he UN has now published the lists of delegations that attended last year’s gathering in New York which established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). IRIN took a look at which countries sent the largest teams to the cup and compared that to their national per capita income. Nearly 7,000 names are listed, most of whom enjoyed flights and hotel bills at taxpayers’ expense. Some relatively poor countries sent dozens of diplomats and “advisors” to New York at great expense to their hard-pressed taxpayers. An average delegation is 35. The US team was the largest: it consisted of 382 politicians, diplomats and advisors from President Barack Obama downwards. Caribbean island nation Saint Kitts and Nevis sent just their prime minister and five diplomats.
Developing countries need to work extra hard to be heard at global events and lobby for their citizen’s interests, especially when the agenda is inequality, and economic and social development. Showing up in force has some real justification.
Nevertheless, when the cost of the air ticket alone is close to the per capita income of the country, some restraint is surely in order.
Earlier this month, another piece of SDG machinery was put in place when experts agreed on a whopping 230 individual indicators to monitor the 17 goals and 169 targets.
Perhaps it’s time for a 231st indicator: the Sustainable Diplomacy Goal – delegations to UN summits should not exceed a certain affordability threshold.
In pursuit of a baseline for this indicator, we looked at the number of delegates per $1,000 of GNI per capita.