At the launch of this blog series Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte ask critical questions about the SDGs. Their colleague Bernard Mazijn (Ghent University) provides the necessary historical background to understand the political compromise that is Agenda 2030.
Jonathan Matthysen (Oxfam Belgium) agrees that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) legitimize the current economic system. He argues, however, that progressive forces can also turn the SDGs into a weapon against neoliberalism.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Episode 7: Bernard Mazijn (UGent) – Agenda 2030: the limits of multilateralism?
Episode 8: Brecht De Smet (UGent) – SDGs caught between development and underdevelopment. It is time for new alternatives based on old critiques
Episode 9: Tonia Novitz (University of Bristol) – The normative promise of sustainability for labour standards – and the limitations of the SDGs
Episode 10: Mia Kristin Häckl and Julia Schöneberg (University of Kassel) – It is time to abandon “development” goals and demand a post-2030 Utopia
Episode 11: Keya Khandaker and Lata Narayanaswamy (University of Leeds) – The unbearable whiteness of international development: the SDGS and decolonial feminisms
Episode 12: Thomas Vervisch (Ghent University) – 0,7 cake crumbs or actual cakes? Why we need a Minister of Global Affairs
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.
Global Studies Research Seminar 2020
The making and unmaking of development: de- and reconstructions – May, 18-20
The Ghent Centre for Global Studies, together with the Governance in Conflict Network, invites participants for a spring seminar series on post-development, with reading groups (in February, March and April) and a 2,5 day seminar in May, with workshops and debates with keynote lecturers Jason Hickel (LSE), Lata Narayanaswamy (Leeds University) and Pavel Lopez (Università di Milano ‘Bicocca’). You can find the full program and registration information, here.