By Felix Dodds
We have seen a move of leadership to understand from more developed countries to leading developing countries in a number of areas but particularly in the runup for Rio+20. We saw Mexico as well as Indonesia, India, Brazil and Colombia taking leadership and I think that that’s a very good sign. On the implementation it’s really interesting because the 1990’s saw significant commitments made by Governments at the Rio Summit, the Copenhagen Summit, the women’s Beijing conference, the Cairo conference, the conference and the other Summit. By 2000 it was clear governments seemed to be unable to implement across such a wide area and were having significant problems in prioritizing resources to the most important areas.
One of the significant results of the Summit in 2000 was that overseas development assistance started to go up again, after a period of 10 years from 1992 to 2000 where we saw no real increase in ODA. The next 10 years saw it double from 60 billion to around 120 billion a year and this went a long way to accelerate implementation, a challenge that was underlying 2008 at the UN special session on MDGs, when the UN Secretary‑General said this about the development agenda: Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, he said, there is no question that we can achieve the overarching goal. We can put an end to poverty. He also recognized the challenge of the financial crisis. He went on to say, we face a global economic slowdown and security crisis both of uncertain magnitude and duration. Global warming has become more apparent.
These developments will directly affect our effort to reduce poverty. The economic slowdown will diminish the incomes of the poor. The food crisis will raise the number of hungry people in the world and push millions more into poverty, and climate change will have a disproportionate impact on the poor. The need to address these concerns, pressing as they are, must not be allowed to detract from our long‑term effort to achieve the MDGs. We need to keep the focus on the MDGs as we confront these new challenges.
The idea of the Sustainable Development Goals was articulated in July 2011 at a Rio+20, a Government sponsored event on institutional framework for Sustainable Development, held in Solo, Indonesia, presented by the Director of Economic and Social Environmental Affairs in the Colombian Government, supported by Guatemala and other Governments shortly afterwards, such as Peru and UAE, and that pushed the Sustainable Development Goals coming from development countries, again showed that transfer of leadership from developed countries to developing countries.
The original proposal was grounded on the idea that the MDGs played a significant role in focusing the world community but that that focus was too narrow and that 7 of the 8 goals were focused only on developed countries. The only universal goal in the 8 focused on the environment which I mentioned seemed to be very weak by many of the people in the environment and Sustainable Development community. The original proposal for the MDG indicated a reinvigoration of MDG7 by updating the agenda of the Johannesburg plan of the implementation with up to date Sectorial targets.
In September 2011, NGOs and other stakeholders met in Bonn at the UN DPI conference and they put on the table for the first time a set of coherent goals, 17 of them. It’s well worth looking back to that particular document that came out of that conference to see the influence that it had in the thinking of Governments as far as what MDGs should be considered and a runup to Rio+20 there was much conflict between the environmental and development community. Development community wanted to continue the MDG approach and the Sustainable Development community wanted these new goals to be encompassing both poverty eradication and Sustainable Development.
And that any new goals needed to be universal and would also address issues such as consumption and production to enable all of us to live in a more sustainable way on this planet. That engagement with the preparatory process will be critical for the process. You need to be engaged now and you need to be engaged in a very fully in front way. Perhaps I could end with a few words from Albert Einstein who said: Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow, but the important thing is not to stop questioning.
(Felix Dodds is an author, futurist and activist. He has been involved in United Nations, works with the particular field on sustainable development, and is well known for his book “How to Lobby at Intergovernmental Meetings: Mine is a Cafe Latte,” which he wrote together with Michael Straus.)