Typhoon in china Xu Yu/ZumaPress

Unsustainable Development Goals

The world's heads of state are expected to smile for the cameras and sign on the dotted line when they convene at the UN later this month to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, which will guide global development spending – some $2.5 trillion – until 2030. Unfortunately, they will be signing away the opportunity of a generation.

ARUSHA – At the end of this month, one of the most consequential political conferences of the decade will take place, with more than 150 world leaders gathering in New York to set the path for global development spending – more than $2.5 trillion – between now and 2030. But, in fact, heads of state are not expected to do much at the conference at all. With the so-called Agenda for Sustainable Development having been quietly finalized by diplomats and United Nations bureaucrats last month, the leaders are expected just to smile for the cameras and sign on the dotted line. Unfortunately, they are missing a one-in-a-generation opportunity to do much more good.

The agenda is the result of years of negotiations. Aiming for inclusivity, the UN talked to everyone. But, however admirable that approach may be, it did not prove successful. Indeed, looking at the agenda they produced – more than 15,000 words and a headache-inducing 169 development targets – one might conclude that they simply threw everything they had heard into the document.

Compare this to the last global development agenda, the fairly successful Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs included just 18 sharp targets, promising essentially to cut hunger, poverty, and child and maternal mortality, while getting all children in school and improving access to water and sanitation.

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