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I found this article quite convincing of the SDGs’ effectiveness on meeting its goals after their implementation, especially after reading the section which broke down the MDGs shortcomings and showed how they would be utilized in planning out the SDGs and ensuring sufficient funding for them. However, recognizing that the article was written over five years ago, I wanted to see what progress has been made with the SDGs today and was disappointed to see that the SDGs have not been nearly as effective as I would have thought, if even at all. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report in 2020 notes that although progress had been made in some sectors including maternal and child health, access to electricity, and women’s representation in government; issues like food shortages, biodiversity and habitat loss, and growing inequality have overshadowed any progress made. The report overall made the SDGs appear futile, and on top of that, also revealed an upward trend seen in poverty rates, unemployment, insufficient education, and limited access to nutrition after the COVID-19 outbreak (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/progress-report/). All things considered, it appears as though the SDGs have fallen victim to inadequate funding and implementation and even an apparent lack of exposure, for although the article states that the SDGs should become widely recognized and esteemed, the only place I have ever discussed or even heard about the SDGs is in my environmental studies courses.

Andrew Harris

Thanks for the link to the progress report, Alli. I wonder if a piece of the inadequate funding is due to the United States, the world's largest economy, having a president for most of the SDGs existence that cast doubt on the human influence on climate change. Regardless, I think the SDGs are a realistic set of goals that would mark great progress if achieved by 2030. The intermediate goals should help give a more tangible idea of how governments and NGOs are doing; 15 years is a long time and numbers this big are difficult to quantify. I wonder what safeguards are in place in the current SDGs to ensure that rich countries are providing assistance to poorer ones that is useful and will not result in a reversal of progress. I worry specifically about respecting the autonomy and dignity of those receiving aid. I worry about cases like that in Haiti (I’m pretty sure) where the U.S. donated tons of solar panels after the earthquakes. This sounds like a great way to help rebuild Haiti’s infrastructure, but it crowded out businesses that were creating solar panels in Haiti. Instead of a booming solar panel industry in Haiti, there is nothing. Obviously, it is unrealistic for everyone to get it right all the time, but I wonder if anything is in place to help prevent similar occurrences.

Mary Wilson Grist

Reading this article is the first time I had heard about the MDGs. The progress toward eliminating poverty, hunger and disease to name a few seems to be promising and paths toward success seem well thought out. As Sachs points out, I think it is important to note the simplicity of the 8 objectives, ones that are easy to remember and capture several of the main concerns regarding social priorities worldwide. This framework seems easily adaptable for the important Sustainable Development Goals. However, as Alli points out, these goals may not have been met since the publication of this article. One major setback that came to mind as I was reading was the current state of gender equality in Afghanistan. After years of working toward what would be considered “success” for social inclusion, a sudden event of the Taliban takeover seems to be on its way to reverse any of the progress. How would the SDG take this into account? This is where the 4th determinant for successful SDGs becomes crucial – a responsive government.
On a separate note, I appreciated the article’s inclusion of highly important psychological findings. On page 2209, Sachs emphasizes the importance of paying particular attention to children in early childhood, nodding to the the overwhelming psychological findings that this period of brain development is a crucial time with major long term implications. As we discussed in class on Wednesday, it is imperative to consider interdisciplinary findings in Economics in order to have any real success.

Jacob Thompson

One thing that I found interesting from this article was how similar the SDGs sounded to the new wave of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals that have been rapidly gaining popularity among large corporations and companies. Sachs suggests the separation of SDGs into the three categories of economic development, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion. These values are strikingly similar to those of ESG goals, as they all tend to focus on the balance between economic improvement while accounting for how production affects the world as a whole. I recently read an article on the Wall Street Journal that discussed how many companies are emphasizing ESG goals more as they prepare for initial public offerings. Allbirds, a sneaker company, declared in their IPO filing that “the more sustainable we are, the better we believe our products and business will be.” I feel that this new focus on ESG goals and funds mirrors the emphasis of SDGs, as many companies are now realizing the importance of operating in a sustainable manner while also making an impact on social issues where they can. However, it is possible that some of these companies may be using ESG ratings for the sole purpose of boosting their image, and in turn not actually doing anything to better the planet. I believe it could be interesting to explore some kind of mandated focus on ESG goals for companies in an attempt to improve the condition of the world, similar to how a mandated focus on SDGs could do the same thing.


Max Thomas

Reading Sachs’ insights on the global transition from the Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, I considered some ethical dellimmas to which the SDGs may contribute. Sachs makes clear that economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability are intrinsically linked. However, I worry that a primary focus on environmental sustainability in less developed countriess may slow their economic growth, limiting their populations’ wellbeing. As LDCs expand their economies and populations, an increase in pollution and environmental harm is to be expected. By suggesting LDCs focus equally on environmental preservation as they do economic development, it appears the UN accepts a tradeoff between sustainability and perpetuating poverty. Ultimately, environmental remediation is necessary for long-term economic growth and global wellbeing; I just wonder how the tradeoff between sustainability and poverty can be minimized, if such a tradeoff exists.

Additionally, I found Sach’s claim that private businesses ought to be “crucially engaged” with the SDGs valuable. Private companies have much more autonomy in decision-making than national governments, allowing them to make important decisions and investments with minimal bureaucratic procedures. One aspect Sach’s paper did not discuss was the returns on sustainable investments for private businesses. By investing in sustainable growth, private companies invest in greater productive efficiency and increased human capital, both of which improve their bottom-line. While private companies are unlikely to invest altruistically, investments with high returns are likely.

Claire Jenkins

For me, this paper introduced me to Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals for the first time. I really enjoyed Sachs' discussion about the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs. I particularly appreciated how Sachs clearly recognized the strengths and weaknesses of the MDGs, and noted how the SDGs could combat some of the weaknesses associated with the MDGs prior in order to achieve better success. Sachs mentions that in order for the SDGs to be successful, societies worldwide need to "invest adequately in their success" and the private sector has to be fully engaged (Sachs 2211). Early on, Sachs pointed out that, "Well over half of the 1 billion people with a low income are living in middle-income countries, which means that they are living in societies with the financial and technological means to address their remaining poverty" (Sachs 2208). The fact that many people living in poverty live in countries that have the means and resources to combat that poverty is alarming; Sachs effectively brings this to attention. Brazil and China are two of the few countries that have worked to bring many people out of poverty, which is what many more countries should be doing. Why can’t countries with the resources to bring people out of poverty doing so? Societies need to be investing in the success of the SDGs so that the living conditions of people worldwide can improve; governments and the private sector equally need work towards the progress. When reading this paper, I had a thought similar to Jacob's. I began to think about how large corporations and companies today are stressing ESG initiatives, goals, and investing, which is important for the idea that the private sector needs to be engaged in pushing SDGs. I too have had similar thoughts about whether or not companies are pushing the development of ESG initiatives because they truly want to make tangible impacts, or if their intentions are to solely boost their image. Is there a way to make sure that these companies are following through with their promises and making developments in ESG areas?

Further, in order for the SDGs to see success, we know that the world as a whole has to work collectively. High-income and middle-income economies need to be expanding the reach of technologies and resources to low-income countries. Beyond that, I think that these countries need to go even further by helping low-income countries learn how to use those resources/technologies themselves and acquire them in the future. It needs to go beyond wealthier countries just giving these countries the resources they need. The world has to work towards the full development of low-income countries as functioning, autonomous countries, instead of them becoming reliant on other countries.

Ben Barbour

Before reading this article, I had very little idea of what MDGs or SDGs were. Sachs did a great job explaining the intricacies of both sets of goals, and even though this article is a bit outdated, I think that it still holds a lot of importance in the world today. Most notably, Sachs discussions on climate stability can be recognized today as an important topic. There is still a need to establish more sustainable goals in terms of emissions reduction, population growth, and giving everyone access to clean, sustainable water. However, despite environmental issues being the most important in my eyes, I do agree with Sach’s argument that you must succeed in all three categories (Environmental sustainability, Economic development, and social inclusion) in order to truly reach any achievement in these goals.

The article also pointed out a lot of the successes and downfalls of MDGs that Sachs would try to fix in his SDG proposal. From these, I believe that because MDG’s were so simple, practical, and not binding it made it less stressful for countries that would benefit and made them more likely to participate. In addition, a lot of what I read from Sach’s proposals reminds me of the previous article we read about how the poor spend their money. In the article of how the poor spend their money, we learned of the disparity in countries that have less access to infrastructure such as water, electricity, and even bathrooms. This issue is almost word for word what Sachs wants to solve in his first SDG. I know that both Sachs article and the “Economic Lives of the Poor” articles are outdated, but it is almost a daily occurrence to hear about how different a poor country is to a rich country. Mainly, this entails people living without access to clean water or electricity, and the growing concern of reaching a no point of return with our environmental destruction. Although Sachs argument carries weight today, as mentioned by Alli abpve SDGs have not performed well recently. This is off-putting to read about, especially considering SDGs appear practical and relatively obtainable. To alleviate this, I believe leaders should re-establish goals for 2030 and attempt to hit benchmarks. This could be useful in resetting SDGs because after not performing well to start, many countries may not see their original goals as obtainable now, but if they were to set an obtainable goal, they may be more willing to put the effort into reaching those goals.

Sarah Beaube

To begin, I enjoyed reading Sachs viewpoint on the necessity of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, I believe Sachs is right on the money when he mentions that the content of the SDGs should focus on global participation as well as lessons that the MDGs have taught us.
As Sachs lays out his idea for the first three SDGs, he argues that the first SDG should be that by or before 2030, “all the world’s people will have access to safe and sustainable water and sanitation, adequate nutrition, primary health services, and basic infrastructure”. He goes on to mention that while this may seem farfetched, it is not. He claims that it is not a farfetched goal because there are many low-income people suffering in societies that have the means to address their issues. While I believe this argument is partly true, I think that it undermines the complexity of the issue. If it were as simple as encouraging countries to reallocate their resources to help the impoverished, every country would have done it by now. Whether or not a country should do something and will do something are two separate things. With this being said, while I argue that Sachs oversimplifies the challenges of SDG 1, I do believe that it is a goal that should be worked toward overtime.
Another aspect of Sach’s research that I found interesting was his discussion of the success and shortcomings of the MDGs. Sachs makes several good points. For example, if the SDGs should ever create meaningful change, there needs to be support from the private sector. After all, the private sector is a large driver in things like global emissions. While this is true, I again think Sachs is somewhat naïve in his belief that for the SDGs to succeed, governments will need to (and have the resources to) invest in real-time data reporting systems. I would hypothesize that these types of reporting systems would be a very costly expense for low-income countries. Would the benefit of investing in them outweigh the effects it could cause on their economy? Maybe the answer would be for high-income countries to come together to donate or loan this technology to less developed countries.
While I spoke mostly of the criticisms and questions I have regarding the reading, I do fully believe in the importance of something like SDGs. As Sachs mentions, in order to take a triple bottom line approach to sustainability, global networks will have to come together to think critically about the best way to implement these goals.

Valerie Sokolow

One of the things I found intriguing about this paper were the strong correlations between many of the environmental and sustainability-related goals and biology. In a biology course I took last year, we discussed the currently unknown but widely hypothesized carrying-capacity (the maximum number of organisms an environment can sustainably support) for humans. Harvard sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson estimates this number to be between 9 billion and 10 billion (https://www.livescience.com/16493-people-planet-earth-support.html) , the same number Sachs mentions the current population trajectory is on. In biology, this number is impacted by fertility (population growth) and food availability (a major limiting factor). Sachs touches on both of these. From the reading on Wednesday, we learned that many low-income populations tend to have high fertility rates, an especially troubling fact when considered in conjugation with the forecasted carrying-capacity. We can even consider many of these extreme poverty, high fertility populations to be relatively independent (separate populations, in biological terms). Viewing them as independent is even more frightening because, while low-income populations are major contributors to the high fertility rates, they will likely bear the most drastic repercussions. As Sachs mentioned, these “high-fertility settings should be empowered to adopt rapid and voluntary reductions of fertility to benefit themselves, their children, and the local and global economy and environment”. While I agree that it is an important point, I almost wish he had emphasized it even more.

Sachs’ description of the main limiting factor – food availability – also paints a somewhat dire picture. He describes that “many of the key yield-raising technologies of the green revolution have run their course”. So, even though the human population is growing, it’s unlikely that food production and availability will increase rapidly enough to support the growing population. However, even if it is possible to increase food production, it will likely come at a cost to environmental and social resources. Natural habitats, climate change, decreased biodiversity, and more are all direct outcomes of increased grain production. Furthermore, if food does truly become a limiting factor, increases in the price of food will push more people into hunger.

Claire Kallen

To begin, I really enjoyed this reading. This was the first time I have read about both the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals in depth. I feel that this article did a great job of explaining the fundaments of these programs and was a good place to start for a reader unfamiliar to the topic. Setting goals that are attainable but will also create significant progress is very important in our modern world.
Sachs brought up a wide variety or problems facing our world today one of which I thought to be incredibly important was the environmental issues, I have taken two environmental courses and I have learned a lot about the different crises facing our world and it was interesting to see how Sachs cited the environmental issues as something we must fix in order to start making process with our modern development.
Sachs made an important point about “fairness”. We must fix our issues with social inclusion to begin reaching our goals, he writes that education has been leading to larger wage gaps between those who had been educated and those who did not have the same opportunities. From this point I begin to wonder about where this leaves women. Sachs points out that we still have a long way to go for gender equality. I would like to point out that women in many lower income countries do not receive nearly as much education as their male peers. The women are not afforded the same opportunities, however little they may be in some cases even for men, which further set them back. If they do not receive an education how will they ever be expected to be able to catch up when society is creating larger and larger gaps between workers with more education and those without? As a young women, these issues really stand out to me and I think that the work Sachs is doing by pointing out the flaws is incredible important in the name of progress.
Another interesting point I found was the idea that Sachs posed about technological advances actually causing more harm than it is solving, however he later writes that technological advances and economic growth are what are making meeting the SDG goals possible. It is interesting to consider the positive and negative sides of something as prominent as technology. The success of certain parts of the MDGs and the goals of the SDGs are what will help us continue to try and save our world and leave it prospering for generations to come. I found it very helpful in the concluding portions of the article where Sachs pointed out the lessons to be learned from the MDGs and what should be changed in the SDGs, it is important to order stand the short-comings of the MDGs but also to acknowledge what worked. Overall, I think Sachs did a very good job of presenting the facts as well as explaining opinions, I believe strongly that implementing and implementing SDGs well are what we must do in order to reach prosperity and maintain it for generations to come.

Chaz Cunningham

Having no prior knowledge of what MDG's and SDGs are, I found this article to be very informative of how we can develop SDGs as a result of stagnation in the progression towards MDG'S. The emphasis Sach's makes on the triple bottom line really stood out to me because the SDG's take a wholesome global approach to full sustainability rather than just focusing on rich countries aiding developing countries. My biggest takeaway was how Sach's built off lessons learned from the MDG's that can be applied to the milestone SDG's in the next 15-30 years. His point about how striving for global sustainability instead of looking to fund the poorer countries is more productive in the long term changed my view of our economic development. If we (countries) are all better off and sustainable, then does that mean we need to adopt similar policies amongst different countries. The problem of political compatibility between countries leads to believe there will be a long delay before we can see tangible progress of the SDG's listed. Sach's covers all grounds to make SDG's possible, but I am curious as to how they believe governing agreements on topics such as human rights and climate change can be made. Many countries are unprogressive in both area of concern there.

Another critical point I thought about when reading this article was the danger of population growth to our global economic development. Population growth seems like something that is nearly impossible to slow down with realistic policy and rapid rises in population seem to only worsen our problems of human-caused environmental damage and inflationary food prices. Reducing gas emissions from food production seems conflicting to our priority of having a production of food that is quantifiable enough for the growing world population.

Teddy Bentley

This article is extremely relevant to todays world, which is shocking given it was published in 2012. It is a startling realization that we have been talking about changes that need to happen in sustainability for the past ten-plus years and still little impact or substantial change has been made. With that being said, Sachs is very much ahead of the times and on the right track in my opinion. Prior to reading this article, I had little idea of what an MDG or SDG was. However, since reading this article I am persuaded by the perceived effectiveness of the SDG and how these goals will positively affect the entire globe.
While SDGs have a great grasp of what needs to happen to save humanity, it will still be a very difficult task to carry out on every level. Sachs mentions that this idea may seem far fetched, but he claims that in reality, it is not. In Sachs’ first SDG he wants everyone to have access to sustainable water and sanitation. The problem with this, and most of his other goals, seems to be the disparity of wealth within the people and governments of these developing and developed countries. There is an increasing gap between the most wealthy and the poor and in order to make these beneficial, sustainable changes there will need to be adequate funding. The wealthier individuals and governments will need to set examples and provide aid to the struggling areas of the world and there will need to be more economic development in order to create a larger middle class.
In addition to the disparity of wealth in the world, there is also a disparity in the social ideologies that is creating turmoil and is hindering change. Politics in today’s world seem to be as divided as ever. Environmental and human rights issues have been turned into political issues and the disagreements of different viewpoints is seriously slowing down the progress of our world. In order for Sachs’ SDGs to be effective, there needs to be a more universal outlook on the problems that we are facing on a daily basis.
It is unfortunate to see that these goals were outlined nine years ago today and are still on the forefront of the problems that we face. There has been some sustainability goals that have been set by leading countries but there is still a lot of work to be done. These goals are a great outline of what needs to happen and they provide valuable insights into how to improve from MDGs shortcomings, but there is still many details that are not included providing steps for countries and the world as a whole to be more sustainable.

Tommy MacCowatt

This article from Jeffrey Sachs effectively describes the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and why the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be more successful. I admittedly did not know anything about the MDGs before this reading but saw their connection to China and India’s rapid growth. Although the MDGs have proved successful in some countries, others have not improved or even have declined in terms of hunger, income poverty, and avoidable disease and deaths. The SDG framework proposed by Sachs is relatively broadly organized but covers the key growth categories necessary to be successful. The organization of the proposal is similar to the idea of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives which have come to the forefront of responsible investing. I believe that the most significant challenge will be the response of the governments where action is necessary. Government officials must create sustainable economic growth and strong political institutions in their country to enact long-term change.

The private sector will also play an important factor in the execution of the SDGs because their resources are essential to expanding the technologies available, the quality of medicine, and other resources. Sachs also mentions the importance of social media and information technology to share knowledge with other scientists, activists, and officials who are working to make change across the globe. I believe the ability of governments and private institutions to work together over the next 10+ years will determine the effectiveness of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Brad Stephenson

One aspect of the SDG’s I find interesting is the push for both economic and sustainable development in developing countries. While it is important for developing countries to grow responsibly, a consideration of past successful economies’ development is necessary to understand the difficulties that come with sustainable economic development. For example, China recently grew their economy to become one of the largest economies in the world. The development of this economy occurred utilizing technologies that continue to cause massive amounts of pollution. China now is the number one producer of carbon emissions in the world. Holding the developing economies of South Asia and Africa to different standards is important to protect the global environment but this call to utilize more expensive technologies may also hinder growth or cause countries to depend on larger economies for financial and technological support. While these SDG’s do include important references to larger economies supporting developing countries, this demand could also lead to a dependence that could be less than beneficial for developing countries in the long run. For example, China uses its wealth to aid Central Asia and the Caucus regions’ infrastructure and financial institutions. While this move is beneficial to the two regions, a dependence on China can lead to less political freedom and one-sided trade agreements. Developing countries will need financial and technological support from larger economies, but the requirement for countries in Africa and South Asia to develop sustainably using more expensive technologies may cause slower development or dependence on larger countries. So, how can we both promote sustainability and development goals among poorer countries? Do these standards put unfair pressure on these developing countries since the United States and China were not expected to focus on sustainability to the same extent during their development? What can the SDG’s do to relieve this pressure on developing economies while also promoting sustainability?

Ella Hall

The paper touched on population growth as a threat to achieving sustainable development goals. While large populations obviously put strain on food supply and put greater pressures on the environment through high levels of pollution, depletion of land, etc. the problem is complex. Population growth and poverty, I think, present a chicken and the egg problem. Population growth does contribute to poverty, however, poverty can also lead to a need for large family sizes. Reducing fertility, through birth control or family planning education for example, is often cited as a way to fight poverty. In the article for today it says, “households in high-fertility settings should be empowered to adopt rapid and voluntary reductions of fertility.” What about when, as we discussed in class on Wednesday, children are used as a form of necessary life insurance? Or when a household needs a large family in order to support itself in an area with no established markets? Poverty can lead people to need a large family. So, while population growth and poverty often go hand in hand, I do not think it is a simple cause and effect situation. Family planning and access to birth control will provide opportunities for “rapid and voluntary” fertility reductions, but that might not mean their choice will be to do so. Maybe addressing women’s access to education, establishing secure markets, and improving access to health care to address childhood mortality rates could have an equally important effect. In my opinion, the Sach’s article only scratched the surface of this conversation of population growth’s role in achieving development goals. Some might feel that population growth is not to blame as a cause of poverty but is just a characteristic of poverty. Should population growth be a focus of actions geared towards reducing poverty or should the focus be placed elsewhere? I would love to hear what others think about this.

Sally Ennis

To start off, I really enjoyed this article and the way that Sachs organized it in order to best explain the importance of these goals. I had very little knowledge of Millennium Development Goals before reading this and I had no idea about SDG's. First and foremost, I think that placing more of an emphasis on sustainability and the wellbeing of the entire planet is the proper approach because it will benefit everyone in the long-run while providing support for low income economies. I think that the approach they are taking for the SDG's will allow for success, particularly because they are able to use the downfalls and strengths of the MDG's. In the creation of the SDG's, having the triple bottom line approach as the focus in creating the goals and standards will function as a collective mindset for all of the countries to maintain and this will hopefully make them more successful. In this same vein, I think that making the SDG's relatively short and to the point - something that they found success in with the MDG's and failure in the Agenda 21 - will ensure that the countries have a clear and concise vision that they are working towards.
Getting a little more into the global context, something that I found promising was the discussion on the importance of the private, public, and civil sectors needing to unify in order to reach these goals. This is opposite of the MDG's, where it is noted that "Only a handful of countries have abided by their promises to give 0·7% of their gross domestic product as official development assistance," so implementing quotas, assessments, and levies will provide adequate funds to meet the goals. Going back to the different sectors being involved, the use of the public sector and governance capabilities coupled with the private sector will result in new standards for technological advancements going forward. This certainly will apply to the sustainability field but also hopefully pave the way that we view any advancements in groundbreaking fields.
Lastly, I want to mention the contents of SDG 3, with the focus on wellbeing and life satisfaction. Like we discussed in class about why those in extreme poverty don't allocate all of their income to food, we can say the same about the concept of mainly looking at GDP and income to make conclusions about countries. We have to put more emphasis on what it means to be human and what is require other than the necessities to live, so the goal of introducing a new multidimensional measure of wellbeing will take more pressure off of the economic factors of life and put more importance onto the mental factors of life.

Kevin Thole

This paper challenged the traditional development path by pointing out how its consequences are typically damaging for the natural environment. Many western countries, such as the United States, went through a development phase in which heavy industry bridged the gap between a mainly agrarian economy and a mainly service economy. The global challenge today is that it would be disastrous for the global ecosystem if developing countries took the same route as the United States.
The MDGs hinge on economic growth in these developing countries. To achieve this, the author of this paper proposes the Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a higher HDI without environmental destruction. Because the global climate affects all countries, the SDGs would apply to all countries with wealthy countries spurring much of the technological innovation that would allow sustainable development to occur.
I thought the SDG about good governance was the most important one in there. If this goal is not met, none of the others can succeed. Previous economics classes I've taken have stressed the importance of good institutions for economic outcomes. If political institutions in developing countries misappropriate the funds intended for the development of the SDGs, it will be difficult to achieve them. Developing countries may also be discouraged by the hypocrisy of wealthy countries lecturing poorer countries not to use the same development path that they themselves took advantage of. Firms in developing countries may opt for the easier, more polluting option for prosperity if there is a lack of government will to regulate. If the global community wants to tackle these SDGs, powerhouse economies must come together and provide incentive structures for poorer countries to develop in a sustainable way. This would involve aligning the interests of private firms with a stakeholder model which prices in negative social and environmental externalities.

Gavron Campbell

Before reading this article, or even before our first class, I was unaware of the many initiatives that have occurred in the past couple of decades to improve poverty levels, environmental concerns, and gender equality. Jeffrey Sachs clearly explained the flaws, as well as the strengths of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and delineated its difference between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). My first impression of this article led me to think of how many more “Goals” or “Initiatives” will have to be produced until long-term change actually occurs. Sach mentioned how one failure of the MDG was the inaccurate and unavailable data. As we talked about in class, understanding several different disciplines is mandatory to explain and solve the phenomenon of poverty. Sach mentioned the major technological innovations involved in gathering more timely data of households, but I don’t think the data gathering process should stop there, nor could it. Still, there is so much more to learn psychologically, environmentally, economically, and the list goes on, in order to approach the most effective strategies. In addition, I perceived Sach’s article to be slightly optimistic in terms of governments openness of abiding to one standard of sustainable development since they all have different cultures, norms, and values. How is it ensured that governments would act in good faith in sharing information and contributing finances? Despite these inconsistencies, one of my favorite aspects about this article is the “triple bottom line.” I’ve always struggled to grapple with the linear timeline of overcoming economic development, environmental stability, and social inclusion since they all work simultaneously, but as Sach pointed out “success in any of these categories (or subcategories within them) will almost surely depend on success of all three,” meaning it doesn’t have to be linear at all.

Kaylann Adler

While I’ve encountered the SDGs before, I’d never read about the MDGs, so it was interesting to read Sachs’ proposed improvements from the previous set of goals to the current group. One thing I found noteworthy was the change from the MDGs be more focused on wealthy countries giving money to developing countries to the SDGs’ push for wealthy and developing countries alike to be meeting these goals. This new focus for all countries to be fully committed emphasizes the global unity needed to help all people and to meet sustainable goals that will benefit all of us, rather than having poorer countries almost “catch up” with wealthier nations. Another thing that I thought was intriguing was Sachs’ push for private companies, not solely governments, to commit to the SDGs. Even if governments do as much as they can, without the support of private companies, these goals cannot be achieved. However, as virtuous of an idea as it is that the private sector should support SDGs, I doubt that a large majority of private businesses might “refrain from lobbying and political activities that might endanger the SDGs.” I don’t think many corporations whose goal is to maximize profits will be willing to sacrifice some of their profits or potential earnings to meet these goals. Similarly, companies that advertise their commitment to supporting the SDGs likely do so as a marketing tool, which isn’t a problem in and of itself, but it is problematic for companies to advertise their commitment to the SDGs while not actively contributing to these goals. Overall, while I think the push for the private sector to commit to the SDGs is excellent in theory, I just wonder how many businesses actually hold themselves accountable to the commitments they say they have made to the SDGs.

Matt DiTondo

I have previously encountered the MDGs in some form of media (which I am now unable to find now) which praised, as Sachs does, the structuring and simplicity of the MDGs, and how that was related to their success. The piece essentially argued that the MDGs were a large (and very positive) exception to the normal modus operandi of the UN. With the UN, being such a large, international, and beauracratic body, it can suffer from a systemic problem of over complexity. I believe the piece referred to another UN treatise on addressing climate change, which had something like 100-150 listed goals, with varying degrees of vaugery. With such a large list and little ability to rank-order their importance, it is much more difficult for the International community to actually ~do~ something to address the goals. This stands in stark contrast to the utter simplicity of the MDGs with few, important, and clearly stated goals. What the MDGs provided, and partially why they were so successful, was that they provided a clear and actionable pathway towards their achievement. This notion is something that we discuss heavily in Environmental Economics/Ethics classes: goals being clearly stated and achievable.
And in this way I think I may see why, as Alli pointed out, that the SDGs were not as effective as their predecessors. I find these goals to be significantly less actionable, in that they are somewhat vague. Particularly SDG 3 caught my eye: "every country will promote the wellbeing and capabilities of all their citizens, enabling all citizens to reach their potential". While certainly a very lofty and admirable goal... it does really mean anything. Wellbeing and potential are subjective terms (as opposed to something like income), whose defining can encompass an entire semester of a philosophy course. And furthermore there isn't a clear and mutually agreed upon metric by which success or failure can be measure. While it points out Bhutan's metric of Gross National Happiness, this is not something like gross income which can be objectively defined, measured, and compared between nations and peoples. I think that the failure to structure the SDGs as the MDGs was one factor, as of course there are certainly countless others, in their relative failure.

Grace Owens

Prior to this class, my study in finance/economics had been focused primarily on how the economy and markets alone contribute to the lives of people around the world (although primarily in the United States). Starting to learn about how global markets and economics are tied together with so many factors, particularly those that we take into consideration much less these days in the U.S., such as women’s education and rights, has opened my eyes to potential steps that need to be taken to improve, as a global economy.
In this paper by Sachs, the discussed goals, MDGs and SDGs, seem to have made an impact so far, however, there are also definite flaws. While action certainly needs to be taken to raise the quality of life in many places around the world, it is difficult to find a way where many countries are participating, and in a similar way for that matter. On one hand, if these goals were set in stone, they would likely be more productive and successful, however it would be difficult to have so many countries on the same page with all the specifics. On the other hand, having the participation in these goals be voluntary allows more countries to participate, but not all of them are following along in terms of this participation and financial contribution. Additionally, it seems that in the past, technological and data delays have caused severe inefficiencies and set backs that could be resolved. I would be interested to read more about how they have accelerated the data collection and analysis process in recent years so that data is more up to date and accurate to better aid in specific goals.
With so many unique countries, I also feel that it is extremely difficult to determine which areas of improvement and goals should be focused on. There are also some countries that are much more in need of basic help than others, but other countries are struggling, perhaps almost greater, because of more complex issues. I do agree that broadly, there should be a focus on children and young women, but beyond that and basic nutrition, I think that it is difficult to determine which goals should be emphasized.

Matt Condon

I admire many of the points made by Sachs in this article, and even though they came into existence in a different structure than he suggested, Sachs seemed to foreshadow the Sustainable Development Goals that went on to be adopted by the United Nations in 2015. The increased emphasis on environmental concerns is absolutely necessary, as the burden of climate change often falls disproportionately on the shoulders of those already in poverty. However, I do have one primary concern about the information Sachs presented in this article. My concern is not with the content of the Sustainable Development Goals themselves, but rather the way that compliance with the goals will be enforced. This paper mentioned several times that promises of development assistance from wealthier countries under the Millennium Development Goals often were not upheld. Even when legally binding commitments are made, which are thought of as “the gold standard of international diplomacy,” Sachs points out that they are not carried out because of a lack of effective enforcement mechanisms. Perhaps this suggests that while the Millennium Development Goals needed revamping, so do our methods of international diplomacy. This new set of goals will only be as successful and effective as the degree of cooperation by each participating country, and if there is no difference in enforcement mechanisms since the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, I unfortunately do not see how the Sustainable Development Goals can be expected to be more well adhered to. Free riding would be incredibly easy for many countries, especially those that are already more developed and thus may not treat the SDGs with the same degree of urgency. Similarly to how the Sustainable Development Goals themselves adopt a holistic strategy of developing low-income nations, our implementation of these goals also needs to have a more broad strategy, including a revision of enforcement mechanisms for legally binding commitments by nations. Whether incentives for cooperation include more severe economic sanctions or some other strategy, I believe that the effectiveness of the SDGs will depend on developing enforcement policies that make adhering to the SDGs the more economically viable decision.

A Facebook User

The discussion of SDG's and MDG's is becoming increasingly important in today's day and age. The article mentions how participation by all countries including developing countries like India is crucial to the achievement of these goals. I think something the article has overlooked is applying these goals and rules to organizations particularly organizations like the Olympic or FIFA. These organizations have been the center of human rights violations and sustainability problems, but they are almost always overlooked because it is hard to pin point who is responsible. International organizations that pick different host countries but are compromised of a committee of people that are also from different countries poses a problem. The place of the games and how the construction of the games is conducted becomes a lawless operation since the IOC and FIFA actually have their own set of governance that will take place in the host city. In the case of the Rio Olympics, people were displaced and killed to make room for the games and the city made promises of big stadiums and clean oceans that they simply didn't have the resources for. I really think that as important as it is to ensure countries are following and meeting SDG's and MDG's, it is equally important that international organizations are not overlooked because otherwise their exemption from these commitments can have horrific consequences as seen in Rio and what is currently happening in Qatar for the World Cup.

Connor Verrett

I really like the idea of MDGs. I think creating targets is important in the pursuit of any goal. I also see why SDGs are the next evolution of this. Countries like china were able to raise so many people out of poverty, but at what cost? They did so by becoming a place where goods were cheaply manufactured. They were cheap partly because environmental regulations were lax. Additionally, Muslim groups in Western China were persecuted. I admire the SDGs for trying to address both concerns and I think that countries that strive for these will be better off in the long term than countries that maybe took shortcuts in achieving goals. While I admire the idealism and optimism of people that think the MDGs were responsible for lifting so many people out of poverty, I am not convinced that it was the main motivation for these countries. Does a UN goal without any sort of way of enforcement really have any incentive for countries to adhere to it? I worry that the SDGs will not have anywhere near the same level of success because developing countries may see that they can gain an advantage over developed nations by employing unsustainable growth methods. I also worry developed countries won't employ SDGs because at least in the US and arguably the UK a large portion of the population seemly does not want international organizations setting the standards for them as seen in the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and Brexit. While I hope developing and underdeveloped nations strive to achieve the SDGs and I agree with their premise, I worry that without real enforcement measures that they'll be ignored.

Isaiah Curtis

Global environmental goals and regulations are obviously not new to the world. Many summits have been held to attempt to bring to light the building pressures of the Anthropocene. However, the light shined upon the MDG's by this paper I believe offers a bit of insight into the next steps for humanity when drafting rules and regulations for global environmental strategies. There are some strategies I disagree with. I feel as if setting goals significantly higher than the necessary global standard for survival may help combat the reporting lag of information. Rather than waste time and energy trying to reach remote areas for analysis, those efforts could be focused on building better infrastructure for these areas. In turn, the data would eventually show up sooner, along with better living conditions. Additionally, I am cautious of how large corporation integration is to come about. It should go unsaid That large corporations have the largest impact on all the goals and the most day-to-day influence. Should they be consulted where they have the ability to set MDGs and SDGs to their benefit, or should they be dictated to a degree? How can a balance be struck? They are the largest contributors to the countless injustices that occur today and partial enablers of dysfunctional governments in my opinion.
This paper also focused on how the world can simplify the goals to make them more implementable globally. Can regional disparities be a focus? My thoughts in that regard focus more on the disparity of carbon consumption of leading countries vs. developing ones. Developing countries tend to be the focus as over the next 50-100 years, for example, how they develop their economy and infrastructure can have a huge global impact. However, more sustainable practices have high costs due to their lack of development. Should places like the U.S. try to model efforts in parts of Europe and Asia? Can we reduce the amount we drive, use plastics, and rely on single-use or individualized products? Would it not be either for our country to try to add more bike lanes, a better transit system, and employ a cultural shift to better align ourselves with what we preach to the rest of the world in these summits?
This paper does a wonderful job of explaining the mounting pressures we are faced with. It also helps define the shortcomings of current issues. The lack of attention on the elderly population in upcoming years is frightening. I do think the one issue with summits such as these, is they look at numbers, but seem to rarely address those cultural differences which drive the thought processes behind each government's decisions.

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