By Lauren Bowen
What Are the SDGs?
In 2000, the United Nations (UN) developed a series of declarations entitled the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the time, all 189 UN member states and a number of international organizations committed to working to achieve these goals, which included everything from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to promoting gender equality. The goals were set to be achieved by the end of 2015. Today, as governments and organizations collectively reach the final months of the MDGs, it’s clear that success has been mixed. Nations achieved only uneven progress – where some made great strides, others were unable to do so.
After strategizing a final push to the MDG finish line, the United Nations formally reconvened in 2012 to pull together some next steps. The result? A new set of goals titled the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that represent a shared commitment to creating a world that is just, equitable, and inclusive, all by 2030. The primary distinction between the SDGs and the MDGs being a renewed focus on the causes of poverty, rather than simply the effects.
The proposed seventeen SDG initiatives are as follows:
- End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
- End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
- Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
- Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
- Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
- Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
- Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable modern energy for all.
- Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
- Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
- Reduce inequality within and among countries.
- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
- Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
- Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
- Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
- Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
- Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
- Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
It’s an exciting time! However, while the general sentiment of the world seems to be aspirational enthusiasm, there are many who have their doubts about the SDGs. Will these goals be just another abstract hope for development? Will there be enough global support to actually make any difference? How can we actually end poverty, for real?
These goals pose a very interesting question for the development sector: Will we continue working as we always have or will we make a change that will accelerate progress toward our collective goals?
Why Do We Care?
First, NetHope was founded on the premise that there is no limit to what the technology sector and international NGOs can accomplish, if they work together. It is because of this foundational belief that we work so hard at NetHope to sustain collaboration between individual groups – whether they be NGOs, government bodies, charitable foundations, or multinational corporations. This mandate enables us to address the deeply-rooted causes of poverty that are buried within the SDGs in a way we never could, had we remained isolated.
Second, we firmly believe that technology – information communications technologies (ICTs) in particular – can accelerate us toward our collective development goals. Technology can provide a massive range of digital products and services that strengthen local economies, local innovation, and local communities. This is hugely important to development work!
Technology can also provide many new opportunities to streamline and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the activities we undertake as individual organizations, regardless of what we do. Lastly, technology can significantly enhance our ability to measure progress toward the SDGs on the whole. Without appropriate measurement capabilities, we will be left unable to determine what is working – unable to learn from our mistakes.
Applying technology to our individual development programs will improve the speed with which we achieve the SDGs, if done so correctly.
How is NetHope responding?
Designed with organizations in mind, NetHope in collaboration with partners Intel, Catholic Relief Services, Microsoft, and CDW, have developed the SDG ICT Playbook: From Innovation to Impact. A resource for organizations working for development, the Playbook guide is both informative and actionable, ensuring that organizations walk away fully prepared to leverage promising ICT tools against these high priority goals. It features a variety of useful resources including a detailed portfolio of technologies we recommend be used to accelerate field work (mobile devices, cloud computing, smart systems, 3D printing and more!), descriptions of how each technology can be applied, and a number of insights on governance, partnerships, and strategies for affordable access.
We’ve worked hard with our sponsors to ensure that the guide is available for free to any and all who would like to make use of it. The full report can be downloaded here!
Stay tuned for our upcoming blog series “NGO Spotlights: Achieving the SDGs Together.” You’ll hear first-hand examples of how our NetHope members are using technology to accelerate their work, day by day.