It is heartening to see India making steady progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. India is one of the member states of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum that meets in New York later this month, In the last one and half years since the adoption of the 17 SDGs, which are based on the principles of “leave no one behind” and sustainability, the Indian government has taken the complex and challenging process of implementing the SDGs head on.
Last year, the NITI Aayog, which is the designated nodal agency for the implementation and monitoring of SDGs, completed an extensive mapping exercise of the 17 goals, sub-targets and the relevant ministries and schemes. This exercise was followed up the list of draft indicators released by the Ministry of Statistics, Programmes and Implementation earlier this year. The draft indicator framework was shared with the public for feedback and comments, and many of us in the child rights sector await the response of the Ministry to our collective feedback.
This edition of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is based on the theme of “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world“, focusses on six specific SDGs out of a total of 17 goals. UN’s member states including India have already shared their Voluntary National Reviews and these will be formally tabled in New York. Besides, India is a part of the High Level Political Forum and its performance is already generating keen interest in the global development community. And, for good reason. The world is well aware that being home to 1.2 billion people, India is home to the second largest population in the planet. And without India’s active efforts the global SDGs agenda of eradicating poverty and creating lasting prosperity for all cannot be realised.
The Indian government on its part is demonstrating their commitment to SDGs. The NITI Aayog has integrated the SDGs with India’s national priorities. In addition, the Parliament of India has also displayed its commitment to the global development agenda by dedicating a full-day to monitor the progress of the SDGs in every session of the Parliament.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often gone out of his way to underline the importance of SDGs to his government’s policies and goals. However, as we are all aware; with at least a quarter of India still living in poverty, we have a long way to go. While in many cases policies do exist, effective implementation, especially when it comes to reaching the last mile, continues to remain a challenge.
Children and High Level Political Forum 2017
Out of the six SDGs that are the focus of this High Level Political Forum, four (SDGs 1,2,3,5) are directly linked with the well-being of children, the future custodians of our fragile planet.
Goal 1 is the complete eradication of poverty in all its forms, Goal 2 emphasises on achieving food and nutrition security though sustainable agriculture, SDG 3, is to ensure health and survival for all, while goal 5 seeks to address an underlying concern of all the goals, which is to achieve gender equality empowerment of women and girls. The remaining two goals also affect our children’s lives as they pertain to sustainable industrialisation and conserving and harnessing our ocean and marine resources.
The first four goals of this High Level Political Forum are the most critical to India’s children many of whom are still unable to survive till their third birthday. Many of our children are forced to drop out of schools and start working to support themselves and their families.
When it comes to tracking the progress of SDGs and our national goals, there is a dearth of data. India, reportedly, has statistics to measure only 50 per cent of the 17 SDGs. But creating scientific and measurable indicators is a complicated, arduous and a time-consuming job. Many of us would be surprised to know that India is one of a select group of countries that has already created an elaborate indicator framework. And for some goals like SDG 13, 14, and 15, no country in the world has been able to come up with a good set of indicators.
Since the adoption of the goals in September 2015, India has passed the Disability Act 2016 which is one of the most disabled-friendly legislations in the whole world. The government also came out with a new Health Policy after a gap of 17 years and street children and their problems are being addressed by the adoption of a Standard Operating Procedure for the first time in India’s history.
The task is daunting, but there are signs of progress. This is the time for all of us, civil society organisations, government, academics, international agencies and citizens and communities themselves to come together and make a concerted effort. A few days from now, when the world community will be looking at India and its progress on SDGs, we hope that India will be setting an example for other countries to follow.
– Bidisha Pillai is Advocacy Director, Save the Children. She has 15 years of experience as a development and communications specialist. She has worked on a range of issues: child rights, women empowerment, food and nutrition security, drugs and HIV prevention, ICTs for development. She has worked with many well-known organisations like United Nations and Department for International Development (UK AID).
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