Time for people’s Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind

Time for people’s Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind

Kamal Malhotra
Sept. 25, 2015 was a turning point for our future. World leaders adopted the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are essentially an agreed vision to put the people and the planet on a sustainable path by 2030. The SDGs will form the bedrock of a new development agenda that can set the world on a course of action to end poverty, transform lives and protect the planet.

In Turkey, we’re looking forward to working with development actors to address the country’s structural and intertwined challenges from a sustainable human development perspective, as well as to share the positive experiences of Turkey with our partner countries. These new Goals will help us achieve that. They spell out how we will work together to promote dignity, equality, justice, shared prosperity and well-being for all, while protecting the environment. We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last one that can avoid the worst effects of climate change.

I’ve learned from my work as U.N. Resident Coordinator and with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) that setting goals and targets work. For example, following the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2000, Turkey’s efforts to combat poverty have acquired greater momentum. The proportion of the population with a daily income of less than one dollar, which was 1.1 percent in 1994 and 0.2 percent in 2002, was reduced to nil in 2006. 

Millions of people’s lives have improved due to concerted efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which serve as the foundation for the next global development agenda. MDG targets have already been met on reducing poverty, increasing access to improved drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary school. For example, in Turkey the under-five child mortality rate per 1,000 live births, which was 60.9 in 1993, had declined to 15 in 2013. The maternal mortality ratio that is maternal deaths per 100 000 live births was 28.5 percent in 2006 and came down to 15.5 percent in 2011. If these trends continue, the world will meet more MDG health targets. 

Over the past 20 years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been cut nearly in half. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by nearly half. More people than ever before are receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infection. More than six million deaths from malaria were averted due to a substantial expansion of malaria interventions. Enormous progress has been made, showing the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets. Yet despite this progress, the indignity of poverty has not been ended for all.

That’s why these 17 new Goals will continue this journey towards progress for everyone. They aim to go even farther to focus the world on ending poverty, hunger and major health problems, as well as breaking new ground by setting goals and targets on inequalities, economic growth, decent jobs, energy, climate change, and peace and justice, among others.

I believe we will achieve substantial results by taking on the many interconnected challenges we face together. Taking action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and building greater shared prosperity is in everybody’s best interest and provides enormous investment opportunities that will benefit all people and the planet. Success in this new, universal, ambitious agenda for global action will be driven by leaders, governments and people, especially at local levels. The Goals should matter to all of us, and we all have a shared responsibility to work towards achieving them.

Let’s focus on our shared problems and work on overcoming the common problems all countries face. With new, interconnected Sustainable Development Goals that apply to all, we can go much further to end all forms of poverty, ensure no one is left behind, tackle unsustainable practices and chart a dignified future for all people in all countries.

The U.N. stands ready to support Turkey as it develops its plans for making the SDGs a reality. We will work closely with the government, private sector, civil society and many other partners in Turkey to strive to achieve lasting results for both people and planet.

* Kamal Malhotra is U.N. Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Turkey