Did the creation of agenda 2030 forge a new way of engaging on global issues for humanity's future? Negotiating the sustainable development goals.

Author:Dodds, Felix
Position:REVIEW - Reprint

Even before it was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015, Agenda 2030 was widely talked about as being "historic" and, even, "transformative."

Built around 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), the 15-year global development plan seeks to reinvent the way the world approaches the great global challenges of our time as they relate to poverty eradication, gender equality, health, and environmental conservation.

In a new book, Negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals: A transformational agenda for an insecure world, three key players in the Agenda's creation offer an intimate view of how the plan was put together --and, perhaps most interestingly, how the objections to its ambitious and all-encompassing framework were overcome.

Authors Felix Dodds, David Donoghue, and Jimena Leiva Roesch make clear that there was no guarantee of victory in efforts by the UN to create a new set of goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are often cited as among the UN's most successful antipoverty programs.

Governments started to discuss in earnest what should replace the MDGs in 2012. And early on, the authors say, there was "strong pushback" against the idea of expanding the eight MDGs from their focus on poverty and health issues to the more encompassing idea of promoting sustainable development, a concept that includes a much broader notion that couples a push for overall economic growth with strong environmental protections.

"The SDGs were seen as a direct threat to countries that had invested in the MDGs--which meant most member states," the authors write. "Developing countries feared that funding would be cut off if the agenda was going to be universally applicable. Bilateral aid agencies from many donor countries were not interested in changing the structure of their aid, which was largely based on the MDGs."


But, in the end, the authors say, hard work and innovative new forms of multilateral negotiation won the day for those who favored a more universal and encompassing set of development goals, which would require efforts by all countries at all stages of development. The result was the adoption of 17 goals addressing a much larger palette of issues, such as climate change, patterns of consumption and production, and even some peace and governance issues.

One key to reaching this broader, more universal framework was the creation of new modes of working at the UN, the...

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