Achieving United Nations SDGs

How do national and international factors interact in empowering some states of the Global South the make more progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals than other states?

In comparing Singapore and Sri Lanka and their attempt to progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the way national and international factors affect progress is clear. A national factor that can explain why states can make more progress on SDGs is a strong economic foundation. Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and part of that is because of its economic stability and constant growth. This goes hand in hand with a strong government that pushes for policies that enable this economic growth. For example, Singapore’s People’s Action Party has promoted pro-business policies, reduced trade barriers, and incentivized investments. On the other hand, looking at Sri Lanka, they have not been able to make significant progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals mainly because of corruption in the government and among financial institutions. This has caused statewide income inequality and has weakened the economy. Also, the Terrorism Prevention Act has enabled the government to detain and perform human rights abuses against citizens, which directly goes against SDG 16, Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

When looking at international factors, alliances with neighboring countries and good diplomatic practice can help a state make more progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, Singapore is a part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional organization. Not only does having neighboring allies in general bode well for them, but with this they get access to global trade markets and can advocate for national trade interests. On the other hand, corruption inside states can affect how other countries see them. With Sri Lanka’s failing economy, countries are less likely to invest in the economy which can affect many things such as leverage with trade.

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