Sustainable Development Goals & Role of Civil Society

anitakukreti Uncategorized


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of seventeen goals to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25th September 2015. SDGs are also known as Global goals and are built on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were eight anti-poverty targets that aimed at reducing global poverty, hunger, diseases, gender inequality and access to water and sanitation.

 The need for SDGs was felt because the MDGs which were aimed at reducing poverty and hunger, diseases, gender inequality and access to water and sanitation, the indignity of poverty and other issues have not been ended for all. The SDGs are unique because they have been designed after much consultation and are applicable to all countries- developing as well as developed. The SDGs were created through consultations with more than 100 countries and millions of citizen inputs on website. The Concept for SDGs was envisioned at the Rio+20 in 2012 with the objective of producing global goals that would strike a balance among the three dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental. An intergovernmental group was created and met 13 times in 2013-2014. The group took inputs and information from academics, civil society representatives, technical experts and various entities from the multilateral system. The discussions led to the finalization of seventeen goals and 169 targets. These goals will guide policy and funding for the next 15 years to end poverty permanently everywhere.

Much of the discussions revolving around SDGs have been on the pressing development needs of the developing countries and the support they might need from developed countries and the international community in achieving the goals. The goals are inclusive and express the responsibilities of the developed countries in assisting the needs and development aspirations of the developing countries. Additionally, the SDGs have been framed in such a way that they address the growing problems of environmental sustainability, sustainable energy and sustainable consumption and production.

Many countries have come forward and shown their interests in fulfilling the SDG targets. However, some member states including the UK and Japan have not shown keen interest in the SDGs. Also there has been a series of disagreements on the number of goals. Nevertheless, there is a general consensus that it is better to have 17 goals that include targets on women’s empowerment, good governance, peace and security other than having lesser goals that do not address these essential issues.

The SDGs draw from major commitments and goals agreed by the Member States in various multilateral discussions. The proposed SDGs place great emphasis on inequalities within countries. The SDGs on one hand have received positive remarks while on the other hand they are subject to criticism for being too broad and too optimistic. Also, it has been suggested by some experts that some targets lack the focus to enable effective implementation.


There has been common consensus that the SDGs are a follow-up of the MDGs. The MDGs were designed to get us halfway to the goal of ending poverty and hunger by 2015 and that the SDGs intend to finish the job. A major difference between MDGs and SDGs is that while the MDGs focused primarily on poverty and health, the SDGs cover environment, human rights and gender equality.

The MDGs dealt with improving income poverty, access to improved sources of water, primary school enrolment and child mortality. Moreover, poverty and hunger were put together in the MDGs but in the newly designed SDGs, these two are treated as separate entities. The SDGs also focus on quality education and focus on the role of education in creating a more humane world.

Unlike the MDGs which were designed for the developing world were heard only towards the end of the 15 year period; the SDGs have been designed after much consultation and are applicable to all countries- developing as well as developed. The SDGs have been created through consultations with more than 100 countries and millions of citizen inputs on websites.

The SDGs are more globally collaborative than the Millennium Development Goals. While the MDGs were designed in such a way that rich donors aiding poorer recipients, the SDGs have been produced through international negotiations involving high-income, middle-income and low-income countries. Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs are universal and holistic.

The MDGs were not rooted in human rights standards. On the other hand, the SDGs have been designed in such a way that they are inclusive and just. The 17 focus areas of SDGs go beyond poverty and addresses issues of inequality, peace, stability, human rights and good governance. The SDGs are inclusive as they target persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations. Also SDGs have stronger gender goals and, people’s participation and a broader platform for Governments and civil society engagement at different levels


 On the issue of indicator

Indicators are going to be very crucial for measuring SDGs. A sound indicator framework will turn the SDGs and their targets into a management tool to help countries develop implementation strategies and allocate resources accordingly, as well as a report card to measure progress towards sustainable development and help ensure the accountability of all stakeholders for achieving the SDGs. The responsibility of defining indicators has been given at the international level by Inter Agency and Expert Group on the SDG indicator [IEAG-SDG]. The IEAG has mentioned that these indicators have to be tracked in a disaggregated manner to address the specific groups and other relevant elements like income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographical location. The process of indicator development has mainly been characterized as a merely technical exercise that could be left to the statisticians. However, this characterization is far from correct. Instead the development of the indicators is highly political and it reopens many of the conflicts during the negotiation of the 2030-Agenda.

At the moment there are 229 indicators proposed by the IAEG-SDG. 149 of these indicators are already decided and the rest still needs further discussion. Not all targets can be applied to all countries. For example SDG 6.1on universal access to safe and affordable drinking water is already achieved in many European countries. Indicators for such targets cannot be applied to these countries. Indicators also need to be very explicit for each target to measure the result but this does not seem to be the case. Finalization of many of the indicators at the country level also depends on the political will and political support to achieve that. For instance, SDG 4 calls for quality education which politicians cannot claim in their election manifesto to attract votes as politicians have very less influence on the quality of education given in the school. Therefore they are less likely to bring policy change to improve quality of the education. This is where international attention is required if the promises of SDGs are to be realized.

On the issue of Financing

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the 3rd International Conference on Financing and Development claims to lay down the ground for a sound global financing framework for post 2015 which is fair, just and equitable and takes care of the most vulnerable and the most marginalized. It is important to differentiate between ‘financing’ and ‘financing for sustainable development’, which should include policies and programmes that are socially and environmentally sustainable. While the action agenda talks about tackling poverty, it is of utmost importance that it also highlights tackling inequalities – based on economic resources, geographical location, race, gender, war and conflict, disasters and natural calamities, migrant status, (dis)ability, sexual minorities amongst others. While it is commendable that the action agenda mentions LDCs [Least Developed Countries], LLDCs [Landlocked Developing Countries] and SIDS [Small Island Developing States] must receive particular attention within the development framework, it is also important to pay attention to the needs and concerns of Middle Income Countries (MICs) who may suffer from premature withdrawal of aid. Although MICs show certain economic indicators of progress and development, it is important to measure and compare their social indicators to truly assess whether the fruits of development are being equally shared by all especially the most marginalized.

Financing SDG is a major challenge in order to be achieved across all the countries. Key trends have been witnessed across the globe; a significant decrease in public spending mainly on social sector by states in view of global recession and diversion of funds from development to security concerns.

The real question is whether governments will be able to raise and redistribute the large sums of money needed to meet the goals, especially at a time when many countries are still adjusting to the impacts of the global financial crisis, experiencing low rates of economic growth, and reducing public spending on Official Developing Assistance (ODA).ODA continues to be an important input for meeting financial requirements of SDGs. Though in recent years ODA grants have decreased in real terms. Apart from ODA, domestic revenue and corporate finance would be crucial for financing of SDGs. CSR has emerged as a potential investor but to what extent corporate are able to utilize their skills, talent and technology to drive innovations that solve deep-rooted development problems instead of focusing on short term philanthropic activities.


In the given global context it is necessary to review the systems that are in place for ensuring participation from all stakeholders and all people from the grassroots up to the highest levels of Government. The UN resolution also mentions that the business sector, Non-State Actors and individuals too must play a significant role in ensuring the achievement of the SDGs – “Governments, international organizations, the business sector and other Civil Society Organizations and individuals must contribute to  move towards sustainable development agenda.

Since the Government in the respective country is the biggest entity with the most resources to ensure achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and targets that have been set, the legal and policy framework already in place in the country has to be critically reviewed to see how capable it is of achieving the SDGs and identify the gaps for rectification. The gaps between the present legal and policy framework and the current status of the SDGs need to be identified and remedial measures necessary to address these need to taken at national and international level for meeting the SDGs. Presence of strong civil society across the world can very well take up this opportunity and can make their respective govt accountable for sustainable agenda


  • Supporting policies and programmes that promise significant and measurable impact on select SDGs.
  • Capacity Building of members on SDGs and their role in achieving SDGs
  • Resource Mobilization for the implementation of SDGs with selected fora.
  • Strengthening relations with other global actors/international community on SDG.
  • Formulation of National level engagements on SDGs by members in their respective countries.
  • Identifying SDG goals and targets for their own organizations for long term focus.
  • Integrate the SDG goals with the domestic policy initiatives.
  • Act as a watch dog to strengthen transparency, accountability and overall governance at all level
  • Ensure that government spending is aligned with the sustainable development agenda, and target those areas where the money can do the most good.
  • Mapping of policies and legislations at the country level in view of SDGs and sharing the gaps with the national govt.
  • Engagement plan of national/regional forums on achieving sustainable agenda.
  • Identifying innovations in development practice in the region and replications in other areas as well.




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