Sunday, 24 January 2021

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The Sustainable Agenda should become a social contract

Assistant Secretary-General Thomas Gass

Hundreds of thousands of Europeans participated in the consultative process which lead to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). A year after the Goals were adopted by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, the implementation of the so-called Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is underway. Its creation mobilized 5 million people, but what about its implementation?

The role that civil society can play in the adoption of the wide ranging goals is dear to the heart of one of the most Senior UN Officials responsible for the Sustainable Agenda, Assistant Secretary-General Thomas Gass.

“Civil Society pushed open the doors of the UN and let the emotional intelligence of the organization emerge,” Gass told the UNRIC website during a visit to Brussels .

“I think the results are all the stronger for it. It is basically a shared vision of humanity, it is not something technocratic but brings together the aspirations of everyone. The SDGs can only be implemented if everyone is part of the implementation. It can only be implemented if it becomes more than a deal between countries .”

The private sector in Europe and elsewhere has an important role to play. Gass urges companies to look not only at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but also the 169 targets and ask: “Where are we as a company making a difference? Where are we helping to push the deal on these issues?  It could be health, it could be water, it could be infrastructure, urbanization, the responsibility to provide decent jobs etc.. .“

Gass emphasizes the interdependence and inter connectivity of the sustainable agenda. A Swiss citizen, he points out that even landlocked Switzerland cannot ignore Sustainable Development Goal number 14 on Life below water, since a fire in a chemical plant in Basel polluted the seas and oceans via the Rhine river in 1986.

And he turns to his fellow countryman Jean-Jacques Rousseau's (1712-1778) concept of a social contract to mobilize civil society behind the Sustainable Agenda: “The Goals are a promise by the leaders to their people . This has to become a social contract between the leaders and the people. For that to happen, civil society is absolutely crucial.”

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