Jeffrey Sachs is putting 'a lot of hope' in the SDGs

Jeffrey Sachs, economist and director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Photo by: Stephen Jaffe / International Monetary Fund / CC BY-NC-ND

The Millenium Development Goals expire this year, and the international community is mobilizing to replace them.

Country representatives are currently in negotiations to build consensus around a new priority list for the next 15 years — a framework known as the sustainable development goals to be adopted at the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September.

So just how significant is this opportunity and what kind of impact will the new SDG framework actually have?

Speaking at the World Bank Friday, renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs said he is “putting a lot of hope” in the new SDG’s and said sustainable development is the “calling card of our time.”

Sachs highlighted the looming threat posed by climate change and said that the unleashing of fossil fuels by human beings is bringing on a new and dangerous age of global history in which temperatures rise and extreme weather torments.

The new SDG framework could be “the core organizing principle for the coming generation,” said Sachs, adding that we may not get another opportunity to change the course of development.

But not all economists are as optimistic about the SDG process.

Last week, Devex featured commentary from economist Bill Easterly, who — unsurprisingly to many — was very critical of the post-2015 development agenda.

“You would not lose much if you replaced ‘sustainable development goals’ with ‘some good development goals,’” Easterly said.

For Sachs though, sustainable development is a much needed “analytical approach as well as a moral approach.”

But in order for the SDG’s to be successful, Sach’s said, the international community needs to back them up with funding — new global funds for health, education and smallholder agriculture, in addition to increased development assistance from new donors like China.

Sachs also encouraged the international community to “go after the 1,800 billionaires to tell them how they can find meaning in their lives by helping to solve world problems.”

He added that by investing in clean sources of energy such as solar and hydro the poorest parts of the world could “suddenly have the highest quality energy source for the whole world.”

And having a clear plan according to Sachs is critical.

“Every time you have a goal, you need a road map,” he said.

Sachs recommended “backcasting,” or working backward from a target date to the present time in order to understand what needs to happen at every step of the way to reach the goals we end up setting for ourselves.

What are your thoughts on Sachs’ take on the SGDs? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

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    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.