UN Sustainable Development Goals

Last Friday saw the official launch of the UN’s follow up to the 15 year old Millennium Development Goals, the “Sustainable Development Goals”. Ban Ki-Moon describes the 17 goals as a “blueprint for a better future”.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51968#.Vgk9VPTyb3U

First of all, lets look at how the MDGS and SDGs compare:

Source: UN in collaboration with Project Everyone  

We can see that the number of goals has more than doubled, but what’s new? Altogether the new goals are far more extensive and refined. For example, “ensure environmental sustainability” has been expanded significantly to incorporate goals on climate change, conservation and ecosystem protection and restoration. There are also specific new goals on water, energy, inequality and sustainable cities. Although the MDGs on maternal health and disease have been scrapped, they are presumably subsumed under the new health and well-being goal.

Perhaps most interesting are the new goals on “sustainable consumption and production” and “sustainable economic growth”, and we will be watching to see how the UN interprets these concepts. What constitutes “sustainable consumption” in the developed world? How to quantify “sustainable economic growth”? And what, if anything, will these new goals mean for business?

A few clues for the latter question are offered by the report of the “Business and Industry” consultation group assembled by UN. The most recent report available is from September 2014, with an update due any day now. From here there is a general sense of “business as usual”, with an emphasis on the “positive role of business”, with the group appealing to government to implement “smart regulation” to “encourage”, (rather than enforce) better practice. The short consultation is available here:

http://www.stakeholderforum.org/fileadmin/files/SD2015%20Position%20Paper_Business%20&%20Industry.pdf

The announcement of the Sustainable Development Goals preceded the UN General Assembly, which runs throughout this week. Yesterday, Sunday, was designated as the day when the SDGs were due to be discussed, so more info hopefully anon about what was said. In the meantime, the Guardian is publishing reliably excellent and stimulating coverage of the Assembly, including this introductory article:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/27/un-70th-general-assembly-new-york-putin-obama-syria

And, closely related, they also have this report on the Pope’s speech to US congress last Thursday, where he reiterated his previous call for action on climate change and spoke out for immigrants:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/24/pope-francis-congress-speech

Finally, to mark the SDGs, here’s a link to an excellent collection of photographs from all around the world on the theme of inequality, including my favourite, from China, below:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/sep/24/photograph-inequality-sustainable-development-goals-poverty-climate-change-action2015

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