As the SDG Summit in New York fast approaches, UN SDG Action Campaign Global Director Marina Ponti says that unity in action is the key ingredient to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
The world is now at the midpoint of our journey towards 2030 – the deadline set for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unfortunately, as recently pointed out by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, more than half of the world’s population is currently being left behind despite our pursuit of these ambitious targets. In fact, the recent SDG Progress Report indicates that only a mere 12% of the SDG targets are on track, and progress is slow or insufficient for 50% of them. Over 30% of the SDGs have either stagnated or regressed.
It was not always like this.
During the early years of the SDGs, we saw some positive trends emerge around the world. Extreme poverty and child mortality rates were in retreat. Progress was made in combating diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Some gender equality targets also saw positive results. Meanwhile, access to electricity in the poorest countries was on the increase along with an uptick in the share of renewables present in the energy mix.
However, a significant portion of this progress proved to be fragile, and much of it was too slow. Compounding crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical events such as the war in Ukraine, and climate-related disasters have since worsened those wavering gains. It is clear that the SDGs are in trouble.
But all is not lost. And this year is an opportunity for world leaders, innovators, creatives, individuals, and humanity as a whole, to come together and renew the charge towards achieving our sustainability objectives. There is no question: we must significantly ramp up our efforts, commitments, and global cooperation if we are to fulfill the promise of Agenda 2030. The challenges we face are not insurmountable but addressing them requires a radical shift in our approach.
As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, our role at the UN SDG Action Campaign is to mobilize, inspire, and connect people and organizations worldwide to take action for the SDGs. We believe in turning challenges into opportunities and building the foundation of our sustainable future on hope and unity. That is why we have pioneered global initiatives, such as the #TurnItAround and #FlipTheScript campaigns, which have since mobilized over 350 million SDG actions in 190 countries. It is also why each year we host the UN SDG Action Awards, celebrating those individuals and organizations who inspire, mobilize, and connect their communities with the SDGs through transformative initiatives that scale up climate and social justice efforts around the world. And it is why today we are launching our new UNITE TO ACT campaign, calling on partners, civil society organizations, the private sector, and individuals to join us in reinvigorating our global drive towards a sustainable future for all.
With UNITE TO ACT, we are calling on partners from around the world to help us move the SDGs into real life, for everyone. Real progress depends on transformative action. It must happen across peoples and issues, places and political perspectives. It must be both local and global and happen in war and in peace. Actions must disrupt disparities and end practices that destroy nature and the climate. They must stand up to systems of power that will otherwise keep us mired in conflict and mistrust and trapped in outdated models which yield the same unjust and unsustainable results. Today’s challenges transcend any one person or government or organization. But that does not mean we are powerless as individuals—only that we are more powerful together.
At the UN SDG Action Campaign, we have a profound belief in the ability of humanity to transcend division and unite to act for a sustainable future for all. This is the driving impetus behind UNITE TO ACT – a clarion call for changemakers all around the world to step up, come together, and take a stand at the midpoint of our sustainability journey. The aim of the UNITE TO ACT mobilization is to show world leaders that the time to unite for change is now because the window for a breakthrough to a world that works is still open—but closing fast.
As we stand at this critical juncture in our shared human journey, the call to action is clear – we must unite for change. And to do so, we are calling on partners around the world to join us in committing to SDG actions by registering on our Global Map and telling us what they unite for – whether it is climate action, gender equality, peace and justice, or another of the 17 SDGs that are the roadmap to a better tomorrow.
The Sustainable Development Goals offer a compelling vision of a world that is inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. The path towards this vision is challenging, yet achievable. It requires an unprecedented level of collective effort, commitment, and solidarity. We must rise above the divisions that have long defined our world – divisions between countries, peoples, and issues. Instead, we must weave these lines into a ribbon of unity that binds us together. The SDGs call on us to transform our world, to reset the course from division to unity, from exclusion to inclusion, from crisis to sustainability. Moreover, they are universal, interconnected, and demand boldness from all of us. No goal can be achieved in isolation – gender equality, quality education, decent jobs, environmental protection – these are priorities for everyone, everywhere.
The time to act is now; and we must unite to act.