The pace of change is one of the big challenges of our time. Indeed, globalization has radically reshaped our reality, giving rise to global issues – challenges so big, they can only be solved if all of humanity works together. That is exactly what the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) compel us to do!
Climate change, growing inequalities, the fourth industrial revolution, the sixth extinction and many other universal issues go beyond the coping capabilities of any single country, bloc or organization. Realizing this, all 193 UN Member States came together in 2015 to agree a worldwide pact on a scale never witnessed before in history – the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
“The SDGs are not your run-of-the-mill development strategy for big international organizations to fix the problems in the South,” said UN Assistant Secretary-General, UN DESA’s Thomas Gass in a recent interview. “The SDGs are the missing vision piece of the globalization puzzle.”
Among other duties, Mr. Gass coordinates the SDG Advocates programme – a project that brings together 17 outstanding personalities from the worlds of politics, sports, show business, social activism and academia – to help spread the word about the SDGs.
“If [global problems] don’t impact you specifically this year, they will next year or the year after that,” said Alaa Murabit, SDG Advocate, medical doctor and activist. “The world has gotten so small in that sense and we really need to be proactive and recognize that we’re a global community and we have to work together.”
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is too comprehensive and too ambitious to be implemented the same way we implement a classic development cooperation programme,” said Mr. Gass. “It needs to become a new social contract, based on the accountability of the leaders to their people, so the people need to know about it.”
“That is why the SDG Advocates were chosen by the UN Secretary-General – the SDG Advocate in chief – to help him ensure that their respective audiences know about the Goals. They are a diverse group of personalities who have a proven track record of tipping the scales on several important areas related to sustainable development.”
“Your government has made a promise that they will find solutions to those [global problems], so when you’re fighting at your most local level, you’re a part of a huge global effort and you can apply the global muscle to that local level,” said SDG Advocate, film producer and director, Richard Curtis.
So, what does it take to be a champion for the SDGs? According to Mr. Gass, “An SDG Advocate is someone who understands how the Sustainable Development Goals are different from anything else that preceded them, who understands what happened on the 25th of September 2015 when the leaders adopted this shared vision for humanity. And someone who has the courage and the audacity to communicate and to link their action to this shared vision.”
Nobel Prize‑winning economist and SDG Advocate, Professor Muhammad Yunus certainly demonstrates the courage and audacity to face the global problems head-first and to inspire others to do the same.
“Ignore all those problems,” he advised young people during the recent UN General Assembly high-level week. “Create the world that you want! In the process, these problems will disappear. If you try to fix these enormous problems, you’ll never get out of it – they’ll suck you in. Design your own path and go after it!”
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