Germany seeks leading role in implementing SDGs

The UN headquarters in New York. [Utenriksdepartementet UD/Flickr]

This weekend at a UN summit, ambitious new targets for reducing poverty are on the agenda for 2030. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants Germany to be a front runner in the fight against hunger. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Development organisations and scientists warn against setting vague objectives, and not carrying out reviews of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to Angela Merkel, Germany will play a leading role in the implementation of the UN development goals. In relation to the UN meeting planned for this weekend, Merkel has announced that in 2016, the German government will submit a comprehensive programme on how Germany will be able to achieve these goals. This will include more money for development aid, and more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gases.

>>Read: Annick Girardin: ‘The SDGs can solve the causes of the migrant crisis’

Merkel highlighted the link between the worldwide issues of poverty and the environment, and the refugee crisis in Europe. According to the UN refugee agency, around 60 million people worldwide have had to flee their homes. “Tackling the root causes for flight has both a European and a global dimension,” said the Chancellor, who traveled to New York on Thursday evening (24 September) to attend the UN summit, in which 17 development goals and 169 secondary targets will be on the agenda.

Currently, 1.3 billion people still live in extreme poverty, 800 million people go hungry, and women still have less access to work and education. Merkel added that, “The 2030 agenda can therefore been seen as a global plan for addressing the causes of migration and flight.”

>>Read: Is the EU ready to walk the talk on sustainable development?

Norbert Neuser MEP (S&D) was torn over the planned targets. “Personally, fewer goals with clearer objectives would have been preferable, but that wasn’t possible in the compromise.” Neuser did praise the fact that reducing poverty and hunger are central and that combatting climate change, another key factor in the displacement of people, is also a main objective.

Arne Lietz, another SPD MEP, said, “I am glad that good governance is being brought to the agenda’s fore. From my point of view, this is key to the successful and sustainable implementation of the SDGs.”

Campaign organisation ONE called upon Merkel to ensure that the implementation of the global objectives is monitored. The progress toward achieving the objectives should, in the future, be published regularly using a scoring system, urged Tobias Kahler, ONE’s German director. According to Kahler, “much more poverty-relevant data is needed than what was previously available”, At the moment, a third of all births and two thirds of all infant deaths are not registered.

“Unfortunately, today the Chancellor missed the opportunity to pledge to invest 0.7% of economic output in development aid,” commented Kahler. In order for poverty to be ended by 2030, at least 50% of German development aid must be directed to the world’s least developed countries.

Germanwatch, a development NGO, praised the SDGs. “For the first time, the need for universal development has been planned in a way that respects our planet’s ecological limits,” said Klaus Milke, the NGO’s chairman. However, Milke warned against letting the non-legally binding targets become mere empty promises. So far, it is also unclear how they should be implemented.

>>Read: MDG designer fears UN goals will ‘degenerate into wish list’

Progress-update importance

A comprehensive set of goals by itself is not enough for a development agenda, complained an expert from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. According to the institute’s director, Reiner Klingholz, “So far it is unclear as to when many goals have actually been met.”

“Consequential Omissions”, a study produced by the institute and the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA), critically analyses how important the careful formulation of development goals is to their eventual success, through analysis of the SDGs’ predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“You can only find out reliably whether the world has changed for the better if you factor population data into development indicators,” adds Michael Herrmann, UNFPA consultant and publisher of the study. Klingholz added that, “None of the targets considered the fact that populations grow at different rates in different countries.”

  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Berlin Institute for Population and Development study Consequential Omissions

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