Long list of sustainable development goals likely to stay, UNDP says

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - It is unlikely U.N. member states will push for a cut in the number of proposed sustainable development goals - and risk undoing painstaking talks - despite concerns there are too many of them, the head of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) said. The current draft of SDGs, produced after formal discussions, panels and U.N. working group meetings, includes 17 goals and 169 targets ranging from ending hunger to combating climate change and conserving oceans. Critics say the list to replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire this year, is too unwieldy to be effective, too costly to monitor and will be hard to measure because of a lack of data in many countries. "If you go back to what was the beauty of the MDGs - they were limited in number and they had clear targets and because of that, they set the global agenda," UNDP Administrator Helen Clark told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a brief interview. "The question is with this bigger, bolder, more transformational agenda, how does it get traction? You don't want it to be everything so it's nothing." However, asked whether the list was likely to be narrowed, she said: "No, I don't think so." "What we sense is that the member states are reluctant to open that up too much because they feel they did a lot of that discussion with the open working group," Clark said, speaking at Britain's Department for International Development on Monday. The latest round of discussions on the SDGs, which will set the development priorities for the next 15 years, began in New York this week. Negotiators are expected to work on a political declaration that heads of states and governments will adopt at a U.N. summit in September. Also on the table are the goals, how to implement them, and how to monitor progress, said Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand. (Reporting by Katie Nguyen; Editing by Ros Russell)