Public consultation and the 2030 Agenda: sustaining commentary for the Sustainable Development Goals


(Pre-publication draft November 2015: Partial content of "Introduction: The 2030 Agenda," Journal of Global Ethics 11:3 [December 2015], 262-270) This introduction briefly explains the process through which the Sustainable Development Goals have developed from their receipt in 2014 to their passage in September 2015 by the UN General Assembly, and it considers their development in prospect. The Millennium Development Goals, which spanned 1990-2015, present a case study that reveals the changeability of such long-term multilateral commitments. They were enmeshed in overlapping and inconsistent national and intergovernmental commitments reaching from 1995 to 2005, and the text of those goals also evolved, stabilizing for the last time in 2007. The Sustainable Development Goals and attendant commitments should be expected to evolve similarly over their fifteen year run. This presents a concern, for among the three committees established by the UN to create the goals, the two committees charged with public consultation were retired as planned in 2014. The process evident thereafter has displayed a shift towards a strategy of enrolling broad public endorsement that leaves such consultation and specific responsibility to those consulted in doubt. This bodes ill for public deliberation on the goals and for public accountability as the agenda proceeds towards 2030.

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Eric Palmer
Allegheny College


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