Development & Aid, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations


Business-Friendly & Rights-based Approaches to Achieve SDGs

Dilum Abeysekera is Founder & CEO, LEEG-net | LexEcon Consulting Group*

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Feb 5 2019 (IPS) - The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 has entered its fourth year of implementation.

In terms of the estimated cost and the universal coverage of both developed and developing countries, it is the biggest ever development program that is being implemented to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

LEEG-net (Legal & Economic Empowerment Global Network – ) is a multi-disciplinary network of professionals and a pro bono partnership for the Goals launched in January, 2017 in response to the global call-to-action extended by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It plays a catalytic role in implementing the SDGs by promoting legal innovation and empowerment of the poor and disadvantaged groups towards addressing the “greatest global challenge of eradicating poverty” – the unifying thread throughout the 17 Goals.

According to LEEG-net, the focus on legal innovation is an ongoing quest for new strategies and ways of thinking about what the law can do in the field of development.

The focus on legal empowerment as a human rights-based approach to development is an attempt to make the law work for the poor and disadvantaged groups by enhancing their capacity to resist poverty and get over it.

LEEG-net links the two themes by virtue of their shared importance in finding solutions to sustainable development challenges.

Current status of the implementation of SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 published by the United Nations reviews progress in the third year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The report states that the rate of global progress is not keeping pace with the ambitions of the Agenda, necessitating immediate and accelerated action by countries and stakeholders at all levels.

The 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards report published jointly by Bertelsmann Stiftung and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) provides a ranking of countries by the aggregate SDG Index of overall performance.

It also presents an updated assessment of countries’ distance to achieving the SDGs. Key findings include:

    (a) The Report states “For the first time, we are able to show that no country is on track to achieve all the goals by 2030.
    For example, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland top the 2018 SDG Index, but they need to significantly accelerate progress towards achieving some goals, including Goal 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and Goal 13 (Climate Action)”

    (b) Most G 20 countries have started SDGs implementation, but important gaps remain.

    (c) Achievement gaps are greatest towards universal completion of secondary education.

    (d) Countries experiencing conflict have experienced some of the sharpest reversals, particularly towards achieving Goal 1 (No Poverty) and Goal 2 (No Hunger).

    (e) Progress towards sustainable consumption and production patterns is too slow. High-income countries obtain their lowest scores on Goal 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and Goal 14 (Life Below Water).

    (g) High-income countries generate negative SDG spillover effects.

Human rights foundation of the SDGs

The 2030 Agenda is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights treaties.

According to an analysis of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, around 92% of the 169 SDG targets are based on the provisions of international human rights treaties and labour conventions.

LEEG-net perceives the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs as a restatement of universal human rights that encompass the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, environmental and economic.

The SDGs can be seen as a goal-based operational plan for realizing human rights including the right to development as recognized by international, regional and national instruments.

The “human rights foundation” of the 2030 Agenda justifies the adoption of a human rights-based approach to implementing the SDGs. A human rights-based approach to development seeks to achieve development objectives by following a legal roadmap.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the two International Covenants adopted in 1966 respectively on Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights along with other human rights instruments operative at the international, regional and national levels constitute the legal roadmap of a rights-based approach to development.

With the objective of advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, LEEG-net seeks to incorporate business-friendly and human rights-based approaches (or a holistic approach) into national action plans for implementing the SDGs.

The proposed mechanism is the promotion of legal, economic and technological empowerment of people including the poor and disadvantaged groups within the human rights foundation of the SDGs.

This process is visualized by the infographic named SDG Temple of Justice – an outline of a blueprint developed by LEEG-net team (web:

This blueprint seeks to prioritize policies and actions to advance eightfold rights that are considered imperative for developing countries in particular if they are to fully realize the SDGs.

These rights, as depicted by pillars of the infographic, are Gender Equality, Property Rights, Contract Rights, Business Rights, Labour Rights, Right to an Effective Remedy, Right to Information, and the Right to Development. Click on the pillars of the SDG Temple of Justice infographic to see how these rights critically impact on achieving the SDGs.

Member States’ commitment to adopting business-friendly approaches, including efficient legal and regulatory frameworks, promotes innovation, employment and inclusive growth.

As supported by empirical evidence, actions taken by State institutions that promote, protect and assure the rights of businesses (irrespective of their size) have had a direct impact on reducing poverty.

Economies with better business regulation have lower levels of poverty on average (Doing Business-2018, World Bank). Such commitments are required to help achieve SDGs 1, 2, 5, 8 and 10 in particular.

LEEG-net considers the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) score as an effective indicator for measuring the “SDG-readiness” of national business regulatory frameworks.

The EODB score has been developed by World Bank’s Doing Business team to indicate an economy’s position to the best regulatory practice in relation to 10 indicator sets – the best score is set at 100, and the worst performance is set at 0.

LEEG-net believes that a considerable number of SDG targets of the 2030 Agenda can be easily met if countries maintain an EODB score of 80 or more.

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