millennium goals
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The SDGs represent a more integrated and comprehensive global agenda centered around the 17 goals and 169 targets that now apply to every country in the world, not only to developing countries. They combine a commitment to end extreme poverty by the year 2030--especially in countries across sub-Saharan Africa and fragile conflict-affected states where progress has been uneven--with commitments to protect the environment, address climate change, combat inequality, promote peace, and improve governance.

The goals are rooted in the principle of "dignity for all" and the sacred obligation to "leave no one behind," which echoes Christ's option for the poor and the biblical mandate to care for and prioritize the welfare of the widow, orphan, stranger, and people living in poverty.

Faith-based organizations, including World Vision, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Caritas Internationalis, American Jewish World Service, the World Council of Churches, and the World Evangelical Alliance, played a crucial role in ensuring that the SDGs were holistic and bold. The contributions and advocacy of faith-inspired groups is essential for generating the political will necessary to ensure the goals don't join the graveyard of broken promises from wealthy nations to the world's most impoverished.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an extensive network of Catholic clinics and hospitals provides 40% of all health services in the country. Through the work of Caritas, the Catholic Church has played a leading role not only in delivering essential services but in promoting peace in some of the most impoverished and conflict-affected countries in the world.

Sadly, foreign aid and a commitment to the SDGs is under assault across the world, including by the United States. The goals can't be achieved under storm clouds of protectionism, nativism, and isolationism. A world of dignity for all is undermined by doctrines of nationalism and provincialism, including the misguided American First doctrine of the Trump administraiton. Dignity for all is out of reach when aid budgets are under threat, climate change accelerates, violent conflicts remain intractable, and corruption continues.

Since the SDGs are not politically binding, they will only succeed if they are undergirded by a tidal wave of public awareness and pressure to hold governments accountable to promises made. The true catalyst will be the degree to which religious organizations capture people's moral imagination and galvanize moral pressure to ensure that governments and the private sector internalize and act on this bold agenda.