by Mark Hoda, Jeevika Trustee
In the culmination of a three year process, at the end of September this year, the UN’s 193 member states met at a summit to agree 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets
Sustainable development can be defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
The goals are to be achieved by 2030 and include ‘ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’.
The agreement also commits signatory countries to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
India’s mixed record
The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were adopted in 2000 and were supposed to be delivered this year.
As a UN report looking back on MDG delivery notes, ‘India has made notable progress in achieving poverty reduction and other MDGs since their adoption at the turn of the century but this progress has been uneven and millions continue to remain trapped in extreme poverty’.
The report highlights the scale of this challenge in the world’s biggest poverty trap – ‘India remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people’.
Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas
The new Indian government elected last year is committed to a policy of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (‘Together with all, Development for all’) to achieve inclusive development.
As the UN report on India’s MDG record notes, looking forward to its SDG delivery prospects under a new government, ‘There seems to be a remarkable convergence of vision underlying the sustainable development goals and those of the Government, although it remains to be seen how effectively it implements its new strategic direction to provide a life of dignity to all’.
A framework of indicators against which to monitor progress in delivering the SDGs is being developed at UN level and according to press reports, there is scepticism amongst Indian NGOs that the goals will be achieved, especially in the absence of clearly defined monitoring processes and resource mobilisation.
Trade versus aid?
This week, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who coined the phrase ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, visits the UK.
While aid may not feature on the agenda during Mr Modi’s visit (especially given that the UK Government has now stopped supporting development projects in India) trade very much will be. British multinationals are hoping to unveil $15 billion worth of trade and investment deals during the trip.
However, as discussed at Jeevika’s previous policy and corporate events, trade and aid must go hand in hand. India will not be able to transform itself into the economic powerhouse that its Government, people and key trading partners, such as the UK, so badly need unless it can lift hundreds of millions of its people out of abject poverty.
It is therefore vital that aid as well as trade is on the table in Modi’s discussions with political and corporate leaders in the UK this week.
Jeevika Trust is developing it’s ‘tri sector’ approach on how governments, businesses and NGOs can work together to eradicate poverty in India.
Notwithstanding the UK’s decision to stop aid to India, the British Government still provides important technical assistance to India which should be used to support the delivery of the SDGs in India. Likewise, Jeevika very much wants to see UK businesses with a relationship with India devote some of their considerable resources and expertise to rural development projects, as a key part of their trade agreements. Doing so will not only fulfill an important moral duty, but will also help create massive new markets for their goods and services.
We will therefore be watching Mr Modi’s UK visit closely in the hope that such tri sector poverty eradication agreements will be very high on the agenda. Without such partnership working, India will surely struggle to meet the SDGs by 2030 and Mr Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ commitment.