Amina Mohammed, till recently the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, answers questions on the ambitious post-2015 sustainable development agenda adopted by UN member states at the Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September this year.
Interview with Nosh Nalavala
Nosh Nalavala: At the outset, thank you for helping our readers understand the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When the MDGs were considered comprehensive and many of the goals successfully achieved by LDCs and the vulnerable countries, why was there a need for introducing SDGs?
Amina Mohammed: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a huge success, mobilizing the international community as never before to confront a complex array of issues, focused on reducing poverty. Progress has been remarkable but there is still considerable work to do. The MDGs have helped end poverty for some, but not all. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must finish the job and leave no one behind. The SDGs must help us build the future we want, a future free from poverty and built on human rights, equality and sustainability.
Q: Is there a marked distinction between MDGs and SDGs? We do know that sustainable energy was missing from the MDGs.
A: They are both similar and different. The MDGs focus on key concerns such as poverty reduction, access to education and combating diseases like HIV/AIDS, and in all areas, significant progress has been made, although much remains to be done. The new post-2015 development agenda will seek to reinforce commitment to achieve all MDGs as well as break new ground with goals on inequalities, economic growth, decent jobs, energy, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, peace and justice, among others, with the environmental protection cross-cutting across the whole agenda.
Q: The SDGs are being launched in September 2015 during the General Assembly here at the United Nations. Will these Goals eventually be included in what is known as the Post-2015 Agenda?
A: The SDGs will be at the heart of the Post-2015, and the agreed goals, and targets, will help drive progress over the next 15 years.
Q: The MDGs had 8 Goals. The SDGs have 17 Goals with a number of sub-goals. Would it not be confusing for vulnerable countries to achieve them? Talking of fulfilling these goals, is there a year mandated when the member states will need to fulfill them?
A: Special attention is required for the most vulnerable, in particular African countries, the least developed countries, the landlocked developing countries and the small island developing States. They will require additional international cooperation to complement their efforts to work toward achievement of the SDGs by 2030.
Q: Since the SDGs are designed for the poorest and vulnerable countries, do they have a major participatory role in its formulation and ultimate implementation?
A: Yes, the SDGs are for all countries. They are universal and should be achieved by all countries, for the benefit of all people. They must also promote international cooperation to assist people in the most vulnerable countries.
Q: As Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the SDGs, what is your role?
A: Amongst other things, my job is to advise the Secretary-General and assist him in coordinating the planning of the UN system and mobilizing all constituencies in support of a new, effective, transformative sustainable development agenda.
Q: There is a common thread running between Goals 13, 14 and 15 — Climate Change and its impact on the planet. Could we conclude that the SDGs have a disproportionate Climate Agenda?
A: No, the environment has always been a major dimension of sustainable development and we are seeing that environmental degradation around the world is exacerbating poverty and increasing misery and hardship for millions of people. These goals address a range of environmental challenges, from supporting sustainable ecosystems, conserving ocean resources, and tackling climate change. Unless we address issues environmental protection issues as well as climate change, through reducing emissions and building climate resilience, we stand little chance of making further progress towards the elimination of poverty. That is why the Secretary-General identified the Planet as one of his proposed essential elements to help frame the sustainable development agenda.
Q: As you are well aware, and Goal 5 clearly indicates, there is an ever-widening gender gap and a real need to empower women and girls in vulnerable countries. Do you believe that climate change impacts women more than men and that governments need to do a lot more to alleviate the suffering of women?
A: The SDGs must be people-centered and planet sensitive and address many of the very real gender dimensions to climate change. Many are due to women’s status in society, education, and the range of services available. Due to a range of factors, women are more often victims of disasters that are often climate change-related; as farmers, they are at the front lines of changing weather patterns that increasingly consist of extreme drought or flooding. There are many actions that can address these challenges in building climate resilience.
Q: While it is gratifying that you are in the forefront to lead nations on SDGs, are these SDGs being implemented with the constraints of women in mind?
A: Absolutely, the theme running through all of these goals is to remove those constraints and allow and empower women, and all people, achieve their full potential. Of note is the Secretary-General’s proposal to consider Dignity and People as key elements to help frame and understand the sustainable development agenda.
Q: Lastly, what is the initial budget for the SDGs and how are the SDGs being financed and have the developed countries honoured their commitments to assisting the LDCs/SIDs/LLDCs fulfill their SDGs goals?
A: There are many issues that must be resolved this year and financing is critical. We hope that the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa this July will provide a framework for ensuring that the new sustainable development agenda and the efforts on climate action are properly supported.
Interview first appeared in the UN publication THE COMMITMENT
UN Photo: Mark Garten