The world’s governments have called for sustainable development goals and they are being negotiated in the United Nation’s general assembly. But does it really make a difference? Will a new set of goals somehow help the world to do what it hasn’t yet been able to do? To shift from a business as usual and increasingly dangerous path of economic development to a path of true, sustainable development. Well here, we can look at some evidence, and I think it is pretty powerful evidence. And that is to ask, what have the Millennium Development Goals meant for the world? The UN adopted, in September 2000 in the General Assembly, the Millennium Declaration including the Millennium Development Goals. And as we have talked about it at some length, those eight goals became the centerpiece of the development effort for poor countries around the world. Did they really make a difference? The answer seems to be yes. That there has been a marked acceleration of poverty reduction, disease control and increased access to schooling and infrastructure in the poorest countries of the world, and especially in Africa, as a result of the Millennium Development goals. They helped to organize a global effort. Why do goals matter? I think that the answer has many different aspects to it. First, goals really are critical for social mobilization. The world needs to be oriented in a direction, to fight poverty or to help achieve sustainable development. But if we don’t enunciate for ourselves that that’s important, it’s very hard in our very noisy, desperate, crowded, congested, overwhelmed world to mobilize a direction and a consistency of effort to achieve any of our common purposes. And so, stating the goals helps all over the world, for individuals and for organizations and for governments to say, yes we’ve agreed, that’s a good direction. There’s a second aspect that the MDG showed and that is peer pressure. When the MDGs were adopted by all governments, governments had to show we’re doing something. And even if they were not necessarily so inclined innately or deeply, to take on this effort, by being international goals they knew that progress was going to be reported, or the failure of progress, even worse, was going to be reported. And peer pressures came in where leaders at summit meetings, for example, or at the UN General Assembly, would say, how, how are you doing on the millennium development goals? What steps have you taken, what progress? I saw you didn’t make so much progress these past years. That kind of dynamic has been absolutely real. A third way that goals have mattered is in mobilizing what I’d like to call epistemic communities, or knowledge communities, to be little bit more prosaic about it. Epistemic communities are networks of expertise, knowledge and practice around challenges like growing food or fighting diseases or designing and implementing city plans. And when goals are set, those communities of knowledge and practice come together. I’ve watched how the goal to fight Malaria, for example, has helped to organize the world’s malariologists, that is, the scientists and practitioners who, as a career, and as a life calling, in many cases, have taken on the challenge of fighting malaria. By virtue of having that goal, that community rose up, said, we as a community of expertise and practice, need to do something about it. That’s extremely important because governments by themselves polit, politicians, elected officials certainly do not have the expertise that exists in these epistemic communities to guide action. And these knowledge communities can make critical recommendations of what actually to do. The MDGs mobilized epistemic communities in malaria control, in HIV AIDS, in safe health, in primary education, in access to water, in access to energy. How do I know? I watched it happen and I participated in some of it. When I was a director for, then UN secretary general Kofi Annan, we had the Millennium Projects under his auspices, which mobilized about 250 experts from around the world, of these various epistemic communities, to think through much, in much more detail, how the various millennium development goals could actually be achieved. And finally, goals not only mobilize knowledge networks, but they mobilize stakeholder networks as well. What’s a stakeholder network? By that I mean that if you’re fighting malaria in Ghana or in Tanzania or in Uganda, you need to get around the table community leaders, politicians, Ministry of Health, the scientific community, leading non-governmental organizations. Perhaps church groups that have a major presence and participation in the Public health sector, International organizations, Donor organizations, Foundations. It is a roundtable of constituents that needs to be pooled together. And that kind of multi-stakeholder process is essential for the complex challenges of sustainable development and of the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease, more specifically. That has happened by conscious design in area after area of the millennium development goals. And it is one of the clearest ways that the merest statement of goals, leads to improved outcomes. By bringing together these multi-stakeholder processes. I believe that to summarize all of this no one has ever put it better than President John F Kennedy. 50 years ago, in one of the greatest speeches of the modern presidency, which I will refer to shortly at somewhat greater length, because I think it is a, a, a model, also, for us. But in his famous Peace Speech in June 1963, President Kennedy had a word to say about setting goals, because he was interested, in that speech, in setting a goal of peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Kennedy said, by defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it. That’s the essence of the importance of goal setting; helping people to see the goals. And by making them more manageable and less remote. By spelling out how they can be achieved, people can be led to move towards it and as President Kennedy said on that occasion, to move irresistibly towards the goals. So, what have been the accomplishments of the Millennium Development goals and what have their, been their major weaknesses. Probably the biggest accomplishments have been in the area of public health. Remember that three out of the eight millennium development goals are about health: reducing child mortality, maternal mortality, and the control of the epidemic, communicable diseases. And in all of those cases, the MDGs have made a very big difference. Why were they so effective in those areas? First, MDGs four, five and six could be stated in terms of specific, quantifiable targets. Reduce under five mortality by two thirds. Reduce maternal mortality by three fourths. You can measure. You can count. You can assess. You can compare outcomes with targeted pathways. And so, the ability to state goals clearly is very, very important. Second, you could make those goals seem more manageable and less remote by saying, here’s how malaria can be fought. Not just out of good will but out of long lasting insecticide treated bed nets. Under the deployment of community health workers. The use of rapid diagnostic tests. The use of Artemis and in combination therapies. In other words. That panoply of technical innovations that underpin a practical path to success. Third, there were specific funding mechanisms attached. Most importantly was the arrival of the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which was agreed in 2001, one year after the MDGs were adopted and put into motion in 2002. Pretty quick turnaround time. No doubt in my mind, my experience, I was there helping in that process, the MDGs made a very big difference to the birth of the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. And many individual countries, and I’m happy to say the United States the leader among them, also took on national efforts motivated by this new will to solve these problems. The U.S. adopted in 2003 the PEPFAR Program, which was the emergency program of response to AIDS, where the U.S. has put in billions and billions of dollars to the fight against AIDS in Africa. And in 2005, the United States adopted PMI, the President’s Malaria Initiative. Also, motivated by this new public health will to achieve the millennium development goals, and PMI has played a major role alongside the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, in reducing the malaria burden. Finally, the MDG succeeded in those areas because of monitoring, measurement, evaluation and feedback to program design. Now, the MDGs did not work as well in certain other areas. In areas like sanitation the MDGs are lagging behind. There hasn’t been a global fund for clean water and sanitation the same way as there emerged the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. And where the international funding was not elaborated and increased, where the goals were not made to seem more manageable and less remote, through specific detailed plans of action. Where the epistemic communities did not organize quite as well or where the political leaders were more neglectful, the MDGs tended to lag. Public health, that came very high on the agenda. Education, surprisingly, not quite as high and not as well financed and with not the same dramatic progress as in public health. Agriculture, even a bit further behind, despite some nice words about fighting hunger while progress has been real, the mobilization of global efforts have not been as effective and the real change of, of policies and politics have not been as dramatic as public health. What this shows is that there’s nothing inevitability, nothing inevitable I should say, about stating a goal and having the good results achieved. Stating a goal, helping to make it seem more manageable and less remote, is the first step implementing a plan of action. Taking the feedback is the real, long-term, importance, of what goals can achieve. And that kind of feedback mechanism is shown here in this very, very simple flow chat. The point that I want to make in this flow chart is that one starts with a set of goals and then with a way to address those goals. Next is to design policies that can implement that program of action. Next is that when the outcomes occur, to measure the feedback, and from the feedback to rethink, adapt the strategies in a continuing loop of policy, feedback, all under the, pressures and the motivation of a set of goals and a set of time tables. Now, when we turn to sustainable development, our agenda is even harder than the millennium development goals. And I can tell you the millennium development goals of fighting extreme poverty is pretty tough and very hard to get results in certain areas. But sustainable development goals will include not only the continuation of the fight against extreme poverty, but also the integration of that goal with several others, including environmental sustainability and social inclusion. So, we’ve got an even more complex set of challenges. And there are at least two aspects of sustainable development that make the problems yet more complicated. First, the natural time horizon for results is longer term. Decarbonizing the energy system is going to be a 30 to 40 year effort, even if we’re moving as fast as we can. Making our cities more resilient is a decade or more. Remember that our roads, our buildings, our power plants have a lifetime of of many decades. We’re often talking about power generation facilities that have a lifespan of 40 or 50 years. And therefore, there’s tremendous inertia in this system and there’s also, therefore, a tremendous need to be able to look forward, not to two years or five years but to 20 years or to 30 years. In setting the kinds of frameworks to actually achieve those ten sustainable development goals or their equivalent. There are two specific tools that will be important for translating SDGs into reality. The first of those tools is called back casting. I’d mentioned it before. Rather than forecasting what’s going to happen in 2040 or 2050, one backcasts to say, in 2050 we need to be in such and such location. We need to have such and such level of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, instead of trying to predict or forecast, we’ll start at our target and then move backwards to say how are we going to get to that target? How are we going to cut emissions by half by 2050? Back casting is quite different from prediction. If you look in the news papers, listen to a stock analyst. They’re, they’re guessing about the future. There not designing the future. Backcasting, even though it sounds backward, is about designing the future. Because it is starting at a future date and then working backward from the future date to the present to say, how can we get from here to there? It is setting that path. The second tool, closely related, is road mapping. Road mapping says, okay, we know where we want to be, we know where we start today. We can see the kind of trajectory. What does that terrain really look like? What are our big challenges? What are our technological barriers to overcome? If we are on a hike, we may have to cross a mountain range. If we are on a pathway of sustainable development, we may have to cross a technological mountain range. We have to get over the hump of intermittency of power. We have to get to power storage, we have to overcome the high costs of certain alternative energy possibilities. We have to pass the mountain range of a grid that connects North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, or connects the Dakotas and the Eastern seaboard of the United States, or the Mojave Desert and the population centers of California. In other words, we also need a road map for passing through difficult terrain. Now, this may seem to some people, especially to those steeped in free market economics, as a kind of planning that is impossible and is contrary to the market process. That is not correct. Why? Because in high technology industries, there is, as a norm of behavior in sophisticated industries, exactly that kind of road mapping taking place. And the most successful of all should be kept clearly in mind, it’s a great example and a great motivator for us. And that is the road mapping of Moore’s law. Remember Moore’s law because Moore’s law has created our world today. It is the information technology principle that the capacity of integrated circuits is doubling roughly every 18 to 24 months. Gordon Moore, who back in the 1960s when he enunciated Moore’s Law, was the CEO of Intel, the leading company in integrated circuits. And he noted at the time that for the past ten years or so, the number of transistors that could be packed into an integrated circuit was doubling roughly every eighteen months to two years. And that was doubling the capacity of, processing, the ability to store and, and, soon to transmit data. And cutting by half the cost of doing that because of the doubling of the capacity, in essence. And Moore, back in 1965 when he enunciated Moore’s Law said, there’s some headway ahead. This could go on another decade or two decades, more doubling, doubling, doubling. And of course that means a tremendous increase of the information capacity of central processing units or storage, or ability to transmit enormous volumes of information. All of that has transformed our world. The powerful point is that Moore’s law has continued roughly for half a century since Gordon Moore first enunciated it, and we’ve had roughly a billion fold improvement in the capacity to process, store and transmit information. And therefore, we live in a world of inter connectedness of information that was unimaginable at the time that Gordon Moore first enunciated this principle. But how was it suc, achieved? How did the industry succeed? Well, part of it was individual brilliance and genius of engineers and scientists. Part of it was the competition in the industry, but part of it was industry-wide road mapping. That’s the conclusion that I wanted to emphasize. And one of the aspects of that road mapping is a formal process called the international technology road map for semiconductors, where leaders in the industry got together and said, what are our mountain ranges to cross in the future in getting the continuation of Moore’s law. How do we push ahead another two decades of this doubling of capacity of the integrated circuitry every two years? They road mapped the steps that were needed. They did it brilliantly and we know that they did it successfully. And that has transformed our world, but it also should tell the skeptics about looking ahead. It is possible to look ahead, not to know the future, but to plan on how to overcome certain obstacles to think ahead. To be prepared for the problems that will come and to take measures so that one can pass through the mountain passes and get to the next range, the next difficulty, because we know where we want to go in 20, 30 or 40 years. The final point of sustainable development that will be absolutely crucial is that like the millennium development goals, the SDGs will be a multi-stakeholder process. We need engagement across the public sector, the private sector, civil society, individuals and their own motivation, scientists and engineers in academia. In research centers, foundations, this is all a hands on, this is an all hands on effort this is the kind of challenge where humanity from every part of society is going to have to get involved. It may seem fanciful. We don’t want those planetary boundaries staring us in the face. We don’t want these risks coming so intensively and so rapidly, but that’s where we are. And that’s why the speed of action is so important. And why the multi-stakeholder approach, that mobilizes all parts of society, will be so vital. That’s a big round table. It’s a lot of discussion, it’s a lot of harmonization of different approaches. Some for profit, some not for profit. Some basic science, some very applied decision making. Some on the ground in communities all over the world, some training and educating the leaders of the future. But all of these interconnected parts of the global social network will need to be brought together in effective problem solving, decision making and implementation of the sustainable development goals.