Caribbean countries at the 68th United Nations General Assembly being held in New York in September 2013 need to put forward a strong Caribbean position on the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are due to expire in 2015, to a new global framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Nicole Leotaud, executive director of the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), emphasised that “Caribbean islands have their own priorities. Their unique challenges as well as strengths must be considered in shaping global goals as this will determine the nature of international development assistance to the Caribbean.”
CANARI is working with other leading sustainable development research institutes from across the globe in the Independent Research Forum on a Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda (IRF2015), which is putting forward ideas that resonate strongly with the issues being faced in the Caribbean.
Ikuho Miyazawa and Simon Hoiberg Olsen of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) highlight that the MDGs were simple and clear global targets that had a high level of political commitment and helped to focus global development efforts. However, the ‘one-size-fits all’ targets meant that different countries didn’t find details necessary for informing national policy.
Additionally, these global goals were poorly linked to different national contexts and implementation and they note that “Identifying country-relevant targets would require a country-level reality check and target identification process to follow from the intergovernmental agreement on SDGs. Comprehensive SDGs could be the basis for specific targets which address countries’ particular context and ambitions.”
Certainly some of the MDG targets and indicators are not appropriate for the Caribbean, for example those for Goal 7 on environmental sustainability. Small islands with limited land space have few options to increase forested areas or designate new protected areas and rather more appropriate indicators could focus on effective management of forested and protected areas to protect biodiversity and benefit livelihoods.
Peter Hazlewood from the World Resources Institute (WRI) notes that the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon report on new global goals “articulates the need to put sustainable development at the core of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and improve well-being—efforts that must integrate in a balanced manner economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability” and further that “Crucially, the report responds to increasingly significant gaps in the MDG framework, in particular the need for a much sharper focus on tackling rising inequality that threatens progress on many fronts.”
The issue of inequality is of central concern to Caribbean islands. While some Caribbean countries are showing positive signs of economic growth, the numbers do not reveal the high levels of inequity which are prevalent in most Caribbean SIDS. Instead, they are viewed as developed because national averages are masking key development needs.
Another issue of grave concern to Caribbean islands is the impacts of climate change. In the outcome document issued by governments of Small Island States following the Inter-Regional Preparatory Meeting held in Barbados in August 2013, climate change is recommended as one of the new goals in the new global SDG framework.
How climate change is addressed in the new global SDGs is critical and Peter Hazlewood notes that “While the report acknowledges the importance of reaching an international agreement on climate change, it could better explain the potential for greater coherence between the ‘development’ and ‘climate’ agendas, and how this would especially benefit the poorest and most vulnerable, and should make aid and development massively more effective.”