U.N. member states agree on new development agenda framework

Diplomats erupt in standing ovation following agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals. (Credit: Neven Mimica/Twitter)

Out with the old and in with the new. The 193 states that make up the United Nations agreed to the 17 goals that will replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals. After two weeks of deliberations over things like the symbols that will represent each of the goals, the Sustainable Development Goals are in place to set the global development landscape for the next 15 years.

All of which is of little surprise. The United Nations, with input from a high level panel and various global surveys, already solidified the new goals earlier this year. A conference in Ethiopia rallied agreements on financing the up to $4.5 trillion annual need, in July. The agreement over the weekend hashed out the minutia before the goals are officially adopted during the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Diplomats who took part in the final negotiations erupted in a standing ovation for their achievement.

“This agreement results from a truly open, inclusive and transparent process. This is the People’s Agenda, a plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere, and leaving no one behind. It seeks to ensure peace and prosperity, and forge partnerships with people and planet at the core,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon in a statement late Sunday.

After years of debating the scope and nature of the new goals, the Sustainable Development Goals are here to stay. The major concerns are left unaddressed – there are too many goals and there is little commitment to achieve them.

“It will almost certainly guarantee that no country on earth will be on track to meet all the indicators associated with the 169 targets. And this increases the risk that countries will simply shrug their shoulders and walk away,” wrote Terence Wood, research fellow with the Australian think tank the Development Policy Centre. “The Sustainable Development Goals won’t be everything they promise to be. They’ll break our hearts. But if we love them wisely, we might be able to make them work for development.”

Now that all the major pieces are known, discussions are focusing on what it will take to make the best of the new goals. Champions of the new agenda see it as a major step forward from the oft-criticized Millennium Development Goals.

“We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind,” says the finalized text signed by the U.N. member states.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.