SDGs, What are they? What others are doing?

In 2000 the United Nations Member Countries agreed to focus aid and development activities on 7 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to the biggest global problems facing mankind such as poverty, hunger, maternal health etc. Although significant progress was made during the period 2000-2015 (eg halving the poverty rate), much remains to be done and in some aspects (eg Climate Change) the problem has become worse and more urgent in the intervening years.

World Leaders, through the UN, agreed in Sept 2015 to replace the MDGs with the more comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 SDGs are to be implemented during the years 2016-2030 and will build on the MDG work already done.  The SDGs are broader in scope seeking to eradicate poverty and fight inequalities, calling for action by all countries to promote prosperity whilst protecting the planet.

The SDGs are not legally binding on countries.  It is up to individuals to ensure that they do what they can in their own areas of influence, for example, holding political leaders to account to ensure they follow through on promises made.

Background to SDGs

In 2000, the UN Member Countries agreed to focus aid and development activities on 7 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to some of the biggest global problems facing mankind such as poverty, hunger and  maternal health etc. Whilst significant progress was made in some of these areas by 2015 (eg poverty rate was halved), this was achieved because, for the first time, collective efforts and resources were focused on addressing the same major gaps in human development.  MDGs proved that collective, targeted action can be effective. These successes have raised hope that something quite amazing might be done if the whole World can be mobilized to work together on the key issues. However, despite the successes of the MDGs in some important areas, much still remains to be done. In some aspects (eg Climate Change), the problem has become worse and more urgent in the intervening years!

World Leaders agreed in September 2015 to replace the MDGs with the more comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 SDGs are to be implemented during the years 2016-2030 and will build on the work already done under the MDGs. These SDGs are much broader in their scope (ie 17 goals instead of just the 7 under MDGs). They seek to eradicate poverty, fight inequalities, protect the Planet, promote prosperity and partnerships.  For convenience, the 17 SDGs can be grouped into 5 sub groups related to People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships - known as the 5 Ps.

Unfortunately, the SDGS are not legally binding on countries. It is therefore  up to individuals to ensure that they hold their respective political leaders to account and ensure they follow through on all their promises of funding and the commitments made at the UN. This can best be done by encouraging and motivating individuals, their friends and families to start taking small actions in their own day to day activities in support of SDGs and to push local and national politicians and large corporations to fulfill the commitments they have made in relation to SDGs.

What is the United Nations doing?

The United Nations mobilised and coordinated governments, businesses and civil society over several years to discuss and agree 17 Goals to transform the World. In 2015, the 193 UN Member Countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In 2016, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change also came into effect and its' provisions are already incorporated into the SDGs. Relevant UN agencies are coordinating and promoting their adoption and implementation at International and National level. They are also mobilising the media worldwide to inform and educate the general public about the SDGs, and about this unprecedented opportunity to help create a Better World.

What are Government organisations doing?

At National levels, countries have all agreed to promote and support SDGs and to tailor their policies to reflect the SDGs. However, few are yet systematically establishing their SDG action plans or implementing them. The international governmental organisations such as OECD (whose members are the richer, more developed countries) are now starting to mobilise action at National levels. During 2016, 22 countries reported their progress and some countries are beginning to establish or adapt governmental structures to implement more effectively. For example China and Norway have both allocated responsibilities for particular SDGs to relevant Ministries. Columbia has established a special Commission to coordinate SDGs implementation. Germany is including the SDGs into the German National Strategy and the UK has spread responsibility across relevant government departments . The international umbrella member organisations for local governments have also identified specific actions that can be taken at local government level but many cities are now beginning to address issues within their areas of responsibility.

It is therefore necessary for individuals to write to National and Local politicians asking what is happening re SDGs in their jurisdictions in order to prod them into taking action and to deliver on the promises made by their National leaders at the UN.

What are the Development agencies doing?

When the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were announced in 2000, the Development agencies' focus for the following 15 years was concentrated solely on the MDGs. Similarly, now that SDGs are agreed, they will now focus on these.  SDGs will therefore be the focus of all aid and development assistance until 2030. All future aid and development activities will be assessed in relation to their  contribution towards the SDGs which will help Developing Countries to address their problem. Unfortunately that alone will not be enough as  US$Trillions will need to be applied annually around the World if the SDGs are to be achieved. Consequently politicians need to be prodded to make funding available and monitored to ensure that the promises made at the UN are fulfilled.

What are Private Sector Corporations doing?

Around 9000 businesses and 3000 other organisations are members of the UN Global Compact. Their Chief Executive Officers have committed to implementing universal sustainability principles and to supporting UN goals. There is therefore, a growing movement of large  private sector corporations addressing SDGs as part of their Social Corporate Responsibility (CSR)  or what are now often called  Company Sustainability Reports (CSR)  obligations. There  are also some industry led initiatives beginning to appear.  Companies Chief Executives should be contacted and encouraged to address SDGs so that they can see and benefit from the public support for such action.

What are NGOs and other Charities doing?

A number of charities are supporting all of the SDGs or subgroups of SDGs while others take interest in particular individual SDGs. In addition, a few charities and NGOs are  trying to mobilise individuals to take action. There is a growing body of concerned citizens who want to do something and individuals now have many options for getting engaged depending upon their particular areas of interest. Some of the main and most active SDG-related charities are shown in the section Wcydo Partners and we encourage our visitors and WCYDo App users to support such organisations by volunteering and / or donations.

With current over-consumption, ever increasing populations and limitations on production, Earth’s resources will not sustain Mankind unless something is done to change the way we abuse and over exploit our Planet. The damaged environment and depletion of resources, pollution of the seas and dangerous air quality in some of our major cities will increase poverty and hardship for those least able to cope. It will also affect the ability of future generations to enjoy the beauty of Nature or perhaps even survive.

If temperatures exceed the 2 degree Global warming limit, it is forecast there will be more natural disasters, refugees, increased poverty and famine around the World. In order to stop this, governments, business, NGOs and individuals need to work together and take more responsibility for their own actions that can affect sustainability. Implementing the SDGs will improve lives, protect the Planet over the next 15 years and reduce the risks to future generations.

You therefore MUST care and do what YOU can personally and motivate others - work colleagues, friends and family - to participate and do what they can too. You must also push your Politicians at Local and National level to do what they have promised so that the SDG targets can be achieved and help us create a better, fairer and safer World for all.

There is no Planet B!