Cross-posted from The Guardian.
The general assembly of the United Nations has given its blessing to building a better world with the launch of the sustainable development goals -- or the SDGs, as they have been tagged in the acronym-festooned corridors of global diplomacy. It has taken nearly three years and the largest consultation in the UN's history to arrive at this set of goals, targets and indicators which will drive action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance to humanity.
But what will the world look like in 2030, and how much will the SDGs contribute to the shape it will be in by then? The immediate response is something akin to the one received by the traveler who asks a local how to get to a nearby town: "I wouldn't start from here." As these global goals are being adopted we are receiving ever more urgent knocks at the door from migration, conflict and climate change -- and all these challenges are beyond the means of individual countries to overcome.
The SDGs will replace the millenium development goals (MDGs) when their 15-year tenure expires at the end of 2015. The eight goals and 21 targets set by the MDGs helped lift 700 million people out of extreme poverty. Yet they also lacked focus. Fifty of the most fragile countries and economies are home to 43% of people living in extreme poverty today. By 2030 this is projected to rise to 62%. The fight to end extreme poverty is moving overwhelmingly to conflict-affected and fragile states.
A recent report by the Center for American Progress and Save the Children found that fragile states made "distressingly little progress on the MDGs", with 37 of the 55 countries examined meeting two or fewer targets. In 2011 the World Bank sounded an alarm bell which is still ringing: 1.5 billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected states are at risk of being left behind, with many of these countries caught in repeated cycles of violence and instability and unable to achieve the MDGs.
Complex and protracted crisis has become the new normal in and across many fragile countries and regions. Humanitarian aid's traditional rapid response model -- getting in swiftly and exiting once the emergency is over -- doesn't fit the new terms of reference. A band-aid solution is too often being applied to the same chronic crises.
As a result, global humanitarian financing has surged from $2bn in 2000 to nearly $25bn in 2014, and continues to rise. The ratio of humanitarian aid within Official Development Assistance -- an indicator of international aid flows -- is above 50% in many states categorised by the UN as "least developed countries", and is far higher in the most fragile environments. And in spite of this growth humanitarian assistance remains incapable of responding to all the needs.
Globally there are a record 59.5 million forcibly displaced people -- equivalent to the entire population of Italy. More than half are children. An estimated 400,000 people a year are dying as a result of the floods, droughts and food insecurity that affect hundreds of millions -- most of them in the countries least able to cope. Natural disasters have cost $2tn over the last two decades but this figure is dwarfed by the cost of wars. Last year alone conflicts cost the global economy an estimated $14.3tn - more than 13% of world GDP.
We cannot afford to continue along this path. The funding gap between demand and resources will continue to widen if we do; UN appeals are already under-funded by nearly 40%. On Saturday Norway and the UN secretary general's High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing host a meeting which brings together several heads of UN agencies, foreign ministers and heads of international organizations to discuss charting a course towards higher ground.
The relationship between humanitarian and development assistance urgently requires attention because the evidence has never been more clear that the distinctions between them are artificial. The wall needs to come down: addressing humanitarian crises is not only a prerequisite of sustainable development but also a necessity if the SDGs are to be achieved. Let's have innovative ideas, including from our international finance institutions and development banks, on how to deal with greater fragility. We need new financial instruments which encourage giving and reward best practice.
Despite the enormity and complexity of the challenge we remain optimists. Between now and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016 there is an opportunity to find solutions. The financing discussions occurring in the SDGs and climate change arenas, as well as the panel's recommendations in December, provide an opportunity to find a better route to Istanbul and beyond. The time has never been more right and the moment must be seized.
Kristalina Georgieva is co-chair of the UN secretary general's high-level panel on humanitarian financing and vice president of the European commission. Borge Brende is minister of foreign affairs, Norway.