The UN has placed the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) at the center of many of its key policies to cement sustainable development and inclusive growth as the global developmental zeitgeist. UN leaders spoke about their views on this topic at the 2016 Annual Curators Meeting in Geneva.
Michael Møller, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (“UNOG”), commented, “the character of world politics is now multi-polar, and social and economic issues cut across each other. …We have to take individual responsibility for our actions, while we consider multiple stakeholders in making decisions inclusively. We must leave no one behind.” David Nabarro, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, explained that the SDGs were created with better governance in mind, better in considering the equity of developed and developing countries. Indeed, he asked us to think about all countries as developing at different stages. No one country should claim the status of “developed” when there is so much left to do. He also hoped that the SDG framework would encourage both rich and poor nations to participate.
- Stimulate a culture of “citizen accounting” and audit your government for the future (are your leaders doing enough to struggle against the currents? Or are their decisions too reflective of short-termism?)
- Adopt a “systems thinking” mindset (think not in terms of “single action/cause and effect” but recognize the contour and non-linear nature of the systems you operate in.)
- Proactively engage stakeholders and have a good understanding of collective interests.
- Create safe spaces for authentic dialogue.
- Be a “stropist” (a portmanteau of “strategic” and “opportunistic”) in implementing the SDGs.
Nabarro implored us to ask our governments to involve more young people and women in delegations to the UN. This would be leading inclusive growth by example.
Certainly, it is important for the UN as a global thought leader to espouse the noble objectives of the SDGs, but they are difficult to realize with its existing agencies and through non-binding instruments and advocacy alone. The ways the UN link with different inter-governmental and public-private networks also present structural challenges. The UN is too constrained financially and organizationally to reach individuals directly. Increasingly, however, the UN has supported civil society initiatives to provide local solutions with global intelligence. The key UN agencies may be large vessels, difficult to change courses quickly, but there are some great captains at the helm. It was a pleasure to hear their insights.
If you are working on a SDG-related project involving young people, the UN would like to hear about it at beinghuman.org