U.S. groups champion the 2030 Agenda


By Cynthia Woodside

On March 21, Bread for the World hosted more than 50 U.S.-based organizations working to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

It makes sense that the 2030 Agenda brings together a wide range of American organizations, since the Agenda itself was finalized only after three years of consultation with leaders and ordinary citizens all over the world. It reflects the core values of peoples everywhere and has been designed to lead to a United States and a world where all people, no matter the circumstances or location of their birth, have the opportunity to live healthy and productive lives, free from poverty and hunger.

The March meeting was Bread’s second convening on the 2030 Agenda and follows up on a commitment that Bread President David Beckmann made during a meeting of stakeholders at the White House in early January. It brought organizations working to achieve the goals in the United States together with those focused on efforts to achieve the goals in the developing world. All of the participants are committed to the Agenda’s core promises to leave no one behind and to reach the furthest behind first.

Responses to a survey of participants indicate that more than 40 percent represent organizations that support all 17 of the goals. The same percentage focus on Goal 5, gender equity.  More than a third of the organizations work on ending hunger (Goal 2), reducing inequalities (Goal 10), promoting justice (Goal 16), and creating stronger partnerships (Goal 17). Other high priorities for participants include promoting health (Goal 3), improving education (Goal 4), and combating climate change (Goal 13).

Half of the organizations are working at the federal level, 25 percent are working for change at the state and local levels, and more than a third are working at all three levels. More than 60 percent are engaged in policy, advocacy, and research, while fewer than 25 percent are funders or provide direct services.

Participants in the meeting first heard from leaders in international and domestic policy and advocacy, the foundation world, local implementation, and data design.

Message highlights from the speakers included:

  • The prior set of global goals, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), were also launched at a challenging political time, just after the divisive 2000 election. Yet ultimately, support for the MDGs goals grew, and they are credited with cutting severe poverty in half, primarily in China and Japan, and with saving the lives of some 25 million children and adults, largely in Africa.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda are valuable in helping stakeholders connect around a common vision, forcing us to make “new friends,” and enabling us to embrace accountability.
  • The SDGs can serve as a framework for reordering the work of the foundation world by encouraging greater ambition and promoting a more holistic approach to issues. These may range from hunger and poverty to conflict and climate change.
  • To reach the 2030 goals, every sector must be engaged. To gauge progress, a set of incremental targets for each goal must be established.
  • There is no need to reinvent the wheel; the SDGs don’t require an additional set of unrelated activities. Organizations, cities, and countries must simply begin with what they are already doing, align their activities with the goals, deepen their engagement, and measure their progress.  
  • The SDGs are closely connected to the data revolution, and data is key to making progress on issues at both the national and local levels.

Participants then broke out into working groups on federal advocacy, mobilizing the grassroots, expanding the involvement of new stakeholders, working with cities, and measuring progress.

Following the breakout groups and ensuing discussion, the group agreed to form a coordinating committee to take collective actions to the next level. The stakeholders also agreed that it is important to reach out and deepen engagement with other communities, such as the faith, business, and environmental communities, and to collaborate with professional networks and with state and local governmental organizations. There was also agreement on the importance of developing a successful social media campaign and of creating opportunities for organizations and individuals alike to learn and engage with the 2030 Agenda and its goals.  

The beauty and the challenge of the 2030 Agenda is the need and opportunity to fundamentally overhaul how we as a country work together to meet common goals that support our shared beliefs. We have about 14 years to build on the achievements of the MDG era and make further progress on a range of critical issues, including jobs, climate change, poverty, health, education, inequality, gender equity, and hunger.

If you are interested in the 2030 Agenda and engaging with other organizations working on the goals, please contact Cynthia Woodside, Senior Domestic Policy Advisor, Bread for the World Institute, at [email protected].

Cynthia Woodside is senior domestic policy advisor at Bread for the World Institute.

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