SDGs and the role that we can play

This past Saturday, I attended the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Training at Western University. I went into the event thinking that it was going to be a small group and that people were not going to be interested in it but rather they were going for the certificate that was awarded at the end of the workshop.

Well, I was wrong. The event had around 450 people and tickets were sold out. Further, the line of speakers and the insights that were provided were excellent that I wish more people would have had the chance to attend. I believe that everything that happened at this event was very important for people to know; hence, I felt the need to write this little article/overview to share what I learned at this workshop.

SDGs are for the people

The event was presented by Steve Lee, Executive Director for the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship (FES). Steve, only 24, has already done so much as a climate change activist, policy advocate at the UN, and as a speaker that I was blown away by his workshop.

Steve began by noting the SDGs are for the people and that we should look at why and how to implement them. There are three (3) pillars to this that were established in 1972: Social, Economic, and Environment Pillars. After providing the overview about these pillars, Steve noted that in 2015, 17 goals were adopted under the Agenda 2030, which can be found here.

One important point made by Steve, which resonated a lot with me, and thus the reason why I am writing this, was that these goals are for young people to take action and to help develop them.

Steve mentioned that sustainable development has gone through a slow path up until these past couple of years. In fact, sustainable development initiatives have taken off, and thus, we are in a crucial moment to take action and to help implement and develop the SDGs.

But, how do we achieve the 3 pillars?

There are five (5) Ps to consider within the Agenda 2030. These include: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships. I cannot stress how important these Ps are to create a balance that provides useful and necessary conditions to work towards the three (3) pillars.

The 17 Goals

Each goal adopted in 2015 has a different vision, mission, and target. Since I just want to give you an overview of this workshop and about the SDGs, I am not going to go over each single goal. However, I will give you some details about what I found to be interesting points.

Goal #6, Clean Water and Sanitation: Open defecation is a major issue that this goal addresses. For example, if open defecation is ended in India, almost 34% of rapes could end. Since people have to go outside to “do their business,” their chances of being attacked and/or raped are higher. Thus, by providing people with a safe and closed space to go to the bathroom would help reduce rape, which is a pressing issue in so many countries, such as India.

Goal #13, Climate Change: Steve’s organization, FES, focuses a lot in this goal. In fact, the are working on the 3% Project, which seeks to mobilize 1,000,000 young Canadians (which represents 3% of Canada). This project seeks to empower that 3% and to motivate them to take action against climate change. You can find more information about this project here.

I hope that by this point you have had a look at the goals because I am going to make you do the same exercise that Steve made us do.

  1. What is your primary goal and two secondary goals?
  2. What is the most relevant goal and the least relevant goal to your three goals?

For me, my primary goal is Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities; and my two secondary goals are Goal #5: Gender Equality, and Goal #16: Peace, Justice, and StrongInstitutions.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and as racialized minority, I feel that by reducing inequalities and by working towards the inclusion of everyone is very important for working towards developing the other 16 goals. As noted in goal 17, partnerships are necessary for the success of sustainable development. Thus, if we do not respect each other, I believe that achieving these goals would be a harder task.

“I invite you to do the same and to promote the 17 goals”

I won’t go into much more detail about my goals. However, I do invite you to do this exercise, either at home or at work.

Promoting the SDGs

Now that we have gone through the SDGs the question becomes: how can you help to promote them!

Steve noted that there are 3 parts to this process: Advocacy, University Engagement, and Policy Advocacy. I will focus mostly on advocacy since it is the one that I believe all of us can partake in.

If you are reading this, then you already have what is necessary to advocate for the SDGs, which is social media. Sharing the SDGs with your friends and talking about them are good ways to show others what these goals are.

A different approach is the World Cafe. Rather than “goaling-up” to people and telling them to do something, the world cafe approach seeks to make people come to you and ask you about something that you are promoting. In other words, it looks at drawing people to talk to you.

However, it is not just about telling people about the SDGs once and hope that they will promote them and work towards developing them. The SDGs need brand establishment and brand recognition.

If the SDGs are something that matters to you, and if you want to seem them succeed, then you have to remind people about them. In order to do so, the introduction of them has to be personal by making people feel comfortable and interested in what you are promoting.

Yet, that is not all. After the you have introduced the SDGs, you need a wide-reach repetition approach to make everyone aware of them. The example provided by Steve was Coca-Cola. The brand has been recognized through repetition, and by now, I believe that everyone knows what that brand is. Thus, my and your goal is to make the SDGs become a recognized brand that does not need a detailed explanation for people to take action.

“If you don’t, no one will”

It was this part that made me take action and write this piece, because if I don’t do it and hope for someone else to write it, chances are that it probably won’t happen.

Here is where young people can play an important role. If you are a student or if you work in a university setting, help promote the SDGs on campus. Some examples that were provided included: adding a student fee for the SDGs, promoting workshops around campus, and examining university policies.

If you are a student and you think that promoting the SDGs on campus would be a hard task, I can tell you that it is not. When I was a student, I took action to promote academic rights on campus. I joined different committees at the University level where I promoted and defended the rights of students. I also worked towards promoting academic awareness by working with the students’ union. I was interested in those issues so I sought different ways to get engaged and to work towards my goals. There are more avenues for you to take action and to promote the SGDs. What I am trying to get at is that it is possible for you to do it as well.

We all have some resources that we can use to develop the SDGs. This is a bottom-up process, and thus, it is us who need to take initiative to promote towards achieving these 17 goals. For example you can use the hashtag #CANYouth4SDGs to share your thoughts about these goals. You can also go to to enroll in this initiative.

Source: Linkedin