Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon (centre) and others hold banners depicting the 17 SDGs outside the United Nations headquarters, New York, on Tuesday.(Getty Images)
Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon (centre) and others hold banners depicting the 17 SDGs outside the United Nations headquarters, New York, on Tuesday.(Getty Images)

UN sustainable development goals have strong Indian footprint

The sustainable development goals, which the UN will adopt today, have a strong Indian footprint, writes KumKum Dasgupta
By KumKum Dasgupta | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON SEP 25, 2015 05:14 PM IST

The Economic and Social Council chamber at the United Nations is plush, but in an understated way. Gifted to the UN by Sweden, the most interesting aspect of the hall is the unfinished ceiling above the public gallery — a symbolic reminder that the UN’s economic and social commitments are a work in progress and that there will always be something more that can be done to improve the world. That unfinished agenda will get a mammoth push when 193 member-states adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York during the two-day UN Sustainable Development Summit, which begins today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the summit to push for the adoption of the new agenda, which will run from 2016 to 2030. “The new goals are closely aligned with India’s vision for sustainable development and our flagship programmes for the same,” Modi wrote in a recent post.

The SDGs build on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire this year. While the MDGs drove progress in several areas — income poverty; access to improved sources of water; primary school enrolment; child mortality — the job has remained unfinished for millions of people and the member-states felt that the world needs to push harder for ending hunger, achieving gender equality, improving health services and getting every child into school. The SDGs aim to do just that.

While the SDGs take off from where the MDGs left, there are differences. “The MDGs were a strategic plan developed by engineers and development corporations to fix developing countries’ problems and rolled out through the multilateral system and aid industry,” Thomas Gass, assistant secretary-general, UN, told me at his office that overlooks the recognisable Manhattan skyline. “SDGs are not a silver bullet. But they can become the basis of a new social contract between leaders and people.”

While the MDGs were set to get us halfway, the SDGs are designed to finish the goals; unlike the MDGs, the SDGs are applicable to all countries and not the developing world only, and the SDGs are more comprehensive (eight MDGs versus 17 SDGs). Importantly, while the MDGs were created through a top-down process (led by a UN team), the SDGs have been an inclusive participatory process the world has ever seen with consultations in more than 100 countries and millions of inputs from citizens. When it comes to funding, the focus has moved from overseas aid to the ability of countries to address social challenges through improving their own revenue-generating capabilities.

However, many economists such as Copenhagen Consensus’ Bjorn Lomborg believe that having so many targets is like having no objectives at all. “We expect the developed world to spend $2.5 trillion in official development assistance until 2030, and the goals will also influence the spending of trillions of dollars from national budgets … This is a lot of money, but the crucial point is to realise that our resources are still limited and won’t allow us to solve all of the world’s problems in the next 15 years, which is essentially what the UN dreams about with its targets,” he told me recently.

As with any inter-governmental negotiations, the SDG process has also seen its share of ups and downs, but the mood at the office of the permanent representative of India to the UN in New York is upbeat because negotiators feel that they have managed to leave a strong Indian footprint in the final SDG document and the Addis Ababa Action agenda, which provides a road plan for the financing of the SDGs.

One of the key negotiators Amit Narang, counsellor, said while the United States and the European Union were keen to make the environment/climate the central focus of the SDG agenda, India managed to ensure that the framework has a three-way focus: Environmental, social and economic with poverty elimination as the core one. “India has been successful in incorporating two goals — Goals 8 (sustained, inclusive economic growth) and 10 (reduce inequality within and among countries),” he said.

Two more areas have an Indian stamp: Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) and the discussion on taxation reforms, which is key to generate funds for meeting the goals. India proposed the TFM in 2012 and this proposal now finds a place in the SDG document. This is important because technology is a cross-cutting subject in the SDGs. The mechanism, added Narang, is not about technology transfer but technology matchmaking.

It is often said that money makes the world go round and this holds true for SDGs also: The UN has estimated that the new goals could cost $172.5tn over the 15-year timeframe. With overseas development funds plateauing at around $130 billion for the second year in a row, developing countries have to embrace alternative sources of financial assistance. So Goal 17 calls for revitalising the global partnership and taking up new phenomena like South-South cooperation, private finance, and mobilising domestic tax revenue. But the Addis summit, which was held in July, will be remembered for how Russia, the EU, and Japan, which make global tax rules, blocked a G77 proposal to establish an inter-governmental tax body under the UN. “Though we could not change the present scheme of things, this is the first time that this key issue got so much traction,” added Narang. This means countries like India will still lose more money from tax avoidance and illicit money transfers than what they receive as assistance from rich countries. Unsurprisingly, India is likely to bring up the issue of tax evasion at the UN during the ongoing session.

While the task of meeting the goals is thus daunting because of the number of goals, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Asoke Kumar Mukerji, said that “cherrypicking” development goals is not a solution for India. “We need have a holistic approach and the SDGs provide that”. The SDGs are big, bold and — grandly ambitious, but India has to deliver since, as NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya says, “Improving the lives of 1.4 billion Indians would make a major dent in the goal of improving the lives of all humanity.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Congress needs to worry more about rebels than opponents in Puducherry

By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:32 PM IST
The only time the Congress has lost Puducherry, it has been because of a rebel. The Congress and DMK together have won over 50% seats in every assembly elections in Puducherry since 1980, except in 2011
Close
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)

Behind PM Modi’s stinging critique of the IAS, a Jan meeting holds the clue

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 09:35 AM IST
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given bureaucrats an earful at a January meeting of the country's top officials and underlined the price that India paid for their slow pace.
Close
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.

Salute to Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined PM Modi’s personal ties with rivals

By Saubhadra Chatterji | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 03:37 PM IST
  • Leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties have many stories to show that the Prime Minister has maintained personal rapport with leaders cutting across political boundaries.
Close
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST
Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
Close
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)

Perception is the truth in information warfare over farm laws

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2021 01:42 PM IST
  • The Chinese were among the first to recognise the role of information warfare to weaken the adversary from within
Close
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)

A new confidence about India reflects in a bold Budget 2021

By Monika Halan
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2021 09:59 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has chosen to spend on generating future income using the higher capital spending, which has gone up by 35.4% over the previous year
Close
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)

The life and times of a Patna intellectual

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:20 AM IST
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all at the same time. Patna’s public life will not the same without him.
Close
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)

Jaishankar yellow-cards China for violating pacts, spells out the India way

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • S Jaishankar’s speech on India-China ties signals India’s determination to continue to stand up to Xi Jinping’s expansionist plans for Asia as an equal and makes it clear that nothing that Beijing does against India will be overlooked, or allowed to go unpunished.
Close
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)

Jack Ma story: China’s deep strategic ambition

By Manoj Kewalramani
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 04:50 AM IST
This statist vision of the future is very different from the government creating a level-playing field for private capital to compete and the market to do its job. It is about the State guiding capital and private entities towards what it believes are national strategic priorities, rather than allowing them to simply focus on generating greater revenue.
Close
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Republic Day raid was pre-meditated, planned well in advance

UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 02:17 PM IST
With Delhi Police under firm orders not to open fire, the armed Nihang Sikhs provided the cover for the tractors to roll towards Red Fort.
Close
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.

How unruly farmers tried to embarrass India on Republic Day

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 02:09 PM IST
The tractor-borne unruly farmers were minutes away from India Gate when they were blocked by New Delhi Range police.
Close
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The policy landscape around digital and physical micro-lending

By Amol Agrawal
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
In 1870s, a similar backlash emerged in Poona and Ahmednagar districts of the Bombay presidency. The agriculture boom in the early 1860s led farmers to take loans from moneylenders
Close
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)

Vaccinating all Indians, for free

By Praveen Chakravarty
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The markets are at an all-time high. Impose a Covid-19 surcharge on transactions and use it for vaccination
Close
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)
Why is it that, despite the government displaying its willingness to take a step back, the matter was not resolved? (PTI)

Farm protests: The costs of a prolonged standoff

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The government has extended an olive branch. The farmers must respect this and reciprocate. The tone set on Saturday should pave the way for a permanent solution.
Close
Pushing against the climate crisis — in spite of the terrible fire and hurricane damage — was his way of putting the economy before all else. This is what Biden-Harris will have to overcome with smart policies and even smarter communication. (AFP)
Pushing against the climate crisis — in spite of the terrible fire and hurricane damage — was his way of putting the economy before all else. This is what Biden-Harris will have to overcome with smart policies and even smarter communication. (AFP)

On climate, what the US needs to do

By Sunita Narain
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 06:25 AM IST
Joe Biden has done well to rejoin the Paris accord. But his administration will have to overcome Trumpism, take responsibility for historic emissions, and change energy consumption patterns at home
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP