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Why put the SDGs on a beer mat?

On 25 September 2018, it will be three years since the global community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development along with its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). But hardly anyone knows about them in Germany, or in many other countries. Creative thinkers around the globe have now developed innovative campaigns to make the SDGs better known.

It is not only politicians and industry that are called on to realise the 2030 Agenda – the citizens of the world too must do their bit to translate the 17 SDGs into reality. There has never before been a participatory approach on this scale that embraces the entire population of the world. People have so far, however, been slow to get involved. It’s not that people don’t want to support the sustainable development goals. Most people simply don’t know anything about them.

According to a report published by DEval (the German Institute for Development Evaluation), fewer than 10 per cent of Germans claim to know what the SDGs say. “The German population is sceptical as to whether the 17 SDGs can be achieved by 2030. They feel it is most likely that sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12) could be achieved, while it is felt least likely that poverty can be eradicated (SDG 1),” according to the DEval report.

The 17 SDGs are coming to the people

To change this, not only are an increasing number of German schoolchildren hearing more about the SDGs; visitors to pubs and festivalgoers are also being introduced to the goals.

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Engagement Global aims to introduce young people in particular to the sustainable development goals in an entertaining, practical and tangible way, under #17Ziele – rather than offering complex, pompous or globe-spanning explanations.

  • Poetry Slams for the 17 SDGs (c) Engagement Global / Thomas Kierok

    Poetry Slams for the 17 SDGs – what rhymes with sustainability?

    Some of the poems on the 17 SDGs presented at Engagement Global’s five Poetry Slams in Halle, Koblenz, Nuremberg, Celle and Berlin were funny, while others were more contemplative or provocative. The only requirement was that the poems focus on social or ecological sustainability, without moralising or spreading pessimism. At the final in Berlin, Rita Apel from Bremen took the inspiration for her poem from SDG 14 “Life below Water”:

    „Doch bevor der Seehund zum Teufel geht  und Seeteufel geht vor die Hunde,
    kannst Du auf Mikroplastik verzichten – und zwar noch in dieser Stunde.“

    (“But before the devil fish goes to hell or the monkfish lands in heaven
    You can stop using microplastics – seven days out of seven”)

    Videos of the #17SDG Poetry Slam

  • A Kölsch to toast the 17 SDGs (c) Engagement Global

    A Kölsch to toast the 17 SDGs

    “Kölsch” is not only a popular sort of beer – the Cologne dialect reflects the Rhinelanders’ cosmopolitan, direct and fun-loving attitude to life. Communication Design students at the Rheinische Fachhochschule Cologne (University of Applied Sciences) (RFH) are using their work-experience semester to “translate” the 17 SDGs and their icons into “Kölsch” as a way of adapting the 2030 Agenda to local level.

    Engagement Global has printed the finished translation on beer mats. Goal 5, for instance (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) is rendered as “Jede Jeck is anders“ (Everyone is different), a traditional expression in the Rhineland, reflecting tolerance and rejecting discrimination. The students’ translation of SDG 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development) takes the chorus of a well-known Karneval song. “Denn he hält m’r zosamme. Ejal, wat och passeet” (Because here we stick together, no matter what happens”). All we can say to that is: “Cheers!”

  • The 17 SDGs rock (c) Engagement Global

    The 17 SDGs rock

    Haldern Pop, A Summer’s Tale in Lüneburg or Lollapalooza Berlin: Every summer, tens of thousands of young people attend Germany’s major music festivals. Since 2017, the SDGs have also toured the festival circuit in a converted shepherd’s van. Decorated with brightly coloured SDG stickers, the SDG-mobile is onsite but offstage.

    Visitors can tour a refugee camp in Jordan by donning virtual reality glasses, charge their mobile at a solar station, and write down their own ideas and wishes with regard to the SDGs on a board and post them at #17Ziele. In the meantime, festivals themselves are becoming more sustainable. At the Feel Festival, for instance, visitors only get their five euro deposit for a bin bag back if they hand in the full bag as they leave the festival grounds.

The SDGs are a communicative challenge

Communicating the sustainable development goals is no easy task. Even experts have their difficulties when it comes to listing all 17 goals. Then there are the 169 targets, many of which are very abstract and far removed from people’s everyday life. “We need to relate the SDGs to people’s lives and make it clear why the goals affect them too,” says Kristina Löhr of Engagement Global’s small #17Ziele project team. Simple, practical tips for sustainable consumers on Instagram, short YouTube videos or a life-size SDG Jenga game are good ways of doing this, she continues. In this way people can be encouraged to get involved and accept responsibility.

When Kristina Löhr is on the road with the SDG-mobile, she can see for herself how young people in particular in Germany really care about sustainability – with respect to consumer choices, mobility and environmental protection. “The SDGs offer them a framework for their environmental awareness and their commitment. Many of them react very positively when they hear about the 2030 Agenda for the first time,” she observes.

International campaigns for the SDGs

At international level too, a lot is going on to raise the profile of the sustainable development goals. The United Nations has launched an “SDG Action Campaign” which aims to sensitise people around the globe, encourage them to take a pro-active stance and get involved in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Many governments, cities and non-governmental organisations have also launched their own innovative projects.

  • “MY World” (c) UN SDG Action Campaign

    “MY World” – the way I see the world and the SDGs

    The global survey “MY World” allows everybody to have a say in the public debate on the 17 goals. The United Nations SDG Action Campaign aims to make it clear which SDGs are particularly important to people, where the individual goals genuinely affect their lives, and where progress can already be seen.

    To the survey

  • SDG challenge (c) City of Ghent

    The fight is on to find Belgium’s most SDG-friendly municipality

    The city council of the Belgian city of Ghent has launched a competition to see which Belgian town or city is best realising five selected SDG targets. The challenges go from reducing meat consumption to using bikes more often.

    Almost 6,000 people from Ghent and five other Belgian centres have taken up the challenge. Many others support them on social media. This campaign brought the city of Ghent the United Nations SDG Action Award 2018 in the category “Communication”.

  • Poster series: A good life is simple

    Poster series – A good life is simple

    In many less developed countries people do not have enough water, energy or food. By contrast, people in industrialised countries generally face a superfluity – their societies are over-developed. That is the view of the Climate Alliance, which brings together 17 municipalities and organisations from ten European countries. The message conveyed by their series of posters is, “It is not the quantity that makes us happy, but the quality.” The aim is a good life for everyone – and that is right in line with the spirit of the 2030 Agenda, even if it is not explicitly mentioned in the campaign.

    To the full poster series

A heart for the 17 goals

The possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to making the SDGs better known, because it is not only a battle for the minds. People’s hearts too must be won over. Only then will perhaps 20 per cent of Germans be familiar with the SDGs by 2020. That would mean doubling the 2017 figure, which would be a huge success – and campaigns like the SDG beer mats, inter-town competitions and poetry slams help. “Compete and save the world” is the motto!

Which of the ideas laid out above do you like best? Do you know of any other good ways of making the SDGs more widely known? Share these and your own ideas in the Community group on Sustainability!

To the Community

Author: Susanne Reiff

September 2018

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Prof. G.P.Karmakar.
25 September 2018

I want to participate in SDG 17.

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