2015 was a critical year for sustainable development and for the future of our people and our planet. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by all UN member states in September represents the most powerful and promising opportunity the world has had to shift development patterns towards more equitable and sustainable pathways. With more and more attention being given to the SDGs by citizens and policy makers of Brazil and the Global South, an underlying question has been raised to us at the RIO+ Centre, the UNDP World Centre for Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro: What motivates national governments to adopt a global agenda? Addressing this question will also help us better explore the incentives countries need to fully implement a global agenda.
This issue was at the centre of the discussions at the inaugural seminar of the 2016 semester of the University of São Paulo’s Political Science Department. Held on 31 March, the seminar was delivered by the Director of RIO+ Centre, Romulo Paes de Sousa, who explored the opportunities for action that arise from Brazil’s position as a global leader for sustainable development. A global agenda, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, represents a unique opportunity for national governments to demonstrate their capacity to support the well-being of their citizens. But, well beyond this, a global agenda is a unique learning opportunity: countries have more incentives to share information and to understand the policies, programmes and strategies that are leading to positive change in other countries. National governments seek references from others on how to address similar or common challenges – and a global agenda serves as the main platform to share, learn and adapt.
The 2030 Agenda, which took effect on 1st January 2016, counts on great political legitimacy, as a universal agenda agreed upon by all 193 member states after an unprecedented global consultation effort. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the most concrete component of the global agenda, respond to a broad call for action by citizens from all over the globe, demanding a comprehensive agenda that covers all dimensions of human existence.
A major advantage of the 2030 Agenda is its progressive approach to development. National governments in the Global South benefit a lot from having a progressive reference in relation to gender, race and ethnic minority issues as well as to tackling inequality and poverty, especially when trying to overcome stigma, prejudice and well-established vested interests from traditionally powerful economic groups. The process of localizing and adapting a global agenda to national circumstances is an opportunity to overcome consolidated barriers to social inclusion and to transform the development path towards sustainable development.
The Agenda 2030 is uniquely progressive and bold, offering to countries in the Global South a powerful reference to motivate local action, encouraging citizens to support and embark on actions that lead more social inclusion, more environmental sustainability and more economic autonomy to citizens and communities alike. National governments in the Global South have now in their hands a unique opportunity to make sustainable development a reality for all, but a determinant success factor will be their ability and commitment to involve their citizens as key players, advocates and supporters of a progressive agenda for the future of humanity and Planet Earth.