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The global progress of the Sustainability 2030 Agenda, one SDG at a time

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By illuminem

· 8 min read

On September 18 and 19, the United Nations gathered at the SDG Summit, where world leaders reviewed and recommitted to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing urgent global crises and strategizing for the 2030 target. This summit was vital for reigniting global momentum towards sustainable development, ensuring increased commitment and action to create just societies and maintain ecological balance. Recognizing the profound importance of this gathering, illuminem launched a special campaign, bringing together top-level specialists to discuss each of the SDGs, their progress, challenges, and future actions for a more sustainable world.

Join illuminem for a week-long campaign to review the progress and challenges of each Sustainable Development Goal leading up to 2030.

SDG #1 | No Poverty - State, market and education: the recipe for bringing all humans out of poverty
Erik Solheim, fmr. Minister of Environment of Norway & Head of UN Environmental Program

Asian nations have made remarkable progress in alleviating poverty through government support, responsible capitalism, and an emphasis on education and development. However, more efforts are needed, like integrating strong developmental states, enhancing market structures, implementing education policies, and adopting green solutions.

SDG #2 | Zero Hunger - Can we turn the tide and feed the world by 2030?
Stefanos Fotiou, Director of Sustainable Development Goals at FAO

Food is necessary for more than just sustenance, it is an intrinsic part of the cultural, economic, and environmental fabric of society. Although current food systems are severely unsustainable, they can be transformed by rethinking every aspect from production to consumption, and by ensuring cross-sectoral policies and investments, as emphasized by initiatives like the United Nations Food Systems Summit.

SDG #3 | Good Health and Wellbeing - Two destinations, one path: world leaders must align global climate and development goals this week in New York
Yusuf Jameel & Daniel Jasper, scientists, and policy advisors at Project Drawdown

Climate change is directly linked to human well-being. Solutions simultaneously addressing food security, energy, poverty, and greenhouse gas emissions are crucial, especially in low and middle-income countries, to ensure equitable development and climate resilience. These solutions include climate finance, intersectional interventions, and equitable solutions by global leaders.

SDG #4 | Quality Education - Empowering ASEAN's future: the imperative of quality education for sustainable development
Alex Hong, sustainability expert and LinkedIn Top Voice

Education plays a vital role in fostering growth and ensuring long-term sustainability within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These nations must reaffirm their commitment to SDG4, taking holistic steps under a unified vision of shared regional prosperity and identity to reinforce cooperation, and mutual understanding within ASEAN

SDG #5 | Gender Equality - SDG 5 and the never-ending struggle: unmasking the patriarchy, inequality, and environmental devastation.
Susana Gago, founder of UNAKTI

The SDGs offer a reductionist and isolated approach that overlooks the interconnectedness of global issues, especially SDG5, due to the enduring patriarchal norms and systems. Women need to assume leadership roles to envision new systems and models that honor multiculturalism, localized governance, and nature-based solutions, fostering genuine empowerment, equity, and sustainable development.

SDG #7 | Affordable and Clean Energy - Achieving SDG 7 in the digital age
Riad Meddeb, Director of the Sustainable Energy Hub of the UNDP

Energy and digitalization are heavily intertwined with new technologies playing a central role in sectors like healthcare, education, and climate change. However, challenges such as cybersecurity threats, regulatory confidence, and potential increases in energy demand, require careful assessment and responsible adoption to ensure a sustainable and equitable future.

SDG #8 | Decent Work and Economic Growth - Economic growth on a finite planet: should SDG 8 be rescued?
Wim Naudé, professor at Aachen University in Germany

SDG 8 has drawn much criticism and little success but debates proposing abandoning this goal risk leading to humanitarian and ecological disaster. Qualitative, innovation-driven growth can reconcile development with sustainability. Recent declines in growth highlight the need for innovation and transition to a post-industrial society to sustain economic momentum and tackle global challenges.

SDG #9 | Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure - Deploying SDG 9 despite the headwinds: a leadership blueprint to resilience in chaotic times
Andrea Bonime-Blanc, founder & CEO of GEC Risk Advisory

SDG 9 is essential to solve today’s global challenges. However, there are significant disparities between nations, especially in manufacturing value, and the levels of energy-related emissions. Some solutions proposed include prioritizing inclusive leadership, innovation integration, and organizational resilience, as a way of addressing the serious gap between the current status and the goals in the 2030 Agenda.

SDG #10 | Reduced Inequalities - What should be done to address one of the worst performing SDGs?
Galit Palzur, renowned sustainability economist

Progress on SDG 10 stagnated since COVID-19, exemplified by the fact that 26 individuals hold the same wealth as half the world's population. Addressing this inequality requires holistic approaches that interconnect international frameworks with modern technologies, as well as inequality alleviation through macroeconomic reforms and shifting from GDP-driven growth to equitable development.

SDG #11 | Sustainable Cities and Communities - Enabling African communities with sustainable solutions: working toward SDG 11
Roberto Vigotti, Secretary General of RES4Africa Foundation

SDG 11 poses a significant challenge for African nations; nonetheless, these countries are adopting initiatives on green development, improved infrastructure, green technologies, and renewable energy. African nations must persist in their efforts, empower communities, develop comprehensive policies, enhance infrastructure, and secure more international partnerships in technology and renewables.

SDG #12 | Responsible Consumption and Production - SDG 12, exponential technology, and the future of sustainable development: an integrated approach
Sheri R. Hinish, global leader on sustainability innovation at EY

The role of exponential technologies like AI, IoT, biotechnology, and renewable energy is primordial in enhancing efficiency, resource management, waste reduction, and transparency. To capitalize on these technologies, it’s crucial to address challenges related to equity, access, technological dependency, and ethical considerations by uniting policymakers, technologists, business leaders, and consumers.

SDG #12 | Responsible Consumption and Production - Overconsumption results in climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution
Jef Teugels - lead sustainability advisor and consultant

The progress on the SDGs is lagging, with only 12% on track for the 2030 Agenda. SDG 12 is hindered by increased fossil fuel subsidies, overconsumption crises and worldwide imbalances in resource use and waste management. The UN proposes policy transformations and the need for global reforms and sustainability promotion, but in fact, we need radical systemic changes to achieve sustainability.

SDG #13 | Climate Action - Accelerating SDG 13 through international cooperation for ambitious climate action
Kapil Narula, senior analyst for several UN Agencies

While governments spearhead the fight against climate change, non-state actors, including businesses and civil societies, are pivotal in driving sustainable practices and innovation. As we approach COP 28, international collaboration plays a central role, with the Breakthrough Agenda serving as a catalyst for cohesive action and reinforcing the broader 2030 Agenda.

SDG #13 | Climate Action - Climate action: addressing a wicked problem
James Balzer, Co-Founding Member - Global Foresight Network of the World Economic Forum

Climate change solutions are hindered by politics and special interests, but scientific innovations could steer us towards mitigating impacts that are increasingly apparent and irreversible, as we near the 1.5-degree threshold. COP28 is expected to foster essential discussions and yield resolutions on climate challenges, with youth-led movements and innovative assessment methods at the forefront.

SDG #14 | Life Below Water - Sustainable Development Goal 14, "Life below Water": are we sinking or swimming?
Antoinette Vermilye, Co-founder of the Gallifrey Foundation and also She Changes Climate

Oceans are vital for providing oxygen and regulating climate, but challenges like warming, pollution, and overfishing are impacting both marine and human life. To achieve sustainable ocean conservation by 2030, solutions involving cooperation, innovative conservation, increased funding, and advocacy are necessary, as ocean degradation can lead to irreversible consequences for all life forms on Earth.

SDG #15 | Life on Land - Room to roam: creating the largest transfrontier conservation area on the planet
Rikkert Reijnen
- former executive advisor to ifaw and current director of EarthToday

Biodiversity conservation, highlighted by SDG 15, is crucial for development and survival. In Southern and East Africa, elephants enhance biodiversity and boost local economies. Yet, challenges like habitat loss and poaching threaten their populations. Large-scale connectivity can address this. Political collaboration and community involvement in Southeast and East Africa are vital for success.

SDG #15 | Life on Land - Sustainable Development Goal 15: the all-encompassing goal
Manleen Dugal - independent consultant and advisor for several UN and international agencies

SDG 15 aims to protect terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity which are integral to overall ecological balance and other SDGs. Recent legislation has contributed to reinforcing commitments to biodiversity. However, addressing the leading causes of biodiversity loss such as unregulated agricultural practices and overfishing, requires aligning climate mitigation efforts with biodiversity preservation.

SDG #16 | Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions - Why do companies often treat the notion of human rights like it is a dirty word?
Jenna Nordman - human rights lawyer specializing in ESG, CSR, sustainability, and business

SDG 16 seeks to foster societies that uphold individual rights and protect the vulnerable. However, many corporations prioritize voluntary CSR over mandatory human rights obligations, exploiting weak governance to evade responsibility and prioritize profits. New corporate responsibility laws present a potential solution, holding companies accountable across value chains for human rights breaches.

Stay engaged with illuminem for our ongoing SDG Summit Special Series, where we’ll continue to explore the depths of sustainable development goals and their profound impact on our world!

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