Sustainable Development Goals:"Transforming our World" with Innovation

Eng. Maritza VARGAS
Independent Environmental and Sustainability Consultant
WATER: Hydroelectric Power
On September 25th, 2015 at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit was adopted the resolution named “Transforming our world: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”1 including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice,
improve health and education, achieve economic growth with decent work, provide clean energy, water and infrastructure, create sustainable cities, protect the natural environment and biodiversity and tackle climate change in an atmosphere of peace and justice.

70 years after the foundation of the United Nations this historical resolution was taken by over 190 world leaders in New York as “universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world” in the words of Secretary general Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

The 17 SDGs are continuing the work set on this way fifteen years ago by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)2, which in September 2000 rallied the world around a common 15 years agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty and hunger, particularly over the most vulnerable citizens: children and women.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS and Malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

With the Millennium Development Goals for the first time the world came together around a common and simple goal agenda. The 8 MDGs were supported by 21 targets and 60 indicators to monitoring its achievement in a measurable way that underpinned progress on poverty reduction, health, education, access to water and sanitation and global partnerships in many parts of the world. The UN has called the MDG “the most successful antipoverty movement in history” since most of the goals were attained. For instance, it can be claimed that the MDG 1 -“Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”- was achieved moderately, since it is a fact that poverty has been reduced from 1,926 million people living in extreme poverty in 1990 to 836 million around the world this year 2015. Regarding MDG 2 - “Achieve universal primary education”- there were 100 million of children in school age out of school in the year 2000 and there are 57 million of children out of primary school in 2015. However, whether these achievements were a consequence of the MDGs implementation or the result of a huge economic growth in emerging countries, like China and India, and soared GDP in oil-producing developing countries due to unprecedented high global oil prices, it could be the theme for another article.

Yes, in general the MDGs were partially attained, but some skeptics could say that we are still way behind with some of the goals, for example the MDG 3 – “Promote gender equality and women empowerment”- since 90% of countries have more women in parliament now than in 1995, conversely the rate of female vs males is still minimum. And even worst, the inequality in labor market is a global embarrassment, since gender wage gap is still present all over the world, in most of the cases as a consequence of discrimination and ineffective government policies. Upon The Economist, March 5th 2015 “The glass-ceiling Index”, the smallest disparity gender wage gap is found in New Zealand where females earn 5.6% less than their males colleagues.

The new 17 SDGs build upon the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals and seek to address their unfinished business going further and addressing the root causes of poverty and targeting world’s people aspirations for peace, justice, wellbeing and prosperity while preserving our planet. We have learned that there is plenty of room for action to achieve the SDGs, to balance the three pillars of sustainable development: environmental protection, social progress and economic growth, and innovation can be the key for new policies and to apply technology as a tool to fight poverty and carve the future we all want for our planet.

WIND: Eolic Energy

Innovation is embedded on the 17 SDGs. It is not only part of SDG number 9 focused in Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure, but innovation can be also applied to the 16th other goals.

Innovation in the context of sustainable development means aiming for the equilibrium of green economic growth, social justice, equity and environmental protection in a new and Eco-innovative way.

Innovation is to go beyond traditional understanding to tackle poverty, lack of energy and sanitation, health care and education. It is to seek for a window of business opportunities in the market that could lead to the development of technologies that contribute generating more jobs and wealth in a greener economy, with zero waste, efficient use of resources, dematerialization, clean and affordable energy.

Working around a green economy, we will be creating sustainable cities supported with the necessary infrastructure to provide clean energy, water, transportation, communication, green spaces for recreation, education, sanitation and ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages.

Social innovation means changing lifestyles or patterns of consumption, which, associated with Eco-innovation and applied to products and services, can lead to green production and green consumption, and as a result, achieving SDG 12. Social innovation also means to work on a new societal mindset to accept all human beings as equal with no difference of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, origin, disability or economic/social status. All humans should enjoy freedom, equality, inclusion and security, as it is expressed on the SGD 10 targets.

Environmentally oriented innovations can contribute to the mitigation and adaptation of climate change and to the clean up, protection, conservation and sustainable use of oceans seas and marine ecosystems. Furthermore, innovation and technology can help immensely to the protection, restauration and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, combating desertification, land degradation and halting biodiversity loss. There are many advances on data collection and analysis of indicators for monitoring and evaluation of vulnerable ecosystems and fragile populations for conservation programs.

Innovative Research and Development can accelerate the race to achieve the SDGs in many areas, such as in education, health, water and energy, for example by increasing the efficiency in production and distribution of clean energy, or in agriculture developing new modern methods to maximize yields, boost food security and promote business among small farmers.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon said:“the 17 SDGs will chart a new era of Sustainable Development in which poverty will be eradicated, prosperity shared and the core drivers of Climate Change tackled”.

Now is our turn to make them happen, we should plan and take actions to achieve the 17 SDG. Otherwise, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: "A goal without a plan is just a wish"

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