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Category: Economy | By SDR, 13-Dec-2019 | Viewed 412  Comments 0 | Source Mel Wilson

Economic Development and the Sustainable Development Goals

By Mel Wilson, PhD
Mel Wilson - nGens

Whether talking about a country, a region or a local community, the concept of economic development is generally defined as intentional improvements in the economic well-being and quality of life of people. 

Economic development is a much broader concept than economic growth. Economic growth relates primarily to quantitative changes in employment and productivity as measured with economic metrics such as employment levels, trade statistics, and GDP. Economic development includes economic growth, but it also includes factors that affect the well-being of the people, such as food security, health care, education, and respect for basic human rights, to name just a few and is typically measured using performance indicators such as poverty rates, literacy rates, vaccination rates, access to electricity, life expectancy, and so on. 

Some countries/regions/communities struggle to achieve their economic development goals simply because they lack the fundamental ability and infrastructure to do so.  Stalled or negative economic growth, food insecurity, energy insecurity, organized crime, military conflicts and government corruption can all derail even the best development programs. Getting economic development back on track often requires the involvement of external parties, including intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations, development finance institutions, trade partners, and humanitarian service organizations such as Rotary.

Enter the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Mel Wilson - nGens

The SDGs were adopted by 193 member countries as part of UN Resolution 70/1 called "Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" on 25 September 2015. The SDGs comprise 17 goals and 169 targets designed to promote an integrated and sustainable approach to economic, social and environmental development. 

The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs represent a major strategic shift in international development in that they recognize that the public, private and voluntary sectors have complementary roles to play in addressing societal issues such as poverty and supporting inclusive and sustainable growth. The authors of the SDGs recognized that while governments are ultimately responsible for achieving the Goals, the private and voluntary sectors are major drivers of job creation, productivity, social and technological innovation, and financial investment.  Without their involvement and collaboration, the SDGs will not be achieved.

Aligning with or fully integrating the SDGs into economic development programs and policies makes sense for many reasons, including:
1) The SDGs address the common social, economic and environmental challenges relevant to all countries, but which developing countries in particular struggle with. 
2) The SDGs are interconnected, so action on one SDG automatically contributes to progress on other SDGs. This is a far more efficient and effective way of directing resources than having siloed programs and goals. 
3) The SDGs promote and facilitate partnerships within and across sectors. This is more effective and efficient than having the different sectors competing for limited resources and working at cross-purposes.   
4) The SDGs provide a common framework and vocabulary, ensuring clear and effective communication between organizations and stakeholders.   
5) The UN, along with many countries, development organizations, foundations, and even commercial financial institutions have set up funding mechanisms to financially support SDG-related initiatives. 

What will successful SDG-based economies look like? They will be economies that have the following features "baked-in" as they develop:
> Policies and programs that ensure basic amenities and public services are available to every person, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, economic status, and physical ability ("no one left behind").
> Demonstrably lower rates of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy. 
> Sustainable cities, infrastructure and industries that succeed not only economically but also on environmental and social terms. 
> Responsible and efficient production, consumption and end-of-life treatment of natural resources and goods. 
> Robust and reliable institutions that reflect the values of the citizens, respect human rights, and are resistant to abuse and corruption. 

It is encouraging to see governments, companies, and service organizations such as Rotary International demonstrate their support for the SDGs by integrating them into their economic development strategies and programs. With barely a decade left until 2030, it is important that all parties maintain their focus on the SDGs as they help develop healthy, sustainable economies that ensure no one is left behind. 

Mel Wilson

Mel Wilson is founder and President of nGens Sustainability, a non-profit sustainability consultancy based in Calgary, Alberta. He is also President of MJ Wilson & Associates Inc., and a former partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada where he led the firm's Sustainable Business Solutions practice. 
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