From MDGs to SDGs

Time does not stand still when you have two spunky, young children and another on the way. As I loaded our family calendar this month I thought, “Holy buckets! March already?!” And then I thought, “Holy buckets! Is it really 2016?!” Sure enough.

Dr. Cristiano Boccolini
Dr. Cristiano Boccolini

With the end of 2015, came the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era. Back in January at the 22nd Annual International Breastfeeding Conference, Cristiano Boccolini, PhD, MS presented Moving Beyond the Millennium Development Goals: Research challenges in breastfeeding.

Dr. Boccolini pointed out that breastfeeding fit into all eight of the MDGs. Here are some examples of what conference participants came up with:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

  • Breastfeeding is essentially free.
  • Children who are not breastfed are sick more often forcing families to miss more work and spend resources on medical care.
  1. Achieve universal primary education.

  • Breastfeeding promotes optimal interpregnancy intervals. When families have less children, they can invest more in them.
  • Children who are not breastfed have lower IQs.
  1. Promote gender equality and empower women.

  • The act of breastfeeding itself empowers women.
  • Women who do not breastfeed are forced to spend money on artificial feeding methods leaving them with less money to spend on other things like education.
  • Breastfeeding mothers have a better chance to educate themselves and/or work because their children are sick less.
  1. Reduce child mortality.

  1. Improve maternal health.

  • Women who do not breastfeed bleed more postpartum.
  • Breastfeeding mothers suffer from less anemia because they experience fewer menstrual cycles.
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of PPD.
  1. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

  • Breastfeeding provides improved response to injectable vaccines.
  1. Ensure environmental sustainability.

  1. Global partnership for development.

The 2015 MDG Report covers the progress we made and what challenges and inequalities we still need to tackle. Spoiler: We have a lot of work to do.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pick up where the MDGs left off. They are “an even more ambitious set of goals” comprised of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. []

Dr. Boccolini shared his concern over the sheer number of goals and targets.

“Where are we in the global agenda?” he asked.

The SDG targets are certainly not as straightforward as the MDGs.

Dr. Boccolini also expressed his concern regarding measurement of the goals. How do we define conservation? How do we define restoration? he wondered.

A Council on Foreign Relations article covers SDG criticism reporting that they’ve been called “too broad” and “absolutist.”

“The SDGs are also expected to be more costly [than the MDGs,]” the author writes.

The same article quotes Sarah Hearn, associate director and senior fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.:“The MDGs were about resource transfer from rich countries. The SDGs are universal—they’re supposed to apply to all countries and try to overcome the ‘West lecturing the rest’ dynamic.”

Dr. Boccolini questioned if the SDGs were the product of a “Since-we-are-effect.” Since we are doing this, let’s do this…

He left us with this:

ODG (17 targets)=> SDG (169 targets)…. OMG!

“When you do everything, you don’t do anything at all,” he said. “I hope I am wrong. I hope we can find our way in the new global agenda.”

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