Inequalities in the Sustainable Development Goals

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By Jessica Pierson
Friday, October 27, 2017

On October 16th, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights hosted a panel discussion about inequalities in the Sustainable Development Goals. The event launched a special issue of the International Journal of Human Rights on the “Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights: A Critical Early Review,” co-edited by Inga Winkler and Carmel Williams. The panel consisted of Margaret L. Satterthwaite from New York University Law School, Kate Donald of the Center for Economic and Social Rights, Sara L. M. Davis from NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Mila Rosenthal of the United Nations Development Programme and the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Lauren Barredo from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and was chaired by Inga Winkler from the Institute for the Study of Human Rights.

The SDGs reflect human rights commitments, they focus on reducing inequality, and promise to “leave no one behind.” However, the panel discussed how countries may be ignoring marginalized populations by denying they even exist. By making these populations invisible, there is no data and without data, there can be no targeted measures to reach them. Furthermore, there are significant gaps in the monitoring mechanisms, leaving a lack of accountability for States in their advancement in implementing the SDG targets. The panel discussed how countries are allowed to voluntarily pick and choose which indicators they report on, and that reviews submitted to the United Nations are done so by states on a voluntary basis. The panel emphasized, though, that they are hopeful that human rights principles can guide measures into fixing these gaps.  Now is an opportune time to reflect on these developments at a time where indicators, national strategies and review processes can still be influenced.

The Special issue on the “Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights: A Critical Early Review” is available here.

Jessica Pierson is pursuing a Master of Arts in Human Rights Studies at The Institute for the Study of Human Rights, concentrating in Reproductive Rights, and anticipates graduation in October 2018.