Prioritizing among the Sustainable Development Goals

post by evelynciara · 2020-02-07T05:05:44.274Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA · GW · 11 comments

This is a link post for https://oecd-development-matters.org/2017/07/20/where-to-start-with-the-sdgs/

Back in 2017, Scott, Leitner, and Hynes of New America and the OECD asked 85 experts what they believed were the most important Sustainable Development Goal targets. The top 20 picks were:

  1. Promote rule of law and access to justice (8.9)
  2. Eliminate the most extreme poverty (8.4)
  3. Ensure access to safe, effective and affordable health care, medicine and vaccines (6.6)
  4. Ensure women’s rights to economic opportunity, property ownership and inheritance (6.5)
  5. Ensure government accountability and transparency (6.5)
  6. Ensure all children graduate from primary and secondary schools (5.6)
  7. End discrimination against women and girls (5.3)
  8. Expand access to safe drinking water (5.3)
  9. Promote social, economic and political inclusion (5.2)
  10. End corruption and bribery (4.9)
  11. Expand access to affordable, reliable, modern energy (4.6)
  12. End preventable deaths of infants and children under 5 years of age (4.3)
  13. Ensure literacy and numeracy for youth and adults (4.2)
  14. Ensure equal opportunity in economic and public life (4.2)
  15. Ensure equal access to legal rights, economic rights and natural resources (4.0)
  16. Reduce all poverty by half (4.0)
  17. End violence against women and girls (3.9)
  18. Ensure safe, accessible sanitation and hygiene (3.8)
  19. End human trafficking, harsh labor, forced marriage and genital mutilation (3.6)
  20. Improve domestic capacity for tax and revenue collection (3.6)

You can see the full ranking of targets and the recoupled ranking of SDGs on the SDGs in Order website.

11 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2020-02-07T19:05:03.663Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

EA is well positioned for moonshot funding (though to date has mostly attracted risk averse donors AFAICT). It seems like an interesting generator to ask what moonshots look like for these categories.

comment by evelynciara · 2020-02-08T05:30:03.111Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Well, for starters, I think any kind of policy work is a moonshot. Lobbying for pro-growth/globalist policies would have a small chance of boosting econ growth by a lot, which would in turn affect a lot of the other SDG targets.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-02-12T21:45:53.727Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for sharing this! I appreciate seeing perspectives on cause prioritization from people who know the global development space well, even if the models/principles they use to set priorities differ from those most commonly used in EA. (See also the Copenhagen Consensus.) [EA · GW]

Are you aware of any detailed responses from individual experts on how they actually chose their priority rankings?

comment by evelynciara · 2020-02-13T01:44:37.269Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you!

Yes; although they don't seem to have published the entire dataset of responses, they published a few here:

  • "The most important criterion in determining the order of the SDGs should be how to expand the capability set of the least advantaged members of society"
  • "Extent to which a target focuses on a system and not individual people"
  • "Looked at specific macro issues that would benefit people who could then play a more effective role in society, thus helping with the other goals"
  • "Start with the most basic human needs (food, water), then education and then the natural environment, where government has a strong role to play (including to address negative externalities)"
comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-02-07T05:37:38.613Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

From the FAQ:

Q: What exactly did you ask the experts? A: We presented the experts with 117 options - which we had distilled from the 169 official SDG targets - and asked them to identify the first 20 that should be tackled in a multi-year effort to fulfill all of the SDGs. We then asked them to put the 20 they selected into the proper sequence, such that doing each facilitated the tackling of subsequent options.

Regarding the criteria the experts used, it has been free for them to choose. The experts where then asked for how they came up with the ranking. Their answers where coded with individualistic vs institutional perspective (about 2:1 ratio), and process vs urgency (1:1). Link.

comment by evelynciara · 2020-02-07T16:44:27.604Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I wonder what the experts believed the appropriate tradeoffs between individual vs. institutions and urgency vs. process were.

comment by lucy.ea8 · 2020-02-07T23:42:05.526Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Most interesting, EA focus on "Boost per capita GDP" is ranked 40th as a Low priority

While

"Ensure all children graduate from primary and secondary schools" is ranked 7th as a High priority.

"End discrimination against women and girls" Which is related keeping all children in school is ranked 8th as a High priority.

I agree.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-02-12T21:45:04.347Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Note that goals around "reducing poverty" and "eliminating extreme poverty" are ranked much more highly than "boosting per capita GDP." Many who promote GDP growth would argue that such growth is highly correlated with reductions in poverty.

comment by lucy.ea8 · 2020-02-14T06:34:13.004Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Aaron,

"Eliminate the most extreme poverty" is ranked 2nd it is given high priority.

"Reduce all poverty by half" is ranked 16th at Medium priority

while "Boost per capita GDP" is ranked 40th at Low priority.

This implies that the "experts" think that "Eliminate the most extreme poverty" is a matter of distribution of money and power via state authority (taxation). Similarly "Reduce all poverty by half" is higher ranked than "per capita GDP growth" its about taxation and distribution again.

If a roughly a dollar a day is given to the 700 million people in extreme poverty, it cost $200 billion roughly. I don't see the political will for this. In contrast putting all kids in school for 12 years has a $39 billion shortfall, that is better use of money (more effective).

comment by evelynciara · 2020-02-14T16:48:17.698Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This implies that the "experts" think that "Eliminate the most extreme poverty" is a matter of distribution of money and power via state authority (taxation).

I don't think it implies that these experts think redistribution is the best way to eliminate extreme poverty. Increasing GDP per capita is 40th out of 117 targets, and being ranked this low could mean that they value it as a means of reducing poverty but not as an end in itself.

comment by lucy.ea8 · 2020-02-14T17:38:10.681Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

From https://www.sdgsinorder.org/goals

1 SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities 4.1569

2 SDG 1: No Poverty 3.7812

3 SDG 5: Gender Equality 3.5569

4 SDG 16: Peace Justice & Strong Institutions 3.0923

5 SDG 7: Affordable & Clean Energy 2.2784

6 SDG 4: Quality Education 2.0549

7 SDG 6: Clean Water & Sanitation1.8721

8 SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth 1.7282

Given the order for goals and targets, it's clear that taxation has to play a role, otherwise how are inequalities going to be reduced?

From FAQ

asked them to identify the first 20 that should be tackled in a multi-year effort to fulfill all of the SDGs. We then asked them to put the 20 they selected into the proper sequence, such that doing each facilitated the tackling of subsequent options.

It's clear. They want to tackle extreme poverty and inequality. economic growth is far less important.


Also relevant. From research to action - the story of a book that changed the way we think about development

the capability approach broadens our lens just to make us see much more
of people's lives and how they interact with the economy rather than narrowly
focusing in this case on income the thinking about human development and the
work that Dreze and Sen had then done began to find a new form of expression
in the human development report I think was one articulation of that with the
largest development agency in the world at the time the human development
reports use the index as a tool to send it the main message which is let us think beyond income