The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and its associated Sustainable Development Goals have been set to create a global partnership to ensure the prosperity of our planet, now and into the future. The Alberta Council for Global Consideration is doing its part to encourage individuals in their pursuit of the goals through the Together Alberta initiative. Through a series of roundtables, Together Alberta is stimulating cross-sectoral conversation to understand the impact Alberta-based organizations are having through the SDGs and to encourage others to be a part of the change.
While participating in other SDG focused roundtables in Alberta in 2016, Mel Wilson of M.J Wilson Inc, realized the need for a national symposium encouraging Canada in its pursuit of achieving the 2030 Global Goals. Mel has dedicated his career to educating and helping all sectors understand and apply the principles of sustainability. Through the interview below, Mel discusses the impact of the Together Alberta event and the direction Alberta and Canada need to move in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
What has been the overarching theme of the 2017 and 2018 roundtable discussions at the Together Alberta event?
The central theme of the Together Alberta events was "cross-sectoral collaboration to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals". The events brought together Canadians from civil society, government, academia, and industry to explore ways the different sectors can work together to make progress on the SDGs in Canada and around the world.
Is there a project in particular from the event you believe is making big strides in achieving the 2030 Global Goals?
The Together Alberta events spurred numerous SDG-related initiatives and projects in Alberta and elsewhere. One such initiative was the launch of the "Alberta SDG Hub" in May 2019 by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation and Canada Service Corp. The mandate of the Hub is to help create opportunities for young Albertans to participate in the achievement of the SDGs. The youth will also have a chance to develop personal and employment-related skills, learn from mentors, and increase their awareness of the benefit of serving their communities.
In what ways have you seen Alberta advancing toward achieving the 2030 goals? And in what ways is Alberta and /or Canada lacking in achieving the goals?
Organizations in Alberta were among the first in Canada to take an active interest in the SDGs. Starting in January 2016 - just four months after Canada and 192 other countries adopted the United Nation's 2030 Development Agenda - I led a series of roundtables in Calgary and Edmonton that focused on how Alberta-based organizations can work together on the SDGs. It was the first introduction to the SDGs for many of the 100+ representatives from industry, government, academia, and civil society that participated in these roundtables, but they quickly saw the importance of the SDGs and expressed their support. This support directly led to the creation of the Alberta SDG Network, as well as the ACGC's Together 2017 and Together 2018 events in Calgary and Edmonton, the first such cross-sectoral multi-stakeholder conferences on the SDGs in Canada. The SDGs continue to be a topic of keen interest for many Albertans and Alberta-based organizations.
Overall, Canada is making progress on the SDGs, but it is slow progress. Various studies have indicated that Canada is not on track to achieve many of the SDGs by 2030. The reasons for this are complex and include such things as how legal responsibility for many of the issues addressed by the SDGs is divided between the feds and the provinces in the Canadian constitution. However, things are happening - for example, the federal government has committed funding for the establishment of a federal SDG Unit and the Sustainable Development Goals Data Hub. I think we can expect to see continued progress on the SDGs, especially when today's youth graduate and bring their concerns about social and environmental issues with them when they enter the workforce.
What other ways can individuals work to advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals?
First, start by going on the UN’s SDG Knowledge Platform to read about the SDGs and why they are important. Secondly, go online and see what SDG-related events are happening near you and try to attend some if you can so that you can meet other people with similar interests. Finally, there are 17 SDGs in total covering everything from poverty and hunger to education and climate change, so ask yourself “which of the SDGs are most relevant to me personally?” Select one or two of the SDGs that are of greatest interest to you and look for opportunities to get involved in projects and initiatives in or near your community. And if there are no projects and initiatives happening, start one.
What can we expect at the Soul of the Next Economy regarding the SDGs?
There will be at least one session on the SDGs at the next Soul of the Next Economy Forum to build on the interest and momentum generated by the 2016 roundtables and the Together 2017 and 2018 events.
The Sustainable Development Goals are an urgent call to action as a global partnership for the purpose of global needs. Projects such as these are integral to the progress of these goals and it is extremely exciting to see businesses adopt these goals into their strategy while new innovative projects are focusing solely on these goals! We are looking forward to Mel’s participation at the Soul of the Next Economy Forum!