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Changing the World: The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and MSU

Published: Friday, 09 Oct 2015
Author: Joy M Whitten
Department: Latin American Studies Center

The cynic in us may raise an eyebrow at the loftiness of the title.  But just because something is hard doesn't mean we dismiss trying to affect change.    

Ximena Mora is a Humphrey Fellow at MSU and believes we can improve lives for others.  In her home, Ecuador, she is a Corporate Social Responsibility Advisor working as a facilitator between the public and private sectors to build the capacity of citizens and the country as a whole.

Mora recently returned from New York where she attended concurrent conferences at the United Nations and Columbia University on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Mora described why the adoption of the 17 goals was such a historic moment.  Unlike the Millennium Development Goal's, on which the SDGs are based, the SDGs recognize that involvement of all levels of society is critical for fulfillment.  The SDGs represent the integration of government, businesses, non-profits, and citizens from a range of backgrounds working together to make their locality a better place to live.  Also historic, is the Vatican support of the effort.  Pope Francis' speech marked the first time the Catholic Church has explicity supported such a campaign.  Central to the SDGs is to build capacity and knowledge of people in their 20s and 30s to promote innovation and ensure future generations can live sustainably. 

This global effort reflects the work of Mora's career.  In Ecuador, Mora helps businesses align their company plans with the national development goals set by the government to ensure coordinated efforts to improve the living situation of individuals and the national economy.

Throughout her career, Mora has brought together different stakeholders to build capacity and facilitate partnerships to improve local and national economies.  By connecting the low-income to the value chain, small producers have knowledge to improve their yield, negotiate better financial terms and have greater access to domestic and international markets.  With the SDGs, government, businesses, academia, and citizens work to ensure the supply chain has value for all.

Implementation now follows the adoption of the SDGs.  Latin American governments have aligned their development plans with the SDGs.  New York City has incorporated the SDGs with their municipal plan.  Part of implementation is to develop national and local indicators.  National and local areas need to adapt the global measures of progress to their own culture, economic, and capacity contexts. 

Mora asserts that more awareness of the SDGs and the global effort are key to a successful implementation.  In this, academia plays an important role.  Indeed, the SDGs and the Spartan Will campaign share themes.  MSU President Lou Anna Simon charged Spartans to take their work beyond the campus borders.  She challenged Spartans to share knowledge, find solutions that increase prosperity, and create circumstances that enhance and protect the quality of life all over the globe.  Bringing together academic expertise and work in the field is central to the MSU Spartans Will campaign.  Rather than keep ideas and knowledge isolated in an ivory tower, Spartans are charged to seek out ways to practically apply them; to connect with people who live and work in the areas that Spartans study. 

The innovations developed in the private and academic sectors in the developed world need to reach the developing world.  Facebook has announced efforts to bring the Internet to refugee camps.  Columbia University in New York created the EARTH Institute to connect academic counterparts through the Sustainable Development Network and encourage academics to collaborate and become part of the initiative. 

Opportunity awaits.  How will Spartans help the world reach the SDGs by 2030?

United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and well-being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals