An Action Agenda For Sustainable Development: Network Issues Report Outlining Priority Challenges
June 6, 2013, NEW YORK – A new report issued today by a top-level United Nations knowledge network under the auspices of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lays out an action agenda to support global efforts to achieve sustainable development during the period 2015-2030.
“The post-2015 process is a chance for the global community to work towards a new era in sustainable development,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The latest report from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the result of a collaboration between top scientists, technologists, businesses, and development specialists, is a critical input to the work we are doing to shape an ambitious and achievable post-2015 agenda.”
The report, entitled “An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development,” was delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (or SDSN). It outlines 10 sustainable development priorities, covering the four main dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth and the end of poverty, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and good governance.
The Secretary-General created the SDSN to bring together academia, civil society, the private sector, and development practitioners from all parts of the world. The Leadership Council of the SDSN consists of dozens of top global thinkers and development leaders from all regions, rich and poor countries alike.
“It is a great honor for the Leadership Council of SDSN to deliver this new report to the UN Secretary General,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the SDSN and head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which hosts the secretariat of the network.
The report is available online, and an earlier draft has already received thousands of comments from around the world. The council welcomes worldwide discussion of the report, and particularly invites comments from young people. “This report, after all, is about their future,” Sachs said.
“UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is mobilizing global action around the greatest challenge of our time: sustainable development,” Sachs said. “It is no longer good enough for economies to grow. We must also end extreme poverty, a goal within reach by 2030. We must manage the economy to protect rather than destroy the environment. And we must promote a fairer distribution of prosperity, rather than a society divided between the very rich and very poor.”
By many measures, the world is a long way from sustainable development. Many poor countries do not grow adequately, and extreme poverty remains widespread. Humanity is dangerously changing the climate, depleting fresh water supplies, and poisoning the air and water. Most economies are becoming less equitable as well, with widening gaps between the rich and poor. And conflicts remain widespread, with the world’s poorest regions being most vulnerable to violent outbreaks.
To help get the planet back on course, the world’s governments agreed last year at the Rio+20 Summit to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. The world’s governments asked the UN Secretary-General to coordinate the preparation of these goals by the year 2015 to make a seamless transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A crucial meeting of the UN General Assembly will take place on Sept. 25, 2013 for this purpose.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has put into motion several high-level processes to help devise the SDGs that will have maximum benefit for humanity during the years 2015-2030. First, there is a large outreach of global discussion being led by the UN itself. Second, there are intensive negotiations among governments as called for by the Rio+20 Summit. Third, there is a High-Level Panel of political leaders that has recently issued its report.
In its report, the SDSN has identified 10 priority challenges of sustainable development:
- End extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve development and prosperity for all without ruining the environment
- Ensure learning for all children and youth
- Achieve gender equality and reduce inequalities
- Achieve health and wellbeing at all ages
- Increase agricultural production in an environmentally sustainable manner, to achieve food security and rural prosperity
- Make cities productive and environmentally sustainable
- Curb human-induced climate change with sustainable energy
- Protect ecosystems and ensure sound management of natural resources
- Improve governance and align business behavior with all the goals
These 10 priorities can form the basis for the SDGs that would apply to all countries during the years until 2030.
Well-crafted Sustainable Development Goals will help guide the public’s understanding of complex sustainable development challenges, inspire public and private action, promote integrated thinking, and foster accountability, the report said. The SDGs will complement the tools of international law, such as global treaties and conventions, by providing a shared normative framework. Children everywhere should learn the SDGs, Sachs said, to help them understand the challenges that they will confront as adults. The SDGs will also mobilize governments and the international system to strengthen measurement and monitoring for sustainable development.
“The world has at its disposal the tools to end extreme poverty in all its forms by the year 2030 and to address the sustainable development challenges outlined in this document,” Sachs said. “If the world mobilizes around a shared agenda for sustainable development and ambitious, time-bound Sustainable Development Goals, then rapid, positive change on the required scale is feasible, thanks to rising incomes and unprecedented scientific and technological progress. And, we can indeed be the generation that ends extreme poverty, ensures that all people are treated equally, and stems the dangerous climate and environmental risks facing our planet.”
Statements of support from Leadership Council members (to read all the statements, please click here)
Irene Agyepong, Regional Director of Health for Greater Accra (Ghana):
“I am delighted that Universal Health Coverage has been given a seat at the table. In 1992 when in Ghana, several colleagues and I started research on whether some kind of health insurance mechanism (regardless of whether funded through general taxes, special taxes, premiums or a combination) could be feasible, equitably improve access to good quality primary health care and protect poor households from the impoverishing effects of out of pocket user fees; many discussions were skeptical. It is refreshing twenty years on to see how much has changed in country as well as globally, and the shift in dialogue. A chance is being held out to try and make a difference and we need to take it.”
Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, (Switzerland):
“Under the leadership of Jeffrey Sachs, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has exemplified that the best way of tackling sustainable development challenges is through collaboration between all stakeholders. It is crucial to see business take a key role in the SDSN process, and in turn, to witness such enthusiasm on the part of the private sector to contribute meaningful business solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals. The early involvement and robust engagement of the private sector raises the potential for implementation of the recommendations. I encourage governments to demonstrate clarity of leadership and agree on an ambitious set of SDGs soonest, as this will provide the framework that can facilitate the implementation of the solutions offered by business at a scale and speed of impact that our societies and planet so badly needs.”
Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council (USA):
“This report represents an major contribution to the UN’s discussion of a post-2015 development agenda. The SDSN’s Leadership Council breaks important new ground by making clear we must recognize and respect planetary boundaries if we are to eliminate extreme poverty and achieve other critical priorities. The report highlights the urgent need to cut carbon pollution and proposes that one of the UN’s 2015 goals explicitly addresses the need to curb climate change. It also calls for new goals to protect forests, oceans, and other critical natural systems and to assure our cities are environmentally sustainable and resilient. The report is a clarion call that the time for action at all levels of society is now if we are going to secure a bright future for our children.”
David Berry, Partner, Flagship Ventures (USA):
“The Sustainable Development Solutions Network Report represents an exceptionally important and valuable piece of work pointing in an addressable way towards achieving some of the world’s most important goals. The paths and approaches identified are poised to play a central role in advancing the quality of life across the board. This report is a landmark in transitioning to an action-oriented path for tackling global sustainability in its many facets, and giving business leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, governments, and academics alike a solid, fundamental handle upon which to foster meaningful development.”
Joshua Castellino. Professor of Law and Dean, School of Law, Middlesex University (UK):
“The approach taken in this report represents genuine engagement with the pressing issues at the forefront of every future global planning process. The report highlights the risks attendant to the Business as Usual scenario, drawing on cutting edge research to emphasize its inherent dangers. Yet, instead of being paralyzed by global prospects concerning planetary boundaries, it addresses these concerns as challenges, and draws on state of the art science and policy to construct pragmatic alternatives. Bold change undertaken between now and 2030 will make a material difference to the prospects of future generations. We owe it to them and to ourselves to put the approaches identified here into global policy, boldly facing up to the immense challenges ahead, while making sure that the protection that will flow is accessible to the most vulnerable populations amidst us.”
Achim Dobermann, Deputy Director General for Research, International Rice Research Institute (Philippines):
“We live in a rapidly changing world in which many people have been left behind or are at great risk. Despite the huge challenges ahead, I believe that inclusive growth can be achieved once everyone on Earth is willing to embrace the pillars of sustainable development. The report of the SDSN Leadership Council provides a clear framework for that. It conveys a sense of urgency, but it also lays out an exciting action agenda for change at all levels, from policy makers to businesses and consumers. The report recognizes the central role of agriculture and rural development for achieving many of the post-2015 development goals, including eradicating poverty and hunger in our generation. There are clear solutions to most of the world’s problems. I hope that we can quickly move on to concrete action, applying the best science and technology available and systematically removing political, economical and social barriers to change.”
Christiana Figueres, Executive Director, UNFCCC (Germany):
“The year 2015 is a crucial next step for creating sustainable development and addressing climate change. Increasing action on climate change with ambition and determination is key to sustainable development. The report of the Leadership Council of the SDSN provides solution-oriented recommendations that acknowledge and account for this. I welcome the report and hope it helps guide the climate change and sustainable development action agendas because future generations are counting on us to provide a stable model for sustainable growth.”
Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO, CARE (USA):
“The SDSN report makes clear that if we as a global community are serious about ending extreme poverty in all its forms and building a more just, equitable and prosperous world for us all that business as usual is not an acceptable option. Drawing on a diverse group of experts from key sectors, the report lays out a comprehensive framework. At its core are many of the values and approaches that align with our work at CARE, such as equality and human rights (with a special emphasis on gender equality), inclusive and sustainable economic growth, economic and social development (including access to the basic building blocks of education, adequate and nutritious food, healthcare and economic opportunity) as well as a shared responsibility to live within the planet’s limits and the need to address the impacts of climate change, particularly on the poor. The report also emphasizes the importance of good governance and public participation, particularly by women, to achieving social, environmental and economic progress. Now we must mobilize the political will to put these recommendations in practice.”
Israel Klabin, President, Brazilian Foundation for Sustainable Development (Brazil):
“The SDSN report brings hope to an urgently needed change of direction in a world of overlapping crises. The ten priorities itemized in the report induces to a search for solutions for a more humane, resilient, and sustainable world (…) The large picture into which the world should redesign its future has to take into consideration planetary boundaries, which have been ignored by the present model of economic growth. The need to change ways of production and consumption are pointed out as the leverage for the reorganization of the economy. The proposal of the SDSN report implies that the essential tools for a sustainable planet should be enterprises, academia, and innovation and indicates a world network interconnecting the project with those who are going to implement it.”
Barbara Kux, Member of the Managing Board, Siemens AG (Germany):
“The SDSN report shows that the scale of the global sustainability challenge is difficult to exaggerate. The good news is that 70 percent of the climate problem can be solved by applying existing technological solutions. The role of corporations in this is pivotal by being good role models for sustainability in the developed but also in the developing world.”
Frannie A. Léautier, Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (Zimbabwe):
“The SDSN Report eloquently provides a credible basis for resolving the challenges we face at a global scale. The Network’s collective voices and knowledge are a foundation for generating localised innovative solutions for sustainable development. These solutions provide an important framework for concrete and lasting poverty reduction, for equitable and inclusive development and with self-reinforcing economic growth. This approach is important for Africa as it reaffirms ownership of development initiatives and solutions. The African Capacity Building Foundation supports the report and sees particular synergies with its university partnerships and networks of think tanks for sharing practical lessons on the ground. A networked approach to solutions reinforces the realization that challenges are inherently interconnected. The environment affects our food security; conflict and sickness affects our human capacity and institutions; lack of education breeds a sense of national instability leading to fragility. The report makes these important connections that clearly show that solutions can be found if we work jointly with a sense for results and impact.”
Klaus M. Leisinger, Chairman, Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development and Professor of Sociology at the University of Basel (Switzerland):
“The Action Agenda for Sustainable Development is a state of the art compendium of today’s obstacles to sustainability and a road map to a “future we want”. The Action Agenda is the result of the deliberations of some of the best brains dealing with the challenges that limit future generations’ freedom of action and scope of choice and it covers all priority challenges. While many voices are heard that “business as usual” trajectory is not an option, the SDSN Action Agenda goes much further and shows the roadmap to sustainability.”
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (Switzerland):
“IUCN welcomes the report of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. As we work together to craft universally applicable Sustainable Developments Goals, the report shows real-life examples that put the concept of sustainable development into practice. As the voice of nature on the international stage over the past 60 years, IUCN applauds the inclusion of goals that speak to the role of biodiversity and ecosystem services for sustainable development and poverty reduction. The endorsement of these goals will strengthen the international commitments already made by governments, and will put nature firmly into the broader development framework.”
Vladimir Mau, Rector, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (Russia):
“The Action Agenda for Sustainable Development has emerged through a process of expert advice and public consultation to set in motion international development projects, linked in their objectives and supported by a large multinational well networked community. We aim to promote solutions to social exclusion and gender inequality, to support health and wellbeing, and to decouple growth from the use of non-renewable resources, as urbanization swells the demand for energy, and to ensure survival of vital ecosystems, now being threatened or destroyed. The Action Agenda reflects a strong consensus among world leaders, which I share, that linking local projects to each other and to a vision of sustainable development is the way forward.”
Claude Nahon, Executive Vice President for Sustainable Development, EDF Group (France):
“The work accomplished is offering a unique and tangible opportunity to create a path to peace for our planet. The report is particularly innovative in the quality and applicability of its outcomes and in that it brings together all the stakeholders who share the same vision and commitment for a sustainable, equitable and stable growth under Jeffrey Sachs’s leadership and guidance. The strength and originality of this Network relies on its diversity, on its leadership and capacity to change current global development.”
Rebecca Nelson, Professor, Cornell University (USA):
The SDSN report recalibrates the development agenda for government, business, academia and everyone else. Building on the success of the Millennium Development Goals, the proposed Sustainable Development Goals are more inclusive in the challenges they articulate and the stakeholders they implicate. The report provides a wake-up call with its vision of where we are headed if we proceed with business as usual, and a vision for a world in which we seize the wheel and pull hard, together, in the right direction. I’m delighted that it explicitly addresses the need to move the world’s diverse farming and food systems towards greater sustainability. Given that agriculture occupies over a third of the world’s surface and feeds most of its inhabitants, we must steer it with new vigor onto sustainable trajectories. Progress towards the targets set will advance the world towards several of the other crucial goals.
Antonio M.A. Pedro, Director, UN Economic Commission for Africa, Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa (Rwanda):
“The Future We Want Outcome Document of Rio+20 reminds us of the urgency of taking action now to eradicate extreme poverty, change our unsustainable consumption and production patterns, and promote sustainable development within the boundary limits of our planet Earth. If we don’t act now, we will have The Future We Don’t Want — one characterized by severe impacts of climate change, inequality, resource stress, jobless growth, social exclusion, conflicts, and disaster. The SDSN Action Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a practical and results-oriented blueprint for a post-2015 development agenda and goals which will yield a brighter future for all, anchored on the four dimensions of sustainable development. This resonates well with the interests of Africa and the entire world.”
Labode Popoola, Professor of Forest Economics & Director Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Ibadan (Nigeria):
“If Africa, and indeed the rest of the world, is to achieve and sustain true transformation, growth, and development, then a productive and purposeful synergy is required among all stakeholders. The SDSN’s Action Agenda, strongly based on its work with universities, is an excellent framework for sustainable development. I congratulate Professor Jeffrey Sachs and his team for this game changing report.”
Aromar Revi, Director, Indian Institute for Human Settlements (India):
“Since the start of the new Millennium, the global community has been waiting for an inclusive development framework that would embrace the rich, poor and vulnerable alike from low- to high-income countries. This SDG framework put together by the SDSN is an important first step in building a global consensus on non-negotiable early 21st century goals for humanity. Many are within our grasp: ending extreme poverty; universal learning and health access; agricultural & nutrition security; empowering inclusive, productive and resilient cities. Others are more audacious: transformative governance, addressing climate change and achieving this within the operating envelope that our planet provides us. The challenge is to build the political, citizen and corporate momentum to commit to these entitlements, raise the resources, build the institutions and processes to implement these outcomes by 2030 for the poorest and most disempowered people in our world.”
K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India (India):
“Helping every global citizen to gain and preserve good health and wellbeing at all stages of a long and productive life is integral to the vision of sustainable development in the 21st century. Universal Health Coverage is an essential pathway for attaining this goal, along with multisectoral actions on the multiple social, economic and cultural determinants of health which will enable people everywhere to make and maintain healthy living choices. The report of SDSN makes a strong case for promoting health in all dimensions, with a strong focus on equity, removal of financial barriers to access to health services and concerted global action on major killers to substantially reduce preventable deaths at all ages. The report should help the Member States to design an integrated framework for sustainable development when they set out to define the post-2015 goals for human development and planet protection.”
Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, (USA):
“Cities are leading not only in climate change, but in sustainable development. The unique combination of human enterprise, cultural diversity, and the right of leader-citizen engagement mean that cities are the essential element to achieve sustainable development goals.”
David Satterthwaite, Senior Fellow, International Institute for Environment and Development (London):
“The Action Agenda for Sustainable Development really does combine development (including ending extreme poverty) with shared responsibilities that respect planetary boundaries (especially curbing human-induced climate change). It moves beyond the MDGs by requiring universal coverage – for, for instance, food security, health care, education, water and sanitation. It also fully recognizes the importance of strong rural and urban sustainable development paths and how much sustainable development depends on getting city governments to act on all its goals. And it recognizes how much this depends on a real engagement with those that are usually excluded so their needs and priorities are central to the SDGs.”
Paolo Scaroni, CEO, eni (Italy):
“Eni welcomes the UN SDSN’s Action Agenda for Sustainable Development, and expresses its deep gratitude to the inspiring leadership of professor Sachs, his remarkable team and the other members of the Network Leadership Council for the extremely valuable debate, which led us to such recommendations. This new development framework reinforces the role of forward-looking business leaders in fostering a social and economic development that, while respecting the environment and promoting human rights, contributes to peace and stability. As a company involved in a business with very long investment cycles, we know that sustainability must be embedded in our strategies. We believe this is a fundamental condition for a company in order to be given its license to operate by society. We also believe that the vision outlined in the Action Agenda cannot be achieved without the involvement of all parties. We are ready to play our role for the future we all want.”
Vania Somavilla, Executive Director of Human Resources, Health and Safety, Sustainability and Energy, Vale (Brazil):
“The recommendations of SDSN Report in terms of Sustainable Development Goals and Indicators, produced under the direction of Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs, with direct and indirect inputs from a myriad of top-notch representatives of all sectors, provide a much needed framework for the achievement of sustainable development within planetary boundaries, helping us to effectively address the necessary synergies between the public and private sectors. Investing in sustainable development in a more inclusive sense is a requirement for governments, policymakers, private companies and civil society in order to build a favorable environment to achieve “The Future We Want”, as advocated by the outcome document of Rio+20.”
John Thwaites, Chair, Monash Sustainability Institute (Australia):
“The Action Agenda prepared by the SDSN sets out a very useful roadmap for navigating the challenges of Sustainable Development and framing the Sustainable Development Goals. The Action Agenda makes it clear why sustainable development is a global imperative and how a structured set of goals and targets can assist all countries develop while at the same time respecting and supporting the environment that sustains us. The SDSN brings together experts and representatives from a wide range of universities, research institutes, private companies and civil society. The fact that this broad grouping has been able to reach a consensus on priorities, potential goals and targets is a cause for optimism that the countries of the world can come together and agree on a more sustainable course.”
Hans Vestberg, President and CEO Ericsson (Sweden):
“The work of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is vital for one reason – too few sustainability initiatives have focused on the importance of transformative solutions. There is increasing recognition that ICT can play a role in improving socio-economic development, creating low carbon economies, and governance and transparency, not to mention enabling billions of people to communicate and collaborate. We are entering a new era where the private sector will solve problems, and create new business models. As a member of the SDSN Leadership Council, I strongly believe that we can mobilize leaders from academia, business, civil society, and other development organizations to promote problem solving and practical solutions for the pressing challenges of sustainable development. The focus on solutions that show the potential of technical and business innovation should not be under estimated – and clearly a win-win in a time where global challenges have never been greater.”
Soogil Young, Professor of Green Growth and Sustainable Development, KDI School of Public Policy and Management (Korea):
“The Action Agenda for Sustainable Development prepared by the Leadership Council of SDSN under the inspiring leadership of Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, its Director, proposes ten sustainable development goals which, when pursued in an integrated way, with each contributing to all three dimensions of sustainable development and good governance simultaneously, promise to make global sustainable development attainable. In the report, the Leadership Council further identifies three targets geared to each goal, with each target so defined as to be susceptible to practical, science-based solutions. For this reason, I believe that this report by the SDSN Leadership Council marks an important breakthrough in the long-stalemated discussion of sustainable development by showing the pathways to sustainable development and thus debunking the widely-held defeatist notion that sustainable development is no more than a declaration of moral values and defies practical solutions. It is now for the SDSN to look for the solutions and pathways. How exciting!”