Since 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have informed much of global development policy. Rini D’Souza explores how India can play its part in making these goals a reality for the country’s diverse population.
The social development sector today is seeing a global shift towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the global development agenda developed by the United Nations.
Contextualizing the SDGs
Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, the 17 SDGs, with their 169 associated targets, depict a plan of action to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental – by the year 2030.
Helen Clark, the United National Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, said in 2015, “This agreement marks an important milestone in putting our world on an inclusive and sustainable course. If we all work together, we have a chance of meeting citizens’ aspirations for peace, prosperity, and well-being, and to preserve our planet.”
India’s Commitment to the SDGs
India was one of the 193 United Nations member states to adopt the SDGs and commit itself as a stakeholder to meet the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. This implies that the global goals should shape all social policy, planning, and development action, as well as impact monitoring and evaluation at the central, state, regional, and local level. At the United Nations Summit for Adoption of Post-2015 Development Agenda, PM Modi reaffirmed India’s commitment, saying, “Today much of India’s development agenda is mirrored in the SDGs.”
Studies and analysis have repeatedly highlighted that while the MDGs were limited in scope, the SDGs—which have been drafted after in-depth consultations and deliberations—are much more comprehensive. India was not fully successful in accomplishing its targets for the MDGs. This makes the strategy adopted by the country for accomplishing the SDGs a top concern. So, how can India successfully accomplish the SDGs?
An inclusive strategy
Planning and policy for social development in the country should reflect on and be designed around the voices of the primary stakeholders – men, women, or children – whom a social policy or programme is addressing. Making development efforts participatory and inclusive is an indispensable aspect for sustainable development.
Fund allocation through co-financing
In the latest Union Budget, the Government of India has cut back on spending for the social sector. As per available statistics, India currently has only 5 % of the funds required to implement the SDGs. While increasing Government spending in sectors like health, education, sanitation, and nutrition is a direct solution to close this funding gap, the Government of India should promote and incentivize funding from corporate, business, and other for-profit entities as a crucial source for funding the SDGs.
Implementation through collaboration
Ban Ki-Moon, the incumbent Secretary-General of the United Nations, has emphasized on the need for strategic partnerships to solve global challenges. The pressing need for India to effectively execute the new agenda is to revitalize a partnership between key stakeholders. This involves the participation of the public sector/Government, corporate entities who are skillful in managing and multiplying resources, non-governmental organizations, social enterprises, and other development actors who are acquainted with implementing, evaluating and scaling up social development projects.
We can achieve this by creating forums at the national, state, regional, and local levels that will enable interaction between the different development bodies. Moreover, discussion and recognition platforms could facilitate strong collaborations and partnerships that transcend geographical limits.
Credible M&E systems
The National Institution for Transforming India – NITI Aayog is the national body primarily responsible for implementing the SDGs in India. It already has apprehensions about its ability to track and gather data for comprehensively evaluating the accomplishment of SDG targets. Lack of credible data will be a major roadblock for India in achieving the global goals. A strategy to address this concern could be a complete decentralization of the data collection process. The Government could tap regional and local partnerships and build stakeholder capacities to gather and track data.
The way forward
Achieving the SDGs in a country as diverse as India will definitely be a Herculean task, but not unachievable. We need to clearly identify priorities, have locally relevant and people-centric development policies, and build strong partnerships. The government also needs to have a focused plan for tracking and evaluating impact and scaling up successful interventions. The SDGs are a direction and a vision for India to ensure prosperity and growth—both social and economic.
(The author is an Associate Consultant for Development Communication at 4th Wheel. Her goal is to strengthen documentation and reporting practices of social development organizations to promote sustainable development.)
Have ideas on how to strengthen social programmes? Write in to 4th Wheel with your suggestions.