09 AUG 2018
SDGS the Life-changing Acronym
We live in a world of acronyms: AI, ASAP, BTW, LOL, TYT, IMO and the list goes on. There are so many acronyms it sometimes gets confusing. One acronym can also have multiple meanings. There is even a metaphor for the abundance of acronyms: alphabet soup.
Nevertheless, there is one acronym that everyone should be familiar with, as it refers to the global goals that the world’s nations have agreed to. This acronym can secure an enduring and resilient planet for future generations while opening the potential of the existing ones: “SDGs” or the Sustainable Development Goals, is an acronym that should change the way we live.
In January 2016, the 2030 agenda came into effect; seventeen goals with one big objective: to a have a sustainable planet for every human being and life. The goals are wide-ranging and somewhat interdependent, yet each has a solid list of targets to achieve. Achieving all 169 targets would indicate accomplishing all 17 SDGs. They cover social and economic development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanization, environment and justice. SDGs aim to solve some of the world’s most tenacious challenges.
When the world’s minds put themselves together to solve global challenges, we have spectacular results. It’s true. In the previous development agenda, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we succeeded in halving poverty, securing access to education and improved healthcare.
But the success in bringing hundreds of millions out of poverty, and into the middle class has magnified another problem: That of sustainability. The new middle class want to consume like the old middle class. And we still have only one planet with finite resources and countless hardships.
The relatively new SDGs could be categorised into one or more ultimate goals:
- End poverty
- Protect the planet
- Ensure prosperity for all
With less than thirteen years left to achieve the SDGs, it's crucial that we accelerate progress for all while doing so sustainably.
It might sound like more than enough, but when you get to know the figures, the thirteen years would feel like an inflexible deadline. Almost 767 million people still live on less than 2 US dollars a day, and 793 million people are still hungry with future food security still a dream. The risk of maternal deaths need to be halved. We need more determined progress towards sustainable energy and greater investments in sustainable infrastructure. And we need to bring quality education within reach of all. Gender inequality is still a challenge in all societies. Young people continue to be one of the most vulnerable segments due to unemployment and economic slowdowns.
Pollution is peaking and has already become health hazardous in tens of countries. Nine out of 10 city dwellers are living in cities where air pollution is a health hazard. Global warming remains a challenge, setting a new record of about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period and causing an increased incidence of extreme weather events. One ambitions agenda, 17 goals, 169 targets and only 13 years left.
At the United Nations, Sustainable Development is at the heart of all that we do and is central to our UN's quest and duty to support the world’s nations. Our challenge now is to mobilise action that will bring these agendas meaningfully and tangibly to life. 
SDGs, also known as the “Leaving no one behind agenda”, are not limited to the United Nations or any other organisation. The 2030 Development Agenda is holistic and for all countries and people with SDGs that are mutually reinforcing and interdependent. SDGs are everybody’s business, because business, as usual, is not an option for a sustainable future.
The Sustainable Development Goals are important, with world-changing objectives that will require cooperation among governments, international organisations and world leaders. And “No one left behind” entails that even you as an individual can make an impact.
Change starts with you. Every human on Earth could be a proactive doer and part of the solution. It does not have to be through a social initiative or donations to some organisation. Resynchronising our clocks, so we all work for SDGs is what matters the most. There are easy things we can adopt into our routines that, if we all do them, will make a big difference.
Start by shopping for local products when these are competitive. Governments should ensure that the environmental costs are included in energy pricing, to remove hidden subsides that encourage longer transport. This will also be good for local businesses, employment while reducing air pollution. Use less plastic bottles and shopping bags, especially the single-use ones that end up in the oceans harming our environment. Consider using a bicycle for short trips or enjoying the benefits of walking to reduce the consumption of gas and save money. Try to make changes to your diet. Eating more vegetables and less beef is good for your health and better for the environment. Mentor young people at work and in your social circle. It’s a thoughtful, inspiring and a powerful way to guide someone towards a better future.
Before you get concerned about your personal space and your freedom of choice, the 2030 agenda is not about limiting people’s choices. It is about making mindful, responsible decisions. The SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations.
Together, we can realise the Sustainable Development Goals.
By Frode Mauring / The United Nations Resident Coordinator and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative a.i. to the UAE