In the tale of two towns, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, Ambassador Oh Joon explains, Town A wakes up everyday to find a way to send their children to school. But if someone in the family gets sick, there is no such thing as healthcare. In Town B, people get up to decide if they should invest in the stock market. They send their kids to the best schools and they go to the best doctors even if they don’t have best health care. Not a lot of countries in the world have experienced this kind of transition.
Ambassador Joon painted a picture to a group of students and academicians sitting before him in the auditorium of the Elliott School at the George Washington University (GWU) on Thursday, March 10, 2016. The United Nations wants to facilitate this kind of transition by finding out what is needed to make the transition even if people in Town B are not necessarily happier than the people in Town A. He explained that we cannot know what makes people happy, but we know that you cannot be happy with an empty stomach or with sick children.
This is why we need development.
As the flags of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea stood side by side on the podium of the GWU Elliott School, symbolizing both countries’ alliance to one another, Ambassador Joon’s lecture for the GW Lecture Series, organized jointly by GWU, the GWU Korean Management Institute (KMI) and the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), titled, “Sustainable Development Goals: What does it mean to the World?” explained the coming to being of a concept buzzing around the world.
The concept of development changes continually. The United Nations, for instance, is 70 years old and it was initially established to feed people and for economic growth. In the 1980s, the concept of development expanded to encompass social issues, such as gender equality, welfare, and human dignity. Now, the world has come to the revelation that climate change is giving us the greatest challenge of all. We have finally realized that if we do not take care of our planet, we may not have it anymore.
This is the concept of sustainable development, the Sustainable Development Goals, or SGDs.
To give some more context, in the 2000s we had the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They were 8 goals with an expiration date of 2015. It emphasized social issues and gender issues. As they were quite specific, people asked why member states of the UN chose them. If we achieve them, the world wondered, would that mean that we achieved all of our development goals?
Ambassador Joon explained that when we create goals, you must make concrete and specific ones. The challenge, however, is when they not comprehensive enough to include issues like climate change, evolving landscapes, and civil society.
This is where the SDGs come into play. The SDGS are now 17 goals with an expiration date of 2030. Why so many more?
The original 8 were more specific and concrete with a numeric benchmark to understand how much of it we achieved. But with 17 it is harder to track and some are not as specific. Some may criticize that. But it shows that the UN has a comprehensive package that covers all human activity.
At the intersection of public policy and the SDGs, the George Washington University demonstrates the unparalleled opportunities that it provides to its students to take part in the interchanges that shape our community and the world.
Written by Dilara Bogut, International Council for Small Business (ICSB)