Ambassador Volkan Bozkir, the President of United Nations General Assembly has put forth an ambitious agenda during his maiden speech before the world body on September 14, 2020, “It is not only a health crisis, but a social and economic crisis, which has exacerbated existing challenges the UN is seeking to overcome through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
Let us try to analyze some of these SDGs set out by the United Nations. It is a fact that while citizens of some African and Asian countries are starving, the rich countries are beset with obesity. Discrepancies of these types are morally disturbing. The United Nations is ideally suited to ending these shocking inequalities because it hosts all the nations of the world and endows each with identical voting power in the General Assembly. The poorest and the weakest are equal to the richest and the strongest.
The most urgent approach to promoting global partnership for sustainable development is the ending of warfare. War, whether intramural or international, wreaks havoc on the elements necessary for health, housing, education, employment, the rule of law, the environment, and happiness generally.
I admit that denunciation of warfare is easier than prevention. But if mankind can assemble knowledge to send men to the moon and Land Rovers to Mars, the knowledge necessary to end wars cannot be far behind. As is said in the Song of Solomon, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Prophet Muhammad appealed to the conscience of the human beings by saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
The second urgent global sustainable development objective should be universal literacy and education. As Socrates explained, the unexamined life is not worth living. Or as philosopher Sam Johnson amplified, there is the same difference between the learned and unlearned as between the living and the dead. And as the Quran says, “Are those who know equal with those who know not?” These observations are made not to deride or degrade the uneducated, but to underscore the criticality of education to making life morally meaningful and fulfilling between ashes to ashes and dust-to-dust.
There is nothing inherently mischievous about these development yardsticks. But they should never distract from our recognition that the highest in sustainable development consists of non-quantifiable characteristics. These would include acts of charity, humility, courage, benevolence, magnanimity, self-restraint, and non-vindictiveness. It would seem to me to turn logic and morality on their heads to award higher sustainable development acclaim to a nation whose citizens were universally economically prosperous, literate, healthy, long-lived, non-polluting, but also mean-spirited, selfish, and egotistical than to a nation whose citizens were impoverished, plagued by disease, but were generous in time, effusive in hospitality, austere in habits, and selfless for the community.
These goals seem to be ambitious but we will have fulfill our responsibilities for the sake of future generations.
Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai