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Jacob McCabe

After reading Sachs' explanation of the SDG's I felt a new wave of hope regarding the future of sustainability and global cooperation. And then I took another look at the date this was written. While the SDG's are absolutely a step in the right direction of promoting sustainability and a more developed world, there are so many things that would have to go perfectly and even more that could throw the entire plan in disarray. As we have seen in the years since 2012, the world has taken several turns that many did not see coming, including (but not limited to) the Covid-19 pandemic, the growth of nationalistic sentiment across the western world, and the continued desecration of our environment and natural resources. The sobering reality of the SDG's is that we have not designed a global system that is capable of supporting the trust and cooperation needed to take on these monumental tasks, not to mention the unwillingness of many developing nations to stymie their own growth at the behest of the richer, more developed nations. For example, Nigeria has experienced an average of a 2.56% growth rate since 2011 due to its oil wealth and leading position on the African continent. Through this, they are causing huge levels of pollution that is contributing to the crisis that is climate change. However, their standards of living for a large number of the population do not even come close to reaching what we know in the United States. While I agree that the best way for development is a holistic view of the economy, the well-being of the population, and a commitment to sustainability, Nigeria is experiencing their development on the back of oil. In their minds, who are we to tell them how to and how not to improve the living standards of their population? This is a problem seen around the world that still has not made significant ground. While the SDG's are an amazing example of how to reach a world that benefits all, the reality of the situation paints a much darker picture.

Yuhan Liu

The MDGs and the SDGs are designed to be both guides and benchmarks of international development. In this paper, Sachs looked at both the global priorities that the SDGs need to address, and the lessons learned from the MDGs. I think the angle Sachs takes in this paper is extremely well-done because the extension and expansion of the MDG the development of the SDG ought to take into consideration not only the future but also the past.
Based on these knowledge Sachs draws the blueprint of the SDGs by affirming the principle of the three bottom lines as well as proposing four specific goals which later became essential parts of the 17 official SDGs. I think the triple bottom line of development (people, planet, and prosperity) emphasized by Sachs in this paper informed the priority of the SDGs. Instead of focusing solely on economic development like early development strategies, the MDGs that came about at the turn of the century put a heavier focus on the human aspect of development. Responding to new and more severe challenges of population growth and hunger, the SDGs add a new layer of complexity to the development goals: environmental sustainability. 5 of the 17 goals focus on the plant, and this is often seen as THE critical new feature of the SDGs, but the comparison between the 17 SDGs to the 8 MDG goals will also show a renewed emphasis on economic development (prosperity) with 5 of the 17 goals focusing on this category. Thus, while Sachs does not address economic development extensively in this paper, the bottom line of prosperity found a new life in the SDGs after 15 years of hiatus in the MDGs.
Moreover, although the SDGs are supposed to be actionable goals and guide international development for the next 15 (9) years, I find the four goals Sachs proposed to be somewhat hollow and overtly optimistic about how this new objective will be met. The four goals Sachs proposed are a meaningful standard basic need for all people worldwide, the universal adoption of sustainable economic strategies, non-discriminatory promotion of well-beings, and collaborative good governance. These are all aspirational goals that anyone would have a hard time rejecting. However, much like the claim of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” written in the Declaration of independence, these goals do not actually provide a guide to how they ought to be achieved.
Sachs attempts to addressing this problem by proposing that since the SDGs are not just for the global South alone but for all states of this world, the wealthier countries of the West ought to help the South achieve these goals through financial and technology transfers. He also proposes that government and non-governmental organizations ought to cooperate with the private sector and include multinational corporations in the development process. One should be wary of these proposals because it is evident that developing countries will not have the financial resource to achieve the goals proposed unless they relied on assistance such as foreign aid and business opportunities emanating from the West. Collaborations, under this condition, can easily become dependency.
Sachs’s emphasis on collaboration and partnership in this paper is directly reflected in Goal 17 of the official SDGs. By calling for "partnerships for the goals" that "address how to finance all of the previous [goals]," with an emphasis on “partnership” the SDGs deflates the potential dependency relationship between the West and the global South. By designating Western capitals to address the financing of the expansive list of development goals, Goal 17 is consistent with Sachs’s suggestions in this paper and gives the West and its private sector powerful leverage to advance its business interests regardless of the development needs of the people. Thus, while each of the SDG goals proposed by Sachs and presented by the UN seems commendable, the SDGs could breed dependency of Southern economies on Western capitals.


I think the article did a great job of summarizing the context behind both the MDG and SDG goal systems. I actually was familiar with the SDG goal system but had not heard or studied the MDG goals. I liked how the author laid out how the MDG goals had some success largely due to the fact that the goals were measurable and time bound, serving as a sort of “report card” for countries to fight against poverty and poor life conditions. I agree that the goals had their shortcomings as well - especially the claim that the goals were almost exclusively aimed toward low income, developing countries. I also think that, like we discussed in class, the progress that we saw on the MDGs could be influenced by the main outlier, China. The SDGs, according to the author, take a step forward by forming the “triple bottom line” of economic development, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion. My first reaction to the author's description of the system is to question how the goals differ for various countries. If the criteria for improvement is different for each nation, then will we see progress across the board or only in the countries that need the most improvement or are most willing to improve? My next question is whether these goals are mutually exclusive or not? The author makes the claim that the goals are likely not mutually exclusive, and depend on the progress of the authors. While I agree with this to a certain extent, I think the methods of social inclusion improvement and environmental sustainability improvement differ so much that, in some ways, they will be completely different in how they are achieved. I do agree, however, that all three will depend on good governance. It's frustrating that the United States, among other countries, has a history of not “buying in” to global efforts to combat environmental issues. If GDP and other current economic measures are not good enough at measuring a country's progress, what measures can we start using? The first step for SDGs to succeed will be to repeat the positive aspects of MDGS, which include awareness, ease of distribution, and the ability for a goal to be achievable. The second step will be to improve in the areas where MDGs struggled: enforcement, intermediate milestones, data collection and distribution, private sector involvement, and direction of capital investments. If SDGs can improve in those areas and build off of past success, they will likely have a positive impact. The real question is how much of an impact they will have, and do some things need to change in order to maximize that change?


Before I read this article, I was completely unknowing of the many attempts that have happened in the past 30 or so years to improve environmental concerns, poverty, and to greater gender equality. Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) are discussed in depth including their pros and cons. I actually really liked the idea behind MDGs and how they work but SDGs are the next phase and evolution of them. A perfect example of this is if you look at China. How has China risen? Well if you look into it shallowly, it is pretty obvious that many U.S. businesses like Apple and Nike take their production lines over to China because the labor is so cheap. If you look at this situation from the poverty side then that makes them more revenue but also having more factories results in more pollutants in the air. This has also made China more relaxed and not strict on environmental protection laws. So in this situation there are pros and cons. The pros being more profit and economic success while the living conditions and air quality go down the drain. However, I am not a big believer in MDGs being the big reason for countries poverty rates dropping compared to some other optimistic people. Countries in poverty definitely have different motives than that. I am also worried about the carry through with SDGs in developed and developing countries. More developed countries will most likely not use them because why would they want to be set to an international standard to be set for them? The U.S. has also backed out of international standards that were set before. Overall, I think SDGs should be used by undeveloped nations with high rates of poverty but realistically I think the standard set will be ignored or pushed to the side. This article is very intriguing and made me more aware of what exactly MDGs and SDGs are.

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