I recently went to a talk at the RSA on the subject of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was supposed to explore how the world is going to attain the ambitious targets set out in the goals, which were launched by the United Nations at the General Assembly (UNGA) in September last year and came into action on January 1st this year.
Only the panel discussion barely touched upon what the world needs to do to reach the SDGs; most of the conversation focused on how we should all be giving ourselves a jolly good pat on the back for getting this far. I left feeling slightly cynical about the whole affair, all the hope I’d felt in New York in September draining away as it dawned on me that this was just another talking shop and the SDGs would, in the most part, be widely missed, just as the Millennium Development Goals had been before them.
But that’s going too far. I know that expecting the answer to ending global poverty to be unveiled to me and a small group of “development geeks” in a London basement on a Thursday lunch-hour was a little optimistic, but surely now is the time to turn words into actions? Well, not quite, but we’re nearly there. The two thoughts that have stuck with me since I left the RSA are:
1. We should pat ourselves on the back
This is the first time there has been such overwhelming support for global targets like these, with UN member states voting unanimously in their favour and a wide range of stakeholders from across business and civil society professing their support to turn the vision into a reality.
2. We know the destination, but we need to draw the map
The goals have been agreed, but, perhaps more importantly, we’re still waiting for the indicators to be signed off. For those of you who aren’t “development geeks”, the indicators are what will be measured to ascertain progress against the goals. Once what is going to be measured is agreed, we can work out the best method to get there – that’s when the real action begins!
Photo credit: Pedrik