The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) developed in 2000 were part of a 15-year agenda to address critical health and social issues in the developing world, such as extreme poverty, a range of health issues, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. Those 15 years are over, and the United Nations has embarked on a consultative process to develop the next 15-year agenda. The result is 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals to end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment, and address climate change.
There is one goal specific to food security to end hunger, promote food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, along with several other goals that are supportive (e.g., ending poverty everywhere, sustainable cities, ensuring healthy lives and well-being, sustainable consumption).
What makes these goals different from the MDGs?
1. They are universal. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs are intended for everyone and all nations. They are shared goals for global progress. For countries like Canada, the SDGs could help chart how we are doing within our country, how we help other countries to achieve these goals, and how we can work together on challenges that no one country can tackle alone, such as climate change. This is intended to be both practical – ensuring nations and organizations work together on big problems – but is also intended to break down Global North/ South divides and ensure no one is left behind in any country.
2. They are interrelated. Many of the goals cross-reference language in other goals, recognizing that these complex social problems cannot be fixed through silo approaches. Progress relating to one goal will necessarily mean progress related to other goals. This can also support partnerships and initiatives working across different sectors, such as business, government, and community and policy areas, such as health, economics, trade, and environment.
The previous Conservative government made it clear that they intended to apply these goals only in an international development and aid context and not here at home. Our new Liberal government hasn’t even finalized a cabinet yet, so we’ll have to wait and see how the SDGs might be applied to both foreign and domestic policy.
But, these goals are not just about nations. They are intended to be universal – for citizens and community groups, municipalities, and provinces. If others in Canada adopt the SDG goals as a guiding framework, then they could become a useful tool to identify what we’re doing well and where we need to pay more attention, track progress and share learning.
It could also mean more sharing of challenges, successes and lessons learned in building food security. Across the globe, small to medium farm and fish enterprises face common challenges relating to access to land/licenses/equipment, capital, infrastructure, and markets, in addition to environmental and economic sustainability. Poverty and food insecurity are also found in every community and threaten health and well-being of individuals and families. Despite our differences, the solutions themselves may not be all that different. Working through the SDG framework offers the opportunity to connect “local” across the “global” and share best practices and innovations for food security for all.
Satya Ramen, Community Food Coordinator, Our Food Project, Ecology Action Centre foodaction[at]ecologyaction.ca