The ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ are successor to the ‘Millennium Development Goals’. In the 1990s, poverty reduction was adopted as an overarching goal by all concerned with global development.
In 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, governments across the world made a commitment to take collective responsibility for halving world poverty by 2015. The Declaration laid out a number of key development goals framed to reflect its fundamental values. The Millennium Development Goals were eight goals along with the reduction of poverty and hunger, these included commitments to the promotion of human development, environmental sustainability, gender equality and development partnership. The Final MDG Report mentioned a number of successes achieved during the 15-year effort. It mentioned since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half. The proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions has fallen by almost half. The primary school enrolment rate in the developing countries reached 91 percent, and more girls are now in schools compared to 15 years ago. At the same time, remarkable gains have also been made in the fight against different diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. In the area of child mortality the under-five mortality rate declined by more than half, and maternal mortality has been brought down to 45 percent globally. The target with respect to people who lacked access to safe sources of water has also been met.
The above successes have helped expand the hope for people around the world. But mankind needs to go further to end hunger, achieve full gender equality, improve health services and get every child into school. Now we must shift the world on to a sustainable path. Hence, the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted with a historic pledge in September, 2015 to end poverty everywhere permanently. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is also known as Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a set of 17 “Global Goals” with 169 targets and 304 proposed indicators to measure compliance.
In this context, sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising with the needs of future generations. It calls for concerted efforts towards building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for all and the planet. Here it needs to be mentioned that for achieving sustainable development it is of utmost importance to harmonise three core elements that include economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. These elements are interconnected and all are crucial for the well-being of individuals and societies. Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. To this end, there must be promotion of sustainable, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion, and promoting integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.
From the analysis of the SDGs it is evident that human rights are essential to achieve sustainable development goals. The human rights principles and standards are strongly reflected in the SDG framework. It is a universal framework and is applicable to all countries. It is transformative in the sense that it is an agenda for “people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership”, the 2030 Agenda offers a paradigm shift from the traditional model of development. It provides a transformative vision for people and planet-centered, human rights-based, and gender-sensitive sustainable development. Alongside a wide range of social, economic and environmental objectives, the SDGs promise “more peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence” with attention to democratic governance, rule of law, access to justice and personal security as well as an enabling international environment. It therefore includes human right issues like economic, civil, cultural, political, social rights and the right to development. The SDGs are also inclusive as they pledge to ‘leave no-one behind’, envisaging “a world of universal respect for equality and non-discrimination” between and within countries, including gender equality, by reaffirming the responsibilities of all States to “respect, protect and promote human rights, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national and social origin, property, birth, disability or other status.”
As the SDGs are embedded with human rights and the promise to ‘leave no one behind’, calls for intensive proactive role of the duty bearers and monitoring by the watchdog organisations like the National Human Rights Commissions and other civil society organisations or bodies. In this respect, monitoring should be focused to assess progress in achieving results for all constituent segments of the society. For this purpose, disaggregated data are to be gathered that will clearly project the real situation especially concerning the most disadvantaged groups and those subjected to discrimination because of descent and profession. The National Human Right Commission, Bangladesh needs to monitor and report on the SDGs achievements and their bearings on human rights situation in the country. Its role should not end there only. The Commission should go further in advocating, networking and alliance building with other stakeholders engaged in upholding human rights in Bangladesh thereby ensuring that the SDGs achievement upholds human rights in Bangladesh.
The writer is Professor and Chairman, Department of Public Administration University of Dhaka, And Member, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh
The author acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.