Sustainable Development: SDGs are UN’s Breakthrough, Achieving them is People’s Responsibility

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Quality Education, Key to Sustainable Development Goals

Four years into the breakthrough the UN achieved in 2015 by adopting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), scientists have begun to find meaning and correlation of these goals with the 7 billion habitats of the planet. In all, 193 governments are committed to SDGs. People’s participation is noteworthy, judging by the statistics that, on September 25, the third anniversary of the adoption of SDGs, over a million people, in 1,200 cities of 140 countries, showcased their contributions under the aegis of #act4SDGs.

It is difficult to comprehend that, in just 12 years, poverty and hunger will be wiped out from the earth. It is equally wishful to think that there will be clean water and green energy available to all by 2030, the target year. It is daunting to expect education, health, equality and decent employment opportunities will be accessible to the entire world. Does this mean that SDGs are wishful and unattainable?

Prof Johan Rockstrom of Stockholm University, Sweden, in his TED Talk “5 Transformational Policies for a Prosperous and Sustainable World” noted five policies are mandatory to achieve SDGs by 2050, if not by 2030. These are: One, rapid renewable energy growth (by halving emissions every decade from 2020 onwards). Two, accelerated sustainable food chains (resulting in +1% a year better productivity). Three, new development models in poorer countries (by copying aspects of Korean, Chinese, Ethiopian successes). Four, active inequality reduction (ensuring 10% richest having less than 40% of income). Five, investment in education to all, gender equality, health and family planning (to improve well-being with reduced ecological footprint).

Where does India stand in its resolve to achieve SDGs by 2030? The road is arduous, targets are massive, and the time is running out. But the good news is the intent of the government is well in place. The setting up of a high-level steering committee by the Union Cabinet to review India’s performance in SDG implementation confirms the resolve. The performance of the first leg of SDG race augers a good start.

Achievements in some areas are remarkable, but a lot is wanting in others. The government of the day can rightfully claim credit for unleashing of financial mainstreaming, direct transfer of benefits and mobile telecom through Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM). The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report of 2018 lauds India’s record in investment. The big three (India, China, Brazil) account for over 45% of global finance. However, the report also cautions that investments in India have to reach a level required to meet the PM’s ambitious goals for 2022. According to Brookings Blog “Future Development”, 44 Indians are coming out of extreme poverty every minute. However, we still, ruefully, have 73 million people reeling under extreme poverty. The challenge is to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 as a significant goal. Other indicators—food security, nutrition, conflict, climate change—require the world’s and India’s attention to arrest and reverse the scourge of hunger.

If the efforts continue apace, we will soon be an open-defecation-free country, a shame we have lived with for long. India has also made significant strides in universalisation of primary education. Efforts are under way to improve learning, retention, skilling and providing decent employment opportunities. India’s primary concern remains around women, their safety, employment, respect and equality. The world has accorded us with the dubious distinction of the most unsafe country for women. If this stigma is not taken care of, it will have the snowball effect in other areas, hampering the attainment of SDGs. The very fact that SDGs are rooted in education, value streaming in people, through empathy and compassion, is an excellent strategy to move forward. The governments and those at the helm are not always the best lampposts to seek the right direction. People’s participation is a better guarantee to attain the objectives. It is imperative, therefore, that active people partnerships are built to ensure that the world achieves freedom from subhuman conditions.

This article was first published in the Financial Express.


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