Welcome to “The Enabler”!
A summer blockbuster movie? No, and not just another Sustainable Development Goal, but the one
that facilitates the realization of all the others: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Talk about
pressure! Without peaceful inclusive societies, without a broad sense of basic justice, without
accountable institutions, there will be very limited progress, at best, on all 17 SDGs.
It would be so much easier if we could simply drill down on one Goal, any one of the 17—say hunger--,
understand it fully and go about fixing the issue permanently. But that is not possible. As we’ve said so
often in this series, the 17 goals are inter-connected and mutually affect each other:
Even pre-COVID, and despite international law, so many people died daily from armed conflicts. Already
in 2019 the number of migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 79.5
million, the highest level recorded. And the pandemic with its panic and uncertainty worldwide, its
revelations of broken response systems and vaccine nationalism only further exacerbated global peace
and security as it elevated levels of suffering for the more vulnerable among us.
Alarmingly, the implementation of #16 looks grim. With the rise in extreme nationalism and
xenophobia, democracy worldwide has taken a few steps back. Many of the 12 Targets of this SDG are
in decline, e.g. fighting corruption, building transparency. The 10-year trend on growing civic space and
participation has stalled.
Here is something to contemplate. On the one hand, the SDGs, this UN 2030 Agenda for People and the
Planet, in some quarters is seen as important enough to be listed as a key document alongside the
United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Paris Agreement on Climate
Action. Heady company indeed!
Yet on the other hand, in the Voluntary National Review process of countries presenting on the SDG
process in-country, we sometimes find backward movement when governments report honestly
(without the fluff often accompanying Member statements of every kind). So while the 12 targets are
clear, and the 634 suggested actions compelling, the challenge is reduced to simply ask a country “What
is your Plan to Restart the Process of Implementing the Agenda”?
Here’s a lofty goal: to revitalize a global partnership for sustainable development.
But it makes sense: development cannot be sustainable if it is not shared. Across
countries and regions. Not in the sense of perfect equality—there are too many
variables for that—but in a real sense of shared positive upwards movement.
Global partnership is the only way forward.
So far progress has been mixed. World trade and global foreign direct investment
have declined, and remittances sent home, a lifeline for so many families in poorer
households around the world, are projected to remain low for the foreseeable
We often say “it’s a small world.” To concern ourselves with overseas peoples we
will never meet is not just charity but our own self-interest. Take COVID—we
will never be fully safe until everyone is safe.
Nonetheless this sounds a bit beyond those of us living ordinary lives. But wait--
AI to the rescue! If we’ve occasionally wondered how Artificial Intelligence is
doing these days, well, at the Olympics the other day a robot hit a three-point shot!
A basketball challenge many people would struggle with. Enter “Waves,” an AI
advisor that recommends initiatives to invest in, providing users the positive
feeling of giving to charity while simultaneously supporting sustainable
development. So far $7 trillion has been raised for investment in the SDGs.
Humanity will need all the help it can get to achieve what this Sustainable
Development Goal calls for:
Mobilizing resources to improve countries’ abilities to collect revenue;
Sharing knowledge and cooperation to spread access to science, innovation
Collecting relevant data and statistics: We cannot fix what we do not
measure to fully understand;
Increasing broadband access. As said previously in these pages, “leave no
one behind” also means leaving no one offline because technology means
access to vital services.
SDG17 is no small feat. But there are ways we contribute, from insisting
candidates to higher office have a healthy global view of shared development, to
doing a little research ourselves, before we buy, to find products sustainably and
ethically produced, making a global issue truly local.