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SDGs: Can they promote sustainable development?

IBON Policy Brief on Sustainable Development Goals
 
One of the expected key outcomes of the Rio+20 summit will be the definition and agreement towards sustainable development goals (SDGs), similar to and supportive of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Indeed, SDGs are already being considered by some as a possible successor framework to the MDGs. Such an approach, say proponents, could allow the MDGs' focus on poverty reduction to be matched by complementary targets on the environment.
 
Some quarters are concerned that the idea of replacing MDGs with SDGs may even away resources from meeting many of the unmet targets of the MDGs, while opening up important questions about how the SDGs will be defined and implemented.   Some of the wide open questions on the issue are on universal applicability, differentiated responsibility, policy space, implementation framework, accountability mechanisms, and the roles of various stakeholders.
 
This IBON policy brief first conducts a quick review of the MDGs, their inherent limitations, and their reasons for failure. Next, it discusses the basic premise that SDGs can contribute to sustainable development only if they address the structural causes of poverty and unsustainable development, which means addressing the three pillars of sustainable development. Finally, this paper outlines the principles, goals, and implementation process that must guide SDGs if global efforts to attain them are to succeed.