India’s faultlines are stumbling block for reaching UN goals

Sustainable Development Goals set a huge task for countries with 17 goals and 169 targets that have to be achieved in 15 years - between 2016 and 2030.

Yoshika Sangal & Sonal Matharu | September 12, 2015


#SDGs   #SDG   #UN   #india   #NITI Aayog   #New York  

Photo: Arun Kumar

Sustaining the goals being set by the United Nations (UN) for the world seems to be unattainable even for developed countries. In case of India, the country faces numerous issues.

The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 169 targets linked to the goals will be a challenge for India because of country’s faultlines - India has been failing to meet its own national socio-economic development targets
With the UN in the process of finalising SDGs, the government officials in India are uncertain about how these will be implemented.
The SDGs set a huge task for countries with 17 goals and 169 targets that have to be achieved between 2016 and 2030.

From 2000 to 2015, the UN member countries tried to achieve eight goals and 18 targets focusing on poverty alleviation, improved health and education indicators among others under the MDGs. Many of the MDGs could not be accomplished by countries, including India, even through progress was made in many aspects. The SDGs are an extension of MDGs (minimum development goals). 

On Wednesday, a consultation on SDGs was held in New Delhi with officials from NITI Aayog, academia and civil society organisations ahead of the special session of the UN General Assembly to be held in New York on 25-27 September. 

How far realistic?

End poverty in all its forms everywhere

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation

Reduce inequality within and among countries

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum)

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development


The SDGs in the current form raise questions as to how such vast, overlapping targets will be achieved and monitored. Stressing on simplifying the processes towards achieving the SDG indicators, Sindhushree Khullar, chief executive officer, NITI Aayog, said, “We will look at 169 indicators and decide how to prioritise these into manageable indicators.”

Khullar felt that India has found great resonance between the eight MDGs and its own five-year plans laying down targets to improve economic and social indicators.

“The five-year planning and five-year plans in many ways were targets and achievements which we could then measure and then say we were able to achieve some part, maybe we could do more,” Khullar said at a seminar organised by the New Delhi-based Research and Information Systems economic think-tank on the SDGs.

“We have now in the NITI Aayog completed the mid-term appraisal of the 12th plan (2012-2017), we are now in its fourth year. We find that until the 11th plan, the achievements were maybe 10-15% short of target, financing was 10-15% short of target. But in the 12th plan we find both in terms of financing and in terms of goals, we are way off the mark, we are close to 20-25% off what we thought we would be able to do,” Khullar said.

Even the health ministry was skeptical. While many of the SDGs are directly dealing with health, the union health ministry feels that these are not quantifiable which will make implementation difficult. “We need more specific indicators and need clarity of definitions. The SDGs in the current form are ambiguous,” said Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner (child health), ministry of health and family welfare.

Noting that financing is one of the top issues that has been raised by India at the global front, Yuri Afanasiev, UNDP Resident Representative in India said, “This session is important in order to nationalise the SDG’s, while not forgetting the inadequacies in the MDG’s. The nations have to equalise the conversation regarding illiteracy and poverty while addressing the various inequalities within nations.”

The challenge for the countries will be how to nationalize these goals, he added.

Lack of data to act
Representatives from various government department noted that lack of updated, comparable data is one of the biggest challenges facing India today. This deficiency, they feel, will hamper the progress towards achieving SDGs as well.

“There is deficiency of real-time data. Most of the times we have to rely on old data, estimates or projections” said Paul Francis from WHO India. Standardisation of data is also problematic, he felt. 

Data is also the biggest challenge in linking food, health, nutrition and agriculture sectors. Data on nutrition must be integrated in data collection overall, said Bharat Ramaswami from Indian Statistical Institute.

“What is not measured is liable to be ignored,” he said. 

Even the rest of the world may fail

Meanwhile, a study says that even the United States was among the world’s nations least likely to achieve the set of global goals to be adopted by the UN.

The Scandinavian nations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland have the best chance of meeting the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 15-year objectives that range from ending hunger to promoting education, said the study by Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation that researches and promotes social responsibility.

Holding the United States back are such issues as its income gap between rich and poor, consumption behavior and environmental protection, the study said. The nation generates more than twice the municipal waste per capita than do the highest ranked nations, the study said.

The United States does, however, have a high gross national income, relatively clean air and ample housing, all of which would contribute to achieving some of the global goals, the study said.

Many industrialized nations could fail to meet the 17 goals, to be adopted by 193 countries at a Sept. 25-27 U.N. summit, due to inequality, energy and environmental issues, the study said.

 

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