by Leslie Brier
World leaders came to the United Nations on September 25th and signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a set of 17 goals aimed at lowering global poverty, hunger, and inequality and addressing environmental challenges. There are three themes to these global goals, social, economic and environmental justice, with an inferred fourth and fifth: peace and inclusivity.
The United Nations conducted the largest consultation program in its history to gauge opinion on what the SDGs should include. It was a two year process that included hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The United Nations gathered input from national consultations, door-to-door surveys and an online survey asking people to prioritize theses global goals. The first draft was proposed last September and countries belonging to the UN negotiated the wording of the goals and targets.
The SDGs will be in effect starting in January 2016. Though they are not legally binding, the signatures of world leaders make it possible for civil society (that’s us!) to pressure their respective governments to uphold these goals. An NGO (nongovernmental organization; for example, WRJ) can choose one or several goals most important to them and monitor what is happening in their own countries. In the United States, civil society can write to their elected officials if they feel the government is falling short of a goal.
NGOs can also work with the United Nations in advancing goals. The larger the organization, the more the UN is willing to work with a particular group. I currently sit on the JNGO, a coalition of Jewish non-profit organizations, and the RNGO, a coalition of faith-based representatives from many religious traditions. As WRJ’s tagline states: We are stronger together!
Your sisterhood can choose one or two goals to address in order to further advance the work of the United Nations. Here are examples of what some religion-based organizations are working on:
Though the above projects above are of a broad scope, there are opportunities for each sisterhood to advance the sustainable development goals. A sisterhood could collaborate with other Jewish, faith-based, or secular organizations to address:
SDG 1: End poverty. Assist in the gathering and distribution of food for the food insecure. For example, Main Line Reform Temple joined with Calvary Baptist Church to distribute food and clothing for the underserved community in West Philadelphia. MLRT’s sisterhood also assists in cooking and serving a Christmas and Easter Meal as well as provides Christmas gifts for the children.
SDG 10: Reduce inequality. Provide programming that can assist in the empowerment of women and girls. For example, Jewish Women International is launching a financial literacy program. A sisterhood in collaboration with JWI could hold a community event that would reach out to elderly women, single mothers, etc. to attend a program that would give them the tools to take charge of their finances that would enable them to have a more secure future.
SDG 16: Promote peace, justice, and strong institutions. Join other like-minded organizations to address the issue of gun control. Hold a rally or program to educate the community. For example, a sisterhood could hold a concert with other faith based organizations and have a gun control advocacy organization provide information and speak at the event.
As the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wrote: "Just as so many people joined in the process of articulating the SDGs, achieving them requires effort from everyone, everywhere."
The United Nations celebrates it’s 70th birthday on October 24th, a date known as United Nations Day. Please consider supporting the work of the United Nations by addressing a Sustainable Development Global Goal. Let’s continue the work of National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS, now WRJ) Past Executive Director Jane Evans, who was the keynote speaker and State Department consultant to the U.S. delegation that took part in drafting the United Nations Charter in 1945. Jane was deeply committed to human rights, civil rights, and interfaith relations.
In the meantime, take a picture of sisterhood members celebrating the UN's birthday and use light blue, the UN's color. Wear light blue shirts, make a tasty light blue desert, be creative! Post your photos on Facebook and Twitter using #UN70 so the world can see the Women of Reform Judaism stands in solidarity with the United Nations in promoting a peaceful and inclusive society.
Leslie Brier is a WRJ Board member and a WRJ representative for the United Nations. She is also a WRJ Atlantic District area director and a member of Main Line Reform Sisterhood.