As president of G20, India needs to highlight the diversity of South-South Cooperation, the nature of cooperation between Global North and Global South and its linkages with Sustainable Development Goals.
New Delhi: Even as the world was settling down to engage with the process of speeding up achieving the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015, the coronavirus pandemic struck a deadly blow to all the efforts at the national level, impacting the overall global progress towards achieving the SDGs. The magnitude of the impact of the pandemic on the global economy was so profound that even some of the developed countries are finding it difficult to address the issue of allocating sufficient funds for some of the SDGs that have a wider impact on the respective societies.
The 17 Goals adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals, are being periodically reviewed. Despite some countries making progress in some areas selectively, the overall collective progress and actions to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. Considering the urgency and limited time left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, world leaders at the SDG Summit in September 2019 called for a “Decade of Action” and delivery for sustainable development. The meeting also pledged to mobilize financing, enhance national implementation and strengthen institutions to achieve the Goals by the target date of 2030, leaving no one behind.
In the light of these suggestions India set forth on fast tracking the process of funding and working on the SDGs. Meanwhile, the global situation gravitated towards a state of flux. The Russia-Ukraine conflict and the acceleration of conflict like situations in other flashpoints have brought the world order into a state of uncertainty. The global tussle for a position of pre-eminence between two large economies, threat of the global order being rendered ineffective in the face of some of the rogue nations’ unilateral decisions on bilateral disputes, the near collapse of the global economic order and supply and value chain mechanisms are all collectively having a negative impact on the movement towards achieving SDGs. The silver lining in these dark clouds is the global realisation of the need for a strong, inclusive and free and fair global order and the emergent South-South Cooperation (SSC) as a panacea for some of the serious issues.
As president of G20 in 2023, India needs to highlight the plurality and diversity of SSC, the nature of cooperation among the Global North and the Global South and its linkages with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). India is better placed to provide the theoretical and empirical grounding to assert the “uniqueness” of SSC.
There is little doubt that the economic challenges in the post-pandemic years have become formidable. Besides, fragmented approaches on development due to lack of cooperation between nations, missing local connect and gradual weakening of the multilateral world order have not only resulted in inequities in access to resources but also in reversing the progress, albeit meagre, on SDGs. The G20 has emerged as a foremost global initiative to respond to global crises in the short term and suggest longer term pathways on development with strong focus on sustainability. India during the presidency of the G20 for the year 2023 has to come up with an action-oriented agenda on finance, SDGs, environment, sustainable consumption and production and digital transformation.
As president of G20, India has already suggested some key issues such as a new development paradigm, global development initiatives and scope for partnership and cooperation, facing macroeconomic challenges and tackling the issues due to weakening means of implementation, recalibration towards SDGs 2.0 and beyond. The SDG parameters should also consider GDP, development and well-being measuring, among other issues. During India’s G20 presidency there should be increased focus on opportunities to catalyse commitments for equitable and inclusive global development trajectory and strengthen the means of implementation.
India will be handing over the presidency of G20 to Brazil, which in turn will hand it over to South Africa in 2025. These three countries are members of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) forum. The IBSA as an institution should also focus on devising long-term initiatives that can speed up the process of achieving SDGs, especially in developing economies and SSC countries.
India has indisputably has reflected its leadership role in bringing the SDGs at the centre stage of global politics. It will be important for the developed countries (the so called G-7 where Italy and UK are losing relevance in terms of their contribution to the GDP of the global economy) to change their pattern of consumption and take responsibility to address the issues mainly emanating from climate change. More and more concentration of green house gas in the atmosphere, more and more challenges for climate change. One of the major goals enshrined in SDGs is “responsible consumption and production”, where the idea was that the members of international community—both the developed and developing ones—should understand the challenges associated with the pattern of consumption. The United States, in that context, will have to take the lead because their consumption pattern is such where an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from sectors such as energy production and transportation have been huge. Whether the US will become carbon neutral by 2050 remains a part of the discourse.
On the other hand, India has taken the lead and has shown to the rest of the world that how it has followed the stipulations of “Paris Protocol” (2015) by reducing the dependency on the use of fossil fuel for power generation to less than 60% by 2030. India has already realised this goal in December 2022. India has also been prioritising renewable energy sources such as wind and solar over expanding the use of oil, coal and natural gas. Changing the energy security constituents from using fossil fuel as a major component to the use of renewable energy sources should be the priority of all nations across the global spectrum. Such action perhaps would help in decreasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This, in turn, would technically help in realising all the goals articulated in SDGs. How much India would be able to mobilise international public opinion in the favour of attaining SDGs in due course will remain a part of deliberation among the members of the strategic and academic community. India’s leadership as G20 Presidency will be tested in September 2023 when the leadership summit will take up the matters relating to SDGs as part of a preferred strategy.
*Dr Seshadri Chari is Member, Governing Board, Research & Information Systems (RIS) and Chairman, China Study Centre, MAHE, Manipal.
*Dr Arvind Kumar is Professor at School of International
Studies, JNU, New Delhi.