In a welcome re-awakening of high level concerns that development must be sustainable, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took effect in 2015. Claimed by its supporters to herald a new phase of international development, the 17 SDGs exhort all countries, rich and poor, to work towards genuinely sustainable, inclusive development. Critics contend, however, that the SDGs demonstrate profound cognitive dissonance, and provide a façade behind which global injustice will continue, and where “eco-social” determinants of universal human wellbeing will deteriorate.
A fairer world is actually safer, happier, less fearful, and healthier. But how do we make it fairer? The SDGs need a path to be partly realised, as well as a less utopian framing, which would make them more credible. Such a path is barely sketched. It cannot be achieved in an intensifying fortress world. It requires more academic honesty about limits to growth, and its implications, including for freedom.
Somehow, in this dark night, we have to find some light. Martin Luther King is said to have said "the arc of the universe bends toward justice” (mentioned in this video). One glimmer of hope I have is the knowledge and increasing realisation that globalisation and neoliberalism have failed.
While a reformed, moderated form of economics and power distribution currently seems unlikely to emerge, I doubt this would have arisen in a US administration led by Hilary Clinton. Were I a US citizen, I would have voted for Bernie Sanders - but neither the power elite nor the people in the rustbucket states were ready for that (though this article claims Sanders would have defeated Trump in these states. It also shows a tweet by Trump where he seems to indicate he regarded Sanders as a more formidable opponent).
Both the UK and Germany show evidence of understanding that poor eco-social determinants underpin the growing refugee crisis. Germany is acting through the UN institutions. Britain, however, seems to be acting more via its own intervention. Both approaches have a place (and China's too) - but it is also essential that the US play a better role. This will not happen by the US government under President Trump. The big US aid groups such as the Gates and Clinton Foundations are also neoliberal; perhaps the backlash against globalisation will cause them to reconsider. Let us hope!