Top 10: How to think about the SDGs

As global citizens, it is not only important that we think about Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — better known as the SDGs or the Sustainable Development Goals — but also that we transform how we think about them.

In the year 2000, the nations of the world signed a Millennium Declaration setting a bold agenda at the start of the century for achieving a world free from hunger and poverty. They created an initial set of 8 Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs) to get us halfway there by 2015.

Despite a very slow start and great initial cynicism, the world did far better on the MDGs than many people expected. This resulted in the world adopting a set of goals to finish the job — and to incorporate key components left out of the MDGs. (See earlier discussion on the differences at this link).

Here are my top 10 recommendations.

  1. Don’t think of them as “17” but as “1.” The SDGs recognize that the challenges of poverty, hunger, conflict, the environment and discrimination are inextricably linked and can only be solved through an integrated approach. You will hear people say “Goal X (fill in any number 1 to 17) is really the key to solving all the others” and they will be right in a way. But if you focus on any goal without fully taking account the complete system, the SDGs will not succeed.
  2. The SDGs are for every country. Every nation on earth has poverty and discrimination. Every nation is threatened by crime, violence and climate change. This is a paradigm shift — from focusing on aid from rich countries to help poor countries, to every nation working in alignment for a world that works for everyone.
  3. The SDGs apply at every level.  Similarly, the SDGs recognize that progress is not just the job of national governments. In fact, many of the key challenges must be solved in local communities.
  4. Going for the “High-hanging fruit.” When you are trying to get “half-way” you start on the easiest pathways to progress – the “low-hanging fruit.” But to include everyone, you have to start with the most difficult situations – the most remote, the most marginalized – because that will take the longest.
  5. Good governance.
  6. Partnership, not patronage.
  7. Harvesting the data revolution.



Top 10 Policies for Civil Society Engagement

June 28, 2017: The Hunger Project recommends that international governmental organizations (IGOs) adopt the following practices for effectively engaging with civil society as an essential element of good governance:

  • Major Groups: IGOs should utilize a framework like the major groups defined by the UN, rather than dealing with civil society as a single category. IGO should ensure that youth, women, farmers, indigenous people, organized labor and others from the Global South express their own voices in addition to that of INGOs.
  • Democratic Selection:  Civil society should select their own representatives in consultative processes through an inclusive, democratic process rather than having representatives chosen by the IGO.
  • Mainstream Participation: Civil society representatives should have a seat at the table, with equal voice alongside government representatives. Civil society representatives should be allowed to be present and participate in intergovernmental negotiations.  Good examples: the GAFSP Steering Committee and the Committee on Food Security/Civil Society Mechanism.
  • Existing Networks:  Civil society is best equipped to prepare and provide coherent recommendations through its existing, regularized networks, not through ad-hoc work groups of individual organizations. IGOs should avoid establishing “their own” civil society groups and processes.
  • Travel Funding: For IGOs to legitimately include perspectives of civil society from the Global South at meetings, they must allocate sufficient travel and accommodation funds for Global South representatives.
  • Mandates to Offices: Civil society participation should be a mandated priority of regional and local offices, and not optional depending on local leadership. It should be regularized in a transparent manner, held at times and places that work for all stakeholders and announced well in advance.
  • Early and Sustained Engagement: Civil society should be invited to engage as early as possible in the policy-making process, and be informed of a clear timeline to review and provide recommendations to draft statements including follow-up processes.
  • Caucus Facilities: At major meetings, IGOs should provide civil society with its own meeting rooms with adequate time and space for caucusing before and during official deliberations, in close proximity to the policy makers and the media.
  • Side Events: The prevailing competitive approach to side events is chaotic and counterproductive. Major groups should facilitate civil society in cooperatively organizing all side events, and conference organizers should provide an official, unified online schedule for both side and parallel events.
  • Updates and Information Flow: Email and web-based announcements and updates should uniformly reach all participants, both from governments and civil society. IGO websites should include email list subscription forms.

Photo: Civil society representative Josephine Atangana addressing the plenary of the Second International Conference on Nutrition, Rome, 2014. John Coonrod/The Hunger Project.



Top 10 Books Relevant to Our Approach

Here are what I believe are the ten most influential books relevant to our work, with short notes on why you should read them.

The Hunger Project is committed to empowering women and men to end their own hunger. We did not “invent” the commitment to empowerment; Socrates taught it 2500 years ago. In fact, as a learning organization, we have always sought out the wisdom of the deepest thinkers and activists in this field.

This respect for wisdom is all too rare in international development. It often seems like everyone is chasing the latest fad — whether it’s mobile apps or micro finance or child survival interventions. All these become fads because they are helpful contributions. But they are not a comprehensive solution.

To help build comprehensive solutions, we need to ground ourselves in the writings of the best of those who’ve pioneered this work. Here are what I consider ten books everyone interested in development should have read and be able to apply. These are listed here “earliest first” with links either to the book’s own website or to Amazon.

Hind Swaraj, Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1905.  This is the book that laid the foundation not only for India’s freedom, but for the dignity of all impoverished people.

Women’s Role in Economic Development, Ester Boserup, 1970. This Danish economist points out that when the root problem is a gender gap — and your action is failing to deliver the majority of developmental inputs to women — you are actually widening the gender gap. This puts the lie to those projects that claim to be women-focused, yet are only delivering 40% of their inputs to women.

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Matter, E. F. Schumacher, 1973. The former head of Britain’s giant Coal Board dives into “meta-economics” — the values underlying economic planning, and finds them sadly lacking. He tells beautiful stories of the radically different economic decisions you would make if you actually cared about people.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paolo Friere, 1973. This Brazilian educator recognizes that literacy is not merely skill acquisition — it is a fundamental transformation in who people are, from a victim of history to an actor in history.

Rural Development: Putting the last first, Robert Chambers, 1983. This former member of the colonial Kenyan civil service became the “inventor” of participatory rural development and PRA. This is the source book on that movement.

Whose Reality Counts? Putting the First Last, Robert Chambers, 1997. This takes his case further, into the realm of data and evaluation.

Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen, 1999. Sen shows that freedom and democracy are not simply the outcomes of development, they are the means to development.

White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good William Easterly, 2006. NYU professor and former World Bank economist makes the case against top-down planning and for bottom-up entrepreneurship.

Poor Economics, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, 2011. These co-directors of MIT’s famous JPAL are the champions of rigorously-evaluated experimentation. This book highlights how wrong our instincts can be about what works and what doesn’t work.

The Last Hunger Season, Roger Thurow, 2013. Thurow is a journalist, and gives an in-depth portrait of four families engaged with the One Acre Fund’s social-mobilization approach to improving small-farmer productivity.

UN MDG Report 2015

The UN recently released its final MDG Report 2015, which documents the fifteen-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set out in the millennium declaration. Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, claimed the findings have “produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history,” but was careful to acknowledge the gaps that still remain. Below are the top ten points to be aware of. (Click the photo to watch the video of the launch)Screenshot 2015-07-09 at 10.22.26 AM

  1. Progress made in an unfinished agenda. This theme is repeated throughout the entire structure of the report. For example, while the literacy rate among youth aged 15-24 increased globally from 83% to 91%, there is still a lot of work to be done. It cautions that once a goal is reached in one region, progress does not simply stop: it must continue, as well as accelerate, in the post-2015 development agenda and the implementation of the SDGs.
  2. Those living in poverty worldwide decreased by 50%. This figure is an overwhelmingly positive step in the fight against global poverty, as the number dropped from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. Despite this improvement, the number is still too high and eradicating poverty and hunger is at the center of the post-2015 agenda. All the other goals will depend and build on this outcome.
  3. Gender equality still has a long way to go. This global struggle is a slow and ongoing process; while several regions have reached gender parities in primary education, disparities still persist at higher levels. The gender gap is based on several issues, such as gender-based discrimination, violence, and unequal participation in private and public decision-making. Female empowerment and education form one of the pillars of THP, so the promotion of gender equality remains an important focus in future advocacy efforts and the SDGs.
  4. Child mortality rates have decreased by more than 50%. The global under-five mortality rate dropped from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births, a significant achievement, but many of the world’s youngest and those in the most vulnerable situations still perish from preventable causes, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria. There also needs to be an additional focus on the first day, week, and month of a child’s life, as these stages are the most critical for survival
  5. Despite improvements in maternal survival, hundreds of women die every day during pregnancy or from childbirth-related complications, most of which are preventable. Additionally, only 56% of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel, compared with 87% in urban areas. There is a lack of access and knowledge of proven health-care interventions, such as antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth. Reductions in newborn and maternal mortality rates go hand-in-hand and while they have their own separate issues, they can be solved together with improved antenatal and postnatal maternal care
  6. Investments in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria have brought unprecedented results. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, while tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013. Yet recent outbreaks such as the spread of Ebola provide global lessons for stopping future epidemics and highlight the country and global preparedness needed to avoid them.
  7. The global target for drinking water has been met 5 years ahead of schedule, but the target for sanitation has been missed. Increased efforts for universal access to water and sanitation are vital as they have such an overarching effect on maternal health, child mortality rates, nutrition, and diarrhoea. 2.4 billion people are still using unimproved sanitation facilities, including 946 million people who are still practising open defecation. 147 countries met the drinking water target, 95 countries met the sanitation target, and 77 met both.
  8. Conflicts remain the biggest threat to human development. They are also the greatest obstacle to progress in achieving the MDGs, and likely will be for the SDGs as well. Fragile and conflict-affected countries typically have the highest poverty rates.
  9. Funding towards development has recently plateaued. It increased significantly in the first decade of the new millennium, but efforts will need to be strengthened and renewed to be firmly on track for the post-2015 agenda.
  10. Not all goals were met, but they were all successful. No matter what specific targets and indicators were originally set, the MDGs were ambitious and optimistic, just like the SDGs will be. But that doesn’t mean that they were unsuccessful or unrealistic; the MDGs served their purpose and reached goals that seemed nearly impossible 15 years ago. In the post-2015 development agenda, we should be equally ambitious and forward-thinking, but even more committed, in implementing the SDGs.

Click here to read the report in full.

Analysis of the Zero Draft SDGs

On June 2, 2015 the UN released the “Zero Draft” of the SDGs, entitled Transforming Our World by 2030: A New Agenda for Global Action. Here are the top 10 points we in The Hunger Project should know about them.

2015-05 Daisy(Photo at right: Our Uganda country director Dr. Daisy Owomugasho presents testimony May 27, just prior to release of the Zero Draft, with our policy analyst Mary Kate Costello. Click photo to watch video).

  1. Still 17 goals but summarizing them as 9: The same 17 goals and 169 targets that emerged from the member state Open Working Group (OWG) Proposal a year ago have been included here in full — while at the same time “summarizing” them more concisely in the preamble. While there have been strong voices arguing to “simplify” the 17 goals, doing so would inevitably over-simplify some important issues. The nine (unnumbered) summary bullets are:
    • End poverty and hunger;
    • Secure education, health and basic services for all;
    • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;
    • Combat inequalities within and between countries;
    • Foster inclusive economic growth, shared prosperity and sustainable lifestyles for all;
    • Promote safe and inclusive cities and human settlements;
    • Protect the planet, fight climate change, use natural resources sustainably and safeguard our oceans;
    • Strengthen governance and promote peaceful, safe, just and inclusive societies; and
    • Revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
  2. Strong Preamble: Unlike the OWG Proposal, this draft has brought in some of the poetry of the Secretary-General’s synthesis document. It states “We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet for present and future generations. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps needed to shift the world on to a sustainable path.”
  3. Chapter 1 – A Strong Declaration: The first six pages now constitute a powerful statement of principles and declarations, rather than a narrative of former conferences and broad general observations about the challenge. Earlier this year, we had submitted a series of recommendations at this link based on the outline requested by the UN — based on the 3 pillars of our approach. You can find snatches of our language in the Zero Draft. Each of our pillars are more strongly represented here than in previous drafts, even to acknowledging the role of “ordinary citizens” in meeting the goals that are “of the people and by the people.”
  4. Integrated Approach: The Zero Draft is stronger on the necessity of an integrated approach than any previous UN document, ever, as far as I know.
  5. No “root causes”: A number of progressive civil society groups have criticized the document for not addressing issues like patriarchy head on. This omission is not surprising in a document to be negotiated by countries of every imaginable ideology, yet they have an important point and we applaud their continued push on it.
  6. Indicators: The development of indicators has been moved to an Inter-Agency and Expert Group which will finalize them by March 2016.
  7. Chapter 2 – Means of Implementation: This chapter is a placeholder pending the Addis Summit next month, but it DOES explain what had been a mystery to me in the list of targets – the difference between numbered items like (1.1 and 1.2) and lettered targets (like 1.a and 1.b). The lettered targets are for means of implementation.
  8. Chapter 3 – Follow-up and Review: The Zero Draft includes a multi-tiered process for tracking progress at the national, regional and global level. It includes a point that national reviews will build on reviews by local authorities, multi-stakeholder dialogues, citizen reviews and participatory monitoring.
  9. Annex 1: While the OWG set of 17 goals and 169 targets has been carried over as adopted, the Zero Draft includes an Annex with proposed (and presumably uncontroversial) revisions to the targets to remove all the places where the OWG calls for “reduce by (an unspecified) X%” and ensure consistency with already existing international agreements.
  10. Nutrition: One disappointment to the nutrition community is that the draft only explicitly includes targets for stunting and wasting to 2025, and not the other four agreed-upon World Health Assembly (WHA) nutrition targets – and does not extend the 2025 targets to even stronger targets for 2030. It makes no reference to last year’s International Conference on Nutrition outcomes. The counter-argument from the UN is that the SDGs need not include everything. The Zero Draft paragraph 5 “encourages ongoing efforts by states in other fora to address key issues… and we respect the independent mandates of those processes.”

Our perspective on the Global Nutrition Report

2014 Global Nutrition Report CoverBackground: Nutrition is a huge and difficult challenge, requiring convergent action on many fronts: agriculture, health, WASH, education and – most importantly – gender equality and female empowerment. Those championing this action have been held back by the lack of timely data — until now. In the aftermath of the the 2013 Nutrition for Growth summit in London, civil society pressed for publication of a Global Nutrition Report to help hold countries accountable for their commitments, and now we have it. Lawrence Haddad has led an Independent Expert Group in preparing this first report, and everyone committed to ending world hunger should be familiar with it.

Purpose of this note: Here are a number of points particularly relevant to The Hunger Project’s advocacy.

  1. We strongly endorse the top 10 messages of the report (see page 71-72).
  2. The Post-2015 Agenda should be more ambitious on nutrition. Current drafts ratify most of the 2012 World Health Assembly (WHA) goals, which are not particularly ambitious (40% reduction in stunting by 2025) and are inconsistent with the Zero Goal philosophy of the SDGs.
  3. Gender-specific good news from India: Maharashtra, one of the richest states in India, reduced stunting from 36.5 percent to 24 percent from 2005-2006 to 2012. Improvements in women’s lives was key: “the determinants that improved the most were the age of mother at first birth, maternal under-weight, maternal literacy, coverage of antenatal visit, delivery in the presence of birth attendants, child feeding practices and access to ICDS (the Integrated Child Development Scheme).
  4. Malnutrition affects us all. Both undernutrition and obesity have terrible health and economic impacts, and both co-exist in most countries. We are all in this together. The report calls this the “quintessential 21st century challenge.”
  5. Five THP countries are not on course to meet a single WHA target: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mozambique. On track for one target are: Ethiopia, India, Malawi, Mexico and Senegal. For two: Peru and Uganda.
  6. More attention is needed on participation and local governance. The report mentions decentralization as a challenge for national accountability and points to promising experience in Indonesia and Guatemala, but The Hunger Project sees it as key to effective implementation. More in-depth study of how this can best be achieved would be useful, particularly how communities can build their own capacity and measure and track their own progress. The report points out that “the impact of [participatory] mechanisms on provision of nutrition services has not been empirically evaluated.”
  7. Importance of going to scale. Improving society-wide conditions requires society-wide action, not small projects. Governments and civil society groups need to work together on a campaign footing to ensure that clear, consistent information reaches everyone. Educating local-level leaders to be nutrition champions who understand the linkages to WASH and gender needs to be a top priority.

Top 10 Messages from the GNR:

  1. People with good nutrition are key to sustainable development.
  2. We need to commit to improving nutrition faster and build this goal into the Sustainable Development Goal targets for 2030.
  3. The world is currently not on course to meet the global nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly, but many countries are making good progress in the target indicators.
  4. Dealing with different, overlapping forms of malnutrition is the “new normal.”
  5. We need to extend coverage of nutrition-specific programs to more of the people who need them.
  6. A greater share of investments to improve the underlying determinants of nutrition should be designed to have a larger impact on nutritional outcomes.
  7. More must be done to hold donors, countries, and agencies accountable for meeting their commitments to improve nutrition.
  8. Tracking spending on nutrition is currently challenging, making it difficult to hold responsible parties accountable.
  9. Nutrition needs a data revolution.
  10. National nutrition champions need to be recognized, supported, and expanded in number.

New Year Review

Happy New Year! At last, we’ve entered the pivotal year in development – 2015 – and it is incumbent on us to review the achievements of 2014 and the upcoming opportunities we must seize.

Top 10 Milestones of 2014

Twenty-fourteen was an agonizing year for many – with Ebola as well as new and continuing violence in many parts of the world. And there were very few big flashy announcements in the global effort to end hunger and poverty.

Yet – away from the headlines – the quiet efforts of thousands of activists and political leaders achieved key milestones in creating a bold, Post-2015 agenda as the basis for a more just and sustainable future. Here are my top 10.

  1. Six ElementsSDGs: The intergovernmental Open Working Group, launched at the 2012 Rio+20 conference, submitted its final draft set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in July including elements key to THP missing from the MDGs. In September, the General Assembly adopted the draft as the basis for its 2015 negotiations. In his December synthesis report, the Secretary General cast these 17 goals in a framework of six interlocking elements.
  2. COP20: The decisions at the 2014 climate change conference in Lima “pave the way for the adoption of a universal and meaningful agreement in 2015” stated the UN Secretary-General, as he called for major power to submit plans well in advance of the Paris COP21. The US-China Joint Agreement was considered particularly important. Indigenous movements seized the opportunity to protest illegal exploitation of resources on indigenous lands, including the murders of activists.
  3. ICN2: The second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome, organized by WHO and FAO recognized the importance of multisectoral action to overcome not only stunting and wasting but the epidemic of obesity. The Pope tied the injustice of malnutrition to inaction on climate change.
  4. GNR: The first-ever Global Nutrition Report was released, in response to global commitments made at the 2012 Nutrition for Growth Conference. Among its findings are examples of remarkable progress in reducing stunting in six countries, including the Indian State of Maharashtra.
  5. Resilience, with two international conferences in May, became the top new buzzword, emphasizing an empowerment, multi-sectoral and community-led approach to coping with shocks (both climate-change and politically induced) to bounce back better than before.
  6. IYFF: The International Year of Family Farming seemed to cement global recognition that the future of ending hunger rests with empowering small-scale farmers, not a transition to industrial agriculture – although the debate continues.
  7. CAADP 2.0: 2014 was officially Africa’s “Year of Agriculture.” The Africa civil society coalitions were very pleased that the AU Summit in Malabo significantly strengthened mechanisms for accountability and civil society engagement in the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme.
  8. Africa Leaders Summit: The US President’s conference with 50 African heads of state marked an important recognition of Africa’s growing economic power – home to many of the world’s fastest growing economies.
  9. Dutch Commitment to Advocacy Funding: Bucking the trend of most bilateral donors, the Dutch government commitment to fund advocacy work by NGOs could prove to be a wonderful platform for the future.
  10. Narrative Project: A Gates-funded initiative by US and European NGOs to reverse the decline in public support for development, and transform the way the sector talks about itself – to emphasize self-reliance and the moral case.

 Top 10 Prospects for 2015

This pivotal year, with the completion of the MDGs and launch of the SDGs, many of the key policy negotiations are already tightly scheduled. However, we can look for surprises in a number of key areas such as health, gender, local democracy and peace-building. At this point, the Top 10 prospects (with links) look list this.

  1. SDGs. The UN General Assembly begins formal negotiations to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals in January.
  2. Beijing+20: The 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference is seen as a key year-long opportunity to emphasize both progress and gaps in fulfilling the Beijing Platform of Action. It will be the theme of the 2015 Commission on the Status of Women, at which The Hunger Project will present a session on progress of women in Bangladesh.
  3. COP21: The world is counting on the “final” climate change summit in Paris to deliver a definitive action plan.
  4. FFD: Financing for Development Summit in Addis, 13-16 July 2015. The Center for American Progress has an excellent analysis of the process leading up to the Summit, at the link listed below.
  5. Africa Year of Women’s Empowerment. The Theme of the 24th Africa Union Summit, 23-31 January 2015 is “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”
  6. Evaluation_Tourch_2015_r1International Year of Evaluation. The “Torch of Evaluation” will be passed from event to event this year – important given the key role of a Data Revolution in the SDGS, and The Hunger Project’s staff for “Data for the People.”
  7. Europe “Year for Development” and German G7 PresidencyWith Germany’s ruling party taking charge of aid policy for the first time, the German Government intends to “lead by example” in shaping the Post-2015 agenda. The EU hopes to use its “Year for Development” to galvanize citizen support.
  8. Expo Milano 2015 – 1 May to 31 October – A world’s fair with the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” The Barillia Foundation created Milan Protocol to promote policies to fight hunger, malnutrition, halting food waste and climate change.
  9. Commonwealth Local Government Forum Conference in Botswana, 13-16 June: With its 50-country membership and a strong mandate for local democracy in its charter, the Commonwealth is an important international forum.
  10. Turkey G20 2015 Presidency: Turkey has announced its priorities as “inclusion, investment and implementation” for economic growth, and envisions the G20 will exert a stronger voice for the Lower-Income Development Countries during its presidency.

Other New Year Reviews:

Wish List for 2015

Nancy Birdsall, head of the Center for Global Development, has invited readers to contribute to her 2015 policy wish list (click here for her piece). Here are my suggestions:

1) For the SDGs to sail through at least as bold as they currently are – and even bolder on nutrition.

2) For COP21 to adopt a real plan for limiting climate change.

3) For donors to focus resources on strengthening grassroots-level government – participatory local democracy – the level with the biggest responsibility for meeting basic needs yet too often with the least resources.

4) For the US to resolve the mismatch between how it and the world interpret human rights that prevents the US from supporting rights-based approaches to development (ie, right to food, right to development).

5) Given that progress in gender, nutrition and resilience all require holistic, multi-sectoral strategies, for donors to establish funding windows for truly multi-sectoral strategies.

6) Passage of the International Violence Against Women act.

7) For USAID to close the gender gap in implementing Feed the Future. It’s intended to focus on women, but still serves more men than women.

8) For the world to learn the lesson of Ebola, and invest in community-based primary health care everywhere that it’s missing – as a crash program.

9) For the “Local First” approach to be widely adopted in the humanitarian response community.

10) For a woman to be appointed next administrator of USAID. I’m happy to suggest names!

Happy Post-2015!

MDGs to SDGs: Top 10 Differences

The purpose of this note is to provide a brief outline the similarities and differences between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) launched in 2000, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be launched in 2015 when the MDGs expire.

(Update 4 December 2014)The Secretary-General has released his Synthesis Report on SDGs, which affirms and strengthens the 17 goals described below).

This note must be somewhat speculative, since the governments will not finalize their agreement on the SDGs until September 2015 at the earliest. However, for the past two years, the general “shape” of the SDGs has remained surprisingly stable.

There are certain key similarities. The UN Secretary-General has mandated that the SDGs not lose the key successful elements of the MDGs – that they were clear, concise, time-bound  and measurable.

The first “draft” of the SDGs was created by a High-Level Panel in 2013 (click here) which distinguished “Five Transformative Shifts” that would characterize the SDGs:

The spirit of these transformative shifts has largely been maintained through negotiations by member states in an Open World Group, which released its final report (click here).

At the bottom of this note, I’ve included a shorthand list of the 17 Goals of the current draft of the SDGs.

From the perspective of THP, here is what I see as the Top 10 Differences between the MDGs and the SDGs.

  1. Zero Goals: The MDG targets for 2015 were set to get us “half way” to the goal of ending hunger and poverty, with similar proportional goals in other fields. The SDGs are designed to finish the job – to get to a statistical “zero” on hunger, poverty, preventable child deaths and other targets. This approach will call for very different strategies: getting “halfway there” encouraged countries to “do the easiest parts first.” Getting to zero requires a real focus on the empowering the poorest and hardest to reach. Much of the impetus and evidence for the success of zero-based goals comes from Brookings Institute, the new World Bank “Zero Poverty” goals, and the second inaugural address of US President Obama.
  2. Universal Goals: The MDGs were in the context of “rich donors aiding poor recipients.” Since then the world has changed dramatically. Official development assistance (ODA) is now tiny compared to other resources flows, and the majority of the poorest people live in the middle-income countries. Inequality is the issue, not national-level poverty – and this applies to rich and poor countries alike. The SDGs will then be a set of goals applicable to every country.
  3. More Comprehensive Goals: There were 8 MDGs. The High Level Panel recommended 12 Goals, and the Open Working Group final report recommends 17 “Focus Areas” that go beyond the symptoms of poverty, to issues of peace, stability, human rights and good governance. This will undoubtedly make mobilization around these goals more difficult, but everyone would agree that the complexity of sustainable global development was not fully represented by the MDGs.
  4. Addressing THP Pillars: While THP celebrated and firmly committed to the MDGs, they largely ignored the three pillars of what we see as crucial for the sustainable end of hunger: empowering women, mobilizing everyone, and partnering with local government. The SDGs address these critical elements (to date) much more effectively, with far stronger gender goals, people’s participation and government “at all levels.”
  5. Inclusive Goal Setting: The MDGs were created through a top-down process. The SDGs are being created in one of the most inclusive participatory processes the world has ever seen (click here for the diagram) – with face-to-face consultations in more than 100 countries, and millions of citizen inputs on websites. Civil society has been well-organized throughout – coordinated globally through Beyond2015 (click here).
  6. Distinguishing Hunger and Poverty: In the MDGs, Hunger and Poverty were lumped together in MDG1 – as if solving one would solve the other. So much has been learned about nutrition since that time, and the SDGs treat the issue of poverty separately from Food and Nutrition Security.
  7. Funding: The MDGs were largely envisioned to be funded by aid flows – which did not materialize. The SDGs put sustainable, inclusive economic development at the core of the strategy, and address the ability of countries to address social challenges largely through improving their own revenue generating capabilities.
  8. Peace Building: Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen that peaceful, reasonably well governed countries prosper. After 2015, experts predict that the majority of those in extreme poverty will live in conflict-affected states. The inclusion of peace-building is thus critical to the success of ending hunger and poverty — yet was totally ignored in the MDGs. It is controversial in the SDGs, but so far it has remained there.
  9. Data Revolution: The MDGs said nothing about monitoring, evaluation and accountability – the SDGs target by 2020 to “increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.”
  10. Quality Education: The MDGs focused on quantity (eg, high enrollment rates) only to see the quality of education decline in many societies. The SDGs represent the first attempt by the world community to focus on the quality of education – of learning – and the role of education in achieving a more humane world: “education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”

SDGs identified in the final report of the Open Working Group

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

2014 Advocacy Goals

HLP Photo Low ResThanks to everyone for your improvements to our draft. As of today, January 31, 2014, here are our advocacy goals.

  1. Set Strong Post-2015 Goals. We need to keep the pressure on the Open Working Group members to live up to the promise of the High-Level Panel report, particularly with strong stand-alone goals on gender, climate resilient and sustainable food and nutrition security, and transparent, participatory local governance.
  2. Achieve the MDGs. We must keep up pressure for more rapid progress on the MDGs that are lagging – particularly maternal and child health.
  3. Close the gender gap for women small-scale farmers. This is the International year of the Family Farmer and the Africa Year of Agriculture, but most policies fail to meet the “Boserup Test” – unless the majority of resources go to women, then the policy is making matters worse by widening the gender gap.
  4. Reform policies that hurt small farmers. Food aid and developed-country farm subsidies hurt small farmers and tax payers alike. Current fiscal austerity makes these reforms more politically achievable – such as the recent US budget agreement that made significant reforms to food aid.
  5. Empower women as the key to 1000-Day Nutrition. This is a big year for nutrition, with the ICN2 and the Zero Hunger Challenge – and yet the fundamental cause of poor 1000-Day Nutrition is too often ignored.
  6. Create funding windows for integrated rural development. Most donors are now starting to get the message that co-location of basic services and multisectoral/holistic approaches make huge sense. Yet nearly all funding focuses on single sectors. Now is the time to change this, and hopefully our Yale/Ghana study will provide us with major ammunition.
  7. Go to national scale. It is time to mobilize all actors to work together in campaign mode to bring successful approaches to everyone.
  8. Build CSO Platforms and CSO Policy Engagement. NGOs like us will only have powerful influence in policymaking when we have professionally staffed, rapid-response platforms to work through. We need to keep pressing donors to invest in these platforms, and for governments to establish stronger protocols for CSO engagement in policy formation.
  9. Strengthen Social Accountability. Recent research shows that when communities have information (transparency, social media) and when mandatory mechanisms for social accountability are actually held (village assemblies), governance and public services improve – even in an absence of capacity building. Our communities are showcases for this, and we need policies that ensure every citizen is able to exercise these rights.
  10. Breakthrough in Rural Youth Enterprise Development. This is both a programmatic and advocacy imperative – of all the impacts that our programs have, this is one of the least-well documented and analyzed.