5 years ago

Bangladesh: Journey towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations (UN) at the end of 2015 immediately after achievement of the MDGs. The SDG Agenda was adopted after extensive consultations with governments, civil societies, business and development partners to agree on a new and inspirational agenda for global development. The SDGs link people, the planet, and prosperity, and provide a framework for all countries, developed and developing alike, to pursue better paths to development.

The MDGs represented a relatively narrow agenda focused on following eight goals intended to rally official development assistance and domestic policy-

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality and empower women
  4. To reduce child mortality
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

The SDGs seek to achieve what the MDGs did not achieve. On September 25, 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to redirect humanity towards a sustainable path that was developed following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. 17 SDGs at the core of the 2030 Agenda are:

  1. No Poverty - End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. Zero Hunger - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Good Health and Well-Being - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Gender Equality - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy for all
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
  10. Reduced Inequalities - Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communi-ties - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Life below Water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Life on Land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Partnerships for the Goals - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

The aim of the 17 SDGs is to secure a sustainable, peaceful, prosperous and equitable life on earth for everyone now and in the future. The goals cover global challenges that are crucial for the survival of humanity. They set environmental limits and set critical thresholds for the use of natural resources. The goals recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic development. They address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection and job opportunities while tackling climate change and environmental protection. The SDGs address key systemic barriers to sustainable development such as inequality, unsustainable consumption patterns, weak institutional capacity and environmental degradation.

A key feature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is its universality and indivisibility. It addresses all countries - from the Global South and the Global North - as target countries. All countries subscribing to the 2030 Agenda are to align their own development efforts with the aim of promoting prosperity while protecting the planet in order to achieve sustainable development.

The periods for attaining these goals have been set from 2015 to 2030. SDGs are basically formulated by interrelation with social, economic and environment which can be described by three Ps-- people, planet and profit. It can be undoubtedly mentioned that people are the key element for achieving SDGs. For achieving SDGs, there is no alternative system but a democratic government which is proven by the iconic quote of Abraham Lincoln, as a system of government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people'. To supplement government efforts, involvement of private sectors has also been emphasised in achieving SDGs.

Bangladesh has integrated global goals and targets into its national five year plan with an effective drive in SDG implementation by involving all the ministries of the government, private sector, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), development partners and other stakeholders, called as the "whole of society approach". Meanwhile, for monitoring sustainable development targets, Bangladesh has created online tool namely "SDG Tracker" for its own initiative as the first country. Through this tool, the Prime Minister is directly supervising all actions pertaining to the implementation of SDGs. Apart from ensuring transparency and accountability in the implementation of development activities, field-level development progress is being monitored by this tool. Among the 17 targets, Bangladesh already is in a very good position in 8. These are: Poverty, hunger and nutrition, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, energy, climate change, and global partnership. As for the goals where the country lags behind and needs to work hard are: health, inequality, urban and human settlement, sustainable consumption and production, use of sea and marine resources, ecology and biodiversity, good governance, infrastructure, growth and employment for all, and industrialisation and innovation. However, within the next five years the country will go ahead with infrastructure, growth for all and employment and industrialisation and innovation. The government is implementing several mega projects in the infrastructure arena. The pace of implementation of these projects is also satisfactory. Besides, the government is working to establish one hundred industrial zones across the country. If these are implemented, the GDP growth is expected to reach 8 per cent in the next few years.

In achieving SDGs, financing in developing countries is a big challenge. There are also a lot of challenges in the development process which needs assistance from the development partners. The "SDG Financing Strategy: Bangladesh Perspective" provides a well-defined work plan that highlights the actions necessary to attain significant progress in the SDGs. However, Bangladesh's SDG financing strategy requires additional US$928.48 billion which is around 19.75 per cent of the accumulated gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. For SDGs 1-4, 14, 16 and 17, public sector has a major responsibility. On the other hand, for SDG-5, 7, 8, 9, 12 Public-Private Partnership can play an effective role. Furthermore, external sources can play important role in achieving the remaining goals.

Tapash Chandra Paul PhD is Head of Risk Management Division, Mercantile Bank Ltd.

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