Of course, much remains to be done to maximize progress on achieving the targets set by the MDGs. Most important, significant gains in health could be attained with adequate financial resources. Donor countries should provide ample replenishment funding later this year to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which would ensure this vital agency’s continued success.
When UN member states turn to the next set of global development goals, they should learn from the MDGs. First, keeping the list of SDGs relatively short — no more than 10 — will make them easy to remember, which will help in mobilizing the public.
Second, all governments, rich and poor, should be accountable for meeting the SDGs as implementers. The MDGs applied mainly to poor countries as implementers and to rich countries as donors. The SDGs should apply to all countries as implementers (and also to rich countries as donors). Indeed, when it comes to problems like climate change, which will be at the core of the new SDGs, rich countries have more work ahead of them than poor countries do.
Third, the SDGs should build on the MDGs. The MDGs helped to cut global extreme poverty by more than half. The SDGs should take on the challenge of ending extreme poverty for good. The World Bank, to its credit, has already adopted the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. UN member states should do the same.
Finally, the SDGs should mobilize expert groups around the key challenges of sustainable development. When the MDGs first appeared, the relevant specialists began to organize themselves to give advice on achieving them.
The UN Millennium Project synthesized the counsel of roughly 250 global experts on crucial development issues. The same process of expert advice and problem solving is urgently needed on issues such as low-carbon energy, sustainable agriculture, resilient cities, and universal health coverage, all of which are likely to feature in the SDGs.
Fifty years ago, then-US president John F Kennedy declared that, “By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly towards it.”
The MDGs have helped to play that role in the fight against poverty. The SDGs can do the same for the complex challenge of achieving sustainable development.
Jeffrey Sachs is professor of sustainable development, professor of health policy and management, and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also special adviser to the UN secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals.
Copyright: Project Syndicate