Sustainable Development Goals need more quantifiable targets to succeed report

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will struggle to achieve their stated policy objectives without clearer, more quantifiable targets.

This is contained in key findings of a new report which provides a scientific critique of the SDGs, focusing on the targets under the 17 goals which are intended to guide and define the global development agenda from 2015 to 2030, following on from the Millennium Development Goals.

The report, coordinated by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSU), is timed for publication in advance of the first significant UN meeting of the year on SDGs which starts Feb 17.

It says that of the 169 targets beneath the 17 draft goals, 29% are robust, while 54 % need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential.

The report is the work of 40 leading researchers in a range of fields including epidemiology, economics and climate research.

The authors find that overall the SDGs offer a “major improvement” over their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals.

However, the targets suffer from repetition, a lack of integration, and rely too much on vague, qualitative language rather than hard, measurable, time-bound, quantitative targets.

For example, on sustainable consumption and production, while the goal is essential, “targets appear too ambitious to be fulfilled.” And on inequality, the proposed targets are “relevant but inadequately developed. Most are framed as activities rather than endpoints.”

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