SDGs: Challenges Bangladesh faces in achieving the goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) sponsored by the United Nations (UN), otherwise known as the Global Goals or Agenda 2030, are a universal call of action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people, irrespective of their country of origin, enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs built on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), include new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.

The SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations of world countries. They provide clear guidelines and targets for all countries of the world to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the environmental challenges. The SDGs are an inclusive agenda.

The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) administrator Achim Steiner said that “Poverty eradication is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, and so is the commitment to leave no one behind. The Agenda offers a unique opportunity to put the whole world on a more prosperous and sustainable development path. In many ways, it reflects what UNDP was created for”.

The SDGs came into effect in January 2016, and will continue to guide UNDP’s policy and funding for the next 15 years. As the lead UN development agency, UNDP is uniquely placed to help implement the Goals through UNDP’s work in some 170 countries and territories. The UNDP’s strategic plan focuses on key areas including poverty alleviation, democratic governance and peace building, climate change and disaster risk, and economic inequality. The UNDP provides support to governments to integrate the SDGs into their national development plans and policies. This work is already underway, as UNDP support many countries in accelerating progress already achieved under the MDGs.

The government of Bangladesh is politically committed to meet the UN-sponsored SDGs. But challenges are there.  One of the main challenges to achieving SDGs is the need for improvement in implementation of projects and programmes taken in hand. It is to be kept in mind that the efficiency gain in public sector spending is a must to that end.  Delays in project implementation have deleterious impact on cost as well as on the intended benefits to be accrued. It is also true that increasing tax-effort by 9.0 percentage points over the next 12 years will not be an easy task to do.

The SDGs include 17 goals and 169 targets that set out quantitative and qualitative objectives. The newly incorporated goals in the SDGs are more comprehensive and expansive in nature. And thus it will explore development schemes of vital importance to humanity at large. The “SDG Need Assessment and Financing Strategy: Bangladesh Perspective” prepared by the General Economics Division (GED) of the Bangladesh Planning Commission provides a well-defined work plan that highlights the actions necessary to attain significant progress in SDGs implementation in Bangladesh. This full-blown needs assessment study helps us to identify the key development interventions and develop a well-defined roadmap for long-term planning. The GED of the Bangladesh Planning Commission Report on SDGs financing strategy provides an estimate of the annual resource gap and an opportunity to revise the government interventions and financing strategies accordingly. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) must embark on new initiatives based on reforms, automation, capacity development and audit to improve revenue mobilisation to the required level to meet the need necessary.

The access to climate fund critically depends on our capacity to negotiate with the development partners. In this context, Bangladesh has already identified areas of strengthening for SDGs implementation. Nonetheless, it is to be asserted that these should be ensured on a priority basis to meet the demand. The Seventh Five Year Plan of the country states that the international experience with the implementation of infrastructure PPPs (Public Private Partnerships) suggests that this policy has worked best when the legal framework is well-thought-out and when the management of the initiative involves competent and skilled professional staff. The legal framework needs to lay down clear rules of engagement, and the incentive framework and dispute resolution mechanism should compare favourably with international good practices.