Best Sustainable Development Moves Need Decision Analysis

SDGs

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, January 29, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “It’s about the toughest job any human being could be given,” says David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The London-born UN veteran has the job of mobilizing global efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda, adopted unanimously by 193 Heads of State at UN Headquarters in New York in September.

The goals are ambitious: zero poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy, to decent work and economic growth, innovation, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, unpolluted oceans and land, and creating the partnerships to achieve them.

“The 17 goals represent an indivisible tapestry of thinking and action that applies in every community, everywhere in the world,” said Nabarro. “They are universal. But they’re also indivisible and that means that we really do not believe that any one goal should be separated out from the others.”

“And as you study them,” he said, “you realize that although they’re presented as individual goals, they actually represent a total and completely intertwined lattice of action that is relevant for every human being everywhere.”

These goals “plot out an annual investment pipeline measured in the trillions to end poverty and also marry increased prosperity with social inclusion and environmental regeneration,” says UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner.

Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years – 169 targets in total.

Deciding how to actually achieve each goal and how to measure the potential effectiveness of funding and implementation proposals appears to be a steep mountain to climb.

For measuring progress toward its goals, UN agencies have historically relied on a target-setting process.

But now, to help Nabarro help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, scientists are calling on the UN and the private sector to dispense with the target-setting approach and adopt a new method – decision analysis.

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Dr. Keith Shepherd is a specialist in decision analysis and soil science. (Photo courtesy World Agroforestry Centre)

Dr. Keith Shepherd and the Land Health Decisions team at the World Agroforestry Centre proposed the use of decision analysis concepts and tools in a September 2015 article in the journal “Nature.”

Shepherd says, “The target setting approach is widely seen as ineffective or counter-productive,” says Shepherd, a soil scientist, who also leads the Information Systems Strategic Research in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

This research focuses on decision engagement and analytics using holistic cost-benefit analysis of stakeholder intervention decisions with emphasis on quantifying uncertainty and risks to focus on information needs that have high economic value.

Targeting emphasizes meeting a target rather than learning how to improve performance and solve a problem, Shepherd explains, adding that target setting can incentivize mis-reporting information in order to meet the target.

“And last but not least,” maintains Shepherd, “it’s an incredibly expensive endeavor to monitor and collect data.”

Shepherd says decision analysis will help avoid spending precious funds on another round of target setting and monitoring.

An analysis of more than 80 models from a variety of decisions and industries reveals that “managers tend to choose to measure variables that are unlikely to improve decisions while ignoring more useful ones,” Shepherd says.

“In a way it’s like putting up a whole new learning system rather then setting up a group of targets,” says Shepherd. “Using decision analysis is about supporting people to make better decisions and better choices. We need to work on gathering the right information needed to improve decision making on the ground. We have the tools to do that now.”

In the “Nature” article, Shepherd and his colleagues propose replacing targets with measures of return on investment.

With limited development dollars, decision makers should understand how to maximize the impact of investments, they write. “We should be asking and answering questions such as, ‘were the environmental benefits and reduction of poverty enough to justify the allocation of limited funds?'”

Decision makers should be using economic models that project long-term costs, benefits and risks of intervention options and help choose the best combination of interventions for achieving the desired set of development goals.

Decision analysis uses “value-of-information” analyses that determine how much decision-makers should be willing to pay for additional knowledge on a certain variable before making a decision. Areas that have high information value should be measured.

“The whole process is a learning system.” explains Shepherd. “We project impacts based on current understanding, measure where it will help improve our choices, monitor where things are most likely to go wrong, and continually update our projections and choices based on what we actually observe.”

Shepherd and team advise that the UN, donors and private sector should fund a decision analysis task force. The task force will help clarify key decisions about development interventions, create methods for analyzing choices and tradeoffs, and design a capacity development program in decision analysis.

“I think this will need steering, piloting and proof of application because it is an entirely different approach to what many know in development,” says Shepherd. “It will take quite a bit of work to enact change, however we have seen this transition happen in other fields.”

Sectors that have been using decision analysis for decades include mining, oil, insurance, and cybersecurity, he said.

Nabarro will receive support in his tough task from a select group of people who have much experience in analyzing decisions.

A queen, a crown princess, a president, a prime minister, a Chinese e-commerce pioneer, and a player often ranked as the world’s best footballer are among eminent Advocates appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Co-chairs of the SDG Advocates group are Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

The SDG Advocates are:

  • Queen Mathilde of Belgium
  • Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden
  • Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of the Chinese Alibaba Group of Internet-based businesses
  • Leo Messi, the world renowned Argentine-born footballer
  • Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, co-founder of the Qatar Foundation
  • Richard Curtis, screenwriter, producer and film director
  • Dho Young-Shim, chair of the UN World Tourism Organization’s Sustainable Tourism Foundation
  • Leymah Gbowee, director of the Gbowee Peace
  • Graça Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development
  • Alaa Murabit; founder of The Voice of Libyan Women
  • Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever
  • Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Colombia University
  • Shakira Mebarak, founder of the Pies Descalzos Foundation
  • Forest Whitaker, actor and founder of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative
  • Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
These farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, are part of a project that aims to improve rural livelihoods by raising on-farm productivity, encouraging better environmental management, and improving governance. (Photo by Yusuf Ahmad/ICRAF)

These farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, are part of a project that aims to improve rural livelihoods by raising on-farm productivity, encouraging better environmental management, and improving governance. (Photo by Yusuf Ahmad/ICRAF)


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

UN General Assembly Embraces 17 Sustainable Development Goals

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Resounding applause filled the UN General Assembly hall Friday as the 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously approved a new global agenda to end poverty by 2030 and achieve a sustainable future.

Adopted on the UN’s 70th anniversary, the agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms,” Ban said. “It is an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership that conveys the urgency of climate action and is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all. Above all, it pledges to leave no one behind.”

The official adoption came shortly after Pope Francis addressed the General Assembly. “The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope,” said the pontiff.

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The 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, also called the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, aim to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education and build strong institutions.

“Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavor across such a broad and universal policy agenda,” states the Declaration adopted by the General Assembly.

“We are setting out together on the path towards sustainable development, devoting ourselves collectively to the pursuit of global development and of ‘win-win’ cooperation which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world,” the Declaration states.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, said, “Ours is the last generation which can head off the worst effects of climate change, and the first generation with the wealth and knowledge to eradicate poverty. For this, fearless leadership from us all is needed.”

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said Friday, “Every so often the world takes a historic step forward as a global community. Today, nations of the world moved forward together on a pathway to a sustainable future.”

“For the first time, we have a development agenda that is focused on sustainability in both the developing and the developed world,” said Steiner. “The 17 Global Goals crucially incorporate environmental sustainability and social equity with economic progress. That integration will be critical to a sustainable pathway forward for the planet and its peoples.”

The Sustainable Development Goals build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015. Since the MDGs were adopted in 2000, progress has been made, but much more remains to be done.

The Global Goals include issues that were not in the MDGs such as climate change, sustainable consumption, innovation and the importance of peace and justice for all.

In all the enthusiasm for clean sources of energy to limit climate change, the World Coal Association (WCA) does not want to be left behind, even though burning coal emits planet-warming greenhouse gases.

From WCA headquarters in London, Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton welcomed the Global Goals and stressed the link between lack of energy and global poverty.

“Energy poverty is a dire reality,” said Sporton. “Today there are 1.3 billion people across the globe without access to electricity. This is equivalent to the entire population of China.”

“It is also imperative that we adopt the use of the best available technology to ensure coal is used as cleanly as possible,” Sporton said. “This includes high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal technologies and carbon capture and storage. HELE coal technologies provide significant immediate CO2 reductions.”

For UN leaders, raising public awareness of the Global Goals is the first order of business.

The UNDP held Social Good Summits in more than 100 countries, running in parallel with the three-day Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

In the first collaboration of its kind the Global Goals were featured on 19 major digital platforms and internet portals including the Google homepage, Yahoo, The Huffington Post and Twitter with a potential reach of up to two billion people.

The world’s largest partnership of 26 mobile network operators sent out almost one billion text messages and connected over 4.8 billion customers in over 100 countries with a message about the Global Goals.

Hans Vestberg, resident and CEO of Ericsson, the Swedish multinational provider of communication technology and services, said, “Uniting leaders in the industry to bring the important message of the Global Goals to billions of people demonstrates how technology is such a powerful force for good.”

Google unveiled the crowd-sourced film “We the People” written by Richard Curtis and Mat Whitecross when the Goals were adopted on the September 25.

No Point Going Half Way“, a short film by Richard Curtis featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt explains why we should finish what we started with the Millennium Development Goals, as we can end poverty by 2030 and tackle inequality and climate change.

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Curtis, founder of Project Everyone, said, “The digital world is the definitive example of how we are all connected. Its collaborations like this that will help us to be the first generation to end extreme poverty, the most determined generation in history to end injustice and inequality, and the last generation to be threatened by climate change.”

Pearl Jam, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay headlined the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, a free ticketed event on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park on September 26. See the video here at Global Citizen You Tube Channel.

Curtis, who serves as the creative director for the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, said, “We want to give the Global Goals for Sustainable Development the noisiest launch in history in the belief that the more famous they are, the more effective they will be.”

“My particular job is to turn the Festival into an hour-long TV program,” said Curtis, “all part of a huge campaign to get the word of the Goals out through TV, cinema, schools, on-line and through Radio Everyone, a unique global network of broadcasters and talent.”

The YouTube homepage is featuring Global Goals videos for a week from September 25. YouTube live streamed the Global Citizen Festival on September 26, also featured on the Google search homepage.

MSN, which reaches 400 million people a month, is creating a Global Goals “hub” on its platform.

The Wikimedia Foundation is encouraging Wikipedia’s volunteers to translate articles covering the goals into as many languages as possible for its hundreds of millions of users.

Baidu with its 500m+ monthly users will create a special Baidupedia page dedicated to the Global Goals Campaign, containing all the key information in Chinese, including the 17 Goals and the ‘We The People’ Video.

The Bing homepage will feature the Global Goals on September 28. Yahoo with one billion users, will feature dedicated editorial content on each goal on both Yahoo and Tumblr.

Skype will be supporting the World’s Largest Lesson through Skype in the Classroom reaching two million educators.

Over the last four years, through the Global Poverty Project people have taken nearly three million actions against extreme poverty. These actions have resulted in 87 commitments and policy announcements, including cash commitments valued at US$18.3 billion.

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Back at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Ban said Friday, “The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation. We need action from everyone, everywhere. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our guide. They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.”

 The 17 Global Goals are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full, productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

As of August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance.

In addition: Here is a great data visualization infographic on impact of construction


 Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image : Delegates celebrate in the General Assembly Hall following the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Cia Pak courtesy United Nations)

Image 02: Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at UN Headquarters in New York, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Devra Berkowitz courtesy United Nations)

Image 03: Beyoncé and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam sing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song at the Global Citizens Festival in New York’s Central Park, September 26, 2015 (Photo by Niran Shrestha via Instagram)

Image 04: Ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit from September 25-27, and to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, a 10-minute film introducing the Sustainable Development Goals is projected onto the UN Headquarters Secretariat building and General Assembly building. (Photo by Cia Pak courtesy United Nations)