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17 Steps to save the world

UNAMID/Albert Gonzalez Farran CC

Miriam Diez Bosch - published on 03/06/17

Sustainable development goals: Will we meet them?

Seventeen goals seem to guarantee the conservation of the planet and, thus, the improvement of the conditions of human life. These sustainable development goals might seem utopic, but they are not: they are, instead, the guarantee to our own survival and that of our planet. But are these goals to be met only through governmental action? Can we contribute to their compliance in any way?

Back in 2000, the United Nations established the “Goals of the Millennium”: a series of tasks and goals the humanity had to meet in the next 15 years. At that time, the international organization presented eight key issues that had to be taken into account in order to reduce inequality in the world: eradicating poverty and hunger; universal primary education; gender equality and the empowerment of women; reduction of child mortality; improvement of maternal health; fight AIDS, malaria and other diseases; environmental sustainability; and a Global Development Agreement.

In 2015, Ban Ki-Moon, the then Secretary General of the UN, called these goals “the greatest anti-poverty impulse in history.” However, in September of that same year the progress was reviewed, and even though some numbers indicated certain success, they also signaled the long road ahead. According to Xavier Longan, of the United Nations Millennium Campaign Office in Barcelona, “We find ourselves in an unequal context: on the one hand, two or three of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been achieved: for example, the eradication of poverty by half, and we have also taken great steps ahead concerning access to drinking water sources and maternal mortality rates. But on the other hand, others have stagnated, not progressed or even receded. ”

This revision set new goals — increasing from 8 to 17 — and also a new expiration date, 2030, including some other goals to be met. According to Longan, these changes imply a clear difference: “The first MDGs were an agenda for developing countries, the rich countries helping the former achieve these goals. The new agenda is everyone’s responsibility.”

In this sense, Longan stresses the decisive role of governments. “The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals depends on their decisions, their political will and the policies they drive to achieve them,” he says, but points out that “civil society, local governments or the private sector” will have a more active role in this global project: governments, obviously, with the establishment and enforcement of proper policies, but citizens can do their share with concrete actions and good practices. “It’s about laying the groundwork for a process that allows us to collectively learn how can we meet these goals better and faster, and what are the elements that might help us accelerate these processes of change,” said Teresa Ribera, Climate Change Secretary of State in Spain between 2004 and 2008, at

According to the Spanish newspaper El País, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, member of the European Center for Peace and Development and former Director of UNESCO, says that the key is to share and cooperate: “Governments should take into account that if they do not commit themselves to these goals, people will withdraw their support because we are heading towards authentic democracies in the nearby future.”

Technology at our service

Mobile solutions and different technological devices are tools that contribute to the fulfillment of these objectives. In fact, in emerging countries, the use of apps and technological devices and projects related to health (mHealth), education (mLearning), agriculture (mAgriculture), banking (mBanking) and others is on the rise.

According to Longan, some very important developments are to be found in Africa, where an exponential growth of mobile technology has occurred in recent years. “This has contributed not only to general development but has also facilitated the interaction between citizens, policymakers and institutions, directly communicating the needs of the people.” Some of the best known initiatives are Zero Mothers Die (on maternal health), Worldreader (on education), She leads Africa (on Women empowerment), Ushahidi (on citizenship) and mPesa (on finance).

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