The dawn of the industrial revolution has undeniably graced humanity with a multitude of advancements primarily in the field of manufacturing, education and the realm of the physical sciences. The revolution has gradually blessed all members of humanity from all corners of the globe to enjoy effortless communications through great strides in telecommunication technology, greater connectivity through the invention of modern transportation systems and so much more. These great strides have ultimately cultivated a world whereby pain and suffering have reached new lows. However, this does not translate into the fact that the world has magically transformed into a utopia of peace and tranquility. The same advancements in technology that was meant to serve the betterment of humanity has also played an equal role in contributing to its downfall. The fact that the 21st century is seemingly plagued by an incurable disease is undeniable. The plague of unsustainability is both prevalent and rampant. The composition of these unsustainable practices is not only confined to environmental issues in the form of climate change, global warming and excessive deforestation but it also branches out into other forms of unsustainability such as socio economic unsustainability in the form of rising income and gender inequality.
Great thinkers of the 21st century have all reached an arguable conclusion that this century is most probably the greatest century of human ingenuity primarily due to all the achievements that we have achieved but as a youthful Malaysian, I have always believed that the world is not a composition of 7 billion people but it is a culmination of 7 billion different minds, hopes and dreams. As a result, we should not suffer from complacency and constantly strive to for a better world. We simply cannot say that we are in the greatest era of humanity when Afghan girls in Afghanistan are still barred from the right of education, period poverty is still prevalent in developing countries and the economic gap between the rich and the poor seems to be exponentially expanding. To make matters worse, a recent report by the IPCC have sounded the red alarms for mankind as it clearly marks our influence on Climate change, rising sea levels and extreme weather. I have always found it ironic that our space agencies have invested billions in searching for habitable planets in other galaxies while we are spending trillions in destroying the only home we have.
Therefore, it is extremely vital for mankind to procure a “vaccine” to cure its woes and agony. We must all ask ourselves if the SDGs can really eradicate all our gaping woes and provide a beacon of hope for humanity. Firstly, it is important for us to acknowledge the fact that the SDGs have provided us with a streamlined and comprehensive framework to solve these issues that is embodied by 17 goals and countless indicators aimed at tackling all forms of issues ranging from environmental deterioration, social inequality and economic disparity.
The beauty and importance of these goals truly lies in its comprehensiveness and balance in maintaining the needs of the general population without disregarding the needs of the environment to heal itself.
The problem is, overhyped and glimmering national and international policies have become a recurrent theme throughout the globe. Malaysia herself is not a stranger to ambitious goals that have been never seen the light of day which plays a remarkable role in reducing the credibility of new policies as normal Malaysians like myself can simply scoff it off as nothing more than faeces wrapped in gold. However, these goals have provided an ultimate goalpost in which everybody from all levels of the community can contribute to, from International diplomats and national premiers all the way to the lower levels of the society such as normal people like you and I. It completely eradicates the overwhelming notion of an impossible goal as it is already equipped with metrics on how to achieve it, completely viable for action by the masses.
This key element in the SDGs have acted as a catalyst for self-reflection for everybody within our society. No longer do we have to depend on unreliable and insincere politicians to carry out international policies but we can take it upon ourselves to constantly strive for a better community as a whole. Simple actions like advocating for human rights, gender equality and taking care of your neighbours have large implications in making a difference in our world.
The SDGs have taught us that grand gestures are unnecessary in making a difference but small acts can go a long way in making the world a little bit better.
As a student of Urban Planning and an aspiring Urban Planner this is even vehemently present in our scope of studies as municipal offices and local governments are all scrambling to implement the SDGs in newer developments to promote a more sustainable inclusive community. SDG 11 for instance plays an exceptional role in stressing on the tangible aspects of the SDGs which emphasizes on the importance of creating sustainable cities and fostering sustainable communities. Hence, this is why the SDGs are so important, its effects and influences trickles down to all levels of the society and its implementation is inclusive without only depending on national leaders and the higher ups of the society.
Additionally, the obvious implications of the SDGs can also act as a testament to its importance. Under the identified 17 goals, billions of lives can be saved from the depths of poverty, injustice and suffering while simultaneously saving the environment from the grip of destruction. It is also significant to point out the fact that the SDGs also reflects key Islamic Principles such as Mizan that stresses on the delicate balance of our world and our responsibility in maintaining it as well as the Maqasid Syariah in preserving the rights of nature and the society as a whole.
Hence, I am a firm believer upon the fact that the SDGs possesses the ability to form the gears and levers that would propel the wheels of our civilization to greater heights. At the end of the day, the goals are not only meant to mitigate current issues but it should act as a form of contraception for the problems of the future to emerge. The goal is to create a better tomorrow, not only for you and I but for our children and their children and the generations of the future. I would like to allow my children to live in a world where the slightest form of injustice would be a foreign concept to them and we all have a responsibility of creating that world for them. With the SDGs at our disposal, it is not impossible.
By: Muhamad Arif Aiman