Future-building does not happen only in the halls of government.
The quality of life in my hometown was designed by many people deciding many different kinds of things at different levels. Our town acquired an important value added when Silvio, who ran the local pizza shop for three decades, decided, day after day, to commit his time to doing something of real quality for everyone else. I had the good fortune to grow up in a place where parents are involved in how the schools work, and a wider community of intellect and good will supports success.
Decisions about what gasoline would cost affect the liberty and mobility of people far from where the decisions are made. The degree of creativity going into the planning of commercial enterprise and public institutions affects the kind of value people who interact with those institutions can expect to enjoy, locally, in situations far removed from the creative planning process.
In 2015, the world took serious steps toward building the capacity necessary for getting everything right, on all fronts. With global agreements on Disaster Risk Reduction, Financing for Development, the establishment of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, to be measured by 169 agreed targets, and the Paris Agreement bringing 195 nations into a collaborative climate action framework, the world’s governments have agreed to work together to end poverty, secure the food supply, stop practices that degrade the human future, and solve climate change.
Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, called for an “integral ecology” in “caring for our common home”. The 17 SDGs, or Global Goals, focus on areas of action where planning for the best outcome will allow resources, commercial efficiencies, and intergovernmental collaboration to empower people and communities to achieve real and resilient thriving.
Goal 17 focuses on collaborative multilateral, multistakeholder partnerships. An easy way to think about the rationale for Goal 17 is the “birds-eye view blindspot” problem: in the climate action arena, national governments are tasked with designing ambitious policies for speeding a just transition to climate-smart economics, but most of the technical, financial, and human capability for effectively combatting climate change are not under their direction. In many places, communities, cities, and provinces are already acting with more ambition within their territorial footprint than their national governments. By aggregating the already existing solutions driven by local actors, national governments “discover” they have more climate action capability than they previously knew. By facilitating peer to peer and market to market information sharing, they can rapidly incentivize far more institutions, both public and private, to adopt best practices on climate action.
These partnerships need to include not only public officials, but also non-state collaborators—like businesses, NGOs, universities and community organizations—because political will does not reside with government alone. The Millennium Development Goals did not include the word “girls”. Nations at risk of institutional collapse and violent conflict were not measured for their treatment of young girls. The quality of life and leadership opportunities expected for women emerging into adulthood would not be on the radar until it was too late. yet the degradation of girls and denial of education are leading indicators for risk of armed conflict. The Girl Up movement brought young women into the global conversation and ensured the SDGs do require monitoring of how girls are treated.
Multilateral, multilevel, multistakeholder partnerships—like the World We Want, the G7+ Alliance, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, ACCESS to GOOD, and the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network—recognize the complexity of the human social landscape and facilitate better, more adaptive, more relevant sharing of information and resources, so we have a chance of getting it all right.
[ The Note for March 2016 ]