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Sustainable Development Goals – Too Many Good Ideas?


Over recent decades our world has hosted some remarkable cooperative efforts at increasing the well-being of human kind. The Health for All movement began in 1970s and 80s, emphasized primary healthcare: the provision of essentially health services like nutrition, housing, sanitation and vaccinations. Health for All quite notably emphasized local community responsibility for their own progress. The Millennium Development Goals highlighted the 2000s, with efforts in eight areas including education, gender equality and environmental sustainability. All in all, the MDGs enjoyed enthusiastic support and measurable success.


What’s next? Today we’re in the era of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: seventeen “Global Goals” that include 169 sub-targets between them. These have been painstakingly considered and planned by respected global development professionals, and broadly embraced by both governments and NGOs.


But can you name all seventeen? How about just fifty of the sub-targets? Not likely. A commentary in The Economist, for example, argued that 169 SDG targets is too many. The genius of Health for All and the Millennium Development Goals was their simplicity and easy of communication. As our world grapples with cooperative forward progress, let us be vigilant to continue embracing these two proven virtues.


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