The Global “Grand Challenge” of Inclusive Sustainable Development

The concept of “Grand Challenges” emerges from a very important and iconic speech that was given by former President of the United States, John F. Kennedy: “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people….We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” This speech was given to Rice University on September 12th, 1962 and in less than seven years time, humans landed on the moon. This kind of thinking came to be known as “moonshot thinking” being defined as ambitious, aspiring, and determined ways of thought that pushes us a human race to strive for all that is achievable and possible.

“Grand Challenges” embodies this style of thinking in the field of development. The term, coined by David Hilbert, originally was meant to focus on technology and sciences of the sort but grew to encapsulate socially-focused projects such as global sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Goals act as a quintessential example of such “Grand Challenges” because they are, according to the United Nations Development Programme, “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”, which is not an easy feat. The Sustainable Development Goals emerged out of the Millennium Development Goals, exemplifying the fact that we are striving for more ambitious goals and changing our aims of development as times change the need for specific protocols. In addition to the SDGs, the framework of these “Grand Challenges” is being used by countless other organizations such as USAID, something that can be seen through their projects such as All Children Reading and Combating Zika and Future Threats.

The Sustainable Development Goals are the “Grand Challenge” of our time as they embody an ambitious grouping of 17 diverse goals for the global community in a minute 15-year time span. These goals are aided by their targets and indicators which act as sub-goals and key points to focus on when striving to accomplish them. Another reason as to why these goals are so phenomenal in their goals is because they are increasingly inclusive in compared to their predecessors. For instance, there are eleven explicit references to persons with disabilities throughout the 17 SDGs, something that is practically unheard of in past protocols for global development. Not only is it refreshing to see this level of inclusivity within something that is so monumentally positive for our global development, but it is also necessary. It may not be as extraordinary as landing on the moon, but the inclusion of everybody, especially a group of people such as disabled persons that take up around 15% of the entire earth’s population, is a feat in itself that certainly should be considered a “Grand Challenge”. There is no global development unless everybody is involved, and that is exactly what the SDGs and countless other development protocols are striving to do.