It was one year ago on September 25, 2015 when global leaders adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formally dubbed as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The world at that time was passing through an uncertain period due to war and conflict in different regions, especially in the Middle-East, which created a new refugee crisis.
Very little has changed since then as war and conflict have actually intensified while refugee crisis persists. The world seems sceptical about regaining peace by curbing terror and violence. Nevertheless, the world leaders have made a series of commitments in different arena including environment and trade. Two critical agreements, the Paris Climate Deal and the Nairboi package of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) were signed during the last two months of 2015. Both the deals were below the expectations and in many ways undermine the spirit of the SDGs. Compared to these two agreements, the Fourteenth Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 14) in July this year was more favourable to reaffirm the global commitment on implementing the Agenda 2030.
VERY EARLY STAGE: The SDGs officially entered into force on January 01, 2016. So, its implementation is now basically at a very early stage. Structured with 17 broader goals and 169 related targets, it is the commitment of the world leaders to end poverty and hunger of the people, protect the planet from degradation, ensure prosperity for all human beings, foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies and strengthen global partnership. To be precise, it is a broad set of goals, scheduled to be achieved by 2030, to free the world from poverty, hunger, pollution and violence and bring peace and prosperity.
As a comprehensive and ambitious agenda, it requires country-level action plan for the better implementation. Many countries, including Bangladesh, devoted reasonable amount of time and resources to analyse the implications of the Agenda 2030 and establish links between the SDGs and national priorities of the respective countries.
The enthusiasm on SDGs was reflected in this year's High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. It is considered to be the central platform of the United Nations for the 'follow-up and review' of the SDGs.
With a three-day ministerial segment, preceded by five days of roundtables which were attended by representatives of the government and civil society. The Forum adopted a Ministerial Declaration and 22 countries presented their voluntary reviews. The countries are: China, Colombia, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Madagascar, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Togo, Turkey, Uganda and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of).
Though developing countries and many civil society organisations expressed their disappointment due to uncompromising stance of some developed countries, all parties finally agreed on mutual cooperation to advance the SDGs.
WAVE IN BANGLADESH: From the very beginning, civil society organisations across the world are active to influence the formation and finalisation of the Agenda 2030. They are now active in following up and reviewing the implementation of the SDGs in different countries. In line with this trend, civil society organisations in association with the private sector launched a 'Citizen's Platform for SDGs in Bangladesh' in June this year.
The idea behind launching the platform is simple. Achieving the SDGs is a daunting task and requires active participation of the private sector and civil society. Otherwise, it will not be fruitful at all. While the government has done a good job by integrating SDGs with the country's medium-term development plan, the ultimate challenge remains on efficient implementation of the plan.
The Planning Commission has already done an exercise to identify the link between SDGs and the seventh five-year plan (7FYP). It finds that 14 goals of the Agenda 2030 are thematically fully aligned with the 7FYP. Again, some 56 or 33 per cent targets of the agenda are fully aligned with the country's medium-term plan while 37 or 22 per cent are partially aligned, 65 or 38.5 per cent are not aligned and 11 or 6.5 per cent are not directly relevant for Bangladesh.
The Planning Commission also stressed on effective and coherent role of civil society organisations (SCOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and media on SDG implementation. At a consultation meeting in Dhaka a few months ago, a paper on the roadmap for implementing the SDGs in the country was circulated. The paper mentioned the need for 'a vibrant multi-stakeholder mechanism' to support the government in the implementation process, especially in 'participatory monitoring and accountability.' It also stressed on 'CSO and NGO involvement in monitoring of SDG implementation especially for the governance-related targets of SDG 16.'
There is no doubt that governance is the most critical factor on successful implementation of the SDGs. Ensuring good governance requires continuous monitoring from the citizen's part as state machinery is not always ready to ensure transparency. Moreover, the spending spree in the name of development projects without adequate accountability for the last few years has already created a culture of non-transparency. It is alarming for the future of the country.
According to some eminent citizens, appropriate application of the rule of law has become difficult as corruption is spreading and human rights are being curbed. They also caution against the dangers of growth-obsessed development where economic advancement with physical infrastructure gets priority. While SDGs emphasise on income equality and balanced distribution of resources for ending poverty and hunger, adopting the market-oriented neo-liberal philosophy for growth maximisation will not adequately support the effort to achieve the goals of sustainable development.