Sustainable Development Goals and Global Health: Walking the Talk

Sustainable Development Goals and Global Health: Walking the Talk

16.10.2018
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[By Antoni Plasència, ISGlobal General Director and Gonzalo Fanjul, ISGlobal Policy Director]

“The focus of this meeting should be on the deep implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)”. With this statement, University of Columbia economist, Jeffrey Sachs, opened the meeting of the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) a few days ago in New York.

Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

Even the most sophisticated roadmap for sustainable development is useless if we cannot translate the vision into a reality

When Sachs talks about “deep implementation”, his message is simple: even the most sophisticated roadmap for sustainable development is useless if we cannot translate the vision into a reality that shapes the practices and policies of every country on the planet. And that is precisely the task undertaken by the members of the SDSN Leadership Council, a body that has convened a sizable group of the best scientists, analysts and strategists in the field together with the institutions that represent them. As a result of their impeccable work—analysing and monitoring the current situation and identifying solutions—the SDSN has become a point of reference in the debate on the SDGs.  

ISGlobal is privileged to belong to this group. Our institution joined the council a few months ago and we have assumed co-leadership of the Health for All thematic network. Having participated in the Spanish SDSN network (REDS) since its foundation, we were invited to join the Public Health Foundation of India and the Peking University in coordinating the work on health-related global goals.

ISGlobal is naturally aligned with the logic of the 2030 Agenda

Our decision to accept this leadership role is totally in line with the efforts we have been making over the past two years to incorporate the 2030 Agenda into the narrative and goals of our own organisation. This commitment can be illustrated in terms of three concentric circles:

The SDGs provide a clear narrative that reflects the very raison d’être of our institution

  • The first circle pertains to the challenge of integrating the agenda internally, a task undertaken with the help of our scientific director Josep María Antó. ISGlobal’s mission, the thematic content of our research, knowledge translation and education programmes, and the interdependence of the goals related to equity and sustainability, are all naturally aligned with the logic of the 2030 Agenda. The SDGs provide a clear narrative that reflects the very raison d’être of our institution. In spite of this, the agenda was unknown—or, at least, unfamiliar—to a large part of our team. To correct this situation, we started by mapping the many projects in our institute that relate directly to the goals of the agenda. Our knowledge translation, education, financing, and institutional communications teams also worked to integrate the SDGs into their priorities. Finally, our commitment to the 2030 Agenda was formalised in a recently approved five-year master plan.The second circle relates to ISGlobal’s role in the political and institutional debate on the SDGs

 

  • The second circle relates to ISGlobal’s role in the political and institutional debate on the SDGs. The Spanish government has only lately joined an effort which, in this country, was undertaken first by cities and then by companies and NGOs. However, they are now on board. In the broad field of health and its determinants, our responsibility is to foster dialogue among the many actors, to provide technical assistance and to promote practical solutions. The set of indicators defined annually by the SDSN has identified alarming problems in areas close to our mission, such as air pollution, child nutrition and investment in science. ISGlobal is also collaborating with the governments of Spain's autonomous communities, such as Catalonia, and with local government bodies. In addition to our work with REDS, we also advise the Spanish SDG Business Observatory and promote new ideas, including the concept of virtuous circles of knowledge, developed in conjunction with the Innovation and Technology  for Development Centre at the Technical University of Madrid.

Finally, we have the outer circle, which concerns our international agenda relating to the SDGs

  • Finally, we have the outer circle, which concerns our international agenda relating to the SDGs. We have, for some time, been involved in Think SDGs, an initiative led by the Graduate Institute Geneva with active participation on the part of many important international centres, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Brazilian Fiocruz Foundation. ISGlobal is currently coordinating the European Think SDGs group. The aim of this network is to share and disseminate knowledge relevant to the SDGs and ensure that it reaches decision-makers.

Joining the group responsible for leading the SDSN represents a qualitative step in the same direction

Joining the group responsible for leading the SDSN represents a qualitative step in the same direction. The focus of the health group is SDG3 (“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”) as well as the three core objectives of our work: to end the three great poverty-related pandemics, to reduce maternal and infant mortality, and to consolidate universal health coverage.

SDG 3, the goal that focusses primarily on health.

But the work of the group goes far beyond that remit. It also addresses the social and environmental determinants of health (particularly in cities), the challenge of financing the right to health in the complex context of today’s world, and the implementation of the Health in All Policies approach. If we are to achieve our aims, we must recognise the interconnectedness of all of the SDG goals and targets and the impossibility of addressing them using a compartmentalized or silo-based approach. Our first activity within the group has been to help with the coordination and development of a series of Policy Briefs that address five global health challenges. These will be published, with an editorial note, at the Astana Conference (Alma-Ata + 40) at the end of October.

Our hope is that, with time, more and more ISGlobal professionals will become involved in these tasks

Other briefs will follow shortly and we will keep you informed regularly. Our hope is that, with time, more and more ISGlobal professionals will become involved in these tasks, which offer an opportunity for professional exposure and oblige us to consider how the results of our work can be translated to the real world. We hope that we will soon be able to say that the SDGs are a reality in the work of our organisation.

More information

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Global Health