The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprise a very inclusive, compromising and ambitious agenda. Its goals and targets envision “a world free of poverty, hunger, […] fear and violence […] a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity” (UN/Res/70/1). Through the SDGs, the UN member states have committed to achieving sustainable development within three dimensions: economic, social and environmental.
Sixteen years ago, the Millennial Development goals (MDGs) were initiated and this new agenda builds on the MDGs base and seeks to complete what was not achieved. In this way, the UN SDGs are “a second chance” to the international community and other stakeholders to solve major global challenges such as poverty, inequality, peace, justice and sustainability.
The implementation of the UN 2030 SDGs depends on the willingness, action and above all, on the responsibility of all interested parties. In particular, civil society plays a key role in ensuring their success. Our participation as individual pieces of a global community is crucial. As Stéphane Hessel said “we need to pass from indignation to action,” and as such now is the time to make a real change as the future of humanity and our planet lies in our hands.
A great example that embodies joint work in achieving the SDGs is the work of the Building Bridges Coalition (BBC). Launched in 2006 at the Brookings Institute, this consortium of organizations aims to promote international volunteer service in order to attain the development goals. On June 14, 2016 the Forum on International Volunteer Service and the 2030 Development Agenda took place in Washington, DC.
At the Forum, the BBC members and participants discussed on how to provide a multi-stakeholder platform which encourages global alliances between government, nonprofit organizations, university consortia, private and public entities to engage with volunteer abroad programs. The BBC considers international volunteer service as a universal strategy to cope with urgent challenges. It encourages an international culture that values a sense of compassion and volunteers´ contributions to solidarity and global citizenship all over the world.
As a professional volunteer myself, currently in service and placed abroad, I can testify why volunteer service is an effective means for making this world a better place. Many young people are interested in serving. They possess the energy, skills and eagerness to contribute as an “added value” to communities. Volunteer programs encompasses a gamut of fields, either at the national or international level and through placements aspirations can be transformed into achievements. In addition, by working with people in local communities, it is possible to empower and build local capacity.
Nevertheless, volunteer service has been strongly criticized. In particular, concerning equal opportunities to everyone regardless of their status. BBC emphasized two actions to address this issue; the need to expand private capital to “democratize” volunteer opportunities and the need to allot more public funding to support international service programs in partnership with universities and nonprofit organizations. This is especially important for those that directly impact SDGs, such as: poverty, health, education, economic growth, peace building, social and legal inequities as well as access to clean water and energy. By supporting and expanding volunteer opportunities,, international volunteer service would be an important means to engaging more actors to help effectively address the UN SDGs within the next 15 years.