Anticipating the UN Sustainable Development Summit

World leaders prepare to take on new challenges to combat inequality in its many forms with the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit set to take place from September 25 through September 27.

In March we looked ahead to the ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a replacement for the recently concluded Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs consist of seventeen targets meant to address the various forms of poverty over the next fifteen years. Organizers say the SDGs will be shaped by more of a localized, bottom-up approach than the MDGs were.

While the MDGs were conceived as Global North countries mandating how to alleviate poverty in countries in the Global South, the SDGs featured leaders from both developed and developing countries coming together to finalize a course of action.

Perhaps most encouraging is that these goals are meant to be truly global – with all countries taking part in eradicating inequality within their own borders.

New to the SDGs is also the belief in South-South cooperation.

African investors and entrepreneurs have argued that Africa, as a region, needs to take ownership of their own development.

With the focus on global development, despite the economic power of wealthy nations, some have questioned what the adoption of the SDGs will look like in countries in the Global North.

Critics in rising global economic players, such as India, however have questioned the ability of their country to meet the lofty expectations that come with 17 goals and 169 targets.

Flickr Creative Commons (via UN General Assembly 2013)

Flag outside UN General Assembly, 2013. (Photo by United Nations Information Centres. Flickr Creative Commons.)

According to the Brookings Institute, meeting these goals will require a truly global partnership in which all countries bear responsibility for both the successes and the failures of the SDGs.

What will success look like?

Many in Uganda believe success will be determined by the investment placed in children through addressing child mortality rate and education.

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf believes that success will primarily stem from reducing gender inequalities worldwide.

Still others point to the global digital divide as a prominent issue driving inequality.

Child mortality, education, gender equality, and digital access represent some of the humanistic targets highlighted by the SDGs, but they are hardly the only goals worth pursuing.

While we highlighted a renewed focus on human rights in a previous blog post, it would be presumptuous to ignore the economic element hidden behind many forms of inequality. While the SDGs expand their base of core drivers of inequality, economic inequality remains a determinate of other forms of inequity, as recent global economic turmoil from China to the United States to Greece has illustrated over the past few months.

Another concern is displacement due to continual warfare and the reluctance of many countries to take in refugees from the Middle East and North Africa region.

Regardless of these concerns, now is a time for optimism as world leaders redouble their efforts to address local, regional, national, and international inequality.

Whether we are citizens of countries in the Global North or the Global South, this weekend marks truly global commitment to issues that affect us all.


Want to know more about the SDGs?

The Guardian is an excellent resource with a team dedicated to quality reporting on the new framework.


You can follow us on Twitter: @FramingGlobal.