SDGs, HLPF, and Half of Humanity

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the new development goals set forth by the United Nations to be achieved by the year 2030. Like grand challenges discussed in Week 1, the seventeen different SDGs aim to tackle massive, society pervasive issues that affect all people. For example, goal 1 is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere and while goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The goals also include issues that range from creating sustainable cities and communities to obtaining clean water and sanitation for all people. As I said, they’re grand challenges.

In a way, the SDGs are a response to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were set during the Millennium Summit of the UN in 2000 and expired in 2015. Despite attempting to cover a wide range of development issues, critics argued that the MDGs were at the same time too broad and not inclusive enough of groups like persons with disabilities (PWDs). The SDGs, in contrast, became much more specific setting seventeen goals instead of just eight. In addition, the SDGs were much more inclusive of minority groups. For examples, PWDs are mentioned fifteen times giving PWDs a seat at the table they were previously denied.  

To oversee the implementation of the SDGs and ensure they are reached by 2030, the UN created the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). The HLPF meets annually every year under the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and every four years under the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA). Despite being coined as one of the most inclusive forms of the UN, overseeing the UN under the auspices of the HLPF has some very clear advantages and disadvantages. A clear advantage is that the HLPF can use its power and influence to gather the world’s most influential movers and shakers. However, groups that need to be involved – like PWDs and other minorities – have to overcome financial, political, and physical barriers to get a seat at the table and contribute to the implementation of the SDGs.

Just as with the MDGs, the SDGs have not gone without criticism. However, organizations – like Half of Humanity (HoH) – are doing vital work to help chip away at the SDGs. More specifically, Half of Humanity is supporting SDG 5 which is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and SDG 6 which is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” HoH works towards these goals by providing Syrian refugees with culturally appropriate feminine hygiene products. By providing essential hygiene supplies, HoH is helping combat health risks and social stigma refugee women face every single month. Through focused efforts on a few SDGs at a time by organizations like Half of Humanity, the global community is one step closer to reaching its goals by 2030.