The evening of Sunday August 2nd representatives of 193 countries and several hundred advocates from civil society welcomed a new global vision for the future with euphoric standing ovation. The agreement, “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, includes 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the world. Their approval represents an enormous achievement for humanity, and sets the stage for the next 15 years of struggle to end poverty, achieve gender equality, ensure food security, protect the environment and fight climate change.
The document is a major accomplishment for the United Nations system, which works under the principle of consensus. More often than not, it is difficult to reach consensus when 193 different perspectives are taken into consideration. This agreement is the result of a complex process that lasted 3 years. In the end, the document contains 17 SDGs with 169 targets that will have a deep and broad impact on the lives of billions of people, increasingly populous cities, and the vital ecosystems that sustain life on earth.
ITDP has been involved in this process from the beginning. It was in 2012, at the Rio+20 Conference, that Colombia proposed the creation of the SDGs to supplement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that had been in place since the year 2000. ITDP invested much time and effort in the outcome document of that conference, “The Future We Want”, placing urban issues and the transport sector in the negotiators’ attention. From 2012 to 2013, ITDP participated as a civil society organization in the meetings of the high-level panel set up by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, to devise the new Post-2015/MDG agenda for the UN General Assembly. In the two years since, a nuanced and inclusive process worked to balance concerns of ambition, fairness, measurability and financing mechanisms. Through an iterative process of high-level meetings co-chaired by ambassadors from Kenya and Ireland, the UN General Assembly, the private sector and many experts, including ITDP, an agreement with specific targets is setting the stage for a new era of international development.
Transforming our World is the first document where the transport sector has been included in such a high level, prominent way. The agreement includes specific references to transport in several targets, such as cutting the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents globally by half. There is a Goal dedicated to making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. In addition, the building of resilient and sustainable infrastructure is included in several goals dealing with a range of themes from industrialization and innovation to gender equality and promotion of agriculture.
Now the challenge shifts to finding the means to implement these goals. The UN calculates that it will take over $170 Trillion US dollars to finance these goals in the next 15 years. The road to meet that challenge has just started. With the new agreement’s approval, those working to promote sustainable and equitable transport have one more tool to advocate, request more funding, and hold governments accountable and committed to these goals.