Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SDGs and grim global realities




SDGs and grim global realities

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Actors stage a tug of war between the rich and the poor to depict the world’s struggle against inequality on September 24, 2015 in New York ahead of the UN 2015 Sustainable Development Summit. DON EMMERT/AFP

SDGs and grim global realities

In recent times, the development discourse all over the world has been heavily influenced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set up by the UN in 2015 for the year 2030.

The goals are in the form of specific targets set up for key areas of development, protection of the environment and various forms of life, et cetera.

If these goals are achieved then these 15 years will be the most successful years in human history in terms of reducing distress. Hunger is sought to be almost eliminated while poverty will be reduced greatly.

If SDGs help to establish the right priorities in terms of such objectives then this is a very good initiative.

However we cannot ignore some disturbing aspects. The most ambitious goals of reducing distress have been set for a time period (2015-2030) about which other available evidence indicates may be a period with some very adverse trends.

For example, if we look at the previous 15 to 30 years, then it is clear that the world has been passing through times of very high and perhaps unprecedented inequality.

The SDGs also talk about reducing inequality, but not specifically about how exactly these trends will be checked and how actually the forces responsible for these trends will be checked.

Destructive weapons overload

Similarly it is clear that these are times of very heavy spending on arms and ammunition, as well as increasing overall military budgets.

The world is not only overloaded with destructive weapons (including weapons of mass destruction) but this high-risk load is spreading and increasing rapidly.

The statistics of high arms spending are generally presented mainly in the context of the spending of various governments, but in addition there is also the heavy spending on arms and ammunition, legal and illegal, by individuals, criminals and private militias. All this has been increasing.

The sum total of government and private expenditure on arms and ammunition is truly massive. This is also very expensive in terms of snatching away resources from meeting the needs of people.

There are deeply entrenched reasons why weapons go on proliferating despite everyone knowing how destructive and expensive these are. There are also very powerful forces which want this to continue.

But SDG documents do not tell us exactly how this trend can be checked or resolved, or what big, new and different initiatives will be taken on this important issue.

Thirdly, the period of SDGs is also a highly sensitive one when life-threatening environmental changes like climate change are likely to increase and cause a lot of destruction and distress.

This has been well recognised for about three decades, yet the world has badly lagged behind in terms of the steps necessary for checking this.

There are powerful forces which are responsible for this and there are also important weaknesses in the efforts.

The SDG documents do not tell us how these forces will be challenged, and how these weaknesses will be removed.

As there are no details of any specific initiatives which are significantly different from the earlier efforts that failed, there is no assurance at all that inequality (and the huge wasteful consumption which inevitably accompanies big inequalities) will be curbed, and there is even less assurance that the destructive arms proliferation will be checked.

Again there is no assurance that climate change will be checked before it is too late and tipping points are reached.

In such a situation it is not at all clear how highly ambitious goals of meeting basic needs of all human beings and particularly all other forms of life will be achieved.

Tough questions

Thus, while the SDGs are laudable objectives and can be helpful in improving priorities to some extent, several questions arise when these are examined with reference to the grim realities of several important existing trends.What are the structural problems due to which the performance of the earlier few decades has been so disappointing?

What are the weaknesses at the level of global governance due to which the most serious global problems (WMDs, climate change, ocean pollution, currency and trade reforms et cetera.) could not be tackled effectively so far.

We need to find frank and truthful answers to these tough questions, and we need to take the necessary remedial action on the basis of these truthful answers for correcting structural problems and injustices as well as for significantly improving global governance and its capacity to solve the most pressing problems.

It is not adequate merely to set up good targets for priority areas, we should face the grim reality of the very tough conditions within which these targets have to be reached and take adequate steps to improve the overall conditions. The Statesman/asia news network

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,