Monitoring the success of the SDGs
So, for example, in SDG 4: Quality Education, the first target is, 4.1, “to ensure that by 2030 all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”
- Narrow scope: A failure to include political and human rights, equality, and too little an emphasis on environmental issues, infrastructure and conditions for the private sector to grow.
- Forgetting the unmeasured: For example, education goals focused solely on primary level and the quantity of children in primary schools. Secondary and tertiary level were absent and the quality of education children received was not captured.
- Easily measured: The MDGs focused predominantly on the material aspects of deprivation over non-material ones. This led to a more limited concept of what poverty was. Initially, this was not apparent as it took time for the MDGs to become influential in development policy making. By 2012, donors and developing country governments were aligning their policies to achieve improvements in the MDG indicators. It was at this point that the weaknesses in the MDGs became apparent. By contrast, the SDGs comprise both indicators and related targets for 2030.
For example, the new SDG 5: Gender Equality, seeks to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. It is made up of seven international goals and five suggested complementary national indicators. Variation will exist in the number and type of national indicators. The twelve indicators of this goal are an attempt to capture as many dimensions of gender equality as is feasible.
While the SDGs overcome some of the weaknesses of the MDGs, a number of important issues remain.
- First, national statistics (the data upon which the SDGs are built) come with too great a time lag – often three or more years late. They are all too often incomplete and of poor quality, especially from the poorest countries. The reality is that in many places, the data are insufficient for the goals to serve as either a management tool or as a real-time report card.
- Second, while the UN has called for greater investment in building independent, impartial, national statistical capabilities and strengthening standards, in reality the capacity for small countries to collect the vast data required is likely to remain limited.
- Third, there is a more profound issue associated with governments and donors having a strong focus on the SDGs. The SDGs do not provide guidance on the best policy changes, prioritisation, or a roadmap to development. Essentially, they attempt to capture almost everything that can conceivably matter and is measurable. Policymakers are instead looking for strategies, linked to a theory of social or economic change, and investment priorities for their scarce resources. The SDGs simply do not provide this.
- Lastly, a final criticism is that a ‘Revolution in Data’, as the UN report calls it, may be of intense interest to elite development professionals but not relevant to the lives of the poor.
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Achieving Sustainable Development
Achieving Sustainable Development
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