Cross-Sector Collaboration Key to Sustainable Development

July 27, 2016


It has been almost a year since the United Nations (UN), its member states and millions of citizens around the world came together to reach an agreement on the world’s “to-do list” for the next 15 years.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the global goals, were adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on September 25 of last year.

Earlier in July, the UN hosted its first High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, the first look at the progress made in achieving the goals since the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement were adopted last fall.

As part of the HLPF, 22 countries presented their plans to implement the SDGs. These national voluntary reviews revealed for the first time how governments are integrating the 2030 Agenda at a national level.

Recently I joined a press briefing hosted by our client, the United Nations Foundation, which brought together UN officials, country representatives and the media for a discussion on the HLPF and the progress made towards the implementation of the SDGs.

The participants started the conversation by agreeing that the steps taken towards achieving the global goals will have a direct impact on preventing future atrocities such as the attacks in France, Turkey and Bangladesh, which stem from issues related to poverty, lack of education and inequality.

During the briefing, the participants highlighted the keys to success in achieving the SDGs, including the urgent need to act together.

“There is no way any country in the world can aspire to development or sustainability or prosperity in a vacuum,” said Ambassador Camacho, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Mexico to the United Nations.

They also emphasized how, for the first time through the HLPF, non-governmental groups and members of the civil society have a formal say in how they will help achieve the global goals.

The participants lauded the “early movers” of the private sector, the businesses that have taken ownership and embraced the SDGs. They highlighted the critical role data plays in tracking and ensuring progress toward the goals. Participants agreed that transparency and access to information will be key to building social ownership for the agenda. Additionally, entrepreneurship was hailed as a driving force toward achieving the SDGs, with participants noting how they drew lessons from June’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley.

At home, the Obama Administration is committed to continuing the momentum on the SDGs.

“The President was unequivocal in committing the U.S. to achieve the Goals,” said Anthony Pipa, Chief Strategy Officer at USAID (and former U.S. Special Coordinator for Post-2015 Development Agenda). “It continues to reflect the importance of sustainable development in connecting to the world’s prosperity and security.”

He also noted that the Administration is committed to building partnerships especially with the private sector and mobilizing private capital and other investment to make progress on the goals.

The adoption of the SDGs has been touted as one of the most inclusive processes in the history of the UN. And the UN is serious about keeping all stakeholders involved as we move from adoption to implementation.

Since the doors to cross-sector collaboration and partnership are open like never before, this is an opportune time for our clients – in the public, private and civil-society sectors alike – to engage in and lead conversations around the sustainable development agenda.

Organizations interested in getting involved can start by reviewing the UN Secretary General’s first annual report on the progress towards the SDGs, which provides a global overview of the current situation.

On July 20, the White House hosted a Summit on Global Development to recommit the entire government to the task of implementing the SDGs. Representatives of government, private sector, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations came together for a day of discussion and deliberation.

In addition to the progress made, both efforts highlighted the gaps in achieving the global goals, which could be a starting point for interested actors to identify the most urgent issues and take a leading role in addressing them.

To get inspired, I also encourage you to take a look at the Business for 2030 portal, created by the United States Council for International Business to provide a mechanism for business-led feedback to the UN community about the private sector’s role in implementing the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Almost one full year after the September 2015 adoption of the global goals, there’s still a long way to go. But, with momentum and cooperation across sectors, we are one step closer to achieving a sustainable future in our lifetime.