In an era of global uncertainty, the SDGs can be our guide

Trump 2019

(Samantha Sophia, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: John McArthur, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution & Robert Muggah, Co-founder, Igarape Institute and SecDev Group


Global cooperation is at a crossroads. Many of the world’s biggest challenges are not a result of disagreements about how to cooperate, but a profound loss of direction about why to cooperate in the first place. Citizens in wealthy and poorer countries alike are less inclined than ever to trust, much less follow, traditional elites. And with populism and nationalism on the march, a growing number of governments lack the domestic backing required to forge stronger multilateral ties abroad.

There are many reasons why political and business elites have fallen out of favour. Too many were blind to the frustration of whole swaths of their own societies feeling left behind. They missed tectonic political shifts and inequalities driven by the fast-shifting global and digital economy. With some exceptions, they also disregarded creeping killers like air pollution, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels that are undermining the liveability of so many communities.

A global reset button doesn’t exist. But it is possible to reset the global narrative in order to strengthen collective action from the ground up. Fortunately, a novel political compass is available. It’s called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and includes economic, social, and environmental targets agreed by all 193 country governments at the UN in 2015, with a time horizon looking out to 2030. And while the SDGs have their critics, they may end up being the world’s best bet to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

The SDGs are not your typical international agreement. For one, they are remarkable in their sheer breadth of ambition – although with good reason, since the world faces so many complex threats at once. They set 17 massive problems to solve, including poverty and inequality reduction, job creation, greater access to health, education and gender equality and clear progress on liveable cities, security, justice, ocean protection and climate action. They provide a much needed roadmap to guide governments, business and civil societies toward a common purpose.

Image: United Nations

The SDGs are even bolder than they might first appear. They are both globalist and anti-globalist at the same time. While the goals were crafted through international cooperation, they seek to address problems left unsolved, if not worsened, by recent patterns of international cooperation. Their overarching aim is profoundly anti-elitist: to “leave no one behind.”

Some pundits dismiss the SDGs as yet another utopian UN creation. This is a mischaracterization. The goals were developed at the UN, rather than by the UN. And the formulation of the SDGs explicitly rejected closed-door processes. To the consternation of many diplomats (who are used to hammering out deals among one another), the goals were constructed through one of the most inclusive consultation processes the world has ever seen.

In this volatile and divisive era, the SDGs offer a much needed platform for cultivating trust and building common priorities among nations. So far, more than 150 countries have embraced this spirit by either sharing or agreeing to present their own SDG assessments with other countries. This is impressive at a time when so many multilateral efforts are struggling to find consensus on much of anything.

The vast majority of UN member states are gradually embracing the SDGs, including nearly all G20 affiliates like Canada, China, India, and Japan – while notably excluding the United States. Ironically, the US demurral persists despite the fact that the goals seek to redress many of the same grievances of people feeling left behind that helped propel President Donald Trump to office in the first place.

But if the SDGs are going to help guide the world’s change for the better, then governments, businesses and civil societies will need to dramatically accelerate their activities. At least three steps can help move things forward this year.

First, the UN can position itself as the foremost friend of all people left behind – in all countries, for all reasons. Of course, the UN charter insists that it not interfere in the affairs of sovereign states. Even so, the UN can help guide the spotlight toward everyone who is falling behind, wherever they may happen to be. Together, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed are uniquely suited to lead such efforts.

Second, the SDGs need to rise to the top of the agenda across the world’s largest economies. This year’s G-20 summit in Japan offers a perfect opportunity to do this since it will gather countries representing 90% of the global economy and two thirds of the world’s population. Member countries could, for example, adopt a “20 for 20” vision, prioritizing 20 measurable SDG targets to ensure no one is left behind. If the G20 does this, the rest of the world will likely follow. The Japanese business community is already on board with the goals. And growing numbers of cities are also “localizing” the SDGs: they are the frontline where so many outcomes will be won or lost.

Third, the world’s presidents and prime ministers will meet at the UN this September for the first major check-up on SDG progress, as agreed back in 2015. When they do, they can commit to report back in 2020 with transparent national assessments of how many women, men, and children are being left behind on each SDG in each of their own countries. These kinds of high-level diagnostics would not only give voice to the most vulnerable in their societies, but also spark national debates to bend policies toward success.

In 2019, longstanding rules and norms governing the world’s economy and politics are coming unstuck, all of which threatens to unleash a dangerous backlash. Rather than ignore the warning signs, everyone needs to accept that many of the norms that drove some groups’ prosperity have failed too many people for too long. The rules of the game need to change and new ideas are required. At a time when so many people are rebelling against being left behind, the SDGs might be the best tool the world has for a more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable world for all.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU Court of Justice invalidates Safe Harbour and the game for thousands US businesses suddenly changes

Mozambique pledging conference hopes to soften devastating blow of back-to-back cyclones

The European Youth explains the age gap in European business in the 21st century

17 ways technology could change the world by 2025

Nearly two million Cameroonians face humanitarian emergency: UNICEF

Financial markets appear to have rallied. Here’s one way to mitigate further shocks due to COVID-19

Technology can help solve the climate crisis – but it will need our help

EU/Africa, Caribbean and Pacific: towards which partnership?

Lagarde’s metamorphoses, not a laughing matter

Trump enrages the Europeans and isolates the US in G7

Diana in Vietnam

Towards a tobacco free India

New UN-Syrian Action Plan signals an ‘important day’ for child protection, says UN envoy

We can feed the world in a sustainable way, but we need to act now

2020’s ‘wind of madness’ indicates growing instability: UN chief

EU, Brazil to hold high level Summit in Brasilia

Security Council renews Central African Republic arms embargo

Why 2020 will see the birth of the ‘trust economy’

Somalia: UN Security Council condemns terrorist attack in which dozens were killed or injured

Amid continued suffering in Yemen, UN envoy welcomes reports of reduced violence

The European Union and Central Asia: New opportunities for a stronger partnership

Deep-sea minerals could meet the demands of battery supply chains – but should they?

To save biodiversity, MEPs call for binding targets at global and EU level

UN working ‘intensively’ to stop Ebola in eastern DR Congo, following second case in major border town

Parliament to vote on new European Commission on 27 November

Parliaments can be pillars of democracy and defenders of human rights, says UN chief on International Day

Technological innovation can bolster trust and security at international borders. Here’s how

Our poisonous air is harming our children’s brains

Autumn Fiscal Package: Commission adopts Opinions on euro area Draft Budgetary Plans

Combatting terrorism: EP special committee calls for closer EU cooperation

I accidentally went viral on TikTok. I learned we failed our youngest generation.

The link between migration and technology is not what you think

Data is the fuel of mobility. Don’t spill it for nothing

What does the world really think about the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Long-term EU budget: Parliament wants safety net for beneficiaries

5 ways to get your business ready for AI in 2020

Tax crimes: MEPs want EU financial police force and financial intelligence unit

How Leonardo da Vinci’s outsider status made him a Renaissance man

MEPs vote for upgrade to rail passenger rights

To improve women’s access to finance, stop asking them for collateral

Obesity rates soar due to dramatic global diet shift, says UN food agency

LGBTQI+ and medicine

What we’ve learned about mental health from young people

Eurozone dignitaries play with people’s life savings

Mental health in times of pandemic: what can each individual do to lessen the burden?

A new catastrophic phase in the Syrian carnage

It’s time for financial services to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here’s why

Menu for change: why we have to go towards a Common Food Policy

‘Score a goal’ for humanity, says Mohammed, celebrating winning link between sport and development

Security Council resolution endorses moves towards long-sought Afghanistan peace

Recovering from COVID-19: these are the risks to anticipate now – before it’s too late

DR Congo: ‘No time to lose’ says newly appointed UN Ebola response coordinator

MEPs call for safety and liability rules for driverless cars

To solve the climate crisis, we need an investment revolution

MEPs approve €585 million to support refugees from Syria

UNESCO lists wrestling, reggae and raiho-shin rituals as global treasures to be preserved

Draghi sees inflationary bubbles

EU and U.S. castigate Facebook on Cambridge Analytica scandal as citizens’ data privacy goes down the drain again

Bundesbank’s President Weidmann criticises France and the EU. Credibility at risk?

Why good cybersecurity in business is everyone’s responsibility

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s