting development and human prosperity:

1st: Since SDGs aim to address and incorporate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, more emphasis should be given to the interlinkages between them in order to avoid previous segregations and the narrow focusing on a single dimension and ignoring the others.

2nd: The fact that SDGs are global in nature, poses the challenge of having to translate them into national goals with the potential for addressing not only national but also local-level needs and aspirations.

3rd: Acknowledging all previous development initiatives, the SDGs should provide for learning lessons and build on successful national development efforts and related MDG experiences, while taking into consideration current and emerging global challenges.

4th: The sense of urgency is not visible in the SDGs plan which aims at reaching an agreement on long-term SDGs by 2015 to be achieved by 2030. This is a rather lengthy time frame, which may not allow for keeping momentum created under the MDGs. A shorter timeframe would have been better to ensure the speedy implementation, particularly under the current conditions of increasing trends of climate extremes and disasters.

Finally, there remains the concern about availability and access to adequate and sustainable financial resources, particularly by developing countries and LDCS, essential for moving the SDGs forward from planning to implementation.”

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Combating poverty and inequality
by Germán Palacio
National University of Colombia-Amazon Branch 

“The proposal presented by the governments of Colombia and Guatemala related to SDGs is welcomed if complemented or revised under up-to-date critical perspectives. For example, instead of just insisting on “Combating Poverty” the international community should add to this topic, “while combating inequality simultaneously.” If the proposal underlines the importance “Changing Consumption Patterns”, at the same time it should mention that it is necessary to make efforts to redefining standards of poverty indicators in terms not just of superfluous consumption patterns but of more authentic well-being of the people at the bottom. Ideas about poverty from already pre-defined “poor people” could be useful to change theses indicators.

Other topics should be revised. For example, “food security” should be better seen as ”food autonomy” including cultural aspects; encouraging consumption of locally produced foods; and diminishing the carbon footprint. In fact, climate change is not mentioned in the proposal, and it should be taken into consideration. This is also the case of the health of humans and the Earth, which is absent from the proposal. This proposal also forgot the sub-national scales, but in my opinion that cannot be overlooked. If this type of considerations is not taken into account, the SDGs are going to continue encouraging ‘business as usual.’”

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Bring in one more voice
by John S. Dryzek
Australian Research Council Federation Fellow Professor Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance Research School of Social Sciences Australian National University Canberra 

“The Millennium Development Goals were formulated on a top-down basis, with no participation from the world’s poor and marginalized, who were of course the target of the goals to begin with. The process that formulates their successors after 2015 may involve more in the way of such direct participation (or at least proposals have been made to make this happen). Something similar should be organized in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals, especially with environmental justice in mind, so that their formulation is not just a top-down, intergovernmental, expert-driven process but instead has broader global democratic validity.”

See the full article attached below as a PDF.

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