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The SDGs and the urgency of human rights in times of crisis

International human rights treaties are notably absent from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although human rights and SDGs could in theory reinforce each other, Chiara Macchi (Wageningen University & Research) argues that the politically reassuring language of ‘goals’ and ‘commitments’ may fail to prioritize human rights and diffuse accountability of states and corporations.

How sustainable are the SDGs?

We need more development, not post-development

SDGs are ‘sustainable’, in the sense that poverty reduction has dominated development discourse for a very long time. Francine Mestrum criticizes exactly this: the old development agenda of radical economic reforms has been watered down in favour of a neoliberal agenda and focus on poverty. What we need is not ‘post-development’, but more development within a restructured global order. 

Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals

Mission unfulfilled

This blog series was launched with a sharp opinion by Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular on the role of trade in them. Marc Maes (11.11.11-Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement) agrees that the SDGs do not question the neoliberal paradigm. However, he argues that trade policy does play an important role in the Agenda 2030. He systematically illustrates how the different trade provisions have been barely implemented. Trade policy should not only support the Agenda 2030, but it should also become more sustainable. European Union (EU) trade policy has been failing in this regard. 

The Coronavirus pandemic and the irrelevance of the SDGs.

Time for a Jubilee

According to Remco van de Pas (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp), SDG3 on health and wellbeing has been irrelevant to address global challenges in this area. The futility of this SDG and limits of the World Health Organization are today painfully clear in the approach of the covid-19 pandemic. Although the crisis was not unexpected, WHO member states have insufficiently invested and left much scope for charities and private investors. The author scrutinizes global public health policies and advocates the creation of a new Jubilee Campaign for indebted countries.

Blog series – debating the SDGs

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched to great fanfare by the United Nations. Not only governments at different levels, but also NGOs and companies invest a great deal of time and energy into the SDG story. This year, a first state of affairs will be drawn up. There are still 10 years to go to reach the 17 general objectives and 169 sub-objectives. Time to evaluate and look ahead. This blog series by the Centre for Global Studies at Ghent University (Belgium) aims to foster critical debates on the SDGs.  

We will publish weekly episodes, from different authors – including academics and voices from the development sector – discussing the SDGs from different angles. 

This series is created in collaboration with MO*Magazine. The contributions will be published in English on this webpage and in Dutch on MO*Magazine. 

Episode 1: Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte (UGent) – Who wants some more old wine in new bottles? Why the Sustainable Development Goals will not save the world.

Episode 2: Remco van de Pas (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp) – The Coronavirus pandemic and the irrelevance of the SDGs. Time for a Jubilee.

Episode 3: Marc Maes (11.11.11-Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement) – Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals. Mission unfulfilled.

Episode 4: Francine Mestrum – How sustainable are the SDGs? We need more development, not post-development.

Episode 5: Chiara Macchi (Wageningen University & Research) – The SDGs and the urgency of human rights in times of crisis

Episode 6: Jonathan Matthysen (Oxfam Belgium) – The SDGs as double agent for progressive sustainable development

Who wants some more old wine in new bottles?

Why the Sustainable Development Goals will not save the world 

Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte (Gent University) are of the opinion that the SDGs do not tackle – and may even strengthen – global injustice. Delays and failures in achieving the SDGs may easily be blamed on the global disruptions following the covid-19 pandemic. However, there have always been fundamental problems with the SDG approach. SDGs do not contain any structural reforms and further legitimise the existing world order, as evidenced by the role attributed to (free) trade.