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In the world of development, it is important to have measurable visions and goals that help define where we are going. United Nations has created such under the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a vision for improving the lives of people all around the world. They encompass a set of goals, targets, and indicators for doing development is a sustainable manner, aimed to all be achieved by 2030.

Lessons learnt from the past..

The SDGs are a replacement and an expansion of the United Nation’s previous framework – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs, which expired in 2015, were an agreed approach to development. While they were concrete and measurable, the nature of this specific targeting was seen by many to exclude the holistic nature of development that requires a response from both rich and poor countries. While in theory the MDGs were aimed at all countries, in practice they progressed to be considered targets for poor countries to achieve, with finance from wealthy states. The SDGs specifically see sustainability as a goal for all countries, requiring everyone to consider what changes they need to make.

A focus on intermingling of the goals..

The new sustainable goals are more holistic and encompassing in its nature. They do not rely on one measure to determine what ‘development’ is. One way this is seen is through the 5 P’s within the agenda. The 5 P’s entail: People – all human beings should be able to fulfil their potential in dignity and equality; Planet – protecting the plant through sustainable measures; Prosperity – humans should be able to enjoy a prosperous and fulfilling life; Peace – fostering peaceful and just societies; Partnership – an inclusion of global solidarity. The 5 P’s encompasses the interconnected nature of the SDGs.

So… what exactly are the goals?

There are 17 SDGs stated in broad terms, accompanied by 169 specific targets meant to advance the goals. The goals will be measured through several indicators which have been assessed for their feasibility, suitability, and relevance. The 17 goals are:

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum)

14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

For a more in depth look into each of the goals, visit: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

One interpretation of the goals..

The goals can have a tendency to be thought of quite linearly. Annie Leonard acknowledges this problem of linearity in her book ‘The Story of Stuff’. Leonard states: “It's a linear system, and we live in a finite planet. And you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely.”

A new way of viewing the SDGs developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre is through a ‘wedding cake’ model. This visual (pictured below) implies that economic and social factors are interconnected and embedded within the biosphere. Traditionally, the economy, society, and the biosphere have been viewed as separate systems, but the integration of these emphasises the need for a sustainable planet. Societies and economies can only operate within the limits of the biosphere. This therefore acknowledges the need for the goals to occur within the safe operating space of a sustainable and resilient planet.

Through the wedding cake model, I see a further embracement of holism and a conscious avoiding of reductionist thinking, which is crucial for advancement in the way we think about and define ‘development’.



The goals within a New Zealand context..

Within a New Zealand context, there has been a promise that we will ‘contribute to achievement of the goals through a combination of domestic action, international leadership on global policy issues, and supporting countries through the New Zealand Aid Programme’. Accomplishing this will require an inclusive cross-government, private sector and civil society setting.  To read more about this visit the NZ Foreign Affairs & Trade website: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/peace-rights-and-security/work-with-the-un-and-other-partners/new-zealand-and-the-sustainable-development-goals-sdgs/

By Ella Martin

Ella Martin is a student studying development at Victoria University. She is volunteering as an intern with Banzaid, so see some practical examples of how development works

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