This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

UN Approves Sustainable Development Goals

Today the United Nations General Assembly officially approved the set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that replace the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) put in place just prior to the new millennium. The MDGs focused on improving health and raising incomes, and the SDGs follow those themes, but with various alterations and additions. Indeed, as a commentary in Nature noted, there are probably too many goals, especially since each goal has multiple targets within it (169 in all!):
Ambitious and broad, these Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would, if met, greatly improve human welfare. But some experts fear that the goals are too numerous and vague to have practical value. “I’m a little worried that there are too many of them,” says Steven Radelet, director of the Global Human Development Program at Georgetown University in Washington DC. “They may fall prey to the old adage that if every­thing is a priority, then nothing is a priority.”
Lurking in the shadows, but never out on the table, are goals related to slowing down the global rate of population growth. Indeed, as with the MDGs, the explicit goals are to make people healthier and live longer. No one can argue with that. But, sadly, people do argue with the idea that everyone should have access to voluntary methods of effective birth control so that they can have only the number of children they want and can afford (i.e., responsible parenthood). To be sure, the goals of improving the status of women and making sure that everyone, including girls, have access to more and better education, will move things in that direction (the motivational part). And, hidden within some of the targets are measures regarding reproductive health (the implementation part), as noted recently by an analysis in The Lancet:

There are two targets in the SDGs that explicitly mention sexual and reproductive health. Target 3.7, under the health goal, states: “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.” Target 5.6, part of the gender goal, aims to “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.”
My guess is that the contradictions embedded in the targets, and the multiplicity of goals, will make it way too easy for governments and NGOs to pick and choose the ones they want--avoiding especially the controversial ones like population growth. Without that, however, none of the other goals are likely to be accomplished--certainly not in a sustainable fashion.

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