Sustainable Development Goals: The Pathway to Prosperity and Sustenance

Sustainable Development Goals: The Pathway to Prosperity and Sustenance

October 21, 2015

“It is a roadmap to ending global poverty, building a life of dignity for all and leaving no one behind. It is also a clarion call to work in partnership and intensify efforts to share prosperity, empower people’s livelihoods, ensure peace and heal our planet for the benefit of this and future generations,”     Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General


As more and more businesses realize the need to stretch their markets to the bottom of the pyramid, beyond borders, and to sustain through the next generation of consumers, the overall socioeconomic conditions and well-being of people dictates if businesses can survive. With growing climate challenges, increasing demand on energy, wars & conflicts, political mayhems, gender inequality, religious & racial intolerance, malnutrition and child mortality, it has become difficult for economies to grow at a sustainable rate.

The Millennium Development Goals, which had identified some of those pressing issues, has also helped to lift 700 million people out of poverty worldwide. Among others is the rise in human development index in some countries, including Bangladesh.

After the notable success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in a number of countries around the world in creating a better life for millions of people by 2015, it is only expected that a new agenda be developed to continue the progress at a much larger context. Hence, came the new Sustainable Development Goals with 17 goals to be achieved by 2030.

Sustainable Development Summit, which was held from 25-27 September at UN Headquarters in New York, officially unveiled SDGs to improve the lives of people around the world on a long-term basis. Titled “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the new agenda was agreed upon by the 193 Member States of the United Nations, and includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The new agenda is people-centred, universal, transformative and integrated. It calls for action by all countries for all people over the next 15 years in five areas of critical importance: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. The agenda recognizes that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with a plan that builds economic growth and addresses a range of social needs, while tackling climate change.

The Making of Sustainable Development Goals

Since the 1992 UN Conference on Environmental and Development – the Earth Summit – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the world has identified a new pathway to human well-being, that of sustainable development. The concept of sustainable development, presented in Agenda 21, recognised that economic development must be balanced with growth that meets present generations’ needs and protects the environment, without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Recognising the success of the MDGs, countries agreed in “The Future We Want,” the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, to establish an open working group to develop a set of sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action.

The SDGs, proposed by the Open Working Group, are the result of a three-year-long transparent, participatory process inclusive of all stakeholders and people’s voices. Many stakeholders, especially youth, were also involved from the beginning on social media and other platforms, including the UN’s global MyWorld survey that received more than 8 million votes from around the world, with approximately 75% of participants under 30 years of age.

17 Goals to Sustainable Development

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Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms, everywhere
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
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Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

How it will Work

Having received world-wide support from civil society, business, parliamentarians and other actors, the SDGs represent an unprecedented agreement around sustainable development priorities among 193 Member States. With the shared global goals and targets, countries will tailor them and implement policies at the country level.

The 17 SDGs and 169 targets of the new agenda will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators. The global indicator framework, to be developed by the Inter Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, will be agreed on by the UN Statistical Commission by March 2016. Governments will also develop their own national indicators to assist in monitoring progress made on the goals and targets.

The follow-up and review process will be undertaken on an annual basis by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development through a SDG Progress Report to be prepared by the Secretary-General.

SDGs: Bangladesh Perspective

In a discussion with the journalists which took place after the summit, Foreign Secretary of the Bangladesh Government, Md Shahidul Haque, shared an optimistic view on the new SDGs in the context of Bangladesh’s performance with respect to the MDGs.

He regarded Bangladesh as one of the high performing countries in meeting the MDGs. “When we had nothing, we achieved MDGs. Now we are ready. We have capacity. We are ahead of many countries. We have lot of resources. We have been actively present at the negotiations. We’re more than confident,” he asserted.

M Riaz Hamidullah, Foreign Ministry’s Director General (Economic Affairs), who also represented Bangladesh in the process, is also very optimistic of the new SDGs. “Almost all Bangladesh issues finally found a place in the document which was agreed upon,” he beamed.

He appraised the SDGs as more comprehensive than the MDGs and relevant in the context of Bangladesh as it addresses issues prevailing in Bangladesh. He explained that trans-border cooperation regarding water, which is an important issue in Bangladesh, found its place in Goal 6. Other issues affecting the country like Migration, climate change, oceans, seas and marine resources, and disaster risk reduction were also addressed through the various goals.

In contrast to the high optimism, Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, CPD Distinguished Fellow, expressed concern over the implementation challenges in a briefing session with media. Entitled “The agenda of sustainable development goals: implementation challenges for Bangladesh”, the session identified five key challenges:

  • Integration of the goals in national planning process
  • Devising institutional mechanism for implementation
  • Mobilization of financial and non-financial resources
  • Availability of data for monitoring
  • Participation of people from all strata of society and enforcement of accountability as challenges.

Dr Debapriya stressed on the need to start working from the unfinished tasks of MDGs to achieve the SDGs. He shared that although progress was made in case of MDGs, the country lagged in meeting the specific goals.

Dr Debapriya underscored the performances which fell short of the respective targets as: low employment generation ratio, low share of women in wage employment in the non-agriculture sector, high maternal mortality ratio, lack of skilled health personal in births, contraceptive prevalence rate, and low proportion of land area covered by forest.

He suggested the need for all stakeholders, specifically the political parties, to work together in meeting the SDGs, which cover a wider area of concerns not addressed in the MDGs. Ensuring inflow of remittance, more foreign direct investment, and stopping illegal money transfer from the country will help to make progress towards the SDGs. Among other concerns, CPD highlighted the need for good governance where the government has a long way to go.

For businesses in Bangladesh, an interesting progress is mentioned in Goal 12 which requires sustainable production, alongwith consumption. We know the dire consequences on environment and the nearby human settlements of the manufacturing industries like the tannery and garment dyeing. The wastage from these industries are disposed in the nearby rivers and canals continuously without any concern for the environment. Despite the policies to use ETP (effluent treatment plants), there is no pressure on the manufacturers to abide by these regulations. For instance, we hardly find any factory inspector suspending production or fining the factories on grounds of breach of environmental law. 

Another important aspect of Goal 12 is “consumption”. Bangladesh with a rising middle-class and growing purchasing power is turning into a massive consumption society. How we consume and dispose of the remaining needs to be addressed by creating awareness among the consumers as well. The three Rs (reuse, reduce & recycle) must be made popular among the consumers by showing them the benefits of reduced expenses as they reduce their consumption, reuse what they can and recycle through donating to those who can make a better use of the remaining product.

The Path Ahead

As ambitious as it is, the progress of SDGs has a number of pre-requisites. Widespread support and adoption of the goals is just a first step. The commitment needs to continue as well as the support and monitoring of the progress among the countries. Achieving such ambitious goals may sound very challenging, but not impossible.

For Bangladesh, more realistic approach should be taken in devising the specific goals, taking into consideration the learning from MDGs – both the progress and the lacking. Also, a wider-spread understanding and adoption of the goals – from high-school students to policy makers of the country -should be made a priority so that together we can lead the country to a brighter & sustainable future.

For more on SDGs, visit


Compiled & Reviewed by Tabita Zahur Iqbal, Managing Editor, BBF

Source: on request



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