Ahead of the UN General Assembly Summit later this month in New York, India is grappling with setting uniform standards for the new set of 17 development goals, a major leap from the 8 millennium development goals which the country has failed to fully achieve.
The goals are "politically negotiated document where agendas of each country is to be accommodated", and the canvas for which needs to be decentralised, stated Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the public health foundation of India, addressing delegates at a conference organised jointly by the Research and Information System (RIS) and the NITI Aayog to focus on the implications of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals in the Indian context.
The sustainable development goals or SDG’s have been devised as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals which concluded in 2015. The SDG’s have been devised as a set of 17 goals and 169 targets a big leap from the millennium development goals (MDG’s) which had 8 major goals.
One of the biggest problems faced by the policy planners is the vast expanse of issues to be covered under the SDG. Not only is it a leap from 8 goals to 17 goals, it also demands more resources to be deployed for implementation and setting in place systems to measure outcomes.
For a country as diverse as India, a major challenge is to set uniform targets for goals to be achieved in social development areas like health, education and gender.
Experts stressed that differences serve a different demographic in different areas. Pam Rajput, the founding director of the Centre for Women Studies and Development emphatically stated that unless the focus is decentralised, the SDGs may well meet a similar fate as that of the Millennium Development Goals with its main objective of halving poverty besides improving quality of life.
Varad Pande, associate partner with global development advisers Dalberg says that the estimated annual cost to implement the SDG’s is around $4 trillion.
In addition to this, deployment of people for collection and coalition of data will put even more stress on the finances of individual countries. "In order to truly measure the progress under the goals, one needs real time data which can be disintegrated as well as collated. In order to do this, standardisation is extremely important," stated Paul Francis of WHO.
The consultations at the one-day meet were in broad consensus that the MDG’s, while mostly successful, lacked focus on a micro level. "The reason for the partial failure of the MDG’s was that several goals did not look into issues of individual areas and needs. The SDG’s have been developed on the basis of political consensus and are more flexible to the needs of smaller areas," says Puneet Agarwal, joint secretary, ministry of external affairs.
Previous consultations have already helped frame the main goals India aims to achieve from the SDGs in the coming years. One of the major targets for India is greater focus on health.
"It has been realized that heath is linked with every other sector of human development," says T C James, a consultant with RIS. "Health in the country can be improved by more public private partnerships for insurance as well as pharmaceutical R&D," he suggested.
Technology and innovation are other major goals for the country as there is greater understanding of the role technology can play to reduce the existing gap between the northern and southern states in the country.
A fourth round of consultations are proposed in the run up to the UN summit on Sept 25-27 with the NITI Aayog taking a lead in setting concrete standards for what India expects to gain from the SDGs till 2030.
Policy makers, economists as well as government members and advisors were of the consensus that global action for development does work. The main aim now is to mould it in a manner that would reach the lower strata resulting in a much more holistic form of development across the globe.