From the Desk of Secretary General
On 25th September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly officially approved the Sustainable Development Goals, with a target to achieve it by 2030 with 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and 169 targets in contrast to the 8 Millennium Development Goals with 21 targets. The sustainable development goals are the result of a negotiation process that involved the 193 UN member states and also unprecedented participation of civil society and other stakeholders. I, on behalf of AARDO, take this opportunity to congratulate all those who were involved in developing/designing these goals and setting the targets, which not only cover all aspects of human development, but go well beyond with a concern for the protection of the planet for a better tomorrow. In other words, SDGs are not restricted to poverty, hunger, water or sanitation in the developing countries, rather than making efforts to combating climate change and halting the bio-diversity loss as well.

We, at AARDO are concerned with all these goals as most of the goals are crucial for majority of the AARDO member countries. For example, Goal No.1 and 2 which outlines the eradicating poverty in all forms and dimensions; and end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture respectively. Eradication of poverty is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development and it can be achieved by dedicating ourselves to a human-centric, rights-based approach across all the other 16 sustainable development goals. Similarly with relations to goal no.2, it can be said here that hunger can be eliminated within this time frame, if we create better opportunities for farmers and focus on the needs of undernourished groups. Sustainability means using fewer natural resources to produce food and reducing food waste and loss and AARDO has organized several programmes addressing the core issues for sustainable agricultural and rural development for its member countries in last one decade. While celebrating 50th Anniversary of African-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO), the Ministers of AARDO member countries adopted the recommendations of the international seminar on “Rural Development: Retrospect and Prospects”, organized in course of the celebration on 5-6th March 2012 as “ AARDO Declaration, 2012”. There are many common threads between SDGs and AARDO Declaration, 2012, which among others include poverty alleviation, eradication of hunger, women empowerment and so on.

Back to the MDG, the UN Report on MDGs, 2015 says, “the MDGs helped to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, to enable more girls to attend school than ever before and to protect our planet. They generated new and innovative partnerships, galvanized public opinion and showed the immense value of setting ambitious goals. By putting people and their immediate needs at the forefront, the MDGs reshaped decision-making in developed and developing countries alike”. Although significant achievements have been made on many of the MDG targets in different parts of the world, progress has been uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps. Millions of people,especially in Africa and Asia are being left behind. The fact sheet on MDGs, released by UN testifies it and what is important now is the need for targeted efforts to reach the most vulnerable people in these two continents.

The development in African-Asian countries brings one major question as to what are the challenges that these developing/least developing African-Asian countries faced in implementing the MDGs and the need to see the future challenges in implementing various programmes to achieve the SDGs targets in light of these challenges. Foremost among the challenges are the finance and sustainability of the pace of development. None of the developing countries of both the continents are at present equipped to meet the targets by mobilizing the required resources internally though the SDGs attached lot of importance to localization of Sustainable Development and serves as a strategic approach in achieving all the proposed goals. By localizing the SDGs, it is expected that women and girls, youth and the poorest, most marginalized and excluded people, will no-longer be left behind. Now the time has come for the national governments ofdifferent countries and more specifically for the developing and under developed countries of both Africa and Asia to translate the SDGs into national agendas through learning and scaling-up successful rural and local development initiatives. In this context, elements of the Saemaul Undong - a successful rural and local development initiative practiced in the Republic of Korea in the 1970s and later updated and adapted to various developing country contexts may play a crucial role. In partnership with the Korean Government, AARDO has been endeavoring to make Saemaul Undong applicable in its member countries, scaling up this rural development model into a shared resource for all. Similarly, the Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) of India may bring significant transformation in the rural areas of the African-Asian region. The second challenge is the sustainability of the pace of development and it cannot be maintained without the involvement of the whole government, participation of all sectors of the society, and accountability of all stakeholders with good governance as its base.

The tasks ahead are challenging and in order to meet the requirements, action is the need of the hour not by the national governments alone, but also by all the players of development- international agencies, regional bodies, donor countries/agencies, financial institutions, corporate houses, civil society organizations, etc. With the advancement of technologies in last two decades, the network and collaboration among different stakeholders of development has cemented to a certain extent. I take this opportunity to urge all regional bodies of Africa and Asia to come closer and work together with the spirit of South-South Cooperation for achieving the targets by 2030.