The idea of gauging the economy’s wellbeing, or the Gross Domestic Product was put forth by Simon Kuznets back in 1934, in the wake of the Great Depression. Since then, GDP has become an iconic policy variable. However, the shallowness of this measure was understood better by Kuznets than any other. He acknowledges that “welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.”
It’s been a long way since 1934, and many an economist, besides social scientists and statisticians world over have tried to come up with a measure that is reflective of not just the value of goods and services produced in the economy. The concerns over the years have shifted towards the well-being of people of the nation and not just the economy at large.
The Human Development Index (HDI) of 1990s, sought to do just that- it brought the condition and state of human mankind to the centre stage of policy discussions. The HDI, included parameters such as life expectancy (health), education, and per capita income (standard of living) indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.
In line with this world view, the turn of the 21st Century, the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, culminating in the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals- these were eight international development goals pertaining to human development, environment sustainability and development of global partnerships. They were instrumental in steering unprecedented efforts to meet the needs and challenges of the world’s poorest and addressing the issues of inequity. However, the goals weren’t free from criticisms. In particular, it was felt that the framing process did not see adequate involvement by developing countries, and the goals were not adapted for feasibility, and did not pin responsibilities appropriately.
"Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers."
At the end of 2015, the MDGs have been replaced by putting in place by an alternate framework for addressing the future development of mankind. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed upon at the Rio + 20 Summit (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) in 2012 and have been developed with a view to addressing the future development of mankind. The SDGs are expected to adopt an approach that integrates the social, economic, and environmental dimensions and concerns which form the very foundation of sustainable development.
It is composed of 17 goals and 169 targets, each intertwined with the other, thus recognising the need to not compartmentalise development. The goals engage with poverty, hunger, health, education, jobs and economic growth, infrastructure & innovation, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption, clean water, energy, climate change, sustainability of oceans and terrestrial life forms, peace and partnership for development cooperation.
In the words of UNDP Administrator Helen Clark,
"This agreement marks an important milestone in putting our world on an inclusive and sustainable course. If we all work together, we have a chance of meeting citizens’ aspirations for peace, prosperity, and wellbeing, and to preserve our planet."
The next 15 years are going to be decisive for India if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In a highly globalised world, it is not feasible to have redistribution follow growth, and development must work its way from the bottom up. There is a need for a constructive approach to fortify both development and democracy, engaging citizen bodies, research institutes and varying levels of governance. By the means of this conference, the FOHSS, SIU seeks to address the issues and challenges that need to be addressed with respect to formulating strategies with respect to the varied SDGs and the way forward.
As an educational institute of high repute and prestige, through this conference we hope to come out with definitional tools and measures to prepare India for this journey towards making the lives of Indian citizens more bearable and comfortable in the years to come. The expected outcomes of the conference are as follows: