[Issue] [January 2016] International Agenda : The UN’s 1st Goal of the New Year


The UN’s 1st Goal of the New Year

Lee Su-ryeon

Staff, International Affairs Team


2016 marks
a fresh new beginning for everyone. At the beginning of each year, ambitious
plans are often laid out. The same is true in the international community. In
the past, the members of the international community have even made plans that
span a decade or more. 

For this
year, the UN, composed of 193 countries, published 17 goals that pave the way
toward harmonious development for mankind in the near future. The goals seek
100 percent achievement by the year 2020. A part of the UN Sustainable Development
Goals, the document, “Transforming Our World: the 2030 agenda for sustainable
development,” was published in late 2015.

From the
year 2001 to 2015, the Millennium Development Goals were a vehicle used to
target developing nations. The MDGs were less known in Korea though, as the
focus was on eradication of poverty and starvation in developing countries. The
new SDGs, however, are a commitment by most of the international community. Yet
many are still unfamiliar with the goals, as they lack any binding force in
their effort to effect change.


Meaning & Origin of Sustainable Development

development goals seek to achieve a coexistence of man and nature while
reflecting on economic development that focuses on growth
post-industrialization despite the diverse interpretation of “sustainable

In Korea,
controversy arose at the time the World Council for Sustainable Development
began in the year 2000. Local governments developed programs such as Agenda 21,
for people to practice autonomously, as a form of sustainable development. The
meaning of sustainable development was replaced with a meaning that emphasized
a nation’s green growth capacity after the Lee Myung-bak administration.

international community has argued for the inclusion of the environment and
development in the concept of sustainability, ever since it first appeared in
the 1970s. The Rio de Janeiro environmental conference held in Brazil reached
an agreement on detailed plans or goals for the environment and development in
1992. Subsequently, an agenda based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals was
arranged during the Rio+20 conference in 2012.

concept of sustainable development arose in 2015. The World Summit for
Sustainable Development was held in September where they announced goals agreed
to by the 193 member countries. The birth of the SDGs was spurred by an effort
to eradicate global imbalances and propagate the longevity of the earth we live


Why Sustainable Development is Discussed in Korea


Why, in
Korea, are we discussing sustainable development while still suffering from
economic recession and growing inequality between the rich and poor? Why do we
care about an issue that is not relevant to our daily lives? SDGs are not an
attractive topic in tough times like the present day since it requires paying
concessions to other developing nations to pursue environmental protection and
low growth policies.

The only
fact needed to know is that man has never escaped the desire to exert control
over nature. Many serious cases have spread rapidly, threatening the ecosystem
by expanding human-oriented development and consuming nature’s resources.

Our health
and quality of life are threatened by natural disasters arising from climate
change, atmospheric conditions that make breathing difficult such as dust
particulate, and a general sense of consumerism towards nature.

What is
needed is a mindset that looks ahead, far into the future. Yet, we have go so
far, that we have actually taken a step back. At the time the Club of Rome
published “Limits to Growth” in 1972, Korea had just revived its construction
industry, coming out of an economic recession, only to see environmental and
developmental problems begin to arise.

Less than
50 years after our revival of a construction state, Korea is suffering from
general fatigue. The era of growth has not provided enough sustainability for
the near future. Amartya Sen, the famous development economist, said the final
destination of development is not a growth but the capability to achieving the
kind o
f life
that each person has reason to value.

And with
that, the new growth engine is just as important as the ability to achieve the
kind of life that each one has reason to value. The issue of sustainable
development has brought about new questions about how we can improve the
capability of achieving one’s desired life and value.

Translator : Kim Tae-young