Review: 'Challenges and Progress: Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals'

24 October 2018

On 16 October 2018, UNU-CRIS hosted a workshop entitled ‘Challenges and Progress: Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’, animated by two speakers: Dr. Jan Vandemoortele and Mr. Peter Wollaert.

Dr. Vandemoortele’s presentation, ‘From simple-minded MDGs to muddle-headed SDGs’, highlighted the achievements and shortfalls of the MDGs, to what extent these persisted in the SDGs, and what can be done to upgrade the latter. Similar to the MDGs, the SDGs were conceived to target developing nations and with this, apply less to the developed world as is usually assumed, somewhat undermining the ‘global’ nature of the 2030 agenda. Additionally, SDGs targets are often unverifiable as they lack conceptual clarity, numerical indicators, and exact deadlines for achievement. The presentation also demonstrated how such targets were formulated for the MDGs and partially, for the SDGs.

Mr. Wollaert’s presentation was titled ‘Agenda 2030 for sustainable development: A global vision for local policy and action’. It addressed the need to enhance the sustainability and feasibility of the SDGs by introducing them at the subnational level, and how this should be reflected in the text of SDGs. Mr. Wollaert then extensively explained how the work of UNITAR reveals the potential of training and awareness-raising on SDGs, by targeting key actors like local authorities, companies and learning institutions. This action takes place in the context of a larger need to activate all stakeholders relevant for SDGs implementation: international organizations, public authorities, private and civil society organizations, with a bottom-up approach allowing for the ‘personalization’ and adaptation of SDGs to local needs and priorities (e.g. ‘Vietnam Development Goals’).