The seventeen Global Goals of the United Nations are supposed to radically transform our world in a matter of fifteen years, or, at the very least, to build up a solid new course of action in international politics. The last goal on the list is, in a way, the most crucial of all. Labelled as “Partnerships For The Goals”, the entry one can find on the dedicated website reads as follows: “a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society”.
It goes without saying that the Global Goals cannot be achieved without deep and willing participation from the UN member states: common action on such universal matters as climate change, poverty or inequality need to be swift, wide-range and, most evidently, collective. If not, the very idea of a global goal would be pointless: but what happens when a state, or a number of states, refuses to collaborate to the global project? At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, officially agreeing on pushing forward to the realization on the goals. Still, this is no binding contract. World leaders and governments cannot be forced into action by the United Nations: states may be condemned or sanctioned according to very specific criteria, but how would this work when applied to the Global Goals? As for the case of Kosovo, Rwanda or Somalia, a plain violation of the international right is required to take action. If a state, however, was to choose not to enforce any laws or to take any clear course of action toward the achievement of the goals, how could this be considered enough for the UN to step in? On the contrary, an enforcement of the Goals carried out by the UN against the will of a sovereign state would be considered as an abuse.
This is due because of a deep contradiction in the idea of international politics, one that opposes a global agenda and the national sovereignty, the building block of our modern idea of the State. If, on one hand, the State is undividable and absolute in the use of its “free will” within its internationally recognised borders, on the other, the ever-growing interdependence of different states on a global scale makes it clear that the actions of the individual weight heavily on the well-being of the community. Without respect for national sovereignty there would be no limits to the external forces applied to manipulate a nation’s state of affairs, but an absolute respect for it leads inevitably to global anarchy: a state in which every country would only pursue its own interest to the loss of others.
Only time will tell if world leaders will be wise enough to keep their word on the 17th Global Goal. To push forward the project, a number of profound reforms concerning education, economics and politics is needed all around the globe. Anyway, this will ultimately result in a clash between the individualism and the short-sightedness of the single state and the utopia of the international community. Even without considering the dark machinery of realpolitik hiding behind the idealism that we see shining on the façade of the political world, the full achievement of the Global Goals in the next fifteen years is a sweet, distant dream at best. But on the entry of no. 17 one can still find a reference to civil society. There, maybe, one could more easily find that long-needed unity and partnership. But only time will tell.