For a greater global role, here’s why India should take SDGs seriously

Content from the Brookings Institution India Center is now archived. After seven years of an impactful partnership, as of September 11, 2020, Brookings India is now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, an independent public policy institution based in India.

Editor's note:

This article first appeared in Live Mint. The views are of the author(s).

On 19 July, India presented its first voluntary national report on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN. Although India was just one of 43 countries to do so this year, it was, doubtless, the most anticipated report; there is broad consensus that the success or failure of the hard-negotiated 17 SDGs will largely depend on whether India is able to achieve them or not.

For instance, the target of Goal 1—to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”—is unlikely to be achieved unless India attains it. According to one estimate, India alone is home to more than 30% of the global estimate of over one billion people who live in extreme poverty. According to another estimate, India has more poor than 26 of the poorest countries in Africa. In fact, according to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, a single Indian state—Uttar Pradesh (UP)—accounts for 8% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty. Thus, if UP were to succeed, the world would be well on its way to achieving SDG Goal 1.

Clearly then, India’s voluntary reporting at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development was the perfect opportunity to not only present India’s commendable achievements since the SDGs were adopted in 2015 but also enhance India’s global standing and leadership credentials at the UN. After all this was as much a political forum as it was a discussion on development. While India partly achieved the first objective of highlighting some of the progress it had made on select SDGs, it did not make as much of a convincing case of leading the world on SDGs.

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