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FOREIGN REPORTFOREIGN REPORT
Reaching Out for a Better Future-Sustainable Development Goals
Lee Jeong-Min  |  cosmos0330@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2015.10.02  12:03:44
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“This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity,” declared Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda paper was released by the United Nations (UN) under the subject of “Sustainable Developmental Goals post-2015 (SDGs),” which underwent more than two years of research to be delineated. “As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind,” promised the report. As its name literally implies, it is a plan and an urge to transform the whole world by 2030, balancing the economic, social, and environmental prerequisites that are needed to make a better planet. 

   

▲ SDGs released by the UN, and the UN logo. Provided by sustainabledevelopmet.un.org

   
▲ SDGs released by the UN, and the UN logo. Provided by sustainabledevelopmet.un.org
   
▲ SDGs released by the UN, and the UN logo. Provided by sustainabledevelopmet.un.org
The Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) of the UN, under the lead of former Secretary General Kofi Annan, were unveiled to the world in 2000. The eight goals with its prime focus on absolute poverty had the aspiration of being completed by 2015; however, now that the target year has approached, it turns out that the goals were not quite met. Five goals went off-track and three goals, which were met, were not developed equally between all countries—there exists huge gaps. Realizing this, the UN presented the new SDGs that adds 17 new goals to the original eight of MDGs to complement and accomplish what MDGs could not.
 
Actually, as the target year 2015 approached, the need of the establishment and implementation of SDGs was first identified at the Rio+20 Conference held in 2012. Back then the goals were not specifically discussed; instead, the UN General Assembly established an Open Working Group (OWG) to conduct formal research, hold meetings, and roughly sketch out the goals. At last the goals have been unveiled this year, and from September 25 to 27, a global summit under this agenda has been conducted in the UN New York Headquarters.
 
   
▲ “2015 Time for Global Action” logo. Provided by sustainabledevelopmet.un.org
The number one goal of SDGs is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” Although poverty rates have markedly decreased ever since the declaration of the MDGs, the number of people living in extreme poverty still remains high. Indeed, this is why SDGs have set this goal as the most fundamental yet challenging hurdle that the world must overcome. SDGs specifically aim to eradicate extreme poverty, measured as earning less than $1.25 a day, and decrease at least half the proportion of people who currently live in poverty in all aspects according to national definitions.
 
Some of the counteractive measures against poverty suggested on the SDGs Agenda include establishing appropriate social protection and measures, including floors; guaranteeing men and women control over any form of property, inheritance, new technology, and financial services; and giving everyone access and rights to economic resources. All the implementations on the Agenda are not finalized, but inclusive enough to call for many explanations, for they left room for more profound discussions at the September Summit.
 
Other aspects SDGs focus on are protecting human rights and improving standards of living. It is true that over the past few years the world has changed due to technology, but its benefits have not been equally shared by everyone. Building up on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the goals “This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity,” declared Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda paper was released by the United Nations (UN) under the subject of “Sustainable Developmental Goals post-2015 (SDGs),” which underwent more than two years of research to be delineated. “As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind,” promised the report. As its name literally implies, it is a plan and an urge to transform the whole world by 2030, balancing the economic, social, and environmental prerequisites that are needed to make a better planet. Sustainable Development Goals focus on these issues because they strongly believe that neither can exist without the other. “There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development,” is how the Agenda puts it. Thus, the goals include empowering women and girls to launch gender equality, providing equitable and quality education for all, guaranteeing access to justice and accountable institutions, and promoting decent work.
 
One of the most notable aspects about the goals is that they underscore the importance of international cooperation and building a society suitable enough for sustainable development. This is to lessen the gap between countries—mostly, but not limited to economic differences—that MDGs have not been able to solve. “It is important for countries not to be obsessed with national strategic interests,” said Lee Sinwha (Political Science and International Relations). “Countries should think in long-term perspectives and work to promote global peace and prosperity,” she added.
 
SDGs are faced with two main challenges as follows: inheriting MDGs’ aspirations and incorporating new problems that have come to surface. The biggest problem pinpointed by critics of MDGs’ was that the goals do not pose solutions for the fundamental causes of poverty, but only focuses on explaining the phenomenon and reducing numbers. Thus, SDGs have expressed a much stronger will to eradicate poverty by specifically and minutely dividing up the goals on famine, nutrition, and food resource problems. The new goals have also spread its spectrum to a broader range rather than focusing on a single issue—for instance, empowering women, and lowering infancy mortality rates are issues that were not included in the previous goals.
 
“What should be highly thought of is Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s will to access and develop what his predecessor started,” Professor Lee stated on why SDGs after MDGs are worth all the spotlight they are receiving. However, critics argue that SDGs are “sprawling and misconceived,” as expressed by The Economist, at the fact that they try to cover too much. Professor Lee echoed this idea and admitted that there are some concerns about the goals. However, she added that no goal is perfect from the start.
 
“This is a call for action,” Lee said, as she talked about ways to actually make the goals accomplish what they aspire. The easiest way individuals could contribute to bringing out SDGs is to consume with forethought, as Lee proposed. Reducing redundant consuming, thinking about the distribution and production of products—for instance, whether child labor was exploited or fair trade has been made—and pondering upon the economic consequences of spending are just a few that one could easily start with. Citizens can also participate in the Action/2015 Korea Campaign and propose their own ideas on the implementations of SDGs.
 
SDGs are, indeed, a turning point of history—change is on its way. Whether that change will be influential, big, or effective is up to each and every individual’s willingness to work towards global prosperity. “We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps,” reads the 2030 Agenda, “which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path.” Although some have been disappointed by how much the MDGs could not accomplish, more attention should be focused on how much the world has learned during the past 15 years. What our world will look like in 2030 cannot be known for sure, but without a doubt the global community has started to reach out for a better future.
   
▲ Picture of the United Nations New York Headquarters. Provided by dcclothesline
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