Sustainable Development Goals: each of us has a part to play

by Nigel Chapman, Cobus de Swardt, Philip Goodwin, Marco Lambertini
Thursday, 18 June 2015 09:52 GMT

Boys play in front of a graffiti at the Cerro Cora slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 28, 2015. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

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Behind the measures for sustainable development on the table is a looming fight over what it will take to implement the agenda

In 2000 the United Nations set a range of eight goals to end things like extreme poverty, child mortality and women dying in childbirth by 2015. Unfortunately we’re not there yet.

On June 3, the UN published the outline for the next steps. It’s more complex and more daunting – there are 17 instead of 8 goals -- and it has a better chance to succeed. Still, negotiations are getting tough and different political blocs or regions have different and sometimes conflicting priorities. 

Behind the measures for sustainable development on the table is a looming fight over what it will take to implement the agenda. This is about technology, capacity and money.

A reasonable future for all requires focussing on what unites us, rather than what divides us. Eradicating poverty means coming together on global scale with a new development agenda that is truly people centred. It must include everything from addressing climate change and corruption, to inequality and low quality education. It means tackling one of the most persistent and entrenched forms discriminations - gender inequality and guaranteeing human rights to all women and girls.

And, everyone has a part to play. That’s why our organisations are partnering to send this message: the hard problems at the root of poverty and inequality need collaborative solutions; working together is the only way that we will reach our goals.

We want governments to do the same when they commit at the UN General Assembly in September to playing their part to deliver these goals.

We commit to work together – and with people, governments and companies - to deliver this new agenda. We call on our supporters to join us in this battle for each of our futures. Each of us has a part to play.

Our organisations work on different issues that affect development: maternal mortality, the well-being of children, education, health, basic living conditions, environmental protection, and anti-corruption. We represent several billion dollars in annual development funding and we work in over 100 countries.

This kind of joint expertise is needed to deliver on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The proposed goals are universal because every country needs to achieve them. This is an agenda for everyone. No one is to be left behind. No government should be opaque and unaccountable.

We believe that by proposing these goals, the UN and its 193 member countries will embrace a new approach needed to address universal problems.  To address poverty we need to address underlying social, economic and environmental issues and structures, we need open and accountable governments and an end to corruption, we need to ensure growth that keeps within available resources and we need to promote jobs and healthy lifestyles for people in every country.

There are naysayers who criticise having a universal set of goals and targets and who already claim it is too big an agenda to deliver.  They are satisfied to live with the arrangements we’ve got. But these haven’t and won’t work for us.

The new goals are unapologetically ambitious because unless we can secure food, water and energy, let alone wealth and peace for billions of - children, young people, men and women - we face an increasingly dire future. Each of the goals is inextricably linked to the others. For example, marine ecosystem services are valued at US$24 trillion per year, and fisheries support over 260 million jobs. Protecting our oceans isn’t an impediment to development; it’s an essential part of successful and sustainable development.

It will be up to us as representatives of major civil society organisations, with millions of supporters and represented in all countries, to ensure that we work with people, governments, companies and other actors to meet all the terms in September’s agreement in full.  

The draft agreement on the table is an honest start. We must do our part to deliver on it and persuade those who would narrow its focus to think big. Our future deserves nothing less. 

Each of us must hold ourselves accountable to delivering on it. Let’s play our part.

Nigel Chapman, CEO PLAN

Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director, Transparency International

Dr Philip Goodwin, CEO Voluntary Service Overseas

Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International