Overcoming Structural Barriers and Systemic Issues of Sustainable Development of South Asia
(By Uchita de Zoysa, 28 September 2023)
Today, I was invited to share my comments on “Overcoming Structural Barriers and Systemic Issues of Sustainable Development of South Asia”. To start with, the United Nations have formally announced that the SDGs are failing. If 12% only is on track, 50% moderately or severely off track, and 30% showing no movement or regressed below 2015 baseline, then the SDGs are failing. The Global Sustainable Development Report 2023, unfortunately like many other assessments, only engages in a linier review of the SDGs. It does not make much of an attempt to conduct a system wide impact assessment considering the interlinkages between the targets. Meanwhile, what has been the impact investment on SDGs during the past eight years? What is said is that the gap in financing the SDGs have grown from 2015 to now in the developing countries. Meanwhile, Stockholm Resilience Centre, six of the nine planetary boundaries have been transgressed.
Sadly, SDG are proving that Sustainable Development is an Oxymoron as advocated by some critical thinkers. SDGs have not been advancing Sustainability but used more for institutionalized marketing promotions and funded partnership projects by almost all sectors. All systems are breaking down around us including natural, economic, peace, wellbeing, prosperity, etc. and prosperity has become a distant aspiration. In the region not just youth, but elders are migrating as destitution is widespread. The development model is not promoting sustainability. Sufficiency struggles to enter the agendas while wellbeing of the state has become more important than the nation. Political systems are more predatory that threatens democracy and peace openly than before. The poor are paying for the financial/debt crisis that is corruptly managed economies in countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Yet, the debt restructuring strategies are on more borrowing to pay debt than focusing of sufficiency based prosperity; a vicious cycle enjoyed by the multilateral banks and richer countries.
Countries in the region have not shown much interest in policy coherence and environmental and social protection policies are breeched in the name of growth. The deeply fragmented public institutional architecture continues to be a barrier for an efficient public service delivery. Already overburdened, corrupt and inefficient public service adds more to the financial and debt crisis in these countries. Finally, the widespread call is to change the system and shift the power. But the state response is suppression! Where is the protection for shifting power when the police and military are acting against the people. Who will shift the power for people’s power? In the failure of the SDG Summit, civil society and other stakeholder needs to move from being reactive to agendas that divert attention from truth on earth and work towards driving “Peoples Planetary Futures”.