Rotary’s contribution to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Dear friends, we are all too familiar with the challenges we face

  • over 60 million people displaced by conflict and violence;
  • 767 million still living in extreme poverty;
  • more than 3 million dying of preventable diseases each year;
  • and of course we face the triple threat of climate change; food insecurity; and terrorism

During a historic summit in 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is an agenda for people, for the planet, for prosperity, for peace and for partnerships. It is about transforming our world by eradicating poverty and ensuring its transition to sustainable development.

World leaders agreed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. They are an expansive framework for improving the quality of life on this planet within a generation. To build a better world by 2030.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2000 for “Southern countries”, covering the main humanitarian challenges for 2015.

The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for tackling extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly diseases, and expanding primary education to all children, among other development priorities.

For 15 years, the MDGs drove progress in several important areas: reducing income poverty, providing much needed access to water and sanitation, driving down child mortality and drastically improving maternal health. Most significantly, the MDGs made huge strides in combatting HIV/AIDS and other treatable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Key MDG achievements:

  • More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty (since 1990)
  • Child mortality dropped by more than half (since 1990)
  • The number of out of school children has dropped by more than half (since 1990)
  • HIV/AIDS infections fell by almost 40 percent (since 2000)

The SDGs are a bold commitment to finish what was started with the MDGs, and aim to go further to end all forms of poverty.

Covering everything from reducing hunger and poverty to providing quality education and ensuring access to clean water, the Sustainable Development Goals are very ambitious.

Goal one: no poverty.
Goal two: zero hunger.
Goal three: good health and well-being.
Goal four: quality education.
And the next thirteen are on the same scale. Seventeen goals in all, with 169 targets, and 304 indicators to measure success.

The new Goals are unique in that they call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

All 17 Goals interconnect, meaning success in one affects success for others. Dealing with the threat of climate change impacts how we manage our fragile natural resources, achieving gender equality or better health helps eradicate poverty, and fostering peace and inclusive societies will reduce inequalities and help economies prosper.

Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

For sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.

The 2030 Agenda is organized around “5Ps” because it serves the planet, the people, prosperity, peace and partnerships.

The 17 objectives, broken down into 169 more specific targets, form the core and describe the ideal horizon for 2030 of sustainable development assuming as much social justice as economic growth, peace and solidarity as the preservation of ecosystems.

In Rotary, we have a similar goal, of a better, safer, and more peaceful world. Rotary is dedicated to six areas of focus to build international relationships, improve lives, and create a better world to support our peace efforts.  They are building peace, and preventing conflict; disease prevention and treatment; water and sanitation; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; and economic and community development.

A comparison of these areas of focus with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows that they address many if the same issues. Rotary frequently partners with other organizations as a way of maximizing resources, increasing the project’s impact, and ensuring its longevity.

Peace and Conflict Resolution aligns with SDGs Goals 16 and 17:

For example, in partnership with seven universities in six countries, Rotary Peace Centers educate about 100 Rotary Peace Fellows each year, preparing them to act as leaders and catalysts for peace and conflict resolution.

Disease prevention and treatment aligns SDGs Goals 3 and 17:

For example, Rotary is a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the GPEI was launched in 1988, the number of polio cases has dropped by 99.9 percent, and 16 million people are walking today who would otherwise have been paralyzed.

Water and Sanitation aligns with SDGs 6:

Many Rotary clubs are caring out projects provide clean water, upgrade toilet facilities, and offer hygiene education.

Child and Maternal Health aligns with SDGs 3:

Many Rotary projects help improve health by providing or rebuilding essential medical equipment for maternity hospital, by supporting family planning and training.

Basic Education and Literacy aligns with SDGs 4, 5, 8, 10 and 17

Rotary members improve the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy. Club projects often support education for all children and literacy for children and adults.

Economic and Community Development aligns with SDGs 1,2,8 and 17

Rotary clubs carry out service projects that enhance economic and community development and create opportunities for decent and productive work for young and old. We also help local entrepreneurs and community leaders, particularly women, in impoverished communities.

A central pillar of both the SDGs and Rotary’s own humanitarian objectives is recognition of the critical importance of developing mutually beneficial partnerships between governments, civil society organizations, like Rotary, and the business community.

And the best example of a partnership that has made a lasting positive impact on communities around the world has been the Rotary led effort to eradicate polio.

I believe that the more closely we align our work with the work of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the better we will be able to leverage that work, and the more we will be able to achieve.

Presentation given by Cyril Noirtin at the 2019 RI Convention in Hamburg