Photo: Inhabitants of Bahia Solano, Quibdó, Colombia. March 17, 2017
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed unanimously by UN Member States in 2015. They are a set of 17 goals, each with numerous and specific targets, all to be met by 2030. The SDGs range from a commitment to ending extreme poverty, to providing education for all, to tackling climate change, to achieving gender equality and to building a strong judicial sector. The goals apply to all UN Member States.
The SDGs replaced the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs - agreed in 2000), which were narrower in scope and directed mainly at developing countries. The MDGs were criticized by human rights groups for omitting mention of numerous existing human rights obligations of governments, and for the manner in which the targets they did set were de-linked from relevant international human rights standards. The SDGs are more ambitious, more clearly linked to human rights standards, and their universal scope ensures all governments carry responsibilities to ending poverty and inequality.
Yet, the SDGs, like their predecessors, remain political commitments, with weak systems to monitor countries’ progress to meeting them, and no real accountability if they fail to do so. Nevertheless, like the MDGs, they are likely to impact heavily – at least at the international level – on the agenda of anti-poverty and sustainability efforts.
How to ensure, therefore, that human rights are central in SDG implementation? What are the ways in which efforts to achieve SDG targets can strengthen the protection and fulfilment of human rights? What are the risks? How should human rights groups use the SDGs, if at all, and if they do so what strategies are proving successful?
These and other questions lie at the heart of OGR’s ongoing forum on the SDGs.