The UN set out an ambitious agenda for 2030 last September, but much remains to be done to make this a reality. The need for action to counter climate change has gained impetus, notably through the Paris Agreement but more so during the World Climate Change Conference taking place this December in Poland. However, in many other areas, especially women’s rights, the pledge by the president of the United States to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement has severely weakened the framework laid out by the United Nations.
The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – also known as the Sustainable Development Goals – has gathered considerable momentum in recent years. It embodies an ambitious vision of what the world can and should do in a global context and it galvanises the members of the international community to unite behind a common vision and purpose, albeit at national levels. As representatives of many of the world’s governments, U.N. agencies and civil society have gone to great lengths to align the goals of the 2030 Agenda to areas of critical importance, from gender equality and women’s empowerment to the power of technology to the health and well-being of people and the planet.
For some, the World Climate Change Conference in Katowice is a crucial moment because of the chance to come together and hammer out the details of the Paris Agreement. But in reality, it will lack some of the critical catalysts needed to bring about the profound and transformative changes that are necessary to ensure the long-term well-being of human society.
The UN set out the 2030 Agenda at the post-2015 World Conference on Sustainable Development held in New York City in September 2015. It was an ambitious set of goals outlining a transition away from the polluting and unsustainable global economy to a more inclusive, just and equitable world. Reflecting the challenges that face the world, its goals are grouped into 17 global objectives:
Prevention of neglected tropical diseases
Education for all
Access to water and sanitation
Gender equality and empowerment
Inclusive and sustainable industrialization
Climate action and the conservation of our planet
Durable peace and security
Health and well-being
Ensuring access to quality education and training
Affordable and modern energy
Millions of dollars have been invested in the political, economic and technical activism that has gone into creating the Sustainable Development Goals. Members of the international community have put forward a range of ambitious proposals for action, the most widely cited of which is the goal of universal access to education.
But the technical and financial costs, especially for women and girls, continue to be significant. Fewer than a third of the world’s girls attend secondary school, while the majority of adolescent girls across countries across the world are excluded from basic education, because of gender-based discrimination.
This is why UNICEF is joining the efforts of development partners to highlight how education can help girls and young women overcome barriers to education – and that girls who stay in school and get proper education are more likely to be educated in the first place. Girls and young women around the world face great challenges in achieving that aspiration, including pregnancy, unsafe childbirth, child marriage, trafficking and exploitation, and domestic and sexual violence. And yet it is also clear that as a group, girl and women are an important part of a solution to these challenges. We know that where girls are educated, they also participate in their communities and the economies, they have far greater access to clean water and sanitation, they live healthier lives and their health and well-being are more likely to improve.
A recent innovative campaign by Unicef to engage in conversation with girls from Zambia on its website, takitup, demonstrates the power of online tools to empower girls, as we form a global conversation around the #WeCanForget2030 to encourage young people to assume ownership and influence of their futures, and talk about what can be done to further education and empowerment. The interactive platform allows girls from every corner of the world to share stories and get real-world advice. It is powered by the one thing they all really care about: their education. By using new technology, we can unite communities to take forward a shared vision.