Perspectives on the sustainable development goals panel discussion

On 23 January, the Edinburgh University Model United Nations society and the Edinburgh University Sustainable Development Association held a panel discussion on the perspectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The guest speakers, Dr. Darrick Evensen, Maria Green J.D. and Dr. Neil Thin explored the philosophical, economic, and human rights aspects of the goals, and answered questions concerning the topic in a Question & Answer session.

The Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) are a set of 17 aims created by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2015, in an attempt to tackle principle international needs including ending hunger, ensuring environmental sustainability, and furthering economic progress. The guest speakers, coming from backgrounds in Environmental Politics, Human Rights, and Social Anthropology, spoke expertly about the effectiveness of the UN and how the SDGs should be viewed in comparison to previous principles regarding  international development.

Moreover, the panel successfully broke down all the jargon, for example official targets and indicators, concerning the SDGs which often inhibit them from being fully understood. Maria Green J.D. also analysed the two different definitions of Human Rights, both in International Human Rights Law and the broader sense that we use in our daily conversations. Dr. Neil Thin then brought to mind the concept of the Good Life and how the SDGs are global aims to establish “the precondition of human flourishing” and not a means to confidently confirm a western definition of the Good Life. 

Additionally, Thin spoke of the problems surrounding setting strict targets for the Sustainable Development Goals. He spoke of them being unhelpful if we assume that missing targets constitute a failure. Often the vast progress made is forgotten because of an ambitious goal not being met. Moreover, the speakers spoke of the Goodlife site, Gapminder, which highlight these issues and the goals set, to make them more accessible to a wider audience. The talk left the audience aware of the forward-thinking nature of goals and politics in today’s society, which is fundamental when planning change. 

The evening ended with a healthy debate in the Question & Answer session, which focused on climate change, elucidating the passion that both the guest speakers and the students have for the future of Sustainable Development in relation to the United Nations. 


Image: MariaGershuni via Wikimedia Commons

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