Flood water in Sylhet City Md. Akhlas Uddin/ZumaPress

Securing a Sustainable Future

The world is at a crossroads, and much of the progress made in fighting poverty and promoting social justice risks vanishing into thin air. If sustainable development is to be achieved, world leaders must agree to minimize climate change.

LONDON – When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote that “All that is solid melts into air,” they intended it as a metaphor for the disruptive transformations that the Industrial Revolution implied for established social norms. Today, their words can be taken literally: Carbon-dioxide emissions and other industrial pollutants released into the atmosphere are changing the planet – with huge implications for the environment, health, population movements, and social justice. The world is at a crossroads, and much of the progress we have made in these areas could vanish into thin air.

In 2007, Nelson Mandela founded The Elders to address just such risks, mandating this independent group of former leaders to “speak truth unto power.” That is what we will do at the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

The SDGs will succeed the Millennium Development Goals, which guided international development efforts from 2000-2015. The MDGs helped millions of people escape illiteracy, disease, and hunger, and placed development at the heart of the global political agenda. However, their overall impact was often inadequate, particularly in fragile, conflict-ridden states – and they failed to include sustainability in their targets.

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