If the difference in the launch for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from that of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is any indication, the SDGs are on their way to being “famous and popular,” as Global Goals campaign founder Richard Curtis has advocated.
The Global Goals campaign's Project Everyone has set the goal of ensuring that 7 billion people will know about the SDGs within 7 days of their adoption. The stories included in this issue of Linkages Update demonstrate that many other organizations are similarly striving to ensure that their constituencies and stakeholders are at the starting line when the UN General Assembly endorses the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on Friday, 25 September 2015. The stark difference in the awareness and ownership of the SDGs compared with the MDGs – which were embraced by the UN several years after their development – will certainly be something for the international community to celebrate during the 25-27 September UN Sustainable Development Summit.
While the 7 billion in 7 days campaign will reach its deadline on 2 October, the deadline for implementation of the SDGs will stretch over the next 15 years. Awareness raising is an important part of the equation, but the heavy lifting will come next, through a sustained focus on outcomes and results. As guest article author Ahmed Baharoon indicates, “With a scope that ranges from urbanization, infrastructure and standards of governance to income inequality and climate change, achieving the 17 SDGs and their 169 targets will not be easy, and will rely heavily on quality, integrated and comprehensive information as both an agent and monitor of change.”
In addition to knowing what the SDGs address, successful implementation will require information about relevant data as well as the organization of that data into useful knowledge. In our story about the launch of the Kenya HIV Situation Room, we note that Kenyan President Kenyatta stressed that, “What gets measured gets done.” It therefore bodes well for the implementation of the SDGs that many actors are focusing on sustainable development data and knowledge sharing, as revealed in several stories in this issue of Linkages Update. For example, InforMEA, a UN Environment Programme (UNEP)-led project to collect and organize decisions and resolutions from Conferences of the Parties, news, events, multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) membership, national focal points, national reports and implementation plans from MEA Secretariats, recently launched the Law and Environmental Ontology Portal (LEO), which can embed the relationships between MEAs, as well as concepts, definitions and synonyms found in these conventions, into databases.
The fact that 160 Heads of State and Government are expected to participate in the UN Sustainable Development Summit, along with thousands of representatives from governments, businesses and non-government organizations, not to mention many notable cultural icons, indicates that the word has gotten out that the SDGs are THE party not to be missed. The true challenge, of course, will be to channel this energy into the implementation period, from seemingly mundane data collection efforts to scaling up demonstration projects on the ground. The goal for every participant at the Summit should be to return to UN Headquarters in 2030 with announcements like this week's announcement by the World Health Organization and UN Children's Fund, that the world has achieved the MDG on malaria. That will be the real test for whether the SDGs have indeed become famous and popular.