Achieving equality and justice for all through the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals
On 18 September 2000, the United Nations and its General Assembly adopted the Millennium Development Goals (Rigg, 2014; Potter, 2014; Elliott, 2014; UNDP & WBG, 2015). This project was launched with the objective of contributing to the development of the poorest countries in terms of eradicating extreme hunger, poverty and facilitate access to education. Also, it aimed to promote gender equality and health for all. In order to achieve its purpose by 2015, the Millennium Development Goals were distributed in eight goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators (Rigg, 2014). However, by the end of 2015 and until now, millions of people living in developing countries continue facing hunger, extreme poverty, lack of education and health support; which could indicate that the Millennium Development Goals did not achieve its objectives completely (McArthur & Rasmussen, 2017). For this reason, in September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a new international development project named the Sustainable Development Goals, with the aim of promoting the sustainable development of all the countries in the world and the deadline is 2030 (UN General Assembly, 2015). The Sustainable Development Goals are wider than the Millennium Development Goals. For example, with the aim of promoting and achieving equality and justice for all the Sustainable Development Goals have allocated 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators. Nevertheless, some of the questions that arise are: how may the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals lead equality and justice for all? and can the success of the Sustainable Development Goals be determined through its indicators? This essay focuses on responding to these two questions.
Before answering these two questions, it is important to describe the 17 goals of the sustainable development agenda and examine if each of these could contribute to achieving justice and equality for all human beings. The UN General Assembly (2015) describes the 17 goals as follow:
“Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.
Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.” (p. 16)
It is very interesting that the first goal of the sustainable development agenda for 2030 is the eradication of extreme poverty in all its forms and dimensions everywhere in the world (United Nations & Economic and Social Council, 2016). This turns out to be very hopeful for the millions of poor people in the world. For example, in every corner of the globe, there are people living in poverty, it does not matter if they live in developed or developing countries (Dhongde & Minoiu, 2012). Thus, extreme poverty is an issue faced by more de 767 million people worldwide no just in poor countries (World Bank Group, 2018). Likewise, the second goal of the agenda is to eradicate hunger of the planet, so that each person in the world has food security. Once again, this turns out to be good news for the millions of people in the world who lack food security (Vincent, et al., 2013). The third goal promotes good health and well-being for all, which offers solutions for people who do not have financial resources to access a quality health system (Ryan, 2001). The fourth goal focuses on providing permanent quality education for all people (UN General Assembly, 2015). It can be noted then that the first four goals briefly analysed in this paragraph are focused on leading to equality and social justice for all people in the world.
The fifth goal of the agenda emphasizes the importance of gender equality (UN General Assembly, 2015). For this reason, this goal seeks that the masculine society gives women and girls the respect, dignity and honour that they deserve. It also promotes the fair concept that men and women are equal and that consequently there is no superiority of man over a woman (Chary, 2017). On the other hand, goal six promotes the permanent supply of clean water and sanitation for all people (Bhaduri, et al., 2016). The implementation of this goal and its fulfilment would improve the quality of life of many people who lack the provision of water (Tortora & Rheault, 2008). The seventh goal of the sustainable development agenda seeks that all people have access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy (UN General Assembly, 2015). It should be noted that once again this goal uses the expression 'for all'. Which indicates that equality and justice for each person are promoted through these 17 goals. The expression 'for all' continues to appear in the sustainable development goals and in this opportunity is also included in goal eight, where decent and productive work ‘ for all’ is promoted, as well as economic growth (UN General Assembly, 2015). It could be argued then that the eight goals already analysed clearly promote equality and social justice ‘ for all’ the people of the world.
Goal nine promotes infrastructure, industrialization and innovation. This with the purpose of "support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access ‘ for all ’” (United Nations & Economic and Social Council, 2016, p. 25). Likewise, the fact that the goals of sustainable development may lead to equality and justice ‘ for all’ is framed in goal 10 where it says: "reduce inequality within and among countries" (UN General Assembly, 2015, p. 16). Goal 11 is that by the year 2030, everyone on the planet will have access to adequate housing and basic services, in addition to improving and developing marginal neighbourhoods (United Nations & Economic and Social Council, 2016). Goal 12 promotes responsible consumption and production. In regards to this, the United Nations and Economic and Social Council (2016) say that "by 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature" (p. 29). The four goals described in this paragraph like the previous ones show that they were designed to promote justice and equality for all.
Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Agenda promotes actions against climate change and its impacts in all countries (UN General Assembly, 2015). The creation and implementing of this goal represent an environmental benefit for the planet and for all the people who inhabit it (United Nations & Economic and Social Council, 2016). Therefore, it could be said that this goal reflects equality and justice for all in the sense that it aims that all human beings live in a world free of global warming and climate change (Bauer, Grotz, Connelly, & Colosi, 2016; Sainju, 2016). Similarly, goal 14 promotes the sustainable use of oceans and its natural resources (UN General Assembly, 2015). This implies caring for the seas and oceans so that they are free of pollution, what will benefit the world population especially people who live off fishing, but also to all those people whose diet is based on marine products. On the other hand, goal 15 is designed to protect and care for terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet (UN General Assembly, 2015). The implementation of this goal would contribute to the reduction of global warming and therefore report great benefits to the entire population worldwide (Doyle, 2017).
Goal 16 of the sustainable development agenda focuses on promoting peaceful societies that have easy access to justice for all through strong institutions (UN General Assembly, 2015). It should be noted that the expression 'for all' appears once again in this goal. Demonstrating the intention to seek equality and social justice for all the people of the world (United Nations & Economic and Social Council, 2016). Finally, goal 17 promotes the strengthening of partnerships among all countries in order to successfully achieve the 17 goals of sustainable development by the year 2030 (UN General Assembly, 2015).
After having briefly explored and analyzed the 17 goals of the sustainable development agenda, the following question arises: how may the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals lead equality and justice for all? Through the analysis of the 17 goals, it can be seen that these have been designed to achieve equality and justice for all human beings (United Nations & Economic and Social Council, 2016). However, the 17 goals of the sustainable development agenda do not guarantee that each country will successfully implement all these goals (UN General Assembly, 2015). In order to achieve true equality and justice for all, it is required that all the governments of the world commit themselves seriously to implement, monitor and fulfil these goals. Unfortunately, some countries like Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and others do not make great efforts to implement these goals (Rumbaut & Rumbaut, 2009; Martinez, 2014; Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, 2017; Human Rights Watch, 2018). In fact, the corruption of these governments prevents equality and justice for all and affect economic growth (Kochanova, 2015). Therefore, to achieve true equality and justice for all, it would be necessary to put an end to all traces of corruption, greed and selfishness. Only the implementation of the 17 goals may achieve its objective.