This document speaks about noble intentions of ‘sustainable consumption and production’ but all these will depend on how willing and able the affluent are in adjusting their lifestyles in metro cities across the globe, especially in the western countries.
Another aspect missed out in the discussion on inequality pertains to the more nuanced forms of inequality in different local communities, such as inequality arising out of caste-based discrimination. As many as 260 million ‘Dalits’ spread across Asia, Africa and European countries are facing caste-based discrimination and are treated as untouchables.
Ending hunger, promoting sustainable agriculture, ensuring food security – all of these essentially require deliberation on food sovereignty, which again is missing within the SDG framework.
SDGs aim to correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in the world agricultural market in accordance with the Doha development round under the WTO framework, whereas it is now common knowledge that import restrictions could in fact adversely affect small farmers while enabling large subsidised agri-businesses to capture markets in impoverished countries.
If, alongside the SDGs, one should read the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development adopted by global leaders in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it will be seen that overwhelming importance has been attached to private capital for financing development. In a way, the Agenda has legitimised the ongoing withdrawal of the state from providing essential services like education, health, water and sanitation and other sectors. This could be dangerous as the public-private partnership model has placed quality education and health care almost out of reach for the people living in poverty and socially excluded groups.
Therefore, while SDGs look quite good on the surface, their implementation will remain a challenge as the fundamental reasons for unsustainable development have not been reckoned with in the document.