The midpoint for implementation of Agenda 2030: the status of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the impact of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Agenda 2030 represents the roadmap to a better future. The United Nations communicated 17 Global Goals in 2015 – including an end to poverty and corruption, achieving food security, climate action with sustainable cities and communities, quality education for all, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy. The global community set a target of 15 years for implementation of all these goals – and now 2023 marks the midpoint. What is the current status of these goals and their implementation?
‘We’re currently in a highly ambiguous situation – one that simultaneously has a negative and a positive side’, says Marina Ponti, director of the United Nations SDG Action Campaign based in Bonn. Ponti sees it as positive that there is scope for a breakthrough in achieving the SDGs, although the global crises since 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic, the all too evident environmental changes due to climate change and the war in Ukraine – have had a very negative impact on the social and economic circumstances of billions of people. This latter point was confirmed at the end of 2022 by the Human Development Index (HDI) that has been calculated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for 32 years. In the past two years, the index fell back to 2016 levels for the first time.
‘Every section of the latest UNDP report is alarming and a bitter setback to realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals’, Ponti states. ‘Yet in light of these challenges, we’ve found on the other hand that it’s possible for human behaviour to change very quickly! And this is the message that counts.’
The COVID-19 pandemic altered aspects such as eating habits, communication and the way we travel and work. We wouldn’t have thought such extensive changes would be possible before the pandemic. Things are different now, says Ponti. The energy crisis due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is believed to have lasting side effects that are also positively influencing global action towards realising the SDGs. ‘People in industrial nations are for instance becoming used to lower room temperatures, and are more frequently considering using public transport rather than their car.’ Marina Ponti is thus certain: ‘Dark times also strengthen our resilience and unearth new solutions in the face of major problems.’
Action must now follow from what has been learned – all around the world. Because there’s no lack of awareness of the urgency for action or of the vision for a better future, and nor is there a lack of possibilities for implementation. The necessary technologies, resources and capacities already exist, Ponti expounds. ‘Beyond political declarations of will, it’s now crucial for the private sector to change the way it does business, but it’s also down to individuals to alter their lifestyles and consumption patterns’, says Marina Ponti.
She believes that a breakthrough towards implementation of the SDGs is possible – mainly thanks to the UN Action Campaign, an initiative of the UN Secretary-General that she’s directing. The UN SDG Action Campaign is tasked with uniting, mobilising and inspiring people and organisations across sectors and regions, so that they themselves become active in promoting the SDGs, and at the same time hold decision-makers to account. The campaign has a clear message in this respect: we can turn the page.
‘Our work is designed to help shape a new positive narrative driving transformation’, says the campaign lead. The campaign slogan is therefore ‘Flip the script’ – turn the page. ‘We’ve all experienced in recent years how a negative message can be switched into a positive one.’ The pandemic turned the world upside down – now it’s up to us to radically reform the way we’ve previously lived, worked or produced. Bold action is required and the moment to change our old entrenched systems has come. In other words: turn apathy into action, fear into hope, vulnerability into resilience, separation into togetherness, and so on. In 2022, the ‘Flip the script’ campaign reached 122 million people in 176 countries via social media alone. It also set in motion 142 million actions in 190 countries.
UN #SDGAwards 2022 | Highlights
Stories of transformation under the most difficult circumstances make the campaign visible. Active organisations and individuals can register their SDG actions on the Global Map of SDG Actions platform. Winners with particularly successful initiatives receive awards to generate greater visibility – the UN SDG Action Awards. A chosen panel of judges consisting of high-level representatives from politics, business and not-for-profit sectors conducts an annual review process to select the initiatives that have made a significant contribution to achievement of the SDGs in the categories mobilise, inspire and connect. The campaign’s additional ‘changemaker’ category also raises the profile of outstanding individuals who become role models for others around the world.