There has been renewed global attention on the concept of “sustainable development” in recent years. This is in large part due to the 2030 Agenda adopted by world leaders in 2015, which envisions transformational change. And the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that form a crucial part of this ambitious global agenda, cover both developmental and environmental issues. The SDGs are to be achieved through international partnerships “based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people”. But with just about a decade to go for the world to achieve the SDGs, what has been the experience so far? What has worked?Where are the gaps?
Last week, I launched a new and free online course— “Achieving the SDGs: Global Goals and National Interests” (visit: www.sum.uio.no/sdg). The lectures by my University of Oslo colleagues and me are structured in five parts. In Parts 1 and 2, we introduce the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs and discuss the core principles and the theory of change that underline them. Thereafter we provide an overview of the evolution of the sustainable development concept. The opportunities and challenges related to development finance – and the role of trade, aid, debt, domestic revenue and private businesses – is the focus of Part 3. Based on recent research undertaken in Malawi, Rwanda, India and China, we discussin Part 4 how and to what extent the global agenda has been localised and operationalised at country and provincial levels. In Part 5, we identify the most critical challenges ahead, including the need for a greater focus on the politics that underline the contested terrain of sustainable development.
There is more awareness about the SDGs now than five years ago. Apart from a few exceptions, however, governments are struggling to coordinate policies that promote both environmental and developmental outcomes. The Covid-19 crisis may make things worse. In the first five years of their existence, the SDGs did not received the kind of political attention and priority they deserve. Governments have been slow to allocate sufficient resources in domestic budgets. The private sector – large parts of which have warmly embraced the SDGs – has been better at making grand declarations of their intent to engage with the SDGs but have not followed up with evidence of their actual impact on the ground. And there have been numerous warnings issued by high-income countries of their intention to cut their foreign aid budgets. But once the world recovers from the current crisis, perhaps sustainable development will make yet another comeback? I encourage you to take this free course and continue the discussion on social media. Use: #UiOSDG).