There are three things you need to know about the negotiations over the United Nations’ next set of global development goals, which will be adopted by world leaders at the General Assembly this September and remain in effect for the next 15 years:
- Almost everybody agrees that the proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets under discussion are too numerous to be fully measured and tracked, much less fully achieved.
- Almost nobody wants to reopen negotiations to reduce the number of goals and targets, because almost everybody has something in the current proposal they want to retain — and many fear a further round of revisions would produce not just fewer but also far less ambitious SDGs.
- The real negotiations, therefore, are those now taking place in the parallel geopolitical universe of official statisticians, who through the UN Statistical Commission will oversee the selection of “indicators” for those 17 goals and 169 targets. It’s a process that won’t conclude until months after the September adoption of the SDGs but that will determine what those new goals actually mean, whether they can realistically be met by the 2030 deadline and if they will really matter much to the world if they are met.