Why international collaboration is more important than ever

Chris Simoens
18 November 2017
The new digital Glo.be highlights the efforts Belgium is making abroad to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Besides, Glo.be provides background information on the major themes of international collaboration as contained in the SDGs. Because we cannot overlook the fact that international collaboration is more important than ever.

Let it be clear: we have better lives than ever before. We have better food and better houses, we live longer and healthier lives with more time for leisure. Both here and elsewhere in the world, an ever growing number of people can afford a more comfortable life. Over the past quarter-century, 2.6 billion people gained access to safe drinking water and 2.1 billion people could finally use a decent toilet. In spite of the population growth, the percentage of chronically undernourished people decreased from 23.3% (1990-1992) to 12.9% (2014-2016).

589 million out of the 650 million young children attend school. In 1980 nearly 50% of the world population was still illiterate, whereas by 2014 this percentage had decreased to 14%. The situation of girls and women is improving: less child marriages, more girls attending school, more women in parliament…

Numerous diseases have less impact. In the course of the past 15 years the number of malaria deaths dropped by half. In 2015 the number of deaths caused by tuberculosis had decreased by 49 million as compared to 2000. The mortality due to measles has dropped by 80% since 1980 and polio has nearly been eradicated. And yes, on a daily basis 3000 people are dying from AIDS, which amounts to half of the mortality ten years ago. To quote just a few figures.

Nonetheless, our world is facing major challenges. The growing world population and the increasing standard of living have an ever growing impact on our planet: our oceans are contaminated with loads of plastic, oil or heavy metals while more and more woods and healthy soils are lost. Climate change risks to undermine the positive achievements with severe drought and floods.  New long conflicts have arisen, e.g. in Syria and Yemen. Violent extremism and international terrorism are issues that are hard to address.

Before the industrial revolution inequality was less common than today. As a matter of fact, 94% of the population, throughout the world, was extremely poor and consequently equal. The rising prosperity created more significant disparities, especially in developing countries. Although many are better off nowadays, many others feel ignored by progress. ‘Globalisation’ - the world as one huge market where everyone can be your competitor – is taking away jobs.  And for many of us the influx of refugees undermines our identity.  Note: Belgium still remains one of the most equal countries in the world.  

 

We cannot turn the clock back: most of the challenges we are facing cannot be solved by an individual country.

Yet, nobody would benefit from countries that are confined to their own national borders. We cannot turn the clock back: most of the challenges we are facing cannot be solved by an individual country as climate, pollution, trade… know no borders. Over the centuries all countries have become increasingly intertwined: a country is no longer considered separately from the other countries, and even more so, a country can no longer exist without the other countries. In the same way we realize more and more that a human being cannot be regarded separately from his natural environment. In order to live a dignified life, we desperately need this natural environment  - and the other countries.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set out clearly the present global challenges. They found their first concrete expression in 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. All countries support these goals.  They express the desire for a better world for everyone:  a place where every human being can live a dignified, fulfilling life in a healthy natural environment and where conflicts can be solved peacefully. Following one important rule: leave no one behind!

Nobody can be excluded, every human being has the right to fulfill his deeply human needs. That’s why the SDGs attach such importance to equality. SDG10 is even entirely devoted to this theme: reduce the income gap and discrimination, give everyone a full voice, including the most disadvantaged countries and persons, and redistribute wealth between rich and poor countries. A more equal world is a more harmonious world.

All countries are facing global challenges that we must meet together. That does not mean that we neglect the local issues. It is true that we can’t go on sending goods and semi-finished products around the globe. On the contrary, we have to develop economies based on local assets. The economy of the future will be a recycling economy: waste will be the raw material. The slogan ‘think globally, act locally’ is still fully valid. However,  international transport will remain indispensable, not least because it is impossible to concentrate production in one location. This international trade must be fair and environmentally friendly.  And an open economy still produces the largest number of jobs.

 

Besides, international collaboration does not imply a loss of our identity. On the contrary. The SDGs aim at enabling everyone to lead a dignified, fulfilling life.

Besides, international collaboration does not imply a loss of our identity. On the contrary. The SDGs aim at enabling everyone to lead a dignified, fulfilling life. A human being can only feel fulfilled if there is room for respect and esteem for his individuality, next to a sense of belonging, friendship, development… These basic needs apply to anyone. Doesn’t it illustrate that what unites us is much stronger than what divides us? If we can approach others on the basis of this awareness, the fact that other people are different will be an enrichment rather than a threat.  

Also Belgium will be fully committed to the SDGs. Glo.be will give witness to that. We hope that Glo.be will be a source of inspiration to many readers!

 

Source of figures: http://www.worldsbestnews.nl

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