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Overview of the SDGs

There is no quick fix for the poverty and inequality experienced all around the world. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 Goals set in place by the UN which call on all countries to take action and responsibility for the role they play in fighting these injustices.

While the Goals are not legally binding, they will guide global development until 2030 and every country, both in the Global North and South, is expected to report on their progress year-on-year.

At VSO, we see how small changes and actions lead to create positive impact every day. A volunteer can’t change lives overnight but by collaborating with local colleagues they can help to improve and extend systems over the course of a year-long placement, which can make a real difference to local people. While the SDGs are aimed at countries, we can all take guidance from them to make small changes in our own lives that will better the communities, country and world we live in.

So what exactly are the SDGs?

These are 17 Goals which cover everything from gender equality and environmental sustainability to hunger and quality education. You can read more about the Goals here.

Fantastic video from The Global Goals which calls for action on some of the biggest challenges girls face like access to education, child marriage and the threat of violence (Goal 5: Gender Equality).

Volunteering and the SDGs

Volunteering brings people together, allowing them to participate in their own growth and reach out to other people, including those in marginalised communities. VSO worked with networks like the Volunteer Groups Alliance to influence the creation of the Goals and ensure the unique role volunteers can play in achieving them was recognised. VSO volunteers have worked towards all 17 Goals, but especially Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), Goal 4 (Quality Education), Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals). Check out our Facebook campaign in February to see how Irish VSO volunteer #Goalkeepers have contributed to the 17 Goals.

In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It's their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education... it's like a precious gift. It's like a diamond…"

- Malala Yousafzai

‘Leave no one behind’

The basic premise of the SDGs is to ‘leave no one behind’ and reach the most vulnerable groups in society, including children, people with disabilities, migrants, refugees, older people, those with disabilities and minorities. Research has shown that the positive impact of international development is not always equally shared. This is why VSO works towards improving the lives of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the countries in which we work. Our ‘People First’ strategy draws heavily on the SDG principle of universality and partnership to address poverty. VSO volunteers, both international and national, live and work alongside the people they are trying to live, enabling them to better understand the complex stories of exclusion and marginalisation that result in poverty.

Making the Goals famous

You may also hear the SDGs being referred to as the Global Goals, marketed by Project Everyone, the non-profit communications and campaigns organisation devised by filmmaker Richard Curtis of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ fame. The Global Goals campaign has been supported by icons like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, One Direction and Stephen Hawking, helping to increase awareness and “make the Goals famous”. To coincide with the UN General Assembly in New York this year, the words of Goalkeepers like Malala Yousafzai and Barack Obama were showcased on billboards throughout Times Square and the Boroughs forcing people across the city to stop and take notice.

But it’s not enough to know about the Goals and celebrities that endorse them. What’s really important is that individuals, like you and me, feel compelled to act and do their bit, no matter how small. As Amina Mohammed from the UN said, “What we want in the end are results. We want people to know these, to embrace them, in ways that they will advocate but also ways in which they will invest so that in 2030 we have made a real difference.”

Malala Yousafzai, Barack Obama and are all SDG Goalkeepers.

Ireland’s involvement in the SDGs

The SDGs are called Global Goals for a reason – they are just as much for countries in the Global North like Ireland as they are for the low-income countries in which VSO works. Although Ireland is globally recognised as an advocate for poverty reduction, equality and justice, the SDGs will still pose challenges. Issues to be tackled include homelessness, gender inequality, health issues, such as obesity, and unemployment. A national SDG implementation plan is currently being put in place and Ireland is set to report on programme to date to the UN in July. Ireland’s current Sustainable Development Strategy, ‘Our Sustainable Future’, and Irish Aid’s Policy for International Development, ‘One World One Future’, will inform this plan. Stay tuned to find out more!

Interested in finding out more about the SDGs?

  • Join the conversation across social networks using the #GlobalGoals and #Goalkeepers hashtags. You can find lots of graphics and videos on the Global Goals website that can be shared.
  • Download the SDGs in Action app to get updates about Goal progress and what you can do to help. Results will be filtered based on your Goal preferences. This is also a great news sources of interesting articles and uplifting stories related to the Goals, perfect for your commute into work.
  • Get involved in Development Perspective’s #SDGChallenge. Every month, they focus on a different Goal with workshops and fun social media challenges taking place around the country. One such challenge is #PovertyBox which VSO Ireland’s Liz got involved with last November.
  • Check back to this VSO Ireland blog throughout the year for lots more information on the Goals and the small changes you can make to promote them in your daily life!

    Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.

    - Nelson Mandela


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