What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the international community's commitments to "sustainable development." It is a promise to commit to a future-oriented development for both current and future generations and is based on "human-centered" values that encompass social inclusion, economic development, and environmental protection. The "SDGs," also known as the Global Goals, are global actions that  poverty eradication, protection of the planet, and everyone to enjoy peace and prosperity.

The adoption of the SDGs was not the first time that UN member states and the international community made global commitments to a set of measurable goals. In 2000, leaders of 189 countries signed the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight goals ranged from targeting extreme poverty and hunger to promoting gender equality by the target date of 2015. and became a useful development agenda. SDGs is a follow-up agenda to MDGs, which has specifically included the roles and responsibilities of developed countries, away from the existing focus focused on developing countries, allowing developing countries and developed countries to have a shared responsibility. Accordingly, the Sustainable Development Goals included comprehensive and broad goals to create a society that can realize social development and economic development, environmental protection, justice, and achieve democracy. 

SDGs were unanimously adopted by 193 countries at the 70th UN General Assembly and Sustainable Development Summit held in September 2015, and are the 17 collective goals of mankind that the United Nations and the international community must achieve from 2016 to 2030. It presented 17 goals and 169 targets for humanity in five areas of human, earth, prosperity, peace, and partnership, along with the slogan "Leave no one behind." 

Until now, countries around the world are continuously striving to solve universal social issues of humanity, global environmental and climate change issues, and economic problems, as well as to achieve the future-oriented development, with the collective objectives of SDGs. 

What does North Korea think about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? 

As a result of the consistent contributions made by the United Nations, including the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the international community, on September 25th, 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/70/L.1 calling for all countries and all stakeholders to act in a collaborative partnership to implement the 2030 Agenda. Therefore, as one of the 193 United Nations member states, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea accepted the agenda "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development." North Korea made a commitment to be actively involved in the implementation of the 2030 agenda and expressed its intention to participate in Voluntary National Reviews in July 2020. In addition, in April 2016, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Soo-yong defined the goals for sustainable development as follows at the United Nations High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals. 

“The Sustainable Development Goal is a program of action of the international community, which pledges to eliminate social inequality and poverty on a global scale, give full rein to human dignity and creative ability and guarantee affluent lives not only to our generation but to the future generations…. 

I wish to take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the DPRK to actively join the international efforts towards achieving the SDGs, despite the grave situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula.” 

Ri Su Yong, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, at the UN High-Level Thematic Debate of Achieving Sustainable Development Goals, New York, 21 April 2016.

As such, North Korea has consistently participated in international conferences related to SDGs and consistently expressed its consent. 

However, North Korea is making it clear that participation in the international agenda should not be a means to infringe on North Korea's sovereignty or induce changes in foreign policy, and that peaceful environment and respect for sovereignty should come first. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, H.E. Mr. RI SU YONG stated that the DPRK would make "strenuous efforts to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," and a "peaceful and durable environment for development should be provided before anything else to achieve the goals for complete eradication of poverty and sustainable socio-economic development." Further, as "artificial obstacles" such as sanctions are impeding the "peaceful and durable environment," if these economic sanctions are left intact, "the excellent development goals will not be attained." 

In other words, North Korea is making continuous efforts to implement SDGs and achieve its goals, such as emphasizing policy consistency as a member of the international community, but there are also clear limitations in establishing cooperative relations that meet international standards. 

Promoting North Korean human rights through SDGs.

To address diverse social issues, organize climate action, and reduce economic disparity among states, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outline goals and targets requiring equal contribution and commitment from every United Nations member state. The agenda initiated to achieve sustainable development of humanity is widely considered the most participatory in the United Nations' history. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs outline specific targets for each goal and adopt extensive human rights principles and standards. 

With the promise of "Leave no one behind", the principles of human rights are reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets, in which both development goals and human rights are mutually integrated. According to the The Human Rights Guide to the Sustainable Development Goals, written by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR), over 92% of the Sustainable Development Goals are reflected in the articles drafted by the international instruments. Further, the DIHR developed a website outlining the relationship between the SDGs and the United Nations Human Rights mechanisms. This research enables a diverse set of stakeholders and countries with dire human rights situations to understand the SDGs and establish monitoring criteria to evaluate improvements in the human rights situation. 

Using International Human Rights Treaties (UN Charter, Declaration of Human Rights) as a base, connecting each goal with human rights 

Ensuring Rights of Freedom (ICCPR) and extending to Social Rights and Right to Development to promote the Right to Life and welfare 

The highest participation in the UN's history, all member states working toward the same goals 

All of SDGs' goals are closely related to human rights. As a stepping stone, SDGs can play a role as an approach to improving North Korea's human rights and as a facilitator for promoting North Korea's human rights while not condemning on North Korea's Achilles heel. With North Korea actively expressing its intention to participate in the international community's common agenda and establishing an internal system in response to it, SDGs can act as a more effective language of communication between North Korea and the international community than any other channel. 

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