This week, four years after they agreed an ambitious set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, world leaders will gather again in New York at a time when the optimism that inspired the Global Goals is in short supply. A nasty tribal populism is spreading, the Amazon is burning, inequality is rising, trust in institutions is crumbling as fake news spreads on social media, and a trade war threatens to trigger a global economic recession.
Yet if the past four years of global upheaval prove anything, it is that the need to achieve the SDGs is greater and more urgent than ever.
What can be done to get the SDGs back on track? In a new report, “Getting to the Global Goals”, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Matthew Bishop sets out a radical yet realistic route to 2030. This is a time for the world’s optimists to unite behind the SDGs, he argues. Incremental changes will not be enough; the world needs substantial, systemic change.
The good news is that proven solutions exist for many of the problems that must be solved. For most of the SDGs the biggest challenge is not finding some breakthrough innovation (though that would be a bonus) but the adoption at scale of what already works. What is needed now, above all, he argues, is bold leadership, in government, in philanthropic and other non-governmental organizations, in business, and throughout society. The clock is ticking.