2015+: What’s your choice for global sustainability goals?

From time to time, we will step out of our sector to see what others are saying about post 2015 goals. This is a blog from Camilla Toulmin of International Institute for Environment and Development, first published in June 2011.

IIED’s name brings together environment and development — both are essential for sustainability but they are often treated separately. Too often, we get bracketed as an environmental organisation rather than an organisation aiming for development that is consistent with long-term management of natural resources.

2015+.JPGIn a conversation last week with colleagues from the Overseas Development Institute, we began to think about how these two major strands of global action, funding and initiative could be better woven together. The starting point: what might be agreed at the next Earth Summit (Rio +20) in 2012, and what happens after 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?

Should Rio+20 come up with global sustainability goals? Should the MDGs continue along existing lines? Or could we come up with better combined goals, more fit for the challenges of the 21st century?

Redesigning global goals

The MDGs have had considerable impact as a set of targets around which to spur greater commitment from donors and developing country governments. But it makes sense for us to ask how we could improve on existing goals, and design a process for agreeing new targets that would create strong buy-in from different countries and interest groups around the world.

There are several key questions:

How comprehensive should these targets be? Clear, simple, measurable targets focused on a few achievables are good. But at IIED, we find that many of the most intractable issues concern questions of ‘governance’ — which is all about who decides what, when and how. The problem is that rights, institutions and transparency are much harder to monitor and track than investment in functioning water points, or the proportion of girls in school.

How ambitious should these targets be? I sometimes think that we will never agree true global sustainability goals because they would require such a major transformation of interests and inequalities that those with power today would never say “yes” to them. Does that mean we should lower our sights to second-best goals, which may move us in the right direction but do little to inspire the urgency we need for global action?

How broad should the targets be? Dating from the 1990s, the MDGs involved a compact between donor and recipient governments around the expectations that each held of the other. Fifteen years later, the world is a very different place. The neat divide between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries looks absurd, and many of the behavioural changes we urgently need to bring about greater sustainability involve hard targets for richer nations.

Which MDGs should we keep, and what should we add? Access to food and water is key, but should we add energy? Empowering women through better health and education must stay high on the list, but what about other dimensions of inequality? Can we get buy-in to greater equality at national and global levels — what would such a target look like, and how would we measure it?

Tell me what you would like to see in the next great global goals.

  • SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! Women Deliver will continue to post thoughts and opinions on this topic from key leaders in the field throughout the coming months. Please stay tuned to all our "2015+" blogs.

Entry Comments

    • Sep 01
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Nothing will change until the world’s women ALL have access to birth control and abortion. Most women are culturally coerced or mandated to bear children they cant feed. Thus overpopulation and all its horrors for the natural world and humanity.

    It’s time for women to TAKE back their rights **in private** instead of wasting energy engaging in a legal and religious arena controlled by MEN.??
    Menstrual extraction (ME) is a process which menstrual blood is removed from the uterus using an airtight, hand-operated suction device to eliminate inconveniently-timed periods.?It can also be used for low-risk early abortions (up to 7 weeks) without anesthetics and a greatly decreased risk of infection. ??
    The procedure should be performed by a trained medical professional. However, with proper training, women who aren’t medical professionals can also be taught to safely perform ME in self-help groups. ??
    The device used is a Del-Em *which can be made at home*. Materials are easily obtainable through a laboratory or chemistry scientific catalogue. ?
    The cannula is inserted into the uterus through the undilated cervix. A syringe, with a *one-way* bypass valve prevents air from entering the uterus, which can be fatal. It creates the suction necessary to evacuate the interior of the uterus.??
    Google “menstrual extraction”? ? ?
    Read “A woman’s Book of Choices, Abortion, Menstrual Extraction RU-486” by Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer.??
    “There is power in these pages, more power than any law can give us,” said Barbara Ehrenreich.

    • Sep 06
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The MDG goals are very ambitious and have been an important means for tracking change and keeping governments accountable for applying a rights-based approach to development.

    What I would like to see, and which we doubtless will, is analyses of how they have been rolled out into practice, what issues have been sidelined, and which MDGs have been given priority over others, and how within and across different sectors. Adult literacy which affects particularly women, for example, has been granted considerably less attention than EFA.

    I think the kind of world we live in needs targets like the MDGs, but also people who are able to see things broadly, reflect, think critically, and who have the time to translate this into practice. I would be hesitant to develop “second best targets” (which country-specific MDGs tend to be, anyway) as this would affect the ability of civil society to lobby for particular issues; at the same time making sure there is space and resources for critical dialogue (it’s not a one way road).

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