Real global sustainability: 17 goals for human dignity and not to leave anyone behind – by S. Calvani

Sandro Calvani | Senior Adviser and President of the Scientific Committee of Social Change School | September 1, 2015

In July 2015 I was in New York to participate to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. It was the last global consultation at the United Nations to decide a plan for human progress after 2015. The conclusions and recommendations we reached in July were presented in the second half of September in a special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which approved the final version of the global goals for sustainable development (SDGs), which represent the agenda for the progress of humanity in 2015-2030.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it “an agreement for the world’s transformation towards human dignity”. Leaders of civil society organizations talked about “a global promise not to leave anyone behind”. It surely is a qualitative leap  compared to the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) as the new worldwide agreement represents a program of sustainable development, in the economic, social and environmental fields, for the entire world and not only for developing world. Because in order to realize it this time thousands of organizations of the civil society were heard and not only governments; even the academic and the private sector worlds participated.

If the plan will be realized as promised, surely a new dignity of humanity will affirm itself before 2030, a strong reduction of conflicts, corruption and political incompetence, a strong growth of global justice and a better use of common resources and goods.

The agenda consists of 169 outputs for development, grouped in 17 main goals (see the summarizing table).

Among the weak points of the global agreement, there’s the absence of a firm commitment for disarmament, of a strong new system of taxation for financial returns, and the equal importance given to all the 17 areas of sustainable development, without giving a strong priority to poverty and hunger, nor to an extraordinary growth of humanitarian aid that is going to become necessary in the next years. The new planetary program recognises for the first time the worldwide limits imposed to the Earth and its inhabitants and promises to accelerate the necessary adaptations to mitigate the impact of climate change.

During the debate that led to the agreement that will be approved in September 2015, some necessary conditions to realize the proposed goals were highlighted

  1. Progresses towards the goals will need to be measured taking into consideration the specificities and the efforts related of each country,  beyond GDP and economic growth;
  2. It will be necessary to encourage the responsibility of each country,   through an inclusive process of definition of a new agenda and establishing common responsibilities while also differentiating them based on national contexts,  promoting the coherence of development politics;
  3. All new national programs will need to include the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability, with an approach based on protection of human rights, social justice and good government, so that it will give way to structural reforms that will define a new sustainable model to answer global challenges;
  4. There is the need to start from the very beginning a new global partnership for development – a truly new one – that will allow to overcome the North and South paradigm, involving all the actors of development, giving responsibility to the private sector and foreseeing mechanisms of transparency and reporting.


To read the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, click here.

To learn more about Sustainable Development Goals, click here.

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