Could global goals encourage sustainable development? JFK would think so

In May 1961, JFK announced the US’s plan to put a man on the moon. A year later, he gave a speech at Rice University:
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Grand goal-setting is back on the world’s agenda. With the Millennium Development Goals due to be met or missed in three years time, the post-2015 debate is kicking off in the UN, in civil society and in the media. Sustainable Development Goals will be high on the agenda at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. But are they useful? Or just an excuse for not making concrete plans? 

The paper below provides some of the arguments for and against the use of goal-setting at the global level, particularly in regard to sustainable development.