The SDGs: goals for the Pacific?

The Pacific as a region mdg-imagehas broadly failed to achieve the MDGs : 10 of the 14 independent Pacific island states did not achieve a majority of the MDGs (excluding MDG 8, which is not focused on countries), and three failed to achieve any. But despite this there is a sense of optimism regarding the SDGs in the region; even in the face of capacity constraints that are likely to limit progress against a long list of targets.

The MDGs were credited with marshalling resources and efforts around a global anti-poverty agenda. There was an increase in aid to the Pacific , which can partly be attributed to the MDGs, although this was not uniform and was not as significant as the aid boom in sub-Saharan Africa. Many a national development plan in the Pacific refers to the MDGs, meaning that in practice, even if MDG targets were not achieved in the Pacific, the MDGs took on normative aspirational value.

The MDGs were rightly criticised for having been drafted by UN officials without input from the region. Derek Brien from the Pacific Institute of Public Policy argued that as a result, the MDGs were “aimed primarily at sub-Saharan Africa, but applied to all developing countries.” The MDGs failed to include issues of great importance to the region, such as climate change. Their focus on international poverty lines did little to inform poverty alleviation in the Pacific.

SDGs – inclusive process

The drafting of the SDGs has been a far more inclusive process, involving extensive consultation in all regions of the world, including the Pacific. A wide group of stakeholders, which includes civil society and the private sector, has also participated in their formulation. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are referred to explicitly on a number of occasions in the goals – a reflection of this participation, and the sheer number of SIDS in the United Nations (where Tuvalu’s vote is equal to that of Australia). This is a great outcome for SIDS, and no doubt will lead to better recognition of the special challenges that they face in other fora.

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