loader image

Requiem for the Sustainable Development Goals

13 July, 2023 | Ricardo Changala

More than a prologue, a desperate appeal.

More than an introduction to a report, it’s a release of frustration.

More than a call to correct directions, an act of resignation and announcement of worse evils.

Says Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General: “Unless we act now, the 2030 Agenda will become an epitaph for a world that could have been.”

It is enough to read the first lines of the UN report “The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023: Special Edition” published on July 10, 2023[1], to understand that not only will the goals set in 2015 in the highly publicized 2030 Development Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals not be met, but everything suggests that, in several of its objectives, the world will be much worse off.

According to the new UN report, if current trends persist, there will be 575 million people trapped in extreme poverty by 2030. Moreover, the global average temperature has already risen by around 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels and is likely to reach or exceed the critical tipping point of 1.5°C by 2035.

From Monday, July 10, the High-level Forum of the UN Economic and Social Council began its session, with the presence of governments, and other sectors of society of the countries that make up the United Nations.

With sessions until July 20, sustainable development goals 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and 17 (partnerships to achieve the Goals) will be analyzed, in particular.

From here, it is assumed that recommendations will come out for the Sustainable Development Goals Summit that will be held next September.

But the reality is that hard data does not allow optimism.

For example, in relation to the SDG on water, one of the other goals of which is to achieve universal and equitable access to drinking water at an affordable price for all by the year 2030, at least 2 billion people still live without safely managed drinking water services today.

Another significant fact: related to the SDG on sustainable cities, already in 2020 it was realized that more than 1000 million people lived in slums or informal settlements, also in the process of constant growth.

Guterres affirms that “The Sustainable Development Goals are disappearing in the rearview mirror, as are the hope and rights of current and future generations.”

The commented report warns and demands to give way to a so-called Rescue Plan for People and the Planet, for which, the root causes need to be addressed.

Among these causes, he identifies the international financial system that proposes to change structurally, so that economic and financial decisions should prioritize the well-being of people and the planet, to share the benefits of globalization and to provide security for all countries in these difficult times.

Action must be taken now, says the UN Secretary-General.

But is it a lack of action or a wrong course?

How can we expect different results if the so-called ”development” continues to depend on the profit of less and less and on an inclement extractivist logic?

Would it not be appropriate to assume that the same agreement of 2015, whose goals can only be shared, could not come to fruition without the substantive change of the hegemonic social, economic and political model?

If you really want to turn the tide, perhaps you should ask yourself the right questions and act on the answers.

[1] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2023/The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2023.pdf