Unemployment, resource scarcity, climate change, food insecurity, environmental degradation, inequity and conflict have for many years signalled the need for radical change in our societies. Now that change is coming. World leaders stepped up to confront these challenges when, on 25 September 2015, they endorsed the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a United Nations summit in New York.
The 2030 Agenda is an ambitious plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. It aims to end poverty and hunger; combat inequalities; build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; protect human rights; promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and ensure the lasting conservation of the environment for the good of every living creature on our common home, Earth.
This new path for humanity has been four decades in the making, begun at the 1972 Stockholm Conference and built upon at the 1992 Rio Summit and the follow-up Rio+20. It is guided by the shared principles of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit, and many other gatherings of great minds who wrestled with how to carve out a better future.
Now the plans are in place, the process of change will accelerate. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and its 17 SDGs officially began on 1 January 2016, as the UN family, nations, businesses, civil society and many others looked to how they can transform the very way we live.
The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals, but they are far more than just the next generation of targets. Sustainable development is a universal aspiration, requiring international cooperation and joint responsibility for a greater common good. In this vein, the SDGS are completely indivisible, representing a new era of thinking in which the world acknowledges everything is connected and that a healthy, functioning environment is central to all of our aspirations.
To bring the change we need, everybody must work to deliver sustainable development with shared prosperity for all, within the ecological limits of our planet. This universal and integrated framework will guide policy decisions at national, regional and international level over the next 15 years. But success hinges on meaningful and open collaboration between and among all countries and stakeholders, and countries creating the conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all.
The UN’s role in this transformation is to assist countries to implement the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda in a balanced and integrated manner. But the challenge has also been set for individuals, communities and businesses at all levels of society. We must all think critically about how we live to play our part.
The United Nations Environment Programme is committed to working with everybody at all levels of society to support the implementation of the SDGs by addressing environmental issues and ensuring a long, healthy future for people and planet.