25 Sep 2014
Paul Ladd, Team Leader, Post-2015 Development Agenda
Children between the ages of 12-18 learning about the MY World Survey in Rwanda. Photo: Mark Darrough/Girl Hub Rwanda
Some of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lend themselves to a discussion within each country on how, and how quickly, they wish to pursue global goals.
For example, if the people of country A want to achieve free secondary education for all children by 2028 through recruiting more teachers, while the people of country B want their government to reach that aspiration three years earlier through other means, both are legitimate and should result from democratically grounded national discussions. Critically, the level of ambition adopted by country A has little or no impact on the expected progress in country B.
But what about the other SDGs that relate to the global commons, where actions are required by all countries to keep our human progress within the means of the planet? What if the political contexts in each country lead governments to make commitments that, in the aggregate, do not sum to the global action required?
Our experience with climate change and ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR) points to some of the immediate problems we can face. The distribution of responsibilities between countries is incredibly complex and inevitably political, and more often than not we end up with a stand-off that …