Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

SDGs and Human Rights: How to Measure States' Compliance?

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

SDGs and Human Rights: How to Measure States' Compliance?

Article excerpt

1. From MDGs to SDGs, Human Rights and Security in the latest UN Development Agendas

Development (intended as economic development) and human rights lived separated under the same roof over various decades. Despite being 'the two sides of the same coin'1, their direct relation became mainstreamed only over the last decades. Currently, we had to wait until 1994 to have the first Report of UNDP devoted to the new notion of Human Development. Certainly it represented a fundamental step to a more holistic approach to development. Human capabilities, a theoretical notion defined by Amartya Sen2, became the keystone of a new paradigm of development, people-centered and human rights-based. Over the following years, almost all UN bodies and agencies, even IFIs, started to adopt this new paradigm, less or more sincerely.

Unfortunately, it did not trigger a Copernican revolution in development agendas as expected.

At the end of March 2000 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the Member States to negotiate an unprecedented and ambitious action plan for the Millennium Summit, a special meeting of the fifty-fifth session of the UN General Assembly. His report3 led to the Millennium Declaration, a solemn document approved by the UN General Assembly in September the same year, officially calling world leaders to take concrete actions in order to eradicate extreme poverty, to fight against gender inequality and AIDS/HIV, to assist African countries' special needs, etc. However, no follow up was established in the same Declaration. For this reason, Vandemoortele4 affirms that the UN Secretary-General created a working group, whose mandate was to elaborate a solution to avoid Millennium Declaration's oblivion.

As results of this process, 8 Goals were elaborated and, according to the Member States, not only they reflected adequately the content of the Millennium Declaration, but also translated this content into measurable goals and targets to monitor until 2015. However, many criticisms have been identified while negotiating the Millennium Development Goals. Human Rights were not taken into adequate account and did not connect real targets and goals to the existing HR legal framework despite what officially stated by the Declaration. In the same way, human security issues were also not integrated into the 8 Goals, demonstrating a shortsighted approach which did not consider properly the interlinkages between security and development.

The debate about framing Human Rights and Human Security in development strategies arose again during the making process of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Despite its focus on two issues, such as Sustainable Development and economical and environmental matters, European states and NGOs taking part to negotiations strongly promoted the inclusion of a goal dedicated to security and fundamental rights. Against this position, many developing countries stressed the idea that HR and (human) security do not depend on sustainable development, since the Rio Declaration did not mention such areas despite being the main basis of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

After hard negotiations, Human Security and Human Rights were included in Sustainable Development Goal 16, even if edulcorated. 5 Moreover, human rights references has been made throughout the whole document, reinforcing those interlinkages missing in MDGs. This progress is undoubtedly due to the effective NGOs' and civil society groups' participation in negotiations, one of the most important innovation realized in the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. They indeed presented positive evaluations for the SDG result, but also highlighted the importance that indicators will have in monitoring the accomplishment of those goals.

Currently, the definition of SDGs indicators did not follow the same process as the targets, namely because of its highly technical character. United Nations Statistical Committee led to the establishment of an inter-agency expert group with the mandate to develop relevant indicators for the 169 targets related to SDGs, in which civil society did not had the chance to participate and present its inputs. …

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