The Sustainable Development Goals – Potential and Challenges

corona equityIn September 2015, the era of the Millennium Development Goals will end and member states of the United Nations will commit to a new Sustainable Development Agenda for the next 15 years.  This global and common vision is motivating governments worldwide to plan actions beyond their own short-term strategies and agendas.  Seventeen Goals drafted by UN member states represent their unprecedented effort to broadly engage the voices of people and organizations around the world.

Equity for Children (EFC) is actively participating in this important global process by advocating for the placement of child wellbeing at the center of policy and investment.  Based on its research, debates, projects and partnerships, EFC provides recommendations about equity-focused targets and indicators and mobilizes discussions about the structural causes of inequalities affecting children.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals draft document includes four innovations.  When converted into efficient policies that are then implemented through well-funded programs and quality services, they can act as a strong mobilizing force for disadvantaged children worldwide:

1. For the first time, child poverty is mentioned explicitly as part of the global development agenda.  Children are disproportionately living in poverty, which affects them over the course of their entire lives.  A child growing up in poverty is more likely to grow up poor and to raise poor children.  Half the world’s children, or 570 million people under the age of 18, survive on less than $1.25 USD daily.

2. Violence prevention is addressed explicitly.  Almost one billion children under the age of 15 suffer corporal punishment regularly.  Millions are victims of sexual violence, child trafficking or child labor.  Studies show the negative impacts of violence on the physical, emotional and social development of children.  Protection against all forms of violence is a pre-condition to achieving all other Agenda goals.

3. Reducing inequality within and among countries is a standalone priority for the first time.  This crucial goal addresses equitable opportunity and progress for disadvantaged children and youth who have not been reached before.

4. Goal 16, “Creating Peaceful Societies“, offers an explicit link to children affected by conflicts and natural disasters.  Every sixth person worldwide is a child living in a fragile country, haunted by chronic conflicts or frequent natural disasters.

Equity for Children joins UNICEF in reiterating three key messages in the last round of governmental negotiations about the SDGs:

1. The world community can eradicate poverty by investing in children.  This is more than a moral and legal obligation.  It is the smartest investment we can make in social cohesion, robust economic growth and development.  Investing in all people starts with investing in infancy.  Only then will the cycle of poverty be broken.

2. The poorest and most vulnerable children and youth are those who are consistently left out – and they must be made a priority to create equity.  This can only been achieved through collecting disaggregated data and conducting continuous monitoring and assessment to ensure true progress of their situation.

3. Peacebuilding and protecting children from violence are crucial.  Violence produces more violence and is an impediment to any development and peace.


The next important step towards a new global agenda for sustainable development is the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in June 2015 in Addis Ababa.  At that time, the world community will determine if countries have allocated sufficient funding to implement the goals.  One thing is clear: The SDGs will not be achievable unless there is an ambitious and committed approach by countries to financing.  The panorama has fundamentally changed in the last few years as economies of previously developing countries have grown, transforming them into middle income countries.  They therefore now have the resources to finance most of their programs, which the SDGs can help ensure.  Many fragile and poor countries and countries in crisis, however, will still need immense global support.  Besides cooperation around the world, each country will require domestic financing to ensure ownership and accountability of policy for all constituents’ needs.

An important initiative that would assist in increasing social budgets would be to stop illicit financial flows and tax evasion.  Indicators would have to explicitly address illicit financial flows from developing countries as well as insufficient tax collection systems.  It would be essential as well to monitor the resulting performance of industrialized countries to help stop this drain on development and to strengthen controls over tax havens.  Governments have to counteract this enormous loss in tax revenues by ensuring more transparency and co-responsibility of the richer segments in our societies.

Other major efforts include establishing and strengthening mechanisms of participatory monitoring and social accountability.  States have an obligation to be mindful of all voices, including those of children and youth. The experience of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) demonstrates that vulnerable groups are excluded from equal enjoyment of development’s benefits if no specific efforts are made towards monitoring and accountability.  The most vulnerable must participate in planning, implementing and monitoring programs and services, so that stakeholder ownership and strong outcomes result.

In light of the alliance among governments last month at the UN to put children first, EFC is confident that the SDG draft goals will be ratified.  Sufficient funds will then be raised to implement those goals, particularly those addressing the wellbeing of the world’s most disadvantaged children.

Timeline towards the SDGs

Post–2015 negotiations

Financing for Development negotiation

  • 17–20 February: Declaration session
  • 23–27 March: Sustainable Development Goals and targets
  • 20–24 April: Means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development
  • 18–22 May: Follow–up and review
  • 22–25 June: Intergovernmental negotiations on the outcome document
  • 20–24 July, 27–31 July: Intergovernmental negotiations on the outcome document
  • 25–27 September: UN Summit: Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post–2015 Development Agenda
  • 4–5 March: Civil Society and Business Sector Hearings
  • 13–17 April: Intergovernmental negotiations on the outcome document
  • 15–19 June: Intergovernmental negotiations on the outcome document
  • 13–16 July: 3rd Conference on Financing for Development


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