New development goals risk failure without clearer targets, scientists warn

by Magdalena Mis | @magdalenamis1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 12 February 2015 19:01 GMT

Five-year-old Nasreen rests with her family's belongings as she plays under a flyover in Mumbai, India, Jan. 19, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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Draft targets rely on vague language and would be more effective if set against numerical indicators, report says

LONDON, Feb 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.N. development goals for 2030 risk failure without clearer, more measurable targets that are based on the latest scientific evidence, researchers warned on Thursday.

World leaders are due to adopt later this year a set of new development objectives, such as ending hunger, promoting healthy lives and tackling climate change, to replace eight expiring U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

However, the 169 targets - related to 17 draft Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - rely too much on vague language and would be more effective if set against numerical indicators, the scientists said in a report.

"Having robust targets that are clearly specified is key for the monitoring," said Anne-Sophie Stevance, lead coordinator of the report by the International Council for Science and the International Social Science Council.

The study said only a third of the targets was well defined and based on latest scientific evidence, while more than half needed more work and 17 percent were weak or unneccessary.

"For example, there is a target on enhanced policy coherence for sustainable development, which is an important element to have in the SDG framework as a principle and overarching goal, but it doesn't constitute a clear target that can be measured and followed in its implementation," Stevance said.

The scientists said they were concerned some goals would have unintended negative consequences on others if they were pursued separately.

"The goals on climate change have a lot of reinforcing impact for achieving the goal on ending poverty," Stevance told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"But there are also potential negative consequences between goals. One example is the goal on food security and agriculture that clearly needs to be linked with water efficiency, sanitation and water quality."

(Reporting By Magdalena Mis; Editing by Katie Nguyen)

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