A core feature of the SDGs is their strong focus on means of implementation: the mobilization of financial resources; capacity-building and technology; as well as data and institutions. The new Goals recognize that tackling climate change is essential for sustainable development and poverty eradication. SDG 13 aims to promote urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. How this aspiration is reconciled with maintaining ecosystems and tackling climate change will be a challenge in itself.
There is a wealth of published material on sustainable development in general and on the SDGs in particular from the UN, from international non-governmental organizations, and from many other concerned and committed organizations and individuals more locally. It is easy to get lost in all of this so we have been selective in the sources we have used. Most importantly, there is a widely held view that much more innovative ways to both collecting data and using data, from crowd sourcing to the use of big data, need to be used if the mechanisms for implementing and delivering the SDGs are to take full advantage of the data revolution.
Both sites have much supporting material on the SDGs and also on the challenge of integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development economic, social and environmental. And some countries notably Sweden, Germany, Colombia, the Philippines and Czechia already have national institutional arrangements.
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There is general agreement on the breadth and depth of the goals. There are clear obligations and responsibilities for all member states for which they will be held to account and a recognition that cross systems approaches to implementation will be needed. This is a significant change from the MDG process and requires explicit contributions from every country, particularly in developing and aligning the complex analytical tools to assess progress and assist decision making.
Getting accountability structures fit for purpose is already a key challenge. To help, different models have been developed, 9 including both scenario analysis and quantitative modelling. Some of these can be used as top-down macro-framework level tools and some as sectoral models for option level impact analysis. This independent review 7 of 16 countries who volunteered for national review by the High Level Political Forum noted a range of different approaches to deal with the complexity of the implementation process. Some countries with existing national sustainable development strategies have built on these and tried to align existing objectives with the new goals.
Some have linked the SDGs to financial planning for sustainable development or sought to integrate SDGs either in sectoral planning nutrition, education etc. Other areas of agreement include the need to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development economic, social and environmental , 10 , 11 the importance of raising awareness and creating ownership and the need for stakeholder engagement.
No strategy, not even one agreed by all member states of the United Nations, can immediately address historical cultures; yet, it remains one of the most fundamental challenges and opportunities for us all to address. The reality is that addressing all three dimensions collaboratively will yield the greatest benefits, whilst the alternative—addressing them separately and in competitive isolation—will deliver much less and with greater risks. This has been illustrated by recent worked examples and case studies. One worked example 8 concludes that action on the route to zero hunger in sub-Saharan Africa interacts positively with Goal 1 poverty , Goal 3 health and well-being , and Goal 4 quality education.
However, it also notes that food production has a more complex interaction with Goal 13 climate change mitigation. Additionally, food production Goal 2 can compete with renewable energy production Goal 7 and eco-system protection Goals 14 and Conversely, climate stability Goal 13 and preventing ocean acidification Goal 14 will support sustainable food production and fisheries Goal 2. Similarly, the UN paper on mainstreaming the three dimensions 11 highlights water as a nexus of integration and describes how water and sanitation Goal 6 underpin other areas such as health Goal 3 , food Goal 2 , energy Goal 7 , elimination of poverty Goal 1 , economic productivity Goal 8 , equity Goal 10 and access to education Goal 4.
Perhaps the biggest single controversy, particularly because simplicity and logic favour collaborative and system wide implementation, is the high number of goals, targets and supporting actions that have been agreed. Deciding which goals to prioritize and then assessing the positive or negative impacts on other goals, is a crucial step. There is scope for concern if governments, corporations or agencies were to prioritize energy production to meet Goal 7 , agricultural output to meet Goal 2 or development of business and infrastructure to meet Goals 8 and 9 , without considering impacts on climate Goal 13 , water Goal 14 or land Goal The root cause of this problem is the failure to imagine better ways of addressing energy, agricultural output and what defines success of a business in the 21st century.
It is rarely more of what has gone before. The SDGs are the formal stimulus for us to innovate collectively at scale and pace; and to think and act better not bigger. For instance, we need to be more open to the increasing evidence of the many potential positive interactions between different Goals. More equitable and sustainable food systems would help to meet Goal 2, produce ecological benefits Goals 13—15 and help tackle problems such as obesity and non-communicable disease Goal 3. Interestingly, although the SDGs and supporting targets make little mention of tackling world population growth, there are several studies illustrating how coordinated, whole system approaches to the SDGs are already stabilizing the global population.
One paper 13 looks at how the SDG targets on mortality, reproductive health and education for girls will directly and indirectly influence future demographic trends. Another paper, 14 looking from the opposite perspective, describes how reductions in fertility in Africa could reduce dependency ratios the proportion of population not economically active and thus help tackle poverty Goal 1 , increase productivity Goal 8 , and improve education and gender equality Goals 4 and 5.
It should be clear that each country will pursue these Global Goals differently, and that a key benefit of the SDG approach is a degree of local flexibility. This is of increasing importance with the recent expressions of electoral judgements in some western countries. The danger is that electorates are seduced into abandoning collective responsibility for the three dimensions of sustainable development in the hope that this will produce short-term benefits for individual countries while ignoring the wider longer term environmental, social and economic costs, knowingly leaving these to be borne by future generations.
This approach risks increasing health inequity alongside continued restraints on social assistance and environmental protection, with negative impacts on many of the SDGs. Alternatively, a country, region or state could seek to build an economy which is directed at realizing the combined economic, social and environmental benefits associated with implementing the SDGs, with a focus on renewable energy, sustainable food and agriculture and environmentally sustainable technology recycling, energy conservation and the like.
This may also provide a model of sustaining prosperity given the demographic changes and likely labour shortages if countries, such as the UK, shift away from an economic model which depends on a migrant labour force for continued growth. Given that it took 21 years of annual conferences of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before a substantial agreement for action the Paris Agreement was achieved in December , there could well be international controversy if reneging on key global commitments weakens the collective resolve.
If we accept the fact that human health, and its future survival and prosperity, depend on a liveable earth, we would argue therefore that a refocus of population health to ecological 16 and planetary health 15 is the golden thread which binds the SDGs together as a systems approach. To what extent can we seek to implement the SDGs by improvements in current systems and at what point do we need a paradigm shift in our outlook and aspirations?
This subject has been explored in relation to health and food systems 17 and in relation to regional trade agreements and health related SDGs. It is not enough to simply wait until action is obviously needed. It would seem that large corporations are more aware of the need to fundamentally re-shape the economy than many political parties.
The last two centuries have seen huge advances in our understanding of what causes diseases in individuals. There has been far less progress in understanding systematically exactly what causes health in populations: from a village level or a planetary level. The challenge for this generation is to synthesize our knowledge into creating those conditions that foster health and protect us from poverty as much as they protect us from polio. If we continue to devote resources disproportionately to finding ever more detailed causes of disease without considering the solutions to some of the obvious problems we have created for ourselves and others, we will be breaking the implicit contract we have with future generations, with those people who have no voice or choice; that is the agreement that we make every effort to leave the world in a better place than we found it.
Without understanding how we collectively protect and improve all those conditions that make life worth living for all, we will be forever remembered as the generation who knew too much and did too little.
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The art and science of making change is fraught with more human and cultural barriers than with technical or knowledge barriers. The SDGs provide perhaps the last best hope we have of being honest about why and how we should implement the evidence we already have. The number of challenges and opportunities we face, from demographic transitions to new models of economic activity and workforce development makes it essential that we embrace clear and systematic frameworks for action that are measurable and monitorable and for which we should all be held accountable and responsible.
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Implementing Agenda 21 - Report of the Secretary-General | International Environment Forum
Advanced Search. Article Navigation. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Article Contents. Sources of data. Areas of agreement. Areas of controversy.
Growing points. Areas timely for developing research. Conflict of interest statement. Sustainable Development Goals SDGs , and their implementation: A national global framework for health, development and equity needs a systems approach at every level Stephen Morton.
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Correspondence address. E-mail: stevemorton doctors. Most disappointing, the environmental elements in many targets were not included in indicators, or the indicators lacked ambition, or were watered down. Key factors in achieving the strong and integrated approach to environment and development at the level of goals and targets were: 1 the role of new ideas on the importance of the environment and an integrated approach to sustainable development which was promoted by the science and research community; 2 a group of norm entrepreneurs, who promoted these ideas; and 3 the institutional structure and working modalities of the Open Working Group which drafted the text of the SDGs whose special characteristics facilitated the final agreement.
The dilution of the indicators resulted from a very different institutional structure and process with different actors and from the development focused legacy of the Millennium Development Goals MDGs that had not resulted in sufficient capacity for thoroughly measuring environmental concerns. How to incorporate the environment was one of the central issues in the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs. This article aims to explain how the environment was incorporated into the SDGs, and why it was incorporated in this way.
It also discusses how goal setting and quantification influenced the environment's prioritization.
Related Capacity Building in Developing Countries: Human and Environmental Dimensions
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