Governments around the world are grappling to find goals that can set a course for our planet’s shared long-term prosperity. They aim to do so before 2015, the expiration date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that have anchored global antipoverty efforts since 2000. The MDGs—to eradicate poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empowerment, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat killer diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development—have been endorsed by all 193 UN member states, a huge feat considering how difficult international cooperation can be today.
Diplomats are wary as they face launching a post-2015 generation of goals. Many observers felt despair after the UN’s June Rio+20 event produced few concrete outcomes. A more pragmatic reaction would be to consider what system innovations could stretch beyond the walls of government to help achieve new goals.
Let’s start by asking what “global goals” mean today, and more important, for 2030. A generation ago they mainly meant officials coordinating government policies and investments around the world. At the time, rich and poor countries were clearly delineated and multilateral institutions helped broker conversations. Today’s geopolitical map is far more complicated. There has been a realignment of economic influencers and institutions, and dividing lines between developed and developing nations have blurred.