Sustainable Development Goals: A Lost Cause?

Without incorporating SDGs into every level of planning and policy-making, Agenda 2030 will remain a lost opportunity and the promise of a sustainable, prosperous future for all Batswana will slip further out of reach, writes DOUGLAS RASBASH


Botswana stands at a critical juncture with Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These globally agreed goals offer a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.

However, in Botswana, the lack of recognition and integration of the SDGs into sectoral, regional and district planning threatens to render these goals meaningless and ultimately a missed opportunity for the nation. Despite the international fanfare surrounding the SDGs, the reality on the ground in Botswana paints a bleak picture. The disconnect between national aspirations and local implementation is stark.

Government plans and policies at the sectoral and district levels often omit any mention of the SDGs, treating them as lofty, distant ideals rather than actionable targets. This oversight undermines the very essence of sustainable development, which hinges on localising these goals to address specific regional and community needs.

Profound disregard 

The failure to integrate the SDGs into Botswana’s development plans is not merely a bureaucratic misstep but a profound disregard for the country’s future. Ignoring these goals means ignoring the interconnected challenges of poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

Botswana risks falling behind as the rest of the world moves towards more sustainable, equitable growth. Moreover, this lack of integration means that potential funding and support from international bodies, which are often tied to progress on the SDGs, may bypass the country.

This would exacerbate existing inequalities and stymie economic and social progress. The country’s youth, women, and marginalised communities will be disproportionately affected as the benefits of sustainable development fail to reach those who need them most.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 inter-connected goals established by the United Nations in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They aim to address global challenges and achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Almost certainly, not one single political party will refer to the SDGs in their manifestos even though the 17 goals and 140 plus targets provide the perfect framework for action. But it is not too late for political parties to take note.

Here are the SDGs: 

  1. No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. Good Health and Well-Being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
  4. Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  5. Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation.
  10. Reduced Inequalities: Reduce inequality within and among countries.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  13. Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
  14. Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  15. Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, manage forests sustainably, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss.
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  17. Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Botswana’s leadership must take immediate, decisive action to incorporate the SDGs into every level of planning and policy-making. This requires not just lip service but a genuine commitment to aligning national and local priorities with the global agenda.

Without such a shift, Agenda 2030 will remain a lost opportunity and the promise of a sustainable, prosperous future for all Batswana will slip further out of reach.