Looking at the Sustainable Development Goals from the Bottom Up

Submitted by Arthur Dahl on 6. October 2016 - 0:12
Dahl, Arthur Lyon

Looking at the Sustainable Development Goals from the Bottom Up

Arthur Lyon Dahl Ph.D.
International Environment Forum (IEF)

Paper presented at the
International Environment Forum
20th International Conference
Nur University
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
7 October 2016

Published on line at https://iefworld.org/ddahl16j

The nations of the world have been gradually waking up to the serious challenges posed to the planet and human society from environmental degradation, social injustice and economic unsustainability. Starting from the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, it took 20 years to build the momentum necessary to adopt an action plan for sustainable development, Agenda 21, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Twenty years later, governments again met in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and called for the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with targets and indicators, to be achieved by 2030. These were finally approved at a UN General Assembly Summit in September 2015, followed three months later by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. 2015 was thus the year governments finally reached a global consensus on what it will take to avoid a conjunction of environmental, social and economic crises that would be catastrophic for human well-being and civilization.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The process of negotiating the SDGs was open, with wide consultation with scientists and organizations of civil society. These inputs were synthesized by the UN Secretary-General in his report on the Post-2015 Agenda, "The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet" at the end of 2014 (UN 2014). The Secretary-General said we needed a fundamental transformation in society and the economy. He said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define a paradigm shift for people and planet that is inclusive and people-centred, leaving no one behind. These integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and are to be implemented in a spirit of solidarity, cooperation, mutual accountability, with the participation of governments and all stakeholders. He called for transformative partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision and shared goals, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders, mobilizing the power of culture, and with mutual accountability at the center. He emphasized that "young people will be the torch bearers... the first truly globalized, interconnected, and highly mobilized civil society, ready and able to serve as a participant, joint steward, and powerful engine of change and transformation" (UN 2014).

The Summit for the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, in New York on 25-27 September 2015, agreed to an outcome document, "Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", which included 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2013 (UN 2015). To quote the outcome document: "This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan. We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind." (UN 2015 preamble)

World leaders summarized the 2030 Agenda as follows:

We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.

We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.

We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.

We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people." (UN 2015 preamble)

"This is an Agenda of unprecedented scope and significance. It is accepted by all countries and is applicable to all, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. These are universal goals and targets which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development. " (UN 2015 §5)

The leaders concluded: "It is “We the Peoples” who are embarking today on the road to 2030. Our journey will involve Governments as well as Parliaments, the UN system and other international institutions, local authorities, indigenous peoples, civil society, business and the private sector, the scientific and academic community – and all people.... It is an Agenda of the people, by the people, and for the people – and this, we believe, will ensure its success." (UN 2015 §52)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) included in the Agenda are action oriented, global in nature and universally applicable. There are goals that place humans at the centre, where environmental challenges represent threats to human health and well-being, and where environmental solutions can reinforce human progress. Another set of goals address environmental resources, processes and boundaries defining planetary health on which human well-being and development depend. Then there are goals about transitioning to a green economy that builds rather than undermines planetary sustainability. The final two goals are on institutional and governance issues and the means of implementation. Included under the goals are 169 quantified targets (IAEG-SDGs 2016) for specific actions required to meet the goals. Governments have since agreed to an initial set of 241 global indicators to measure progress towards the targets. This is a very ambitious and aspirational agenda, but it carries the weight of global approval at the highest level, and will require regular follow-up and reporting by all countries, so it must be taken seriously. But can governments do it all by themselves?

Appropriating the SDGs

The United Nations may seem far removed from our local actions in our neighbourhoods and communities. Most people have probably not even heard of them. Yet the 2030 Agenda is a call for justice addressed to everyone, and is supposed to be of, by and for the people. So the people should take notice.

For most of us, looking at an agenda of aspirational goals adopted by heads of state at the United Nations is like looking at the night sky. The moon and stars are beautiful up there, and may inspire lofty sentiments, but they are far from the realities of daily life. Political leaders may sign declarations, and statisticians will work away to produce some numbers about how each country is doing, but is all this really relevant? Will it make any difference to you and me?

We should not wait for governments to act, as they always do too little, too late. The United Nations process is essentially top-down, building a global consensus among governments, which is very important, but not sufficient. The SDGs need to be appropriated by individuals, communities and civil society to start a bottom-up process, translating the goals into local realities.

This calls for implementing the SDGs at multiple levels, from the global to the local, and even for each one of us. Governments will now need to launch a process to decide on their goals and targets at the national level, as their share of the global responsibility to reach the goals. Cities and local governments can adopt their own SDGs inspired by the global ones, just as many adopted local Agenda 21s after the Rio Earth Summit. Now they need to update it to an Agenda 2030. This should result in nested structures of goals and targets with responsibility devolved to lower levels. The process is important. There needs to be an open consultative processes for setting principles and priorities and reviewing progress, with transparent access to information. Stakeholder participation should be invited in monitoring and management, to give everyone a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Advancing through learning

For many of the challenges of sustainability, we do not have all the answers, and there may be many different responses depending on local circumstances, institutional frameworks and cultures. There are no set solutions ready to be adopted everywhere. We all need to make progress where it is possible, building the appropriate governance mechanisms in small steps as our capacity grows. This means learning through action, reflection and consultation, gradually building confidence in our institutions and in the roles of various stakeholders. There is room for initiatives from civil society organizations as well as governments.

To start the process, try looking at the global goals and aspirations as addressed to each of us and our local communities. What can we do to implement them at our own level? Looking at the SDGs and their targets, there are 107 targets that are relevant and could be implemented directly at the community level (TABLE 1). This can be seen as a kind of check list for local planning. There are too many to take on all at once, so a community should pick some that seem to be high priorities and a good place to start, and then add others later as capacity and interest grows. This could possibly be done through partnerships (itself one of the goals), with different groups of stakeholders or organizations taking on those targets that are of particular interest to them. Through a consultative process, the community could agree on local numerical targets to be achieved by 2030, and construct its own Agenda 2030. Some of the global indicators could be adapted to measure progress at the local level, or other more appropriate indicators found that can be measured with local resources.

It is even possible to consider Sustainable Development Goals for individuals. The transformation called for in the global 2030 Agenda calls for changes in our own aspirations and lifestyles. Drawing on the global targets for inspiration, TABLE 2 lists, under each of the 17 SDGs, some of the things each of us can do to bring our own lives into harmony with the direction the whole planet needs to take to make the transition to sustainability. And the time is very short. Looking as issues such as climate change, resource depletion and biodiversity loss, the science says that we must reverse course and put ourselves onto a sustainable path within a generation. And that means us, now. There is no time to be lost, and many individual actions can add up to a significant effect.

None of this will be easy. Motivating people to change requires much more than just scientific information about the problems, or technical solutions. People need to engage at an emotional as well as an intellectual level. Today it is too easy to start with negative emotions of fear, denial, rejection and withdrawl. What is needed is to replace these negative feelings with stronger positive ones, and that is best done by bringing in an ethical dimension founded in a deeper understanding of human nature and purpose, and a positive vision of what the world can become once we pass through the transition towards a more sustainable society. Community and individual goals and targets can contribute to this positive direction by showing that constructive efforts can make a visible difference at the local level.

The SDGs are ambitious even if everyone supports them. There is still the major part of humanity that could not care less about higher aspirations, and who want to remain greedy, corrupt, violent or selfish.This is where values-based education for sustainable lifestyles is so important. If young people can learn early the pleasures of altruistic acts and being of service to the community, this can protect them against the corrupting forces of a materialistic society. The individual goals can be a framework for such education.

Many efforts today are going in this more positive direction, from the Pope's encyclical (Pope Francis 2015) and the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change (2015) to the efforts of the Bahá'í International Community (Dahl 2016). Some examples of Bahá'í perspectives relevant to the SDGs are included in TABLE 3.


The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are motivated by a spirit of justice “to leave no one behind”. They have an ethical foundation that can contribute to their public acceptance. Many things can be done to implement the SDGs at the local level, in complement to national and global efforts. Setting positive goals can be very motivating at a time when so many forces are negative and threaten to tear the world apart. Agreeing on local SDGs and adopting goals individually and in families that support the necessary transition to sustainability can provide a unity of purpose that can help to build unity in the whole community.

The Bahá'í International Community has put it this way: "the pathway to sustainability will be one of empowerment, collaboration and continual processes of questioning, learning and action in all regions of the world. It will be shaped by the experiences of women, men, children, the rich, the poor, the governors and the governed as each one is enabled to play their rightful role in the construction of a new society. As the sweeping tides of consumerism, unfettered consumption, extreme poverty and marginalization recede, they will reveal the human capacities for justice, reciprocity and happiness." (BIC 2010) Translating the global goals to local communities can create a dynamic of positive change.


Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
1.1 ...eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere...
1.2 ...reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions...
1.3 Implement... social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and... achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
1.4 ...ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including micro finance
1.5 ...build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
2.1 ...end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round
2.2 ...end all forms of malnutrition..., and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons
2.3 ...double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment
2.4 ...ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
3.1 ...reduce the... maternal mortality ratio
3.2 ...end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age
3.3 ...end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
3.4 ...reduce.. premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
3.5 Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol
3.6 ...halve the number of... deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents
3.7 ...ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education
3.8 Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all
3.9 ...substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
3.b ...provide access to medicines for all

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
4.1 ...ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
4.2 ...ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
4.3 ...ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
4.4 ...substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
4.5 ...eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations 4.6 ...ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
4.7 ...ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture's contribution to sustainable development
4.a Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including... sexual and other types of exploitation
5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
5.4 Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family...
5.5 Ensure women's full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights
5.a Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources
5.b Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women 5.c Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
6.1 ...achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
6.2 ...achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
6.3 ...improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse...
6.4 ...substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
6.5 ...implement integrated water resources management at all levels
6.6 ...protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
6.b Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
7.1 ...ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
7.2 ...increase substantially the share of renewable energy...
7.3 ...double the... rate of improvement in energy efficiency
7.b ...expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all...

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
8.2 Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors
8.3 ...support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
8.5 ...achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
8.6 ...substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training
8.8 Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment
8.9 ...promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
9.1 Develop quality, reliable. sustainable and resilient infrastructure... to support economic development and human well-being. with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all
9.2 Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization
9.3 Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises.... to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets
9.4 ...upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes...
9.c Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet...

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

10.1 ...progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average
10.2 ...empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
10.3 Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard
10.4 Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality
10.7 Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
11.1 ...ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums
11.2 ...provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons
11.3 ...enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management...
11.4 Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the... cultural and natural heritage
11.5 ...significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected... by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations
11.6 ...reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management
11.7 ...provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
11.a Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas...
11.b ...adopt and implement integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters...
11.c Support... building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
12.2 ...achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
12.3 ...halve per capita... food waste at the retail and consumer levels
12.4 ...achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle... and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment
12.5 ...substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
12.6 Encourage companies... to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle
12.7 Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable
12.8 ...ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature
12.b Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters...
13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
[support implementation of the Paris Agreement]

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
14.1 ...prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
14.2 ...sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration...
14.5 ...conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas...
14.b Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
15.1 ...ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands...
15.2 ...promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation...
15.3 ...combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods...
15.4 ...ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity...
15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity...
15.9 ...integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into... local planning
15.c Enhance... efforts to combat poaching... by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions...
16.1 Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates...
16.2 End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
16.3 Promote the rule of law... and ensure equal access to justice for all
16.5 Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
16.6 Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions...
16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making...
16.9 ...provide legal identity for all, including birth registration
16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms...
16.b Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation...
17.1 Strengthen domestic resource mobilization...
17.7 Promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies...
17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships...


Goal 1. No poverty
Contribute to local efforts to eliminate poverty in your community (1.1, 1.2 end poverty)

Goal 2. Zero hunger
Support community efforts to ensure everyone access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round (2.1, 2.2 ensure access to food, end malnutrition)
Encourage and support local small-scale food producers (2.3 small-scale food producers)
Support sustainable food production systems that improve land and soil quality (2.4 sustainable food production systems)

Goal 3. Good health and well-being
Choose a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family (3.4 non-communicable diseases, mental health and well-being)
Avoid narcotic drugs and harmful use of alcohol (3.5 substance abuse)
Drive safely (3.6 road traffic accidents)
Plan your family size (3.7 family planning)
Avoid using hazardous chemicals, try not to live in polluted areas (3.9 hazardous chemicals; air, water and soil pollution)

Goal 4. Quality education
Get the best education possible, and educate your children (4.1 primary and secondary education) (4.3 technical, vocational and tertiary education)
Give your small children pre-primary education (4.2 pre-primary education)
Help others to get skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship (4.4 technical and vocational skills for youth and adults)
Encourage education for girls and the vulnerable (4.5 gender disparities, equal access to education)
Educate yourself, your family and community about sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity (4.7 education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles)

Goal 5. Gender equality
Avoid discriminating against women and girls (5.1 discrimination against all women and girls)
Shun violence against women and girls (5.2 violence against all women and girls)
Share responsibility within your household and family (5.4 domestic work and shared responsibility)
Encourage women's participation in leadership and decision-making (5.5 women's participation)
Support women's equal rights (5.a women's equal rights to economic resources and property)
Promote the empowerment of women with technology (5.b enabling technology for women)

Goal 6. Clean water and sanitation
Encourage safe drinking water and sanitation, practice good hygiene (6.1 safe drinking water) (6.2 sanitation and hygiene)
Avoid polluting water (6.3 water quality)
Use water efficiently (6.4 water-use efficiency)
Contribute to improving water and sanitation in your community (6.b participation of local communities in water and sanitation management)

Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy
Prefer renewable energy sources (7.2 renewable energy)
Use energy efficiently (7.3 energy efficiency)

Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth
Consider a career in a sustainable productive activity involving creativity and innovation (8.3 productive activities)
See your work and that of others as a service to the community (8.5 employment and decent work)
Help young people to find training and employment (8.6 youth employment)
Encourage all workers' rights to a safe and secure working environment, including migrants (8.8 labour rights)

Goal 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Work to improve your local community infrastructure (9.1 sustainable infrastructure)
Look for ways to make your workplace more resource-efficient and sustainable (9.4 sustainable industries)
Learn to use information and communications technologies and help others (9.c access to information technology)

Goal 10. Reduced inequalities
Participate in the life of your community, and empower others irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status (10.2 social, economic and political inclusion)
Support equal opportunities for everyone in the community (10.3 equal opportunity)
Be welcoming to migrants, since you may also migrate (10.7 responsible migration)

Goal 11. Sustainable cities and communities
Choose your housing to be safe and sustainable (11.1 housing and basic services)
Use sustainable forms of transport (11.2 sustainable transport)
Participate in the sustainability planning of your local community (11.3 sustainable urbanization and participatory human settlement planning)
Protect your local cultural and natural heritage (11.4 cultural and natural heritage)
Reduce your vulnerability to disasters (11.5 disasters)
Contribute to community gardens and green spaces (11.7 green and public spaces)

Goal 12. Responsible consumption and production
Consider sustainable natural resource use in your purchases (12.2 sustainable natural resource use)
Stop wasting food (12.3 food waste)
Reduce your use and release of chemicals (12.4 environmentally sound management of chemicals)
Reduce your wastes through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse (12.5 reduce waste generation)
Inform yourself, and help to educate others about sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature (12.8 information and awareness)

Goal 13. Climate action
Educate yourself and others about climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning (13.3 climate change education)

Goal 14. Life below water
Reduce your use of plastics and dispose of them responsibly (14.1 marine pollution and marine debris)
If you live near the coast, support coastal protection (14.2, 14.5 marine and coastal ecosystems)

Goal 15. Life on land
Support the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, especially forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands (15.1 terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems)
Use paper, wood and charcoal from sustainable forestry (15.2 sustainable management forests)
Protect local natural habitats and biodiversity (15.5 natural habitats and biodiversity)

Goal 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
Avoid all violence (16.1 violence)
Protect children from abuse (16.2 abuse of children)
Fight local corruption (16.5 corruption and bribery)
Demand accountability and transparency from your local institutions (16.6 accountable and transparent institutions)
Participate in local decision-making (16.7 participatory and representative decision-making)
Avoid all discrimination in your community (16.b non-discriminatory laws and policies)

Goal 17. Partnerships for the goals
Contribute time and resources to local sustainability efforts (17.1 domestic resource mobilization)
Invent, adopt and share environmentally sound technologies (17.7 environmentally sound technologies)
Join in local partnerships for sustainability (17.17 public, public-private and civil society partnerships)


Relating the SDGs to Bahá'í principles (Dahl 2016)

Goal 1. No poverty

Poverty can be described as the absence of those ethical, social and material resources needed to develop the moral, intellectual and social capacities of individuals, communities and institutions.... the goal at hand is not only to remove the ills of poverty but to engage the masses of humanity in the construction of a just global order. (BIC 2008a)

The technologies and resources exist to meet the basic needs of humanity and to eliminate poverty. Equity in the use of these technologies and resources, however, will come about only with certain understandings and commitments. While individuals must do their utmost to provide for themselves and their dependents, the community must accept responsibility, when necessary, to help meet basic needs. (BIC 1998)

Goal 2. Zero hunger

The economics of food production and distribution will have to be reoriented and the critical role of the farmer in food and economic security properly valued. (BIC 1998)

Food production and agriculture is the world's single largest source of employment.... Agriculture still represents the fundamental basis of economic and community life: malnourishment and food insecurity suffocate all attempts at development and progress.... The farmer must be accorded his or her rightful place in the processes of development and civilization building: as the villages are reconstructed, the cities will follow. (BIC 2008a)

Goal 3. Good health and well-being

With regard to health – the physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being of the individual – access to clean water, shelter, and some form of cheap energy would go a long way toward eradicating the problems that currently plague vast numbers of individuals and communities. (BIC 1998)

Goal 4. Quality education

Education must be lifelong. It should help people to develop the knowledge, values, attitudes and skills necessary to earn a livelihood and to contribute confidently and constructively to shaping communities that reflect principles of justice, equity and unity. It should also help the individual develop a sense of place and community, grounded in the local, but embracing the whole world. Successful education will cultivate virtue as the foundation for personal and collective well-being, and will nurture in individuals a deep sense of service and an active commitment to the welfare of their families, their communities, their countries, indeed, all mankind. (BIC 1998)

Goal 5. Gender equality

One of the most pervasive social challenges besetting communities around the world is the marginalization of girls and women.... Their responsibilities in families, in communities, as farmers and as stewards of natural resources make them uniquely positioned to develop strategies for adapting to changing environmental conditions. Women's distinct knowledge and needs complement those of men, and must be duly considered in all arenas of community decision-making. (BIC 2008b)

Goal 6. Clean water and sanitation

Wash ye every soiled thing with water that hath undergone no alteration.... Be ye the very essence of cleanliness amongst mankind.

Immerse yourselves in clean water; it is not permissible to bathe yourselves in water that hath already been used. (Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas)

Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy

A world federal system... bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet... (Shoghi Effendi 1936)

Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth

Society must develop new economic models... furthering a dynamic, just and thriving social order. Such economic systems will be strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature; they will provide meaningful employment and will help to eradicate poverty in the world. (BIC 1998)

Goal 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

The owners of properties, mines and factories should share their incomes with their employees and give a fairly certain percentage of their products to their workingmen in order that the employees may receive, beside their wages, some of the general income of the factory ('Abdu'l-Bahá)

The dominant model of development depends on a society of vigorous consumers of material goods.... This preoccupation with the production and accumulation of material objects and comforts... has consolidated itself in the structures of power and information to the exclusion of competing voices and paradigms. The unfettered cultivation of needs and wants has led to a system fully dependent on excessive consumption for a privileged few, while reinforcing exclusion, poverty and inequality, for the majority. (BIC 2010)

Goal 10. Reduced inequalities

All too many of these ideologies...callously abandon starving millions to the operations of a market system that all too clearly is aggravating the plight of the majority of mankind, while enabling small sections to live in a condition of affluence scarcely dreamed of by our forebears.... Why is the vast majority of the world's peoples sinking ever deeper into hunger and wretchedness when wealth on a scale undreamed of... is at the disposal of the present arbiters of human affairs? (UHJ 1985)

It is the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few that is in urgent need of attention. (BIC 2008a>)

Goal 11. Sustainable cities and communities

Our challenge... is to redesign and develop our communities around those universal principles -- including love, honesty, moderation, humility, hospitality, justice and unity -- which promote social cohesion, and without which no community, no matter how economically prosperous, intellectually endowed or technologically advanced, can long endure. (BIC 1996)

Goal 12. Responsible consumption and production

Take from this world only to the measure of your needs, and forego that which exceedeth them. (Bahá'u'lláh)

Sustainable production is not simply about ‘greener’ technology but rather, should involve systems that enable all human beings to contribute to the productive process. In such a system, all are producers, and all have the opportunity to earn (or receive, if unable to earn) enough to meet their needs.

The concept of justice is embodied in the recognition that the interests of the individual and of the wider community are inextricably linked....

Ultimately, the transformation required to shift towards sustainable consumption and production will entail no less than an organic change in the structure of society itself so as to reflect fully the interdependence of the entire social body—as well as the interconnectedness with the natural world that sustains it. (BIC 2010)

Goal 13. Climate action

Much has been said about the need for cooperation to solve a climate challenge that no nation or community can solve alone. The principle of the oneness of humankind... seeks to... anchor the aspirations of individuals, communities and nations to those of the progress of humanity.... As children, women, men, religious and scientific communities as well as governments and international institutions converge on this reality, we will do more than achieve a collective response to the climate change crisis. We will usher in a new paradigm by means of which we can understand our purpose and responsibilities in an interconnected world.... (BIC 2008b)

Goal 14. Life below water

A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources.... A world legislature... will... ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations.... The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be coordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated. (Shoghi Effendi 1936)

Goal 15. Life on land

In light of the interdependence of all parts of nature, and the importance of evolution and diversity "to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole," every effort should be made to preserve as much as possible the earth's bio-diversity and natural order.

As trustees, or stewards, of the planet's vast resources and biological diversity, humanity must learn to make use of the earth's natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, in a manner that ensures sustainability and equity into the distant reaches of time. (BIC 1998)

Goal 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
Goal 17. Partnerships for the goals

The pathway to sustainability will be one of empowerment, collaboration and continual processes of questioning, learning and action in all regions of the world. It will be shaped by the experiences of women, men, children, the rich, the poor, the governors and the governed as each one is enabled to play their rightful role in the construction of a new society. As the sweeping tides of consumerism, unfettered consumption, extreme poverty and marginalization recede, they will reveal the human capacities for justice, reciprocity and happiness. (BIC 2010)


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United Nations. 2014. The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet, Synthesis Report of the Secretary-General on the Post-2015 Agenda. Document A/69/700, 4 December 2014. New York: United Nations. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/69/700&Lang=E

United Nations. 2015. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Outcome document of the Summit for the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, New York, 25-27 September 2015. A/70/L.1. New York: United Nations. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/L.1&Lang=E

Universal House of Justice. 1985. The Promise of World Peace. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre.

Last updated 7 October 2016