The Sustainable Development Goals: Pitfalls and Challenges Where We Now Need to Start Making Progress

  • Gottfried SchweigerEmail author
Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 14)


In this chapter, I will provide a philosophical commentary on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will play a key role in global poverty reduction in the next 15 years. In particular, I will focus on five issues: possible trade-offs, the task of prioritization, the vagueness of the SDGs, the required coordination to implement the SDGs and the establishment of a system of sanctions against actors who fail to achieve the SDGs. Firstly, moving forward with measures to realize the SDGs will most likely demand trade-offs between certain goals; therefore, it is urgent to identify which trade-offs are likely to occur and understand how to choose those goals that should be pursued under such circumstances. Secondly, in addition to possible trade-offs, it is likely that some goals are more easy to achieve than others and that states, as well as international institutions, will have to decide where to invest the money. This probably means that some goals will be prioritized over others, with investments focused more on their achievement, at least in the short-term. Thirdly, although the SDGs cover 17 goals with a total of 169 targets, many of them are still very vague. It will be necessary to set measureable and feasible benchmarks, which can be used to track progress. Fourthly, the SDGs are ambitious and, therefore, the possibility that they will not be achieved is, unfortunately, rather high, especially if the vagueness of some of the targets is not exploited in order to achieve at least low levels of progress. Until now, not much is known about the strategies behind achieving the SDGs and how this global effort will be coordinated, as well as whether the current global framework of institutions is fit for that task. Fifthly, it is certain that, if the SDGs fail the poor and other vulnerable populations, there will be no fearful consequence for other populations, particularly those in rich countries.


Sustainable development goals Global poverty Global justice Accountability Empowerment 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ethics and Poverty ResearchUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria

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