From September 25th to 27th, 2015, Heads of States and Governments gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York City to adopt the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that promises to “transform our world” and “leave no one behind.” This agreed text comes to us in the face of overwhelming evidence of persistent poverty, deepening inequality, ecological degradation, unprecedented loss of biodiversity, and climate change accelerating under neoliberal globalization.
Can the new development agenda live up to the hype and rhetoric? Will the SDGs usher a just and transformative mode of development?
On September 28th, a coalition of concerned organisations, including Franciscans International (FI) and the NGO Mining Working Group, organised a dialogue in New York to hear from and strategize with representatives of social movements and communities coming from the margins, those who are most affected by the current unjust and unsustainable mode of development. Participants took stock of the UN Agenda and pledges made by global leaders in relation to their struggles against land grabs, austerity, rapid urbanization and migration, militarization, gender-based violence, and other issues faced by marginalized groups in society, especially in the global South.
For FI, a key objective was to join the moment and content of Laudato Si, the Pope's encyclical on environmental justice, with the concerns and demands of represented social movements calling for deep, transformational, and structural change. Fr. Peter Hughes, an Irish Colombian Missionary priest representing the Pan-Amazonic Ecclesial Network (REPAM) was invited as a panellist to challenge participants to consider Laudato Si in this way.
From this dialogue comes a set of joint analyses and recommendations that the coalition can bring to the Paris Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in December 2015 to gather more support and continue to build a critical assessment of and engagement with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The draft document will be used as an outreach and education tool in the lead up to these climate talks throughout the month of November.