The Sustainable Development Goals. Figure taken from flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/anakbrunei/21507274839

The Sustainable Development Goals. Figure taken from flickr

Per chi non ama leggere articoli troppo lunghi o trova difficoltà con l’inglese, vi suggeriamo il seguente articolo dell’Huffington Post, il cui autore è il segretario generale dell’ONU Ban Ki Moon e che è stato tradotto da Stefano Pitrelli:

Huffington Post Gli Obiettivi di Sviluppo Sostenibile

Otherwise, you could more favourably read our current post.

“18. We are announcing today 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 associated targets which are integrated and indivisible. Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda. We are setting out together on the path towards sustainable development, devoting ourselves collectively to the pursuit of global development and of “win-win” cooperation which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world. We reaffirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity. We will implement the Agenda for the full benefit of all, for today’s generation and for future generations. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to international law and emphasize that the Agenda is to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of states under international law.” (Agenda – Declaration – The New Agenda)

What is the Agenda for Sustainable Development and what are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Well, in order to reply to this question, it is recommended to read the UN resolution “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which could be downloaded here. Nonetheless, if you have not the time to read it carefully and would like to receive a brief summary of the SDGs, you could better read our current post and the ones who will be posted next days.

The best concise response of what the Agenda is, comes from articles 51, 52, 53 of the Agenda itself, in which we can find a bright and ambitious statement, coherent with its goals and targets:

“51. What we are announcing today – an Agenda for global action for the next fifteen years – is a charter for people and planet in the twenty-first century. Children and young women and men are critical agents of change and will find in the new Goals a platform to channel their infinite capacities for activism into the creation of a better world.

52. “We the Peoples” are the celebrated opening words of the UN Charter. It is “We the Peoples” who are embarking today on the road to 2030. Our journey will involve Governments as well as Parliaments, the UN system and other international institutions, local authorities, indigenous peoples, civil society, business and the private sector, the scientific and academic community – and all people. Millions have already engaged with, and will own, this Agenda. It is an Agenda of the people, by the people, and for the people – and this, we believe, will ensure its success.

53. The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands. It lies also in the hands of today’s younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations. We have mapped the road to sustainable development; it will be for all of us to ensure that the journey is successful and its gains irreversible.” (Agenda – Declaration – A call for action to change our world)

These are great affirmations. Yet we could argue some uncertainties with reference to the need for saving our planet and humanity, or at least the former, since the planet is far more stronger than us to adapt to the extreme environmental and climate changes we are causing to it. Nonetheless, this observation do not reduce the leverage and very positive potentials of the Agenda, as we can understand reading it more thoroughly.

The Agenda is divided into five main parts:

  • “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which is an introduction to the Agenda and efficaciously condenses all its principles and commitments. We suggest you to read it;
  • “Declaration”, going from points 1 to 53, and further divided into subchapters
    • Introduction;
    • Our vision;
    • Our shared Principles and Commitments;
    • Our world today;
    • The new Agenda;
    • Means of Implementation;
    • Folow-up and review;
    • A call for action to change the world;
  • “Sustainable Development Goals and targets”, which describes the SDGs and descending targets;
  • “Means of Implementation” and the Global Partnership;
  • “Follow-up and review”;

This post will mainly adress the section Declaration of the Agenda. Future posts will deal with the subsequent parts.

For what concerns the SDGs, we can say that the SDGs are 17 and that, together with the related 169 targets, represent integrated and indivisible objectives addressing at the same time the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental ones:

5. This is an Agenda of unprecedented scope and significance. It is accepted by all countries and is applicable to all, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. These are universal goals and targets which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development. (Agenda – Declaration – Introduction)

The SDGs are well condensed in the description of the Vision of the Agenda, in which we also find the explicit confirmation of the ambitious pledge taken-up by the UN General Assembly:

7. In these Goals and targets, we are setting out a supremely ambitious and transformational vision. We envisage a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want, where all life can thrive. We envisage a world free of fear and violence. A world with universal literacy. A world with equitable and universal access to quality education at all levels, to health care and social protection, where physical, mental and social well-being are assured. A world where we reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and where there is improved hygiene; and where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious. A world where human habitats are safe, resilient and sustainable and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.

8. We envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity. A world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.

9. We envisage a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all. A world in which consumption and production patterns and use of all natural resources – from air to land, from rivers, lakes and aquifers to oceans and seas – are sustainable. One in which democracy, good governance and the rule of law as well as an enabling environment at national and international levels, are essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty and hunger. One in which development and the application of technology are climate-sensitive, respect biodiversity and are resilient. One in which humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected. (Agenda – Declaration – Vision)

What is most important, are the “public and collective fundaments” of the Agenda, since

“6. The Goals and targets are the result of over two years of intensive public consultation and engagement with civil society and other stakeholders around the world, which paid particular attention to the voices of the poorest and most vulnerable. This consultation included valuable work done by the General Assembly Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and by the United Nations, whose Secretary-General provided a synthesis report in December 2014.”  (Agenda – Declaration – Introduction)

The SDGs are planned to be reached within 2030 and come after the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), which had ended in 2015. In particular, with respect to the MGDs, the Agenda states that:

“17. In its scope, however, the framework we are announcing today goes far beyond the MDGs. Alongside continuing development priorities such as poverty eradication, health, education and food security and nutrition, it sets out a wide range of economic, social and environmental objectives. It also promises more peaceful and inclusive societies. It also, crucially, defines means of implementation.”

The greatest part of the Declaration section is dedicated to the subchapter “The new Agenda”, ranging from article 18 to 38. Briefly speaking, this sub-chapter highlights all the aspects laying the foundation of the SDGs and related targets. We would only like to stress some of these aspects, which are the importance attributed to gender equality (article 20), to the empowerment of the most vulnerable ones and the ending of poverty, giving basic standards of living, also based on social protection systems and addressing hunger and the achievement of food security and the ending of malnutrition (articles 23, 24); the importance attributed to the building of strong economic foundations for all countries, based on “sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth“, which should be reached by adopting “policies which increase productive capacities, productivity and productive employment; financial inclusion; sustainable agriculture, pastoralist and fisheries development; sustainable industrial development; universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services; sustainable transport systems; and quality and resilient infrastructure.” Accordingly, we are interested to know which constraints will be put in order to guarantee sustainable industrial development. Yet very interesting aspects are related to the importance attributed to the change of production and consumption patterns (article 28), to climate change and the sustainable use of natural resources (especially articles 31, 32, 33), to peace and security (article 35), inter-cultural understanding (article 36), and sports (article 37).

The subsequent sub-chapter, “Means of Implementation” (articles 39-46), is particularly interesting since it takes into consideration the way in which the Declaration could be brought to concreteness. This encompasses the definition of a revitalized Global Partnership for sustainable development (articles 39,40), working in a spirit of solidarity, “in particular with the poorest and with people in vulnerable situations and “supported by concrete policies and actions“, also based on “the full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda“, namely the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. Regarding to this, article 41 is more explicit, stating that means of implementation “include the mobilization of financial resources as well as capacity-building and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed“. It is also acknowledged “the role of the diverse private sector, ranging from micro-enterprises to cooperatives to multinationals, and that of civil society organisations and philantropic organisations in the implementation of the new Agenda.” Accordingly, we think that this position should be accompanied by decisive regulation on the capabilities of these legal entities to affect the well being of local communities, by respecting their sustainable development. The Agenda is disposed to support the implementation of several strategies and policies of action for sustainable development, among which the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024, African Union Agenda 2063 and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (atricle 42). This is firmly strenghtened by the statement of article 44, affirming that

44. We acknowledge the importance for international financial institutions to support, in line with their mandates, the policy space of each country, in particular developing countries. We recommit to broadening and strengthening the voice and participation of developing countries – including African countries, least developed countries, land-locked developing countries, small-island developing States and middle-income countries – in international economic decision-making, norm-setting and global economic governance.” (Agenda – Declaration – Means of Implementation)

Finally, sub-chapter “Follow-up and review” (articles 47-48), focuses on the definition of indicators and the use of data and information to monitor and review the implementation of the goals and targets, with a commitment to increase the statistical capacity in developing countries.