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23 September, 2020 07:36:25 PM
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SDGs and our priorities

A working class family in Bangladesh most certainly will want to educate their male child maximum up to primary level so that he can be helpful in the farm or whatever work they do for a living. The concept of sustainable development does not really matter to them because earning their livelihood is their main concern.
Anika Tahsin Haque Katha
SDGs and our priorities

Development is a very contested term. Over the decades many definitions of development have emerged. Many people have found ‘modernity’ and development linked with each other. The term modernity simply means the state of being modern. This most definitely is a relative concept, for what is modern in one place can be old fashioned in another, meaning there is nothing that can be considered as the perfect mould for modernity. This concept was mostly used by the economists who looked upon development from an economic perspective.

International organizations such as World Bank mostly work with this concept. For example, the WB categorizes the countries of the world based on their GNI. But the inequalities of income and consumption are never brought out through this method. People experiences different lifestyles while living in the same country. Factors like unfair distribution of income, gender roles, health care, environmental damage never come up in these economic indicators. So the inclusive development remains unachieved. So to ensure more inclusive development globally the United Nations came up with MDGs in 2000. The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives to lessen extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly diseases, and expanding primary education to all children along with all other development priorities.

As a continuation of the MDG and to provide the world with a more sustainable condition, SDG was formulated in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The goal was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world. The SDGs corresponded with another historic agreement reached in 2015 at the COP21 Paris Climate Conference. Together with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which was signed in Japan in March 2015, these agreements provide a set of common standards and achievable targets to reduce carbon emissions, manage the risks of climate change and natural disasters, and to build back better after a crisis.

Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs were formed in a more participatory way. More than 190 countries participated in the process. They claim these goals as universal and holistic which are suitable for all the countries. However, it also has some backlashes.

These goals often overlook the economic and socio-economic concerns of a country. As the goals are set globally for every country; both developed and developing, they often contradict. Some goals and targets are not even plausible to be applied to the developing countries. The 7th goal of SDGs is clean and affordable energy for all. The requirement of this goal is to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies like solar or nuclear in order to reduce carbon emission. This undoubtedly is a good initiative for the developed countries because they possess the resources to fulfill this goal. But to fulfill this, the developing countries also need to switch from cheap fossil fuels to the expensive ones.

A developing country like Bangladesh depends greatly on natural gas for its energy requirement. So, if now this country switches from this source to a more renewable source that needs modern technologies, say a wind turbine, it will cost about 1.3 million USD to 2.2 million USD per MW (Windustry). Even if we fulfill this requirement, the question is whether it was our responsibility to reduce carbon emission in the very first place. Yes, it might seem to be a harsh statement but look at this a bit more pragmatically. The World Resources Institute shows that from 1850 to the year 2011, the United States, a single country, produced 27 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions of the world (Chris Mooney).

Then why should a developing or underdeveloped country take the same burden as them to reduce emission. These countries have more urgent issues to solve: poverty, hunger, economical barriers, etc. The developed countries are already several steps ahead in solving problems like poverty and hunger. What I mean to say is, these goals are not reasonable globally. Rather it is providing the developed countries with escape ways to ignore the harms they have caused to the environment, and it is turning into a burden shifting game. The goal was to solve and tackle problems together but this togetherness is causing greater problems at individual levels which is not all justifiable.

The 17th goal was to enhance global partnership. From the SDG report 2019, it can be seen that ODA (Official Development Assistance) has declined drastically. Net ODA totaled $149 billion in 2018, down by 2.7% in real terms from 2017. So the target of solving problems globally is not actually working in some of the cases. Now let us talk about the socio-economic problems, a proposal to provide more young people in developing countries with secondary education in the long term may lead to more unemployment if the schooling they receive does not meet labour market needs. A working class family in Bangladesh most certainly will want to educate their male child maximum up to primary level so that he can be helpful in the farm or whatever work they do for a living. They will try to marry off the female child at a young age to reduce family expenses. The concept of sustainable development does not really matter to them because earning their livelihood is their main concern.

So the importance of this concept and the goals related to this are only relevant and suitable for a specific elite class. These goals are more likely to be top down and bureaucratic in nature which ignore the local levels. The idea of fitting everything in the same place in same ways does not work much when sustainable development needs to be accomplished. So these goals should be set keeping the local context in mind. If needed, region specific goals should be set. In that way the sustainability we are trying to achieve for so long will be accelerated.

 

The writer is a student of, Department of Development Studies, University of Chittagong  

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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