On 25 September 2015, all 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously adopted a bold new global agenda to end poverty by 2030 and pursue a sustainable future. Two years on, are we on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? How can we pursue such a long-term agenda in a world that is changing so rapidly? How to maintain the initial enthusiasm when the daily grind of implementation sets in?
Where we are
The Sustainable Development Goals report, recently released by UN DESA’s Statistics Division, offers some answers. The study finds that implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has begun in earnest, but it needs to accelerate to fulfill the SDGs’ promise of eradicating poverty and building peaceful, inclusive societies for all on a clean planet by 2030.
The report notes considerable progress in many areas, but it also concludes that the benefits of development are not equally shared. For example, between 2010 and 2016 women spent, on average, almost triple the amount of time on unpaid domestic and care work as men. And despite the global unemployment rate falling from 6.1 per cent in 2010 to 5.7 per cent in 2016, youth were nearly three times more likely than adults to be without a job.
Reaching the most vulnerable groups – the furthest behind – first will therefore be crucial to delivering on the 2030 Agenda’s promise to leave no one behind.
Uneven progress should not obscure the significant gains countries have made in addressing poverty, hunger, inequalities and climate change. Two years in, many countries are aligning their national development strategies and plans as well as their budgets, to prioritize an integrated delivery of the 2030 Agenda.
Even more countries are willing to show off their progress to the world and make it a subject of an open discussion with other countries, the civil society and other stakeholders. This unique learning process, called the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), which is helping countries benefit from each other’s experiences, is gaining momentum.
The first High-level Political Forum to review SDGs progress, held in 2016, saw 22 countries present their VNRs. This year, it was already 43 and over 40 countries have volunteered to present in 2018, as of August, 2017. The willingness of countries to publicly display their efforts towards sustainable development and listen to other states’ comments and suggestions is a very encouraging sign that they have, indeed, progress to be proud of.
Putting SDGs in the global spotlight
The acceleration required to meet the Goals by 2030 will not happen on its own. A resolute, sustained effort by political leaders, the private sector, civil society and ordinary citizens is indispensable to achieve the goals. But for that effort to materialize, the goals need to be recognized and embraced by all sectors of our societies.
That is where the SDG Advocates step in. These 17 eminent persons – from heads of state and government, to successful entrepreneurs to sport and show business stars – are assisting the UN Secretary-General in raising awareness of the SDGs.
This year, most of them will attend the 72nd Session of the General Assembly to continue making the case for accelerated SDGs action and to spread awareness to the people of the world. They will also meet with the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General to plan for future advocacy opportunities, appear in the SDG Media Zone and participate in numerous side events throughout the week. Some Advocates, such as Richard Curtis, are also holding their own side events to promote the SDGs.