WHAT EXACTLY ARE THE SDGs? GOING BACK TO THE BEGINNING.
“Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.” Archimedes
ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates, the Tourism & Development firm where I work in marketing and digital media, has embarked on an exciting project that I am incredibly excited to lead.
As I mentioned in my introductory post, the ‘Living the SDGs’ journey is all about taking the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and translating them into actionable ways that we, as individuals, can contribute to making the world a better place. Especially as we travel.
Before we get started talking about the specific SDGs and how we can apply them to everyday life, and everywhere travels, I thought it would be beneficial to look at the goals as a whole. The most important reason being that they must work together. Therefore we must understand the SDGs as collective before we begin breaking them down.
So, let’s get started.
what are the sustainable development goals (SDGs)?
To look forward we actually need to look back. Trust me – it will be worth the reading.
While there are a number of UN initiatives that work to connect the world around how we can all grow, and develop, for good for the long-term I am going to focus on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were established in 2000 – eight global goals that seek to shift the needle worldwide on critical development issues from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, not to mention providing universal primary education…all by 2015. In September 2015 when the UN reached the deadline of the MDGs a new target for global wellbeing was set: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This was adopted after two years of research to establish what was needed to create the ‘Future We Want’ in terms of health, safety, security, unity, environmental protection and elimination of poverty. After much dialogue, debate and really drilling down, 17 Sustainable Development Goals became the core of the agenda, with their 169 supporting targets that help define how each goal can be implemented.
The SDGs are a master-plan, a to-do list, an urgent call-to-action, for the world. There are 17 Global Goals (see all of them here) that work hand-in-hand to create a peaceful, inclusive, responsible and prosperous present and future for everyone on the planet. ‘Everyone’ is an important part of these grand ambitions. More on this later.
Why were the SDGs created?
Technically speaking, the seeds of the SDGs go back to what is called ‘Agenda 21’, adopted in 1992 to improve lives and protect the environment.
The second big initiative was the Millenium Declaration, adopted in 2000. The MDGs (mentioned earlier) were hugely successful and proved that such initiatives could create change, but they were driven mainly by high-income countries and large donor agencies.
Some of the biggest achievements to come from the MDGs included reducing global extreme poverty by half, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water, and two-thirds of developing countries achieved gender parity in primary education. The UN said that the MDGs were “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history.”
While the MDGs were proof that working together to achieve a set of priorities could create change, the SDGs were created to build on their success and expand their vision.
Importantly, the SDGs are much more universal than the predecessors. They apply to low-income countries as much as they do high-income countries. The goals focus on all key components of a sustainable future, rather than just on one core issue. Human rights, inclusivity and equality are at the forefront, ensuring nobody gets left behind.
Perhaps the biggest change is that the SDGs call on all global citizens – me and you – to join in and start thinking of ways that we can do something too.
the sdgs call on us all
What an incredible idea! What I do every day is just as important to the future of this planet as the people of Germany or businesses like Amazon or icons like Sir Richard Branson. My efforts, your efforts, can and do make an impact. For the first time, everyone is asked to join the call to make sure that our impact is for a greater good.
The SDGs call on us all – young and old, near and far. They call on businesses to create strategies that commit to sustainability, strive to advance the SDGs, and encourage their employees to volunteer within the community.
“The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands. It lies also in the hands of today’s younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations. We have mapped the road to sustainable development; it will be for all of us to ensure that the journey is successful and its gains irreversible.”
Paragraph 53, The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN
The universality of the goals means they also apply to all levels of government. From the UN Member States to city councils and school boards. For the former, their efforts are being measured and checked, and a SDG report is published annually on progress to date and areas where more action must be taken.
And then there is us – the world’s travellers. In order for the SDGs to be a success, we all must come together, owning the impact we have.
This belief goes to the highest levels in Tourism. As expressed by the Amb. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the UN’s specialised agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism:
“The SDGs are a powerful way of ensuring all people, including you and me, are working together to create a safe, inclusive, sustainable world for all. As travellers, our impact goes far and wide. I am happy to take this journey with AM&A on this special project as they travel through the SDGs”
-Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the UNWTO
As the Secretary General says, we need to make sure this is a positive, sustainable, personal impact that we can be proud of. This starts by seeing how each and every one of the 17 SDGs is actually impacted by Tourism.
it’s all about the goals
Goals are important for a reason. Think about it – we create goals all the time. We may not always accomplish them, but they set the focus.
The SDGs have given everyone, literally everyone, a plan of action, a focus, that can change the world as we know it for the better, and for us all. If enough of the UN Member States, private businesses and individuals like us are taking actions to achieve the goals, it will inspire more to do the same.
Importantly, goals are also contagious, and personally motivating. When someone we know goes from couch potato to marathon runner, we wonder if we should also exercise more. When a friend gets their Master’s Degree, we may think about whether pursuing further education would be beneficial to us as well. When that Facebook friend you haven’t spoken to in ten years is posting pictures from the front of their mini-mansion, we may wonder if we could be doing something to get one too.
The SDGs by themselves can feel like just a nice list of ideals. But when we take those goals, and set our focus on achieving them, personally, through the power of one times billions, so much is possible.
why now is critical
The SDGs provide hope in a world of conflict, inequalities, and uncertainty. Tomorrow may be too late, but today we can join together and work towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to protect our future. We can’t wait any longer to take action.
When I joined ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates and really began to understand how I, and my travels, could make a global difference through the SDGs, they really began to matter. I truly believe that maybe, just maybe, I can make a difference. Which is why I’m pledging to do my part, along with ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates, by sharing and implementing actionable ways that we can be a part of the solution.
Join me. Together we can make a world of difference, we can #MakeTravelMatter
I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world.