The 2030 Agenda

A hazy road to sustainability


By Nadrat Mazrui

The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development adopted unanimously at the United Nations by Heads of State is, to say the least, highly ambitious. If it is to be taken seriously, it has the potential to change the development paradigm tremendously.  The sustainable development goals, herein referred to as SDGs, have the opportunity to correct the errors and misgivings of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs failed to adequately address the flaws of the global economic and financial systems and the ecological sustainability. The 2030 Agenda, however, offers a response to urgent global problems such as accelerating global warming and global inequalities. The Agenda incorporates a commitment to reduce inequalities among countries, demand sustainable consumption and actualise the aspiration for peace.

The 2030 Agenda is universal and not just because the goals are global in nature, but also because countries in the world have to do something in order to achieve them.

Obstacles and contradictions

The 2030 Agenda is not itself free of contradictions; it fails to address a number of goals and targets, particularly when it comes to their implementation (as claimed in the Spotlight on Sustainable Development done by the Reflection Group and presented at the UNCTAD 14 conference held in Nairobi). The 2030 Agenda is far from perfect.

Overcoming gender inequality requires challenging economic policies and institutions that have entrenched social inequalities and undermined the capacity of states to meet their commitments to women’s rights. Taking the title of the Agenda, “Transforming our World” seriously reveals that its implementation should lead to structural transformation instead of being led by the interest of governments which have taken us down rabbit holes, not once or twice, and continue to create obstacles.

It is irritating that the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), as coordinator of the Global Business Alliance 2030, can claim to play a role in implementing the 2030 Agenda when corporate lobby groups advocate for trade, investment and financial rules that have continued to destabilise the global economy and create inequalities. A plethora of investment treaties and new-age free trade agreements have, in numerous instances, undermined existing social, environmental and human rights standards.

These have weakened the role of the state and its ability to promote human rights and sustainability. Multilateral agreements, like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in their current form could seriously undermine important goals and targets of the Agenda.

Illustrations can be seen from the “Panama Papers” in 2016; the “Luxleaks” in 2014 and the “Mbeki Report” of 2015 as to how corporate practices seriously undermine the ability of states to finance and implement 2030 Agenda in the name of international competitiveness. Furthermore, the obsession that the world currently has with growth, backed by dominant economic regime, provides the drive to exploit her nature, fossil fuels and undermines the provision of essential services. The decision in the Agenda to improve global resource efficiency and to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation is a necessary but not sufficient response to the transgression of planetary boundaries.

In the first year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, it seems that the global political and economic environment for its implementation has become worse. So far, no country can deem itself sustainably developed and having done its part to achieve the SDGs.

Report on implementation
Governments committed in Target 10 to reduce inequality within and among countries by facilitating orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration and mobility of people, but so far it is clear that the European Union, with exception of some countries like Germany, has failed to adopt let alone implement well-planned and managed immigration policies as is seen in the case of the deaths of thousands of Syrian refugees that attempt to cross over into Europe. If countries do not address these issues adequately in their implementation strategies, global inequalities will further increase…

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