July 19, 2024

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Why the SDGs are a bad idea

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If I told you that I had made 17 new year’s resolutions — everything from doing more work and exercise to spending more time with my family — you’d probably suspect that I was being overambitious. If I went on to explain that I’d broken my goals down into 169 targets, you might conclude that I was both excessively fastidious and doomed to failure.

Yet those are precisely the number of targets that the world set itself in 2015, when 193 countries at the UN General Assembly agreed on the sustainable development goals to improve the planet and the quality of human life on it. Although they gave themselves 15 years, they were also setting themselves up for a fall.

Sure enough, as we edge past the halfway mark towards 2030, you may not be surprised to learn that planet Earth is off course on its resolutions. The UN published a progress report in July, in which it warned that the SDGs were “in peril”, with a mere 12 per cent of targets on track.

A separate Accenture study showed that “only 49 per cent” of 2,800 business leaders believed that the SDGs would be met by the target of 2030. With stated goals such as “ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere” (step up Afghanistan), all I can say is that it’s good to see optimism is alive and well in the corporate sector.

You can see why the sustainable development goals, an extension of the millennium development goals — set in 2000 and of which mercifully there were only eight — came about. The idea was to hold up a mirror to the world and to help marshal the resources to improve the reflected image.

The hard truth is that the SDGs were doomed from the start. A cursory look at the 17 goals tells you why. Goal one is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” — a laudable ambition indeed, but one that we must secretly know is a…

2023-12-31 07:00:43

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