Chapter 4a - Development Opportunities - SDGs

Chapter 4a - Development Opportunities - SDGs

Human Development is a multi-faceted process, made of many interconnected strands. Historical models of development have failed to address this complexity. More modern approaches seen in the Development Cable and the UN hierarchical ends-means spectrum place more of an emphasis on social ecological systems and promote a broader pathway to human development. But to what extent does this reflect every country's view and approach to development?

Human Development

Human development refers to a broader interpretation of development; one that takes into account social, economic, cultural and political aspects of development, to look more holistically at the quality of life. The process of globalisation brings about many factors that impact on human development. It has integrated economies through global flow in knowledge, finance, trade and the movement of people. Globalization has also integrated governance, through capitalism, neo-liberalism, democracy and global governance on issues such as climate change and sustainable development.

ATL - Collaboration

Study the Rostow Model below and suggest reasons why the model:

  1. may have led firstly to poor development projects in developing countries. Can you think of any?
  2. may ignore some aspects of human development
  3. may be seen as outdated and not representative of human development today

Can you identify countries that sit in each stage of the model today?

Historical Development Pathways

Historically, efforts to improve development in a country followed a pathway towards industrialisation and mass consumption. It was this understanding of development in the 1960s, based on the historical economic pathways of Europe and North America that informed the development thinking and policies of IGOs and governments. The five stage development model, Rostow's Stages of Growth Model, named after the American Walt Whitman Rostow can shows very recognisable stages of development. It suggests that development is very linear and hierarchical. Consumer societies sit on the top of the model and traditional societies are labelled static at the bottom. The model has clear links to  a colonial world view and does not look too much further than economic progress, as measured by industrial development and increasingly higher levels of consumption.

Another important problem with the model is seen in its inability to reflect the inequality of power within the increasingly interconnected global economy. Rostow's Model does not suggest a timeline on how to jump a stage. The model doesn't develop the role of powerful countries and TNCs that have effectively enjoyed a head start and whose main economic interest is to maintain their lead. A fundamental principle of capitalism is competition and to maintain profit it is important to maintain the economic advantage, so inevitably this impacts the speed at which countries can develop.

Human Development Pathways

Human development today shows a greater awareness of scale that includes households, cities and regional dimensions. It also reflects a broader interpretation to include measures of quality of life. As a result, models that aim to enhance human development need to capture the complexity of interconnected issues that impact on any individual's quality of life. One model that reflects this moe complex development process can be seen in the Development Cable.

ATL - Collaboration

Study the Development Cable Model below and discuss its pros and cons

Phillip Allan for Hodder Education

The Development Cable captures this multi-faceted pathway to development. It still has economic development at its core but the interconnection of the strands around the core reflect a more complex society that is influenced by the geographical context of each place. It therefore reflects environmental factors, demographic characteristics, and social, cultural and political conditions. Perhaps where the model falls short is in its lack of differentiation in the importance of these strands. For example you might argue that sustainability has more value than personal wealth. In addition, some strands may actually act against each other, for example personal wealth might have dramatic impact on culture and identity. The Development Cable also sees development through a western lens. This is not as explicit as in the Rostow Model but through promoting democratic governance, freedom of speech and equal opportunities as development strands it does exclude more state-backed nations such as China.

The United Nations (UN)

The UN has focused its efforts less on economic development processes but more on enhancing global security. It does this through supporting governance at the national scale, in terms of institutional capacity as well as peace keeping forces and aid agencies. One significant role the UN plays is through collecting measured data on development progress in countries, through development frameworks such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). These global frameworks offer a more multi-faceted interpretation of development as seen through the Development Cable. These frameworks have a number of important development roles. Firstly, they act as a stimulus for countries to make measured development improvements and secondly they provide a pathway for organisations to improve human development.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

The UN has provided, since the year 2000, a framework to support countries achieve tangible targets in human development. They first set out eight targets called the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs), that ran from 2000 to 2015. Through this framework, governments were required to link their policy, planning and expenditure to reach targets set out in the eight goals. This helped focus government planning and gave them greater access to development aid through the UN and other multilateral and bilateral channels. Non-Governmental Organisations also framed their planning and expenditure in line with the MDGs as this became a critical criteria for funding allocation. The MDGs were then replaced in 2015 by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs according to the UN are a blueprint to achieving peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The SDGs are set out as a series of 17 goals and 169 focused targets that effectively articulate the exact steps needed to be taken to meet the overarching goal of a prosperous, high quality of life that is equitably shared and

sustainable. The SDGS fit within the human development model above (solutionsjournal), which sets out a hierarchy of goals in an ends-means spectrum.  Not shown are the specific goals and targets. These act like the outer strands in the Development Cable.

The SDGs act as a framework for all governments, businesses, organisations and individuals to set out tangible pathways to sustainability. It recognises that governments alone can't achieve broad human development without all stakeholder involvement and so therefore incorporates different stakeholders of differing power. Through the SDGs, TNCs are expected to play their role. The 

SDGs also broaden the focus away from the narrow targets of human development in developing countries to a more holistic global aim of sustainability. In doing this, the biggest global challenges of poverty, resource stewardship and climate change can be targeted.

The 17 SDG goals can also be seen in the diagram to the right. The diagram reflects the intertwined nature of social ecological systems. The SDGs are designed to effect progress within these systems. Actions needed to address human development therefore need to adopt a systemic view and must be delivered through partnerships with a broader perspective of the three interconnected systems. Folcke et al (2016 suggested that "the focus is shifting from the environment as an externality, to the biosphere as precondition for social justice, economic development and sustainability."


Bjorn Lomborg's Critique of the SDGs

At the outset of the SDGs in 2015, Bjorn Lomberg, the director of the think tank, Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) criticised the UN’s goals for being too broad. He stated that the UN had attempted to please too many people and questioned the impacts the goals would have. He suggested that the potential $2.5 trillion in development aid that would be ploughed into projects over the time period, would have little effect due to its dilution across so many targets and actions. With no fewer than 14,775 individual SDG actions by November 2020, and worryingly poor progress across the goals, he may actually have a point.

Bjorn identified that the impossible task would be in prioritising between the 169 targets contained within the 17 goals. Research for CCC, explored how much social benefit the targets would achieve, and found that some targets could achieve a huge deal, while others very little. By spreading money, time and resources among so many targets it reduces the overall good each can do.

The research by CCC found that there were only 19 specific targets within the 169 that would attain more than $15 of good for every dollar spent reaching it. For example, achieving universal access to contraception and family planning would mean fewer orphans and mothers dying in childbirth. It would also generate a demographic dividend; more people of productive age. In total, every dollar spent would mean about $120 of benefits to society. Another example was ending tuberculosis by 2030. This would save nearly 1.5 million lives a year, with each dollar leading to $43 worth of benefits. The research concluded that by focusing development spending on just the top 19 targets identified by the CCC, it would achieve roughly four times more than it would, if it was distributed among all 169 targets.

The (expandable) UN graph to the right shows the relative importance across all countries, given to each of the SDGs as reported in the annual Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) up to 2019. Perhaps unsurprisingly, SDG 17 on International Partnership and SDG 13 on Climate Action feature most frequently in the VNRs. Featuring least frequently is SDG 10, Reduced Inequality. This is particularly worrying in that this goal is pivotal to the overarching

goal of the SDGs, concerning equitable shares. Given the importance that CCC placed on family planning and tuberculosis you would hope that health improvements would have featured more frequently, but according to UN data, health is in the lower half of referenced goals, as is hunger, industry innovation and affordable energy. The extent to which countries prioritise the SDGs appears somewhat surprising. This may reflect on the validity of the SDGs for measuring and targeting human development. Or perhaps rather than their validity being called into question it may reflect issues of governance, political interests and varying degrees of stakeholder power that are not in line with the UN. As a result we see a pattern emerge where countries do not place equal importance on all goals but to what there goals reflect the high impact targets is not entirely clear.

ATL - Research

Read the CCC report stating the most important SDG targets and compare it to the VNR data above. To what extent does it show countries are targeting the high impact targets set out by CCC?

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