Are we on track to reach the goals of the UN’s 2030 sustainability agenda?

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) introduced its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all member states. At the heart of this agenda lie 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to offer a blueprint for sustainability, equality, an end to poverty, and the eradication of other deprivations around the world.

Since the agenda came into effect, the UN SDGs have become key focuses for philanthropic entities and social enterprises across the planet. Thanks to the efforts of the UN and its partners, the third sector is now operating within a clear framework that is enabling organisations to maximise their impact, A welcomed progression from decades ago when organisational goals and ambitions were set without a shared direction or vision.

But what does this look like in practice?

Rather than representing a set of disparate targets, the UN SDGs are interconnected. Each goal is designed to complement, and in many cases, strengthen the impact of its counterparts. This is a prime example of the whole amounting to more than the sum of its parts.

Joined-up thinking is especially important as the global community wakes up to the day-to-day realities of climate change and its role in exacerbating inequality, poverty, and other deprivations for communities across the globe. Individuals, organisations and governments are demonstrating a greater willingness to work together to help overcome these challenges, as sustainability evolves from unilateral corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to something that everyone can support at every level.

The Middle East is playing a leading role in this respect. For example, take Scarlett Keyworth, Assistant Head Teacher at Deira International School, who accompanied 40 of her pupils to a Camps International project in rural Kenya in 2022. Working alongside the local community to renovate classrooms, Keyworth says this experience provided her group with important life skills while enabling them to witness the positive impacts of supporting others first-hand.

Photographs courtesy of Daniel Nasri

On a broader level, the UAE designated 2023 as its ‘Year of Sustainability’ as part of a national campaign to inspire a collective commitment to meet environmental challenges head-on and engage in more sustainable behaviours. With initiatives that include the promotion of responsible consumption (SDG #12) through the theme of inherited sustainability, the Emirates is working to protect land and natural resources to ensure a brighter tomorrow for future generations.

Such efforts have a crucial role to play in driving long-term change and, at Camps, we recognise that collaboration is the key to cultivating the socioeconomic leaders of tomorrow. In the same way that the UN SDGs have grown to become more than the sum of their parts, social entrepreneurs around the world must be willing to work together, without ego, to achieve collective goals.

We have less than seven years until the end of the conclusion of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and I think it is safe to say that poverty, hunger and vulnerability are unlikely to be eradicated during this timeframe. More than 200 million people are in need of humanitarian aid across the world, and this figure is continuing to rise.

The contributions of social enterprises, therefore, is more important than ever. Camps International is committed to making meaningful contributions to the global SDGs by designing individual projects in such a way that encompasses multiple goals simultaneously. Take, for example, building and renovating houses, which supports the eradication of poverty (SDG #1) and the promotion of gender equality (SDG #5), as well as the facilitation of decent work and economic growth (SDG #8) and industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG #9). Healthcare and sanitation projects represent another interesting case in point, contributing to clean water and sanitation (SDG #6), poverty alleviation (SDG #1), an end to hunger (SDG #2), quality education (SDG #4) and gender equality (SDG #5). This demonstrates how individual yet well-designed programmes can extend far beyond their surface-level remits to achieve a broad-reaching impact that spans multiple groups and sectors.

There is no room for despondency. We must continue to offer targeted support to assist communities in making a positive difference. By working together towards this shared vision, we can all play a part in building a better world, both in the lead-up to 2030 and beyond.

Stuart Rees Jones, CEO and Founder, Camps International

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