Trust all these UN type organisations to keep coming out with one buzzword after the other. I mean buzzwords are fine if some work actually gets done. But this is usually not the case.
Anyways as tenure of MDGs is going to be over in 2015, UN is coming out with a new development buzz – Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The question is what should these goals be?
Bjorn Ljomborg of Copenhagen Business School, who has been associated with such projects writes on SDGs.
Over the next 15 years, the international community will spend $2.5 trillion on development, with national budgets contributing countless trillions more. In September, the world’s 193 governments will meet at the United Nations in New York to agree on a set of global targets that will direct these resources. With so much at stake, it is vital that we make the smartest choices.
Because it is only natural for politicians to promise to do everything, the UN is currently poised to consider an impossibly inclusive 169 targets. The proposed targets range from the ambitious (“end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria”) to the peripheral (“promote sustainable tourism”) to the impossible (“by 2030 achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities”).
But promising everything to everyone provides no direction. In truth, having 169 priorities is like having none at all.
That is why my think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus, asked 82 of the world’s top economists, 44 sector experts, and UN organizations and NGOs to evaluate which targets would do the most good for every dollar, euro, or peso spent. A team of eminent economists, including several Nobel laureates, then prioritized these targets in value-for-money terms.
It turns out that not all targets are equal. Some generate amazing economic, social, and environmental benefits per dollar spent. Many others generate only slightly more than a dollar per dollar spent. Some even generate a net loss, doing less than a dollar of good per dollar spent.
If the world were to spend money equally across all 169 UN targets, it would do about $7 of social good for each dollar spent. That is respectable, but we could do much better.
The panel of eminent economists has produced a much shorter list of just 19 targets that will do the most good for the world. Every dollar spent on these targets will likely produce $32 of social good – more than four times more effective than spending on all 169. Being smart about development spending could be better than quadrupling the global aid budget. The short list covers a lot of ground; what connects the targets is the amount of good they will do for people, the planet, and prosperity.
This list of smart targets will not solve all of the world’s problems; no realistic list, however ambitious, can. But the 19 targets identified by the Copenhagen Consensus can help the world’s governments to concentrate on key priorities. These targets will do more than four times as much good per dollar spent as spending across all 169 targets would do. Governments should stop promising everything to everyone and start focusing on delivering the most possible.
MDG had 8 goals with 21 targets. And now we have 19 targets. I don’t think this is a really short target list. Just that these 19 targets are under three Ps – People, Planet and Prosperity. Who said only Business Schools believed in Ps, Ss and so on?
Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann suggest just one taregt – basic human skills:
Later this year, the UN will set the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. This column argues that having lots of targets will make it hard for policymakers to enact real change. Instead, the primary post-2015 goals should focus on young people achieving basic skills. Basic skills, in turn, will help address issues of poverty and limited healthcare as well as help foster the new technologies needed to improve sustainable growth.
The previous Millennium Development Goals were clearer on measureable goals. In education they called for universal access to primary schooling. And they showed real progress was possible: primary school enrolment rates in South Asia rose from 78% in 1999 to 94% in 2012 and from 59% to 79% in sub-Saharan Africa. But these past policies have met with mixed success. While they have substantially expanded worldwide access to schooling, in many countries they have not secured the hoped-for improvements in economic wellbeing.
The simple explanation for this is that these policies did not sufficiently emphasise or appreciate the importance of learning outcomes or cognitive skills. The best available evidence shows that many of the students appeared not to learn anything. The evidence on international achievement tests showed dismal levels of knowledge for many of the countries that improved in school access – seat time is not the same as learning. This is a huge problem, because history shows that it is these skills that drive economic growth (Hanushek and Woessmann 2015a). But these skills are not measured by simple school attainment, and access to schools alone turns out to be a very incomplete and ineffective goal for development.
In a new report (Hanushek and Woessmann 2015b), we measure skills based on the achievements of youth on international assessments of learning outcomes. Using data from 76 countries, we focus on the portion of the population that lacks the basic skills needed for full participation in today’s global economy. A straightforward and useful definition of basic skills is acquisition of at least Level 1 skills (420 points) on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (see OECD 2013). This level of skill corresponds to what might today be called modern functional literacy, and it provides a measuring rod for judging the skills needed for economic participation.
Based on that framework, a clear and measurable development goal is that all youth obtain basic skills. This goal, which directly promotes inclusive development, incorporates two components: full enrolment of youth in secondary school and achievement that provides a basis for economic and social participation. Moreover, because progress can be readily measured on a consistent basis across countries, it can be used to direct attention and resources toward long-run economic development.
Much more to come as discussions begin formally on SDGs..