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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

The Global Goals: 5 Years On

Over the last 5 years, we have accomplished incredible feats around the world in making the Global Goals for Sustainable Development highly identifiable and well-known. Of course, this is the first step in the achievement of any agenda - to have a majority of people on board.

However, as we enter the third-way point of this 15-year agenda, it is time to buckle down in what is being called "The Decade of Action".

The Global Goals were signed up to by all 193 United Nation member states on what some affectionately refer to as Global Goal Day, September 25, 2015. The Agenda 'officially' runs from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2030; however, due to the United Nations General Assembly being held in New York each year during September, a lot of the reporting centres around this time of year.

Much like if you showed up at school every single day with a positive attitude but didn't apply yourself to the study, the Global Goals will not be achieved unless we make some big sacrifices in society. We have all been 'showing up at school' over the last five years, tweeting and Instagramming the Global Goals, sharing them with our colleagues, family and friends, plastering them on walls, buses, major landmarks... but all of this needs to come with an actionable plan.

Many organisations around Australia have developed such a plan. Some governments, including local governments, have created a structured plan focused on the achievement of these goals.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of lip-service around sustainable development.

There are a number of targets that nations promised to achieve by 2020, which don't look like they will be achieved over the next few months. These targets are as follows:

Target 2.5: By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed

Target 3.6: By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents

Target 4.b: By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries

Target 6.6: By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

Target 8.6: By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training

Target 8.b: By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization

Target 9.c: Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020

Target 11.b: By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels

Target 12.4: By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment

Target 13.a: Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible

Target 14.2: By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans

Target 14.4: By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics

Target 14.5: By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information

Target 14.6: By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation

Target 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements

Target 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

Target 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

Target 15.8: By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species

Target 15.9: By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts

Target 17.11: Significantly increase the exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the least developed countries’ share of global exports by 2020

Target 17.18: By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts

As you will notice, many of these targets are related to biodiversity, which lines up with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which were agreed upon in October 2010. This framework ran from 2011 - 2020 and agreed on twenty key targets and sixty elements making up these targets to protect biodiversity around the world. Unfortunately, none of these targets or elements is on track to be achieved by the end of the year. In fact, 13 of the elements have seen no progress over the last ten years.

Out of the 21 targets of the Global Goals which relate to outcomes for 2020, only three have been reported in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals Progress Chart for 2020. The Sustainablee Development Goals Report for 2020, however, includes a progress summary for these 21 targets towards the end of the report. This specific section can be accessed here.

Only three targets of these 21 have been achieved or is on track to being achieved. One such target is Target 14.5: Conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas. As of December last year, approximately 17% of national waters and coastlines around the world were protected under national or international frameworks. It is important to note, however, that not each individual country had achieved the 10% (meaning some countries had covered more). While the Global Goals do not necessarily set out this 10% figure as a national framework for all non-landlocked countries, we believe that it is important for each of these countries to achieve 10% protected areas as a minimum figure in order to ensure that no country is left behind in the achievement of this target.

Another target which is on its way to being achieved is Target 8.b: Develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment. While progress to this target has been phenomenal, I am not sure I would go so far as to say this target has been achieved or is on its way to being achieved by December 2020. The United Nations has only been presented 100 youth employment strategies or plans for youth employment strategies. This is approximately 52% of countries. While it is fantastic that over half of member states have achieved this target or have a concrete plan to achieve this target, there are still approximately 93 countries which do not have such plans or have not made them known to the United Nations. It is important that these countries do not get left behind, especially least developed countries and / or countries with high youth unemployment.

Finally, Target 9.c: Increase access to information and communications technology, has been marked off as achieved or on its way to being achieved. This is being celebrated through the acknowledgement that coverage by mobile networks is now nearly universal with an estimated coverage for a minimum of 2G across 96.5% of the global population. These are fantastic statistics; however, it still begs the question - where is the other 3.5% of the population? If the people referenced in this percentage are part of the percentage of people living in extreme poverty or unable to receive an education or constitute people living on the margins, we are leaving our most vulnerable behind. The digital gap between access to mobile and data coverage between city-folk and First Nations peoples living in remote communities in Australia is quite frightening. Ensuring our First Nations people have equal opportunity for success by being connected to mobile and data networks is a great step towards the achievements of other targets such as education, employment and eliminating poverty.

Some of the targets had no progress towards their achievement whatsoever and should be treated as a matter of priority within their goals. These targets include the following:

Target 3.6: Halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents

Target 8.6: Reduce the proportion of youth not engaged in employment, education or training

Target 14.2: Protect and restore marine and coastal ecosystems

Target 14.4: Restore fish stocks to sustainable levels

Target 15.5: Protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

Target 17.11: Increase the exports of developing countries and double the share of LDC global exports

Each of the other targets achieved at least some progress or an aspect of that target saw progress. The reporting for Target 13.a: Jointly mobilize $100 billion annually for developing countries for climate change mitigation, is currently on hold as data still needs to be collected on this.

As a matter of urgency, many of these targets need to be addressed by governments around the world. We will never be able to achieve the other 148 targets if we are still lagging behind on our 2020 targets.

If you are an organisation working on any of these targets, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us to tell us about your project and how we may be able to help.

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