Fifteen years ago, the world embarked on a journey to eradicate poverty, and transform society in a way no generation prior thought possible. This ambitious agenda manifested in the form of the Millennium Declaration, from which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) arose. The eight MDGs aimed to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.
Set to expire at the end of 2015, the global community has been looking back on the successes and failures of the MDGs, and incorporating these lessons into the creation and implementation of the next phase of UN-led development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Rwanda is an inspiring success story for its achievement in nearly reaching all its MDG targets. Taking national ownership of the Goals, Rwanda worked tirelessly to develop and advance the country over the last 15 years. During this time, poverty has been reduced and universal primary education has been achieved; with free education until the conclusion of secondary school (year 12). According to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, “the biggest gains in women’s representation during the last 20 years have been made in Rwanda.” Women hold a majority of seats in parliament at 64%, and there is no gender gap in literacy. Child mortality has been reduced, maternal care has increased, access to proper health care and treatment to combat disease has risen, and environmental sustainability has become a government priority, with the consumption of ozone depleting substances, CFCs, dropping from 30 metric tons in 2000 to 0 today.
Though there were huge strides in development, Rwanda faces the biggest challenge in eradicating extreme poverty. As a complicated and multifaceted issue, significant progress in eradicating poverty in Rwanda entails uplifting all aspects of society. Learning from the MDGs, the next phase of goals will implement a framework that takes into account the integrated nature of development and the multidimensionality of poverty.
While the MDGs are expiring, the ambition they were founded on is exponentially growing. On September 25 2015, world leaders convened in New York and committed to 17 new goals that will build upon the success of the MDGs and transform Rwanda, and the world, into a place devoid of extreme poverty, that fights inequality and injustice, and fixes climate change.
With the SDGs, Rwandans have the opportunity to act upon their vision for the future. The 17 Goals address targets for development that are relevant to every country in the world. Within this framework, the Government of Rwanda, guided by global ambitions, can set national targets to successfully achieve these new goals. Rwanda is a small country with global impact; the SDGs are an opportunity to create the type of world that benefits all.
Since 2000, globally 43 million more children go to school, the rate of new HIV infections has gone down by 40%, over 2 billion more people received clean drinking water, and extreme poverty has been halved as a result of the MDGs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a comprehensive set of 17 goals which will go above and beyond these remarkable past accomplishments to create a new world by 2030. Formed through extensive worldwide consultation with all segmentsof society, with an emphasis on targeting global challenges through which the goals will have the greatest impact, the SDGs are a comprehensive development plan to leave no person behind.
The SDGs are unique in that they are globally relatable and simultaneously recognize country-specific challenges. Though development issues differ around the world, the Goals are universal in that they are adaptable to the needs and current progress of each country. This is manifested through the 169 targets that measure the progress of the Goals, to ensure the greatest success and most accurate monitoring of progress.
While many of these goals require a unified global response -- eradicating extreme poverty in one country alone will not solve the wider problem-- it is vital that each country responds in a way that facilitates the greatest sustainable development domestically.
And yet, SDGs are not only for government leaders and heads of state. In an age of interconnectivity like never before, the SDGs framework recognizes that each person has a unique and powerful role to play. These are Global Goals for global citizens; the impact of all people at all levels of society is necessary to bring these goals to fruition. People can impact effective change simply by spreading awareness; telling everyone about them, educating one another on what they are and what they can do for the benefit of all. Action is required by all levels of society to turn this ambitious, yet achievable, vision for a better future into reality.
When the 15-year clock begins on January 1st 2016, Rwanda will be equipped for the challenges that the SDGs present, and is even now on the right path to success. The Government of Rwanda has already incorporated many of the SDG targets into policies and strategies for the future, including the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2 (2013-2018) and the Vision 2020.
Now that the SDGs are coming into force, the government is incorporating the elements of the goals into new and updated policies. This is seen in sustainable urban planning, the push towards a green economy, and ground breaking strides in gender equality, to simply name a few. The development experienced across the country is just the beginning. By coming together in support of the ambitions and targets of the SDGs, Rwanda has the capacity to help transform the world.