img_0210In 2015, at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, 193 governments took the historic step of adopting the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The preamble of the 2030 Agenda clearly defines its purpose: “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” that also “seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom.” The 2030 Agenda breaks manifold paradigms. First, the three fundamental pillars of development, economic, social, and environmental, are integrated. Second, it is universally applicable; all countries, from north and south, signed up to implement it. Third, it includes issues that had remained outside the scope of development, particularly peace and climate change.

The urgency of Sustainable Development transformations needed cannot be overstated. While the benefits of past transformations, such as the green revolution or the industrial revolution, took decades to emerge, the transformation to Sustainable Development has a much tighter time frame, given the threats posed by climate change and other aspects of environmental change, increasing competition for resources, insecurity, high level of inequality, and intensifying consumption pressures. Top-down actions by government must foster the scaled expansion of bottom-up innovations and alliances between stakeholders. Government action in reforming structural framework policies and conditions, underpinned by shared values and a broad societal consensus that change needs to occur, is a decisive driving force in transformations for sustainable development.

The role countries is to support the creation, clustering and scaling up of good practices or “niches” for transformation. Changes in policy and institutional frameworks must recognize and reshape incentives, harness stakeholder values and provide direct support for innovation to scale up and nurture niches areas for sustainability innovations, such as renewable energy, organic agriculture, green buildings and investments that support sustainability. Transformational policies will proactively align the interests of diverse stakeholders.

Changing mindsets and behaviors

We must pay attention to creating the conditions that enable change on a wide scale by changing mindsets and behaviors. Among these conditions is the recognition of environmental limits in policy at different levels. There is evidence from different region where environmental limits are already shaping policy: There are greenhouse gas emission caps at the city level, constitutionally mandated forest cover targets and greenhouse gas intensity and renewable energy targets. A strong science-policy interface will have an important role in making these initiatives effective.

The potential of technology to facilitate transformations should be actively harnessed by science, technology and innovation policy. Investments in research and development should be guided by wider societal interests. The industrial revolution, the information technology revolution and the emergence of the knowledge economy provide examples of the role of technology in catalysing transformations.

Wide disparities exist in access to life-sustaining natural resources, such as food, water and energy, among different population groups in the region. Lack of access is more prevalent among the rural populations, impoverished households and women. Increasing access to natural resources for these population groups requires a human rights approach to development. Changing inequitable outcomes requires a change in inequitable processes that produced them. Initiatives to redress these inequalities are emerging, although often at the local level, including community-based management of natural resources, corporate and civil society partnerships and participatory budgeting.  Governments can create the enabling conditions to accelerate these emerging and existing efforts. Doing so would trigger the transformation that redresses inequalities by translating international commitments into national frameworks and laws adhering to the principles of human rights. It would enlarge spaces for multistakeholder participation, promote access to information and promote more equitable flows of investment. Transparent governance and political will to engage stakeholders to achieve the 2030 Agenda are needed for social justice transformation to reduce inequalities

The three central pillars of the United Nations, peace and security, human rights, and development, are given new operational meaning in the 2030 Agenda. The preamble highlights five essential elements that frame and reinforce the universal, integrated, and transformative nature of a sustainable development agenda: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.

In March 2016, 17 goals, 169 corresponding targets (and 230 individual indicators) integrating economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development were agreed. They recognize interrelationships between pressing concerns such as rising inequality (SDG10), and lack of affordable housing and basic services (SDG11). The following graph highlights the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda.

If, for example, a member state implements SDG5 on “gender equality and empower(ment) of women and girls”, it would also address targets related to poverty eradication, health, inequality, education, and peaceful and inclusive societies. Thus, the new SDG framework is a network in which all goals are interconnected.

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Source, ICM/IPI, 2016