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What makes the Global Goals different from the Millennium Development Goals? It's Co-Facilitator Shares Lessons Learned

What makes the Global Goals different from the Millennium Development Goals? It's Co-Facilitator Shares Lessons Learned

On Friday October 21st, 16 Columbia graduate students met Ambassador David Donoghue at the Irish Mission to discuss two recent, and high-profile negotiations – the Sustainable Development Goals and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Ambassador Donoghue is highly regarded for his tenacity in public diplomacy, including his involvement in the Good Friday Agreement in addition to his ambassadorial representation in London, the Russian Federation and Germany, before becoming the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations.

The afternoon’s cohort was equally global, representing Italy, Pakistan, China, France, Turkey, the United States and more, as well as representing diverse interests and programs, including economics, global thought, environmental sciences and policy, and Russian migration policy.

No matter our own stories or interests, we had a specific question in mind for the Global Goals' co-faciliator: what made the Global Goals (SDGs) different from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? What lessons were learned?

Ambassador Donoghue noted that multiple dimensions of the MDGs were called for review in cultivating the SDGs. There were eight MDGs, and these eight emphasized a particularly paternalistic approach to sustainable development. There were no mechanisms of review, nor on funding, and there lacked a defined role for civil society input. 

“This time around,” Ambassador Donoghue noted, “the Sustainable Development Goals required the intimate involvement of 193 member states, as well as structured conversations with civil society members. In fact, our negotiations broke the record for most involvement with civil society.”

Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland, Tim Mawe, also added, “The first few of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals resemble the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, and the latter are more progressive and abstract (such as climate action, and peace, justice and strong institutions).”

 The 17 SDGs elaborate upon the MDGs by emanating a three-tiered, and inherently interconnected approach to sustainable development. These three tiers include ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all. Over the next 15 years, Ambassador Donoghue emphasizes that progress will need to be monitored at the global, regional, national and local level, and will be managed within a centrally located office, such as that of a country’s Prime Minister or President. The United Nations has also developed modes for review and revision through the implementation of a high level political forum that will provide a clearinghouse for countries to report on progress. This political forum will meet every four years and highlight the necessities of every goal. In addition, over the next fifteen years, every country is expected to appear at the forum at least twice. Lastly, there is an expectation for developed countries to offer technology transfer and assistance in building capacity for developing countries to create statistical offices to manage progress.

“This is a tall order,” Ambassador Donoghue said. “It will take a while, but the architecture is here.”

Major Advances Made for Refugees and Migrants

The next half of the working lunch focused on September’s innovative New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Ambassador Donoghue noted that this is the first time negotiations convened for both refugees and migrants, and was thus more difficult to execute.

But what, exactly, is the differences between refugees and migrants?

Ambassador Donoghue states there are 20 million refugees, and 45 million internally displaced people. Per the United Nations, a refugee is considered someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.

A migrant, defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, is any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some significant social ties to this country. There are 244 million migrants today, largely the “economic” sort, meaning they have moved for economic pursuits and do not require international aid. A large minority consists of the “Syrian” kind. Ambassador Donoghue noted that the crisis is actively blurring the definition of migrants and refugees, and necessitated the need for a declaration encompassing the terms for “refugees” and “migrants” negotiated together.

Within the New York Declaration, member states agreed upon an operational plan on managing the Syrian crisis and future crises through the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, as well as determined to continue negotiations to develop a global compact on migration and on refugees over the next two years.

Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon at the adoption of the New York Declaration. Photograph courtesy of UPI.

Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon at the adoption of the New York Declaration. Photograph courtesy of UPI.

The "Art" of Co-Facilitation

Ambassador Donoghue concluded his remarks by offering insight into the “art” of co-facilitation. After the SDGs’ journey of revision, redrafting, and the inclusion of targets (albeit some still unfinished, Ambassador Donoghue notes), all member states convened to approve the final draft of the Global Goals, governed by the two co-chairmen.

Ambassador Donoghue held the gavel. The first to stand was the South African Ambassador, who approved on behalf of the G-77, immediately thrusting 134 member states on board. The European Union spoke afterward, offering its agreement as well. The “art” is in constantly feeling the tensions of the room. It is in identifying whom is conversing with whom, and who are the major players. Despite present affirmation, Ambassador Donoghue knew Nigeria and North Korea were about to voice their opinions as active opponents. He needed to capitalize on the moment’s excitement and assurance that the majority of member states had just approved. He quickly passed his Kenyan co-chair the gavel, and announced loudly that the Sustainable Development Goals were in place. The gavel hit, and the audience cheered wildly.  

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