Master Class in Sustainability / Understanding the SDGs

February 26, 2015

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First, a short commercial message:  Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about our  Master Class in Change for Sustainability, in Stockholm, Sweden, May 6-8, 2015. These classes, taught by Alan AtKisson and Axel Klimek, are only offered once or twice a year, and they are highly recommended by past participants.

Get complete info, the brochure, and the registration form by visiting the website of the Center for Sustainability Transformation:

Click here >>

Now here comes the current issue of WaveFront …



As an independent adviser to the UN, I do my best to help the extraordinary people of DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) as they prepare for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, or “SDGs.” It’s a pleasure, but it’s also, frequently, a bit of a revelation.

Anyone reading WaveFront already knows about the SDGs, which will be finalized in September. But have you absorbed how truly important, indeed amazing, they are? Think about it: for the first time in history, all the world’s nations are agreeing on a comprehensive, and very concrete, vision of the world’s future. No poverty. Food security. A healthy environment. Oceans. Cities. Health. Equality. And much more. The SDGs cover, well, almost everything.

Moreover, the SDGs, unlike the MDGs, do not just apply to the so-called developing (i.e. poor) countries. Rich countries, too, are expected to embrace the SDGs. Act on them. Report on them.

Now, you may never have heard of UN DESA. It is part of the main UN Secretariat, in New York. It is not as well-known as big UN programs like UNEP, UNDP, or UNIDO (and it’s much smaller). But UN DESA has a centrally important function — or rather, it has many centrally important functions.

Statistics. Population information. Macro-economic modeling. Social policy. Forests. Region-level consultation. Government finance questions (and inter-governmental issues, like taxes). Modernizing government administrations around the world.

And, of course, sustainable development. DESA is where “SD” has mostly lived all these years in the UN system. DESA also runs the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, an essential resource to keep in your bookmarks:

And it has project office (a kind of satellite) in S. Korea called the UN Office for Sustainable Development, or UNOSD, which focuses on knowledge, research, training and networking, mostly for government officials. The existence of UNOSD should tell you that the importance of SD for UN member states is growing all the time.

But here’s what I really want you to know:

Sustainable development is changing. Since Rio+20, and the birth of the SDG process, a true paradigm shift is under way. Sustainable Development is no longer something “extra”, a small topic off to the side. It is now becoming central … to just about everything the UN does. Which is exactly what the countries asked the UN to do. Which is now bouncing back, and affecting what countries do.

Which means that eventually, it will affect everything we all do.

Of course, the process of SD becoming central — building SD into core planning, which means integrating SD into the way the UN, nations, companies, institutions etc. actually conduct their affairs — will take time. And a lot of work.

But as an eyewitness, I can tell you that the work is happening. Progress is happening. Change is happening.

As more and more of this relatively rapid transformation becomes public — such as the UN Secretary-General’s synthesis report, which I told you about last time — I’ll try to keep you updated.

And as AtKisson Group moves forward on its own independent work to support SDG implementation around the world, I’ll keep you updated on that, too.

In the meantime, please create a little mental folder called “SDGs”. Start packing it with useful information — information you can act on, to promote these goals, and make them real.

Because while the UN has now successfully facilitated a consensus on a global vision (three cheers for the UN!), it’s going to take a lot of local doing to make that vision real.

And that means us: you, me, and every other change agent we can recruit to help.

Of course, we’ve always needed an army of change agents for sustainability. I’ve been writing about that for years.

But now the need, and the opportunity, is becoming a lot bigger.

Warm sustainable regards,
Alan AtKisson
CEO AtKisson Group