The United Nations Sustainability Goals represent a set of lofty collective ideals designed to improve equality and wellbeing for all.
To quote from the UN Sustainable Goals website (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/) they are “…a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.” In total there are 17 Goals. They were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 and are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals. In other words, if your government is a member of the United Nations, they voted to work towards achieving these goals.
We are five years into the 15-year process and the UN is the first to admit that although some progress has been made “…overall, action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required.” It would seem that while governments signed onto the process of achieving global equality and wellbeing the political will to achieve this is not apparent. In September 2019 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, while recognising some gains called on government’s to not only work towards global actions but also domestic actions in achieving the goals. At the same time, he called communities to action. The call was for all levels of society and community to act towards achieving these goals. (https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2019-09-24/remarks-high-level-political-sustainable-development-forum) So what does it mean for us in our communities?
What are the 17 Goals?
Fortunately, the UN has simplified the goals into several infographics and summaries. These can be found at https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/ But in summary the goals are:
- End poverty in all its forms
- Zero hunger
- Ensure healthy lives and ensure wellbeing for all at all ages
- Quality Education
- Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
- Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy
- Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
- Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
- Reduce inequality within and among countries
- Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
- Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
- Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
- Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
On first reading they are a bit daunting, aren’t they? It is very easy to see why the political will at national and state government levels isn’t there. We live in a time of many powerful governments adopting an economic and social policy front based on neo-liberal theory. An ideology that the private sector can deliver services better than the public sector and giving benefits such as taxation reduction to the rich will lead to a “trickle down” effect. The end result is small government and increased inequality with those already wealthy gaining more wealth at the cost of the rest of the society. To implement policies and actions on a government level to achieve the goals requires big government and economic/social reform not small government.
This leaves the rest of us to work towards change i.e. community, organisations the media, private bodies etc need to conduct mainly small actions to achieve the goals. Small actions should never be discounted. Often it is in small and, at times quirky, actions that create the greatest change. Sometimes it only takes one person to start a revolution of change.
Fortunately, the UN has given us some easy suggestions for what we can do in our own neighbourhood to effect change and work towards achieving the goals.
The Un actions for local communities can be found at https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
There are several small things outlined by the UN. For example, for the first goal of poverty eradication simply donate what you don’t use. Simple isn’t it? Follow the above link to check out their recommendations. You will notice that many of us are already doing these things. It is important to continue to do these things and to encourage others to do these things.
There are other things we can do. The COVID 19 Pandemic has seen communities already embark on many of these things. People caring for neighbours by ensuring they had enough food during lockdown or leaving calling cards in letter boxes asking for people to call them if they needed some help. We saw communities reaching out to each other. We also saw people supporting local economies instead of the larger retail options. The local shopping centre or strip regained popularity. We saw people going back to growing their own food. There were Go Fund Me actions to raise funds for those living in poverty. People started to hold their government to account in supporting communities. Don’t let this stop once restrictions are eased.
These are all starting points. There is much we can do as a community to effect change and achieve the goals.
I don’t have enough space in this short piece to go into detail about what we can all do in our own neighbourhood to further the goals except to say read the goals, think about what you can do to effect change locally and put into action your good intentions. Our communities have so many resources at hand to make effective change. The answer is always community.