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MDGs are relevant mainly for developing countries: Chandrashekhar Dasgupta

Jan 29, 2014

Sustainable Development Goals must incorporate targets for both developing and developed countries, writes Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, Distinguished Fellow, TERI.

New Delhi: World leaders have launched two important development initiatives since the turn of this century. The Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, spelled out specific targets for achieving progress, by 2015, in such critical areas as elimination of extreme hunger and poverty, universal primary education, gender equality, reduction of infant mortality, etc. The international community is currently engaged in taking stock of progress achieved under the Millennium Development Goals and drawing up a new set of post-2015 goals.

The second major initiative was the decision taken at the Rio + 20 summit held in 2012, to formulate a package of Sustainable Development Goals in order to achieve “an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet”.

There is obviously a large measure of overlap between the contemplated post-2015 Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, this is not a case of a distinction without a difference. Though the former does include targets related to each of the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental – the latter envisages greater balance between the three pillars.

The Rio + 20 Declaration also incorporates a human right approach much more comprehensively than the Millennium Development Goals. In addition to gender equality and primary education, it links sustainable development to the “right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”, the “human right to safe drinking water and sanitation”, “full access to quality education,” as well as international cooperation through “fulfillment of ODA commitments” of developed countries. All these are obligations flowing from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Millennium Development Goals are relevant mainly for developing countries. By contrast, Sustainable Development Goals must incorporate targets for both developing and developed countries because of their comprehensive coverage of environmental and human rights issues. Questions of sustainable lifestyles, for example, must be addressed. Moreover, differentiated targets need to be set for developed and developing countries, in accordance with the provisions of environmental treaties and the ‘progressive realization’ obligations of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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