Hailing India’s efforts to localise the UN Sustainable Development Goals, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said, “The SDGs recognise that world is interlinked to an unprecedented degree and the level to which this message of interconnectedness has been embraced in India, from the Centre and the states down to the district and individual household level, is truly impressive.”
She was addressing a side-session, ‘Indian model of SDG Localisation: Towards full implementation of 2030 Agenda’, at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on July 14. The session was organised by Niti Aayog, Permanent Mission of India to the UN, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN in India.
During the last over seven years, the Modi Government’s flagship schemes like Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission, Saubhagya Scheme, Ayushman Bharat, Jan Dhan Yojana and Mudra Yojana have brought unprecedented improvement in the quality of life of the socio-economically marginalised people in the country.
Referring to these, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairperson Suman Bery said in his address that about 330 million people have gained access to improved sanitation, 233 million people have obtained access to clean cooking fuel, electricity coverage has improved from 88 per cent to 97 per cent benefiting 183 million people, health coverage programmes covering over 500 million people have been rolled out and paediatric vaccination has also improved. “This impressive fleet is a result of cooperative and competitive federalism, and it is captured and driven by the SDGs,” he said.
Two things have worked in favour of India; first a reorientation of the fundamental structure of the UN’s approach towards growth and development and secondly, the localisation of SDGs.
The Indian subcontinent has had a long history of debate over human development. The ‘Human Development Index’, which argues in favour of broadening the definition of development, was hatched by Pak economist and politician Mahbub-ul-Haq and was later hammered out by India’s Amartya Sen. But, it was only after the conceptualisation of SDGs that the developing world’s arguments were heard from the UN’s podium.
Before the advent of SDGs, the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) were the guiding spirit of this century’s development paradigm. To their credit, the MDGs led to the convergence of the development agenda of various agencies. But the problem with the MDGs was that they had a top-bottom approach and their conceptualisation took place behind closed doors by a select few. In contrast, the evolution of SDGs was a long and extensive democratic process, which included 70 open working groups, civil society organisations, thematic consultations, country consultations, participation of general public through face-to-face meetings and online mechanisms, and door-to-door surveys.
The democratic inception of SDGs provided room and flexibility to Indian policymakers to experiment with a three-pronged approach. The national government, state governments, and civil society organisations worked hand-in-hand, creating space for integrating feedback from various grass-root organisations. The need of the hour was to find local solutions to local problems. This resulted in the integration of SDGs’ parameters into planning, budgeting, and monitoring at each and every level of governance.
Integrating, quantifying, and, measuring diversified data/results coming out of these initiatives were an uphill task. This is where the Niti Aayog’s SDG India Index Dashboard plays a crucial role as it not only crunches the data but promotes healthy competition among states. It is a one-ofits-kind, data-driven initiative which ranks states and Union Territories by computing a composite index on the SDGs.
The world is nearing the deadline of 2030 and this is the Decade of Action. It is the need of the hour to take cognizance of all the efforts that bear fruits and replicate success stories. Taking a leaf out of India’s book, the United Nations is betting heavily on localising the SDGs through its Local2030 initiative.