By Simon Scott, Counsellor, Statistics Directorate, OECD; Jeff Leitner, Fellow, New America and Managing Director, GreenHouse; and William Hynes, Co-ordinator, New Approaches to Economic Challenges programme, OECD
The upside to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), signed off at a UN Leaders’ Summit in September 2015, was their inclusiveness. An Open Working Group of 30 nations worked for two and a half years to develop the Goals, meeting 13 times, sometimes for a week, and organising countless national and thematic consultations, stakeholder forums, and on-line and door-to-door surveys. Almost everyone who wanted a say in the SDGs could have one, and more often than not, their voices were heard.
This led to the downside of the Goals – their sheer breadth and volume. The Economist satirised the litany of SDG targets as “the 169 Commandments” – a line perhaps inspired by Bill Gates’ comment that the SDGs resembled the Bible, and that he would prefer to start with something simpler, “like the Ten Commandments.”
Two years later, the world has moved on to implementation. The UN, national governments and international organisations are all retooling to help the world achieve the SDGs. And the available resources, while not limitless, are very substantial. Official development assistance from OECD countries alone now exceeds USD 140 billion a year, and private philanthropy from NGOs and foundations is also increasing. Trillions of dollars are held by sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and private endowments with an interest in long-term stability and sustainable development.