In September of last year the world witnessed an historic moment – leaders from every member state of the United Nations unanimously ratified a bold and comprehensive 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This agreement emerged not only from the negotiating chambers at the UN but also from a radical and far reaching global conversation that eventually included more than ten million people and thousands of civil society organisations (CSOs), largely through the MY World 2015 survey. The mix of new and old techniques opened the negotiation process to a vivid display of the variety of experiences, knowledge and organisational forms which populate the civic space and left member states buoyed by the energy and enthusiasm of people worldwide, ultimately resulting in a far reaching, complex and ambitious agenda for action.
Thus, the new Goals carry in their DNA openness and inclusiveness, and it is this same spirit that will be required in order for member states to achieve them. The shared vision of the SDGs will be tested as governments lead the process for their implementation: It is critical that space is created for a broad range of actors beyond those traditionally involved in development-related decision processes, if the scale and ambition of the agenda – to leave no one behind – is to be realised. Through the MY World survey initiative for example we saw a massive engagement from young people worldwide (over 70% of survey respondents were under 30 years of age) we must continue to harness this energy to not just debate what the agenda should be but to drive the agenda forward, foster innovation and mobilise new actors.
Each country will need to take its own bold steps, in keeping with their national priorities, to own and achieve the Goals. The United Nations stands ready to accompany and support this process. We are convinced that the outcome of the inclusive international negotiations leading up to the 2030 Agenda can serve as a blueprint for participatory implementation as well. In this regard, some countries where civic participation has been limited or constrained will encounter roadblocks to inclusive implementation of the Agenda, while those with vibrant and well-resourced CSOs will have a distinct advantage in a process that will, by design, require activation of all parts of society.
The SDGs were designed to be interdependent. While dedicated efforts will be required to achieve each goal and target, comprehensive success will only come when these interdependencies are met with an equality collaborative approach to implementation. Using the Goals as a unifying framework, segments of society that may not have a history of collaboration have a new chance to find ways of working together. The Goals create a narrative as vast and rich as the societies in which we live. The lessons we have learned from the innovative and open drafting process for the Goals should give us all confidence that inclusive processes, coupled with advances in communications and data analysis technology breakthroughs, can help us overcome traditional bottlenecks and conflicts that have hampered development progress in the past.
CSOs have a right to be proud of their role in drafting the Goals. Even an open invitation to participate can only be properly leveraged if there are concerted and organised efforts to do so and the largest engagement still comes from sensitised communities – participation does not happen automatically. The Goals will serve as a continuing challenge as each country sets about working towards them. For our part we are building out the next chapter of the MY World project to foster ongoing engagement from people and civil society in tracking progress, domesticating the agenda and building accountability networks, inspired by the story of the Goals’ origin which serves as a living reminder and testament to the power of true open participation.