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On September 25, 2015, the United Nations general assembly adopted 17 goals which form the universal, integrated and transformative 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. 193 member nations of the United Nations; Nigeria inclusive, formally took on implementation of these global goals in the year 2016 with hopes of full attainment in every country by 2030.
The 17 goals, also referred to as global goals are further broken down into 169 specific targets which fundamentally lean on three crucial domains of environment, economy and society. Each of the goals has a stake in one of these domains with the ultimate goal of ensuring inclusive development for everyone in every city of the world through the mitigation and subsequent eradication of poverty, reduction of hunger and food waste, creation of enabling environments for growth and development, protection of the planet and so on.
One major challenge to the attainment of the SDGs in many countries is the lack of awareness and inadequate sensitization of the public of the goals, what they entail and how their implantation impacts the quality of life of the average citizen. In Nigeria, studies show that more than 50% of the population is unaware of what the sustainable development goals are or how they affect their own development. How then can these goals be achieved if people do not know about them or how they fit into the implementation of the goals?
Two years into the adoption of the goals, there is still more to be done in terms of sensitizing people about each of the goals and how they fit into citizens’ daily lives . First of all, we have to ask ourselves as well as our governments if the goals are even achievable. An inquiry into the SDGs and its implementation puts many in an offensive position and government, on the defensive, where it is obvious that the government is inundated by the sheer magnitude of all that have to be accomplished in the next thirteen years. At this point in the implementation of the SDGs, it becomes imperative to question our governments’ commitment to the promises made in September 2015. The answers we get may be bitter pills for many of us but, swallow we must, so that we are then forced to begin to demand actions.
Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary- General of the United Nations and head of its Department of Economic and Social Affairs noted that; “Successful implementation of the SDGs is predicated on people knowing about them. If people are aware of the bold commitments their leaders made in 2015, then citizens can hold their leaders accountable.”
As much as the attainment of the SDGs is prominent in the framework of world nations and strongly backed by the United Nations, Agenda 2030 cannot simply be actualized by increasing awareness and sensitizations. It is important to note that the SDGs only stand a chance at being achieved if everyone takes a part in the implementation. National, state and local governments, the private sector, the academia, civil society as well as average everyday citizens all have a stake at achieving Agenda 2030.
When citizens are engaged in a process especially founded on issues which affect them on personal levels, they would be inclined to act. People which make up a country have high population power (in comparison with those in power) and so the contribution of everyone to issues of development in ways which they find relatable is important to foster implementation of the SDGs for the next thirteen years.
Governments have the prerogative to ensure that people understand that they play a large role in taking up actions especially regarding identifying one particular goal which speaks to them the most, connecting it all on how best the other goals can be achieved.
Education is key to engendering inclusivity and a core goal for being ahead of the curve on a lot of changes. It cannot be denied that the entry point to conversations on the SDGs is goal 4; quality education. It is through the actualization of quality education that poverty can be eradicated and then zero hunger can be achieved.
The greatest challenge to quality education in achieving sustainable development lies in the conflict between the federal, state and local governments in the management of education at these different levels. The problems range from lack of adequate funding of the sector to politicization of the system, indiscipline to general instability of the sector. According to UNESCO, 26% of national budgets are to be allocated to education in each country but it is cannot be said that this is the case in Nigeria and has not been so for many years now. The onus is on the government to revitalize the educational system in the country and provide sustainable funding for the educational sector to achieve the vision of quality education for all by 2030.
Climate change and how human activities lead up to the situation where environmental degradation causes an inability of the environment to sustain life is another area intended to be tackled by the SDGs. It is time to begin to educate people on the importance of sustainable use of nature’s resources in a way that these resources are not used up faster than they can be replenished.
Urbanization and rapid expansion of cities which results in destruction of vegetation and farmlands, release of hazardous chemicals into the atmosphere; another result of massive industrialization, engaging in actions which further jeopardizes the ozone layer; causing a ripple effect on land and sea temperature leading to recent occurrence of massive flooding of many cities around the world, hurricanes and the environment essentially lashing back at the unsustainable use of its resources. These are some of the issues that need to be addressed but cannot simply be achieved solely by government.
Government has to educate people on these errors and while actions have to be taken by all which including everyone making better choices on how best to engage the use of environment resources to forestall irreversible danger.
With partnership and the support of stakeholders on all levels in the society as well as the commitment of all citizens to the attainment of the goals, the government has to brace up to the challenge of delivering on its promise to lead the movement.
Policies which engender peaceful living and create a society which absorbs and spreads development must be enacted, a society which is ideal for global partnership and inclusive development must be created; one devoid of mutual distrust, chaos and violence in order for Nigeria to stand a chance at sustainable development in the long-term.