The New Sustainable Development Goals: a Vision for Living in Harmony with Nature

Healthy reefs are essential to sustainable fisheries and to the local fishers, like those pictured here, who depend on them for food and livelihoods. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.

By Cristián Samper and John Scanlon

This week in New York, the U.N. General Assembly will adopt a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that represent an unprecedented opportunity to safeguard globally threatened wildlife species. The new goals are part of an agenda called Transforming Our World: The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda – a vision for the planet in which “humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected.”

The new effort picks up the work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – an 8-pronged approach to eliminating poverty while improving health care and education that were adopted a decade and half ago and will sunset this year. Although governments, agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industry have become more engaged in – and committed to – sustainable development since the MDGs were adopted in 2000, much more needs to be done.

Healthy reefs are essential to sustainable fisheries and to the local fishers, like those pictured here, who depend on them for food and livelihoods. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.

There was a strong call for better management of all living species in the Millennium Declaration, and correspondingly, biodiversity conservation was included in the MDGs via a target and indicators under MDG 7 on environmental sustainability. However, results regarding biodiversity loss have been limited and more work is needed to turn declarations and targets into results on the ground.

Why might the new SDGs lead to more progress when the biodiversity loss we now face is immense? The goals and targets in the SDGs cut across the many facets of biodiversity conservation in a much more comprehensive and integrated way than did the MDGs. The need to finance the required response is recognized. Perhaps most important, through the process of their negotiation, the —> Read More

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