Two years of sustainability goals – where do we stand?

Klaus Milke
Foto: Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted at the UN Sustainability Summit on 25 September 2015. It was a moment of hope that we could jointly shape development worldwide in a sustainable way and thus maintain the possibility of a future worth living for future generations. All 193 UN member states have committed themselves to implementing the agreed global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national, regional and global level. Civil society organisations – and thus also foundations – play a central role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and in critical reflection on the appropriateness and effectiveness of measures to achieve the SDGs and on the degree of progress achieved.

Time for an interim accounting 

The first two years have now passed so it is a perfect time to carry out an initial interim accounting of what has been achieved. What has happened since the 2030 Agenda was adopted? Is there a realistic chance of achieving this ambitious and urgent plan? Dr Annette Kleinbrod, EZ-Scout at the Association of German Foundations, spoke to Klaus Milke, Chairman of the Board of the Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit and Germanwatch e.V., about this:

Mr Milke, two years ago the sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda were adopted by the UN. Where do we stand today with the 2030 Agenda?
We are still at the beginning, although two of the 15 years (i.e. to 2030) have already passed. So the clock is ticking. 
Why are we still so much at the beginning and not further on?
Short-term self-interests, the selfishness of Donald Trump and the right-wing populists, but also acute conflicts, such as in Syria and North Korea, obstruct the view of what should already be done in the sense of comprehensive transformation. 
Do you think it is realistic that the 2030 Agenda can be achieved? 
The global community has agreed on highly ambitious goals that are absolutely essential for peace, global justice and the preservation of livelihoods. It is an absolute must that they are achieved. 
Is it realistic? 
If the political will is there in all countries, and civil society must work hard to achieve this, it is also realistic. 
What needs to be done better or differently in Germany in order to achieve the agenda?
As a rich, educationally advanced country with a strong engineering sector, Germany has the prerequisites to do a lot. The energy transition is a good example of a case where something courageous has begun. However, other areas, such as mobility or the agricultural and food sector, also need to be transformatively rethought. The main problem is that the past and the mode of “continuing as before” are still better organised than the future. 
And what are the costs of the 2030 Agenda? 
Reorganising societies is not cost free. But what is the benefit, if we achieve the goal of “Transforming Our World” in terms of the SDGs? Or, to be even clearer: what does it cost us if we do not achieve the objectives of the 2030 Agenda? 
Where and how do you think German foundations can make a significant contribution to achieving the sustainability goals? 
Foundations are set up for eternity and are therefore closely linked to the idea of sustainability. They can help to implement the SDGs in their operational areas, they can align their investments or even their funding accordingly, and they can have a more transformative effect in their cooperation with others – even across borders. 
What role does cooperation with other foundations, business and the state play in this? 
Networking, joint projects and platforms can be very helpful in looking beyond one’s own nose and establishing common learning curves. The G20 foundation platform “Foundations 20” was also established for this reason during the German G20 Presidency, and certainly also to say to politicians: “We want to be part of the solutions ourselves”. 
Can you give an example of a project that is particularly effective in contributing to the 2030 Agenda? 
I would like to mention once again the energy transition, in which some foundations in Germany are also actively involved. This is an important overall project for Germany, but it is also a project which can be an inspiration for the world! 
What contribution do you personally make to achieving the sustainability goals? 
I founded the Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit (Future Viability Foundation) from the sale proceeds of a medium-sized company, i.e. I consciously gave away my own private assets in order to assume my social responsibility.

Dr. Annette Kleinbrod

EZ-Scout of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) seconded to the Association of German Foundations

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