The State of Affairs with Sustainable Development Goals

September is on fire! A lot of stuff happening in the world of sustainability & related topics- from employees of Amazon HQ planning to join the Global Climate Strike to the world’s leaders meeting at the 74th UN General Assembly at New York. All of it will hopefully bring a lot of focus on looming sustainability challenges.

The week of the debate at the UN General Assembly also has a number of summits and very important meetings. I’ll be keenly watching some of the developments on the SDG Summit 2019 (24-25 Sep) & sharing insights, so watch this space 🙂

The UN has accepted that achieving the 2030 goals for the SDG are looking more unlikely. This summit and other conversations on Climate & Health Coverage will be an opportunity for the UN to push nations for greater accountability in executing sustainable development. Basically…it’s time to stop giving lip service to the goals.

Many challenges, but we gotta carry on!

It’s not going to be easy, achieving these goals. I believe that the root of true sustainable development lies in a strongly social-democratic ethos. This, unfortunately is something that a lot of countries are turning their backs on. Achieving SDG targets needs representation of all stakeholders, and a culture of collaborative problem-solving— all of which is an anti-thesis to the “strong-man” leadership that’s projected by many nations. The stifling of the voices of the vulnerable is also another terrifying trend across the world- especially as they are the ones most affected by the negative impact of unsustainable “development”. These are trying times, but we have to keep on going. Click here for an interesting perspective on the challenges.

I will pause here for an inspirational video featuring Greta Thunberg at The Daily News. The next generation putting the democratic ethos high in their list of priorities and willing to walk-the-talk is the only hope we have.

Watch Greta on the Daily Show. This young girl is an absolute inspiration especially when she tells us the best we can do at this moment, is to be aware of what’s going on.

Now that we are a little more positive…here’s what you can look out for at the 2019 Sustainability Summit:

  1. This is the first UN Summit on the SDGs since 2015. While country reps have been meeting every year, this year’s High Level Political Forum will necessarily include heads of state giving out a joint Political Declaration . This statement will recognise the challenges ahead, but will also commit to what each country is going to do about it!
  2. The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) will also be officially released during the summit. This report (from my broad skimming!) is going to put a lot of importance on the setting up of systems and scientific processes to achieve a sustainable future. It also highlight key “entry points” – these are the areas where the interlinkage of goals are so strong that an integrated approach on these could impact multiple goals. [I’ll be posting on that in my next blog]
  3. There will be multiple discussions on how countries are addressing 6 main themes. These will be called out as Leadership Dialogues. These themes have been identified by the GSDR, and a panel of ~ 12 countries will discuss each theme for about an hour.

Key themes for the Leadership Dialogues

Here is the schedule for the Leadership Dialogues. You can either watch these on UN media or follow the various twitter handles @SustDev | @GlobalGoalsUN | @UNDESA

DialogueDate & US Eastern TimeWhat’s it aboutSouth Asian reps
Mega-trends affecting the achievement of sustainable development goals 24th Sep, 1705-1800 The panel is going to discuss the mega-trends that are going to affect SDGs (climatic change, population, loss of biodiversity, tech developments). None
Accelerating the achievement of SDG- critical entry points. 25th Sep, 1005-1100Working on addressing key “entry points” that have been defined by the GSDR. None
Measures to leverage progress across the SDG 25th Sep
Policies on making “the levers of transformation” more effective. These levers have been identified by the GDSR as governance, economy & finance, individual & collective action, science & techNone
Localising the SDGs 25th Sep
Insights from country level execution of SDGsBhutan & Pakistan in a panel. Co-chair is Bangladesh
Partnership for Sustainable Development25th Sep
Identifying impactful multi-stakeholder partnerships in achieving the goalsNone
2020-2030 Vision25th Sep
How will countries be gearing up for the decade they have from the 2030 targets?None

Reference Links

1) Link to the Political Statement for the summit, which will be ratified and released: scroll to page 6 & 7. 2) Link to the Global Sustainable Development Report, a quadrennial report written by a team of Independent Scientists. I haven’t read the report, it’s quite voluminous but should have interesting sections for those of you interested. Most of my information is from the Preface: click here. 3) List of speakers at the Leader’s Dialogue, Sustainable Development Summit can be accessed here. 4) I expect a lot of the content to be available on this media landing page. 5) And here’s the Sustainable Development Summit website for those of you who want more details