The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. The 17 Goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals. Today, progress is being made in many places, but, overall, action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. 2020 needs to usher in a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Goals by 2030.
SDGs and the Declaration of Human Duties
The connection between the Declaration of Human Duties and the SDGs is twofold.
From the historical viewpoint the Declaration (1994) falls within the sequence of events which ideally started in 1972 with the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth report and the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, followed in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which started a global effort in 2000 to tackle the indignity of poverty. They were later replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world.
The second relationship deals with the ethical foundations of the Sustainable Development Goals. They are certainly deeply rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), but the upraise of the awareness of Duties and Responsibilities as the necessary counterpart of Rights was the major contribution of the Declaration of Human Duties (1994). It is of particular interest to report the start of the United Nations Millennium Declaration: “We, heads of State and Government, have gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 6 to 8 September 2000, at the dawn of a new millennium, to reaffirm our faith in the Organization and its Charter as indispensable foundations of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. We recognize that, in addition to our separate responsibilities to our individual societies, we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As leaders we have a duty therefore to all the world’s people, especially the most vulnerable and, in particular, the children of the world, to whom the future belongs.”