Three UN workers in Sudan, Africa. United Nations Photo/Flickr

Sustainable Governance Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals, approved at the UN this week, have the potential to transform the lives of billions of people. But they will succeed only if governments have the wherewithal to create and implement the necessary policies.

NEW YORK – To those who claim that conventional politics does not bring change, the Millennium Development Goals, adopted here in New York by the United Nations 15 years ago, are a powerful riposte. Not everything contained in the MDGs has been achieved, and no fragile country will completely achieve any of the goals by the time they expire at the end of this year. But huge progress was made: hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, maternal mortality has been reduced by almost half, and millions more children are now in school.

So, as the world signs up this week to the MDGs’ successor framework, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it should do so with considerable confidence. The challenge, however, is to make global goal-setting still more effective, in part by learning the lessons of the last 15 years.

My foundation – the Africa Governance Initiative, now in eight countries – puts improved systems of delivery and implementation at the heart of the change needed to reduce poverty and promote development. As I know well, the toughest thing about government – even in the developed world – is getting things done. Political leaders run for office as great campaigners; once in power, however, they swiftly discover that they need to become great CEOs if their policies are to be carried out.

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