After a two-year blizzard of consultations, debates, task forces and reports, the General Assembly of the United Nations started its final round of negotiations on 19 January 2015 to finalize the global post-2015 development agenda, a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The main document of discussion was a proposal for 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. With such a hefty list, changes--and perhaps a shorter list--can be expected before the final text is ready for adoption in September 2015. The scope of the core goals, however, should remain untouched.
Goal 8 seeks to "promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all." With unemployment set to increase over the next five years--over 212 million more people are likely to be out of a job by 2019 and many more trapped in vulnerable and precarious jobs--this goal reflects the concerns of Governments and people all over the world.
For the International Labour Organization (ILO) Goal 8 includes the following priorities:
* full and productive employment and decent work
* the gender pay gap
* youth unemployment
* ending all forms of child labour
* formalizing the informal economy
* entrepreneurship and micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises
* protecting labour rights and promoting safe, secure working environments
* migrant workers
Decent work priorities are also included in other goals. Technical and vocational skills are covered under Goal 4 on education, and social protection floors are discussed in Goal 1 on poverty.
Will all this actually translate into real changes in the realm of work? Despite amazing progress in certain areas, the preceding MDGs have a mixed record. So can the SDGs do better? The answer is that they must.
Showing results will be vital to sustain and advance the idea of multilateral cooperation. The new agenda will remain non-binding and voluntary. Nevertheless, it will influence key areas of policy, orient public opinion, steer official development assistance (ODA) and other development spending, and provide some benchmarks to gauge and review Governments' choices. It will also set the direction for programming activities within the United Nations development system.
In terms of Goal 8 and the decent work agenda, what should we focus on? Here are some thoughts on three key areas.
POLICY CHANGES AT THE COUNTRY LEVEL
While the goals are global, each country will...