The Sustainable Development 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement constitute a new world vision, a powerful agenda for global transformation. National strategies, local plans, and budgets (implemented as part of human rights obligation) can become more holistic and more effective in the long term if they take both outcomes into account.

Although the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have already gained the attention of world leaders and top media outlets, awareness of these outcomes needs to be more widespread. These normative frameworks need to be locally owned. In developed countries, a shift toward implementing internationally agreed global goals domestically is a new challenge.

Champions of the SDGs, from political to business to academic leaders to service providers like Development Connect, should be enlisted to support implementation. The recent appointment of “eminent advocates” to increase awareness and implementation of the SDGs is a step forward, and these kinds of champions should also be identified at the regional, national, and local levels.

Development Connect aims to be a bridge between communities of policy makers, researchers, practitioners, the private sector and civil society by discussing the links between the different SDGs remaining true to the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda and by providing practical advisory services globally towards “smarter” strategizing and programming at the national and local levels.

The SDGs represent people’s aspirations and rights and they must be resourced, and can be realized through the design of national and local plans and budgets, and they must be implemented in line with the state’s existing human rights and other obligations.

The accountable government

People should know exactly what governments and the private sector have promised and what they have delivered; the right to information. And if governments and their partners don’t deliver, people should be able to hold them to account through independent mechanisms. It is not enough anymore for governments to say that they are legitimate because they were elected or have a mandate. They have to be accountable to the people directly on an ongoing basis.

Leaving no one behind means challenging power structures and enforcing the rule of law. Inequality is largely the direct result of discrimination and exclusion based on gender, race, descent, religion or other status. Inequality is the consequence of the failure to protect the rights of the marginalized, indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, persons with disabilities, children and the elderly.

We are all aware of countries which performed very well on the Millennium Development Goals. But outrage against persistent human rights violations led to revolutions. And this happens because people’s lives are not divided into development, environment, Gini-inequality measures, gender, peace and human rights, only bureaucracies are. Coherence and consistency, and strengthened links between (social) security and sustainable development are essential.

While our sustainable development “institutional framework” touches upon issues of political economy, it doesn’t squarely capture them. We cannot continue to separate politics from development, and politics from economics and politics from gender.

Political ideology is integral to development. We know that political processes and interests are major factors in determining development outcomes. Political issues thus need to be addressed up front in any work aiming to help bring about gender equity for example. This is not to suggest that we need “regime change”, but rather, also at these levels, promote values, consciousness and encourage practices that truly address the vast global (gender) inequalities.

You cannot claim to support sustainable development when you are reluctant to reduce the consumption of the rich, discuss harmful production practices, encourage “not so fair-trade” or prevent transfer innovations and technology.

You cannot preach about human rights while practicing mass surveillance and denying large scale communities from basic services like water, sanitation, waste management and energy.

You cannot lecture about peace while being the world’s largest manufacturers of arms. You cannot allow your corporations to use financial and tax loopholes, “flexible” labor laws and unfair payment structures while railing against corruption, injustice and fair pay.

You cannot adopt the SDGs and at the same time attack and arrest peaceful protesters and dissenters, displace farmers from their (indigenous) land. And you cannot launch the SDGs and in parallel deny a safe and legal route to refugees, a life with dignity.

The SDGs present a compass for decent jobs, for justice, for humanity.

As Development Connect, we will stand with the poor and marginalized at all costs, working with development partners, governments and businesses to increase accountability and to develop capacities to gather, process, and use evidence-based monitoring and review data to strengthen design of programs and interventions, decision making and reporting, encouraging authentic leadership, leadership with integrity, leadership from the heart.

Everyone needs to participate

Implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement is possible only with sustained political leadership beyond terms of office, constant attention to the delivery is needed and citizens, civil society, youth can keep the pressure on and hold leaders accountable for timely implementation. This new vision requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach where the role of the private sector cannot be underestimated.

Currently, there are over 8,000 corporations in 150 countries participating in the (UN) Global Compact (a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement universal sustainability principles). Increased participation and accountability by the private sector is key to leverage the needed additional resources.

Several member states are putting in place inter-ministerial arrangements in order to encourage integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the government level; the involvement of the Ministry of Finance is key to unlock domestic resources. Developed countries need however to scale up official development assistance to support the poorest and most vulnerable populations, particularly in countries that do not attract foreign direct investment.

The SDGs should become core priorities of national plans. The sheer number of adopted UN resolutions highlights the need to reflect on and discuss the adoption of coherent and strategic but practical and realistic country level work programs, and this is where Development Connect, with participation of “movers and shakers” of civil society and the private sector, can assist.

Learning from action and experiment: The depth of human ignorance is more profound than we like to acknowledge and our actions should be aimed at continuous learning. Learning goes hand in hand with going slow progress, making mistakes, being accountable, patience and forgiveness. Finding the balance between patience and the need for urgent action will require compassion, humility, truth telling, clear headedness, honesty and love.

The “sustainability revolution” will have to be a collective transformation based on the best of human nature, rather than the worst. Our preoccupation with economic problems needs to be replaced by the real problem of human relations, of creation and behaviour and religion, patience and compassion with ourselves and others as we deal with change (and resistance to change) and as we see ourselves as one interconnected global society?