Sustainable Development

How can the development goals be achieved?

Oliver Cann
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Sustainable Development

This weekend in New York, the United Nations will agree a new roadmap for humanity’s development. The fact that a consensus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been agreed in the first place is in itself impressive; that they are so long on ambition and comprehensiveness is even more so. But are they achievable? We asked World Economic Forum experts for their take, and round-up the best content from our blog, Agenda, on each of the 17 goals.

SDGsSource: Jakob Trollbäck 

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Is this goal ambitious? Yes. But it can be achieved. By dedicating ourselves to a human-centric, rights-based approach across all the other 16 sustainable development goals will not only end poverty but also bring dramatic improvements in quality of life, the environment and governance for everyone. – Alexandra Lopoukhine, Community Lead, Civil Society and Innovation

Read more: How can we eradicate poverty by 2030? extreme-poverty_1024-1024x683

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Hunger can be eliminated within this lifetime, if we create better opportunities for farmers and focus on the needs of undernourished groups. Sustainability means using fewer natural resources to produce food and reducing food waste and loss. Improved nutrition means reducing both hunger and obesity through improved education, and access and availability of quality foods – Lisa Dreier, Head of Agriculture and Food Security Initiatives

Read more: 4 ways countries are successfully fighting hunger, The 100-year-old reality of food security


Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Innovation in terms of delivery models and technology mean is bringing the goal of healthy living for all within sight. Business models based on public-private cooperation unlock crucial investment without the need for massive infrastructure investment; meanwhile, telemedicine, precision medicine and other advances are bringing dramatic improvements in terms of effectiveness and cost – Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries

Read more: 5 ways to improve health and well-being for allGlobal Goals: a great leap forward or an historic stumble?


Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Technology can help us to fundamentally transform education delivery and, with the right mix of policies and incentives, we can scale up early success stories. But we need to move beyond “first study, then work” to a model based on lifelong learning. Content and quality, too, must change, with the emphasis on critical thinking, collaboration and flexibility alongside “hard skills”. Business must play a critical role in the constant skilling, reskilling and upskilling of employees and broader communities – Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives

Read more: Why education should top the development agenda, What makes a quality education?


Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

We will not achieve any of our goals if girls and women are not equal partners to boys and men. We have made tremendous strides in awareness of the gender gap – from schools to boardrooms – it’s time to translate these movements and campaigns into action. Workplaces, governments and healthcare and education systems must be designed to provide a level playing field. Practices that have worked already must be adapted more broadly. – Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives

Read more: Why gender equality will make or break the Global Goals


Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Let’s tackle wastewater, especially in towns and cities. This is a good way in, as 80% of it is currently not treated. Accelerating technology, partnership models and financing mechanisms to scale wastewater treatment solutions can create “new” reuseable sources of water for industry and agriculture and free up lots more fresh water for humans and nature. – Alex Mung, Head of Water Initiative

Read more: Why business needs to get serious about water scarcity, 6 reasons why we need clean water for all


Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Evolution of distributed energy technology, maturity of financial tools and a greater awareness across stakeholders offer a new opportunity for solving the global issue of energy access. With technology largely available, the critical factors to overcome are the financial challenge – by making long-term investment projects both bankable and scalable – and the capability constraints. Enabling those will allow energy systems to reach their goal of affordability and sustainability today. – Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy Industries

Read more: 10 steps to remove energy from the global economy


Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Well-functioning and transparent institutions that effectively protect property rights, reduce red tape, combat corruption and keep nepotism in check are essential. Getting this right will create a stable and predictable business environment, which will, in turn, fuel investment, create jobs and facilitate the production of higher value goods and services in an economy. – Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, Head of Global Competitiveness and Risks

Read more: How can Africa achieve growth for all its people?, Stephen Hawking: ‘We are all time travellers’

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Through a resilient, trusted digital infrastructure we have a unique opportunity to add 2 billion people to the innovation process. Let’s enable collaborative innovation processes focused on eliminating waste of resources instead of replacing labour with technology. – Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chair, Centre for Global Industries

Read more: Bill Gates: ‘We are reducing inequity faster than ever’3 steps to a more sustainable economy, 8 ways to ensure innovation benefits all of us


Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

We need new policy frameworks and solutions that give economies every chance to drive growth that is inclusive and not limited to small elites. This means looking beyond redistribution to other levers that promote broad-based increases in living standards; for example, entrepreneurship, well-functioning financial systems and the upholding of ethical values in business and public spheres. – Jennifer Blanke, Chief Economist.

Read more: 5 reasons why we need to reduce global inequality

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

A truly smart city needs multiple layers of intelligence – smart, transparent governance which devolves power to the city; a smart economy which promotes job creation and formalizes the informal; smart environmental management through the creation of intelligent infrastructure and a circular use of resources; and smart planning which creates dense, walkable, inclusive urban spaces. – James Pennington, Knowledge Networks Specialist

Read more: 10 ways to make our cities liveable by 2030, The fight for sustainable development will be won or lost in our cities


Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Let’s move on from a DUD (dig, use and dump) model, which pollutes nature and wastes money. We can constantly reuse resources and turn linear supply chains into value-adding closed loops. Less a DUD and more a circular economy. Technology and the internet of things can drive this. Governments can help too, by removing environmentally harmful subsidies and pricing natural resources right. – Bernice Lee, Head of Climate Change and Resource Security Initiatives

Read more: Why creating a sustainable economy is in our hands

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

It starts with Paris. An ambitious global climate agreement will accelerate climate action and low-carbon growth. Putting a value on reducing carbon will help. Then, we must move the mindset from carbon compliance to “carbon positive” solutions. There are many cost-saving, value-creating, low-carbon innovations which will make your life and your business better. – Bernice Lee, Head of Climate Change and Resource Security Initiatives

Read more: Which countries will be 100% renewable by 2030?5 reasons why climate change may be worse than we think, Why we are all responsible for solving climate change, How can countries demonstrate commitment to climate change?


Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use Oceans

Healthy oceans provide 50% of our oxygen, 20% of our protein and 30% of our oil and gas. They are suffering. We must 1) recognize the problem; 2) form new partnerships for fishing, acidification, waste, marine transport; 3) forge new forms of regional and global governance to manage our blue commons. – Nathalie Chalmers, Manager, Global Agenda Council on Oceans

Read more: How can we protect our oceans while meeting demand for fish?, Have our oceans reached a tipping point?


Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

This is a big one. Critical solutions include: sustainable intensification and climate-proofing of agriculture; best practice landscape-level ecosystem management; scaled land-use planning with satellite observation; ecosystem economics and natural capital modelling; doubling down investment in sustainable rural development; empowering rural, indigenous and forest people; sorting land tenure and enforcing law, including for trafficking endangered species. – Marco Albani, Director, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020

Read more: Why forests are critical to achieving the Global Goals, How protecting the biodiversity of our planet protects us all, This Global Goal is key to the whole development agenda 

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Over 4 billion people, in almost all countries of the world, lack access to justice. Helping these people have their basic human rights respected means thinking creatively about how to implement reforms that enable efficient and accountable institutions that foster peaceful societies. Crowdsourcing platforms, such as, for example, offer a brilliant way of raising awareness and fostering broad-based support for systemic change. – Lisa Ventura, Manager, Global Agenda Council on Justice

Read more: How do we stop violence against children?, The one Global Goal that could spell disaster for all the rest, Why rule of law is the bedrock of sustainable development

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The SDGs say “what” to do, now we must figure out “how”. We need new alliances like those described above that tap the innovation of businesses, civil society, cities and governments. We need new models of using limited public money to draw in more private finance. There is room for us all to hack and innovate across every SDG, at large or small scales. We must. – Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership

Read more: Why the Global Goals are a golden opportunity for all of us, Podcast: Selling the Sustainable Development Goals4 ways to achieve the success of the Goals, 7 ways to turn the Global Goals from words to actions 

Author: Oliver Cann, Head of Media Content, Media Relations, World Economic Forum

Image: Boys walk home for lunch from school in the village of Kogelo, west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, July 16, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

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