Why We Should All Care About the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
I've mentioned the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) several times in the last few posts, so I thought it might be a good time to introduce the Goals properly and explore what they are, how they came about and why we should care.
About The Goals
There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals covering 169 targets to be reached by 2030.
The Goals focus on the root causes of the complex challenges of today's world and are aimed at achieving three big things by 2030:
1) End extreme poverty,
2) Fight inequality & injustice, and
3) Fix climate change.
The comprehensive list was developed by an Open Working Group that was formed after the Rio+20 - the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development - and are the result of a year-long negotiation with the 193 UN member states, as well as the unprecedented participation of civil society and other stakeholders. The resulting consensus document “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was ratified by the full UN membership in 2015.
You can find further details on all the goals at: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/.
The Goals Are:
End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
Reduce inequality within and among countries.
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
SDGs and Zero Waste
Obviously some of the SDGs are more applicable to the Zero Waste movement than others, so we won't be covering them all in these pages, but would like to recognise that they are all important and often interconnected in complex ways.
For Zero Waste, we are mainly concerned with Goal 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production, but also venture into Goal 11 - Sustainable Cities, Goal 13 - Climate Action, and Goal 14 - Life Below Water & Goal 15 - Life on Land - because waste so frequently turns into pollution.
Why The SDGs Matter
Unlike previous UN goals, the SDGs are aimed at all countries - rich and poor - instead of just developing nations. That means all of us.
As a shared vision, the SDGs enable every country, every culture, every government, company, business, community, family and individual to pull together to achieve a future that includes everyone; the Goals represent the best chance we ALL have of a peaceful, prosperous and dignified planet. No one left behind.
Most of all, having clear, tangible goals means focus. It means funding and action in the places that matter. It means every effort we make towards a better world builds on every other action and they all work together towards a common result instead of pulling against each other. Sounds good, right? Having comprehensive goals also means that ALL the necessary bases are covered, rather than attention going to some areas at the expense of others. Overall, it means humanity's best chance of success and survival.
Setting clear goals and agreeing to them on a global scale is a huge deal, but that isn't enough by itself; we have to do the work too. Every one of us.
It's not overstating things to say that the SDGs are a road map to a better future; with the magnitude of the global challenges we currently face, they mean nothing less than the long term survival of the human race and our planet. That's in the best interest of every single one of us, obviously.
So if you want to be part of the solution, if you want to make a tangible difference to the world and be part of this huge, wonderfully ambitious vision of what humanity could be, then one of the strongest things you can do is to embrace the SDGs and use them to focus your own efforts. Check your actions against the Goals and work out if you (or your organisation) are pulling with or against any of them, then commit to making changes so that you too are moving us that little bit closer to a sustainable future.
There are moments when being different and swimming against the stream is good, but there are other times when the smartest thing we can do is all get on the same page and pull together towards a common goal...and this is definitely one of those times.
We ALL want a flourishing future for humanity, and we are all needed to make that happen. It's time to make our individual actions count for something bigger than ourselves.