Sustainability: Call to coordinate actions

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The first step in implementing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; see M. Stafford-Smith Nature 513, 281; 2014) will be to identify critical nodes at which issues such as water, energy and food need to be addressed simultaneously and that have the potential to set the agenda.

For example, schools could play a part in increasing water, food and energy security by improving students' knowledge of these systems as well as of flood and drought responses. These nodes could help to coordinate existing discussion structures into new national and local forums, and to overcome bureaucratic silos.

Contribution by governments to the SDGs will be voluntary, so efforts should focus on increasing the numbers of organizations, people and networks that can be linked to the SDG governance system. This would allow the system to address inequities in gender, geographic location and ethnicity, for example, at regional, national and local scales.

Effective monitoring will be pivotal to the success of the SDGs. If done globally through existing UN agencies, there is a risk that key resources would be diverted, whereas monitoring by individual countries might be inadequate or inconsistent. The UN High-level Political Forum could have an important role, but people outside the current sustainability discussions need to be heard as well. They too can help to craft context-specific goals and targets, maintain ambition and develop complex monitoring capacity.

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  1. Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan.

    • Norichika Kanie
  2. Providence College, Rhode Island, USA.

    • Casey Stevens

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