Sir Ken Robinson, a famous author and educator, while talking about The Global Goals for Sustainable Development said, “We only have one planet. We have nowhere else to go. If we use our creative powers properly we don’t need anywhere else. If we take care of it, and each other, everything we need is right here.”

From MDGs to SDGs:

The Millennium Development Goals were adopted in 2000 by the United Nations as the global ambition to reduce extreme poverty by 2015. They were divided into 8 goals, each tackling a key area of development: – poverty, education, child mortality, gender equality, maternal health, disease, environmental protection, and global partnerships. Progress was uneven. Millions of people were not reached by the MDGs. One possible reason for the uneven progress is that the level of global awareness for the MDGs remained low with a little popular drive to monitor and accelerate progress.

There was a need to introduce a new framework for the development of 193 members of the United Nations. The United Nations conducted the biggest public consultation in its history to ask which issues should be included in the Goals. It was agreed that 17 Goals were needed in order to accommodate people’s views. That way the correct focus will be placed on the areas that are essential for creating a sustainable future for all.

In 2015, a new development plan was created. This built on achievements of the previous goals and learned from the shortcomings. In September 2015, all 193 members of the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals or popularly known as Global Goals. It is easier to say and more “friendly” so it is used to help connect and engage people with them. This “Agenda for 2030” is comprised of 17 goals to drive development over the next 15 years by ending extreme poverty, tackling climate change and fighting inequalities. To make it easier the goals are broken down into a set of targets and indicators those countries can work towards. This was a historic agreement paving the way for a better and more sustainable future.

What is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable Development is a development that meets the needs of the Present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs as well. We have to keep three things in mind when we think of Sustainable Development. They are Social Progress, Economic Development, and Climate and Environment.

Role of Youth in achieving Global Goals

There are 1.8 billion people aged 10 – 24 in the world, the largest youth population in history. Young people can be powerful in holding their governments accountable to their Global Goals promise by speaking publicly in their support for the Goals now, buying from businesses that are working to support the Goals (and challenging those that are not) and through their voting power in the near future. Young people can also use their education to take specific action in support of the Goals. They can invent, they can innovate and they can campaign for causes or solve problems that they care about.

Can I support just one goal?

As an individual, we might think that contributing to all 17 goals is a herculean task. But we may choose to contribute to any one of these goals. Choosing one Goal to support is a good way to start, and to take specific action. However, all the goals are interlinked. So by supporting one Goal, our actions will have positive impacts on other Goals. Quality Education is the foundation for improving lives and development towards equality.

Quality Education:

Sustainable Development Goal 4 refers to Quality Education. The main focus of this goal is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

It has 10 targets encompassing various aspects of education. There are seven targets which are expected outcomes and three targets which are means of achieving these targets. Let us look at the facts and figures to understand the current scenario in the field of education in the world.

  •  Currently, 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills, and more than 60 percent of them are women.
  •  There is a very high dropout ratio of students in primary and secondary schools in developing countries. One of the causes is lack of trained teachers and poor conditions of schools.
  •  Enrolment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91 percent, but 57 million children remain out of school.
  •  More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa
  •  An estimated 50 percent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.

We know that just attending school is not enough. To get quality education students to need to have a safe and supportive learning environment from a young age, and be inspired by a well-trained and passionate educator.

The new Goal, therefore, emphasizes Quality Education and addresses the wider conditions needed to achieve that. Its targets include universal access to pre-primary education, eliminating gender disparities and addressing the barriers to education faced by students including those with disabilities, of indigenous groups and children in conflict. It aims at equipping youth and adults with relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills. This will help them in getting decent jobs and promoting entrepreneurial qualities. It also includes increasing global funds for teacher training and international scholarships.

If we become successful in achieving quality education for all, we can help break the cycle of poverty (Goal 1) and reach gender equality (Goal 5). All three of these Goals will help people into decent work and promote thriving economies (Goal 8) and are empowered to live healthier lives (Goal 3).

Through education, we can foster the values of empathy and inclusiveness key to reducing inequalities (Goal 10) and leading to peaceful societies (Goal 16).

The Goal includes a specific target to reflect the importance of learning about sustainable development, to create a generation who understand what is needed to achieve the Goals and equipped with the skills to drive their success as they enter the workforce and become the decision makers of the future. It also emphasizes the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Obtaining a quality education is the foundation for improving people’s lives and sustainable development. Without educating our citizens, we cannot make progress or change. Major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrolment rates in schools, particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, yet bolder efforts are needed to make even greater strides in achieving universal education goals.

During AFS Program

AFS and Global Goals:

AFS is committed to furthering the cause of the sustainable development goals set aside by the United Nations.  AFS empowers students and adults with the practical skills and understanding required to tackle the defining global challenges of the 21st century. AFS programs broaden their perspectives and help them appreciate insights and contributions of people from other cultures. AFS prepares global and active citizens through study abroad programs, volunteerism and structured learning methods and reflection. AFS as an organization helps in achieving global goals like gender equality, quality education, renewable energy, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption, peace and justice, climate action and partnerships for the goals.