From a childhood spent fleeing civil war in South Sudan, Manyang now runs a coffee company creating jobs for other refugees.
In Oregon, 10-year-old Abner has written to all 50 U.S. state governors demanding to know how they are tackling the climate emergency and urging them to join the U.S. Climate Alliance of bipartisan governors acting in line with the Paris Agreement.
And in South Africa, Rapelang persevered through years of male-dominated computer programming classes to create a successful mobile education app. She has been named one of Africa’s best young entrepreneurs by Forbes.
Here at the UN Foundation, we love to showcase such stories of people we call Protectors of Progress . They are doing what they can to address poverty, inequality, and the climate crisis in their own way and in their own communities. Together, they are driving progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We need many more like them. We all need to become Protectors of Progress. Five years into the SDGs’ 15-year timeline, we have made some progress, but it’s nowhere near enough to deliver on the promises made by all nations in 2015. And new challenges are emerging.
If we don’t change course, by 2030, nearly 500 million people will remain in poverty, millions of children will still die from preventable diseases, women will remain subjugated and subordinate in every country on earth, and climate change will gather pace towards an irreversible planetary catastrophe.
A Decade of Action: your voice, your vote, your action
In 2020, we must kickstart the SDGs’ final decade, so we can meet the goals on time and in full, and so create a future of peace and prosperity on a thriving planet, with no-one left behind.
And that’s what we plan to do. In 2020, we and many partners are launching a Decade of Action campaign that aims to galvanize as many people and organizations as possible across countries, sectors and generations to demand and deliver a global shift to put the world on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
If we don’t make real progress on systemic and transformative issues like poverty, inequality, gender, and climate, we risk all the goals.
But it’s not only about governments. Just as our three Protectors of Progress show, individuals, organizations, and businesses also have a crucial role to play.
That role is to harness our levers of change: our voices, our votes, and our actions.
Not everyone can do all three, but everyone can do at least one.
You may wonder what you can do yourself to advance gender equality, or reduce poverty, or tackle climate change. It’s true that each individual action may not solve these huge problems, but the voices, the votes, and the actions of many together can make a difference, and what’s more, they send new demand signals to governments, businesses, and industries that the world we want is not the world we currently have.
For example, if you want to tackle gender inequality:
Use your voice: to speak out about the need for equality across our laws, health, work, and education.
Use your vote: to elect more women to political office. Don’t forget, your wallet counts as a vote too. Support women-owned businesses and businesses that champion gender equality.
Use your actions: to advocate your school or your employer directly to make sure it’s giving women and girls equal opportunities and fair treatment.
Even in 2020, there is no place, no part of life where a girl or woman is equal to a boy or man. Until girls and women are equal everywhere, we cannot stop fighting – and there’s lots we all can do.
Similarly, we can all use our voices, our votes, and our actions to demand greater ambition on the climate crisis. Some of us can join school climate strikes, and we can all also take steps in our own lives to cut our carbon emissions and protect nature: Eat less meat and dairy, take public transport, conserve water, invest in renewable energy – the list goes on.
So, in 2020, look out for more from us and our partners on how you can get involved in the Decade of Action to deliver for people and planet. Because when we act together, change happens.
Don’t let your voice, your vote, or your action go to waste. Our world and our future depend on it.