Column 3 SDGs and the Nuclear Issue
Our Common Agenda, presented in September 2021 by UN Secretary- General António Guterres, is a report submitted to UN member states that outlines the challenges that the international community must address in the decade leading up to 2030, the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report is based on the Declaration on the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2020. At the beginning of the report, Secretary-General Guterres states, ”Humanity’s welfare—and indeed, humanity’s very future—depend on solidarity and working together as a global family to achieve common goals. For people, for the planet, for prosperity and for peace.”
In retrospect, the UN’s “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which set the SDGs, also states in its preamble, “This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom.” While the SDGs and Our Common Agenda are united in their goals: people, planet, prosperity, and peace, Our Common Agenda goes one step further on the topic of peace. It further proposes the development of a “New Agenda for Peace” under the commitment of “Promoting Peace and Preventing Conflict” that includes nuclear disarmament and other issues related to nuclear weapons (“Promoting Peace and Preventing Conflict” is one of the twelve commitments expressed in the aforementioned Declaration on the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.).
The year 2022 marks thirty years since then-UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali released An Agenda for Peace in 1992. Secretary-General Guterres has proposed that a high-level summit be held during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in 2023 to discuss a “New Agenda for Peace” along with other issues. This “New Agenda for Peace” could support the UN’s disarmament agenda in terms of strengthening member states’ commitment to the non-use and elimination of nuclear weapons.
We cannot talk about “people, planet, prosperity, and peace” without addressing the issue of nuclear weapons, and although the SDGs include the word “peace” itself in Goal 16, they do not mention specific measures on the issues of disarmament and non-proliferation, including nuclear issues. In this light, Our Common Agenda can be regarded as a major step forward toward the goal of achieving the true SDGs.
While the international community, including major countries, is passionately debating the problem of climate change and pushing forward with concrete measures for a carbon-neutral society in order to realize a sustainable world, only the issue of security—including nuclear weapons—is being discussed separately from the larger objective of global sustainability. It is impossible to talk about a sustainable planet without addressing the matter of nuclear weapons, which can cause catastrophic damage not only to humanity but also to the planet. In this context, it is significant that the United Nations has put the focus on the topic of of nuclear weapons and set it as one of the new challenges to be tackled in order to meet the deadline for achieving the SDGs. As Secretary- General António Guterres expressed, we hope that this will also serve to promote the disarmament agenda.
Kazuko Hikawa: Professor, Osaka Jogakuin University