St Paul's Institute

The World's Most Ambitious To-Do list

by Diane Sheard

Posted: 20 Jan 2016

Getting all world leaders to agree on something, at the same time, in the same place, is rare to say the least. Yet this is exactly what happened at the end of September at the United Nations General Assembly when 193 world leaders unanimously adopted the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This moment in history did not attract as much attention as other domestic or international issues. Yet if the Goals are delivered by 2030, they will change the course of human development and we might be close to ending extreme poverty for good.

The Global Goals (also known as the SDGs) are a set of 17 targets that are a bold but achievable blueprint for making the world safer, more prosperous and more equal in just one generation. If met, the 17 targets could eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, preventable disease and many other issues that affect the world's poorest and most vulnerable. The Goals also tackle gender and social inequality, climate change, peace and justice, effective governance, and sustainable living too. It's the most ambitious 'To Do List' the world has ever seen, and holds great potential for everyone over the next 15 years.

If you think you've heard this all before - you'd be right, sort of. The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were the precursor to the Global Goals, and set out key development targets between 2000 and 2015. What you might not have heard is that significant progress has been made. Since 1990, both the number of people living in extreme poverty and the number of women who die during childbirth has more than halved. So we're halfway home. But this great news story is often not shared.

Notwithstanding these successes, the world still faces hard challenges and choices. Europe is currently trying to cope with an unprecedented refugee crisis, the aftermath of a global economic meltdown, and new security threats. But we also have new opportunities: new technologies and innovations are connecting the world exponentially. Access to and demand for technology that puts power in the hands of the citizen is universal, from London to Lagos and from to Lima to Los Angeles.

With new technologies and greater access to data, political leaders will increasingly be held accountable for the delivery of the Global Goals by their own citizens in a way unimaginable back in 2000. One test will be monitoring the financial commitments made during the climate summit in Paris last month to ensure that they are delivered without taking resources away from poverty-reducing programmes and that they contribute to the new Goals. We will also be tracking progress against promises made on health, education, hunger and all of the other 17 Goals.

The Goals don't just apply to developing countries: they are, by their name, Global. Here in the UK, our government must ensure that it meets the goals at home as well as through our overseas development programmes, foreign diplomacy and other international work. Goal 5 is all about gender equality, Goal 7 reduced our reliance on fossil fuels and Goal 12 is about achieving responsible consumption and production - all of these matter at home.

The actions of the UK in this sphere will resonate beyond our shores. Many in the international community look to us as leaders in international development, and copy our best practice. There is already widespread support across Parliament for this agenda. Just recently, more than 53% of MPs supported ONE's 'Just Say Yes' campaign, calling for the UK to keep its promises to the world's poorest. We hope that the government will use this show of support and make sure the Global Goals truly change the world for the better.

About this author

Diane Sheard is UK Director at The ONE Campaign, the international advocacy and campaigning organisation working to end extreme poverty and preventable disease.

Toby - Posted: 21 Jan 2016

Diane - who in the government can we look to to take ownership of the UK's commitment to the global goals? Does the responsibility lie with DFID?
How do we best hold them accountable?

ABDUL RUPANI - Posted: 28 Jan 2016

Poverty, hunger and inequality are top priority.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.