The Sustainable Development Goals were born in a windowless conference room in the basement of the United Nations. They are the culmination of a process that began in 2012, and ended with its final intense day of negotiations lasting more than 30 hours. These comprehensive negotiations produced both a plan and a suite of goals that represent the comprehensive global ambition for what our world should look like by 2030.
Lessons learned and challenges experienced from every corner of the world from the Millennium Development Goals are reflected in the Global Goals. Whether in a particular sentence, target or goal, every country and all stakeholders have an imprint in the Global Goals, also known as the 2030 Agenda, making it the most inclusive UN document to date. The number 17 was not an easy number of goals to agree upon, with a lot of criticism given to governments that there were too many goals, and that the public at large would not be able to digest or remember all of them. Attending this year’s Social Good Summit it would seem that 17 is a lucky number after all. The Goals are everywhere and people are connecting personally with each of them.
Sustainable development has long been defined by its’ three pillars: economic, social and environmental; however these three words alone are not demonstrative of the complex and interlinked nature of the work in these separate tracks. There is a lot of talk at the UN about the need to stop working in silos and work together across institutional divides, change is not easy, but it’s clear is that there are many people across governments, civil society and the private sector that are leading by doing.
Attending this year’s Social Good Summit it would seem that 17 is a lucky number after all. The Goals are everywhere and people are connecting personally with each of them.
The Secretary-General has referred to the 2030 Agenda as the “global declaration of interdependence,” and this message has resonated. The big takeaway from the Social Good Summit is the importance of inclusion and interdependence, both necessary to realize our ambition to ‘leave no one behind.’ In order to achieve the Global Goals everyone must do their part and there is a willingness to do so in new and creative ways.
The Social Good Summit demonstrates the importance of inclusion and interdependence, bringing everyone together from refugees, to medical professionals, entrepreneurs, government officials, media and activists. In each panel or presentation what comes across is not one specific goal but the links between the SDGs. That despite the enormity of the challenges facing the world today it can be broken down into little digestible actions that will together create change.
Dr. Alaa Murabit spoke at a panel about the importance of universal healthcare (Goal 3) and highlighted how access to quality healthcare will contribute to peace and justice (Goal 16). Student activists Zaynab Abdi and Muzoon Almellehan spoke about their work to ensure that all child refugees are able to continue their education (Goal 4), but particularly girls as they advocate against the increase rates of child marriage for refugee girls (Goal 5). They want all children to have a safe place to learn (Goal 11) so they can be well educated and grow up to get good jobs (Goal 8) and help rebuild their countries (Goal 16).
Technology is a big part of the Social Good Summit, the opening highlighted that the world has a technological global heartbeat, pulsing across social media. It can transport and connect people in New York to the coral reefs of the South Pacific Ocean via virtual reality, through the work of Conservation International, to put a spotlight on climate change (Goal 13) and illegal fishing impacts on the ocean and marine life (Goal 14). Through the work of Not Impossible Labs limbs can be 3D printed for the victims of mines in West Africa (Goal 3, 9 & 17), promoting ‘technology for the sake of humanity.’ Technology makes it easy to get involved, educated and participate, whether you collect 50 aluminum cans to recycle or donate resources.
The Global Goals have come a long way from the basement of the United Nations. The 17 Goals provide a platform for innovation and connection, and this opportunity is being seized around the world.
Image: Malala Fund student activists Zaynab Abdi and Muzoon Almellehan at the 2016 Social Good Summit.