From September 25th through 27th, world leaders gathered at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York to finalize and adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a platform tasked with “transforming our world” to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet” by 2030. To the editors of and contributors to the Health and Human Rights journal (HHR), the SDGs offered opportunities to reinforce international legal human rights obligations in an effort to promote equity and equality. As drafted, the SDGs missed those opportunities, failing to incorporate a consistent or integrated rights-based approach.
In a month-long series of posts, HHR contributors explored what the SDGs might mean for health and human rights. In the culminating summary below, reposted from the HHR blog, Executive Editor Carmel Williams and public health physician Alison Blaiklock offer a synthesis of the series, and highlight the continued need to prioritize human rights in the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs.
Last weekend at the UN General Assembly, world leaders adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets with much celebration. It had taken three years of political negotiation, public consultation, and enormous diplomacy to agree on the goals.
Contributors to our SDG SERIES welcome the SDGs as providing valuable opportunities to advance human dignity and rights. But their analyses of the SDGs also highlight missed opportunities, and signal the need for ongoing vigilance to keep human rights central to global development.
The SDGs were developed out of a far more participatory and global process than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and now have a broader coverage of topics and targets. For example, the importance of peace to human development is explicitly recognised. The influence of human rights advocates can be seen in the acknowledgement of rights throughout the text of “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (2030 Agenda).
Human rights could have provided an integrating framework to the SDGs. Instead, as most contributors to the SDG SERIES note with disappointment, there is no cohesive approach, let alone a consistent rights-based approach, to the goals and targets.