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Network for Peace through Dialogue

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September 21, 2016

Visions of the Future: How do our personal visions for the future match with the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Last year the governments of the world agreed in the UN General Assembly on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that all of them would pursue in the next 15 years. The theme of this living room dialogue was to open our minds to dream of possible better worlds in the future and compare our visions with those developed at the UN.

The dialogue opened with a challenge to each person of the group 13 people gathered to state a vision for the future in five words or less. The visions were listed on chart paper and they were:

  • No more military battles
  • Young people appreciate history
  • Retired people do things
  • Inclusive and relational thinking
  • End dependence on fossil fuels
  • Everyone has adequate food
  • Half the world for wildlife
  • Basic necessities for everyone
  • Peace in the Middle East
  • Close Guantanamo
  • A world of peace
  • Safety and protection for children
  • No more evil, only love
  • Marginalized people see the good
  • Respect for all people
  • Safety for all life
  • Abundance for all life

A short video was then shown with a summary of the SDGs. Briefly stated, the goals are: 1) No Poverty. 2) Zero Hunger. 3) Good Health and Well Being. 4) Quality Education. 5) Gender Equality. 6) Clean Water and Sanitation. 7) Affordable and Clean Energy. 8) Decent Work and Economic Growth. 9) Industry Innovation and Infrastructure. 10) Reduced Inequalities. 11) Sustainable Cities and Communities. 12) Responsible Consumption and Production. 13) Climate Action. 14) Conserving Life Below Water. 15) Protecting Life on Land. 16) Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. 17) Partnerships for the Goals.

Next Step in the Dialogue. A handout of the 17 goals (see attached: SDGs for Network.xlsx ) was distributed that elaborated the goals a little more fully. Members of the group were asked to find how their personal goals might fit into the UN's list. We then compiled the results. The goal that appeared most often on our compiled list was goal 16: "Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels."

As the goals were fleshed out at the UN, targets were set for each of the 17 goals. This is a long and complicated list so we looked at just one set of targets, those for goal 16, and read them aloud. There were 10 targets in this group.

The first three of the targets in Goal 16 read: 16.l Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere. 16.2 End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children. 16.3 Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.

The conversation that ensued mostly had to do with possibility and the sources of hope for the future. Where do hope and dreams for a better world come from? Are such dreams possible? Some comments:

--Fear of death is related to fears that I won't have what I need to survive. Or I won't have what everybody else has. This leads to taking whatever you can get and defending whatever it is I've got.

--People have to have had an experience of good in order to have a vision of good in the world.

--Working in a hospital I saw that all the staff were trying to do good and I tried to reassure patients by pointing that out to them. I also saw that children who undergo a lot of suffering turn out to be compassionate and understanding.

--There is something innate in us that knows the good and can choose it.

--People need access to labor and an education that prepares them for work that gives them hope for their futures. We have a one-size-fits-all education. Some people would do better in trade schools.

--It irks me that I pay taxes but I can't get food stamps while others who are not even American can get them.

--We are seeing a lack of kindness. People are desensitized by much of what they view on TV. For example, people are harangued and humiliated on shows like American Idol.

--It's very depressing to think of bad situations when people are working together, the animosity. You've got to be responsible for yourself and focus on living rather on critiquing.

--In these dialogues we can sit here and talk about stuff in a peaceful fashion. Blaming doesn't happen here. That is the contribution made by this project.

--We have a natural will to do good in the world. We need to stop the destruction of hope. We need to let go of competitiveness and be more generous. The only way these high-placed people are going to get anywhere is if we all look at what is here and act.

Final Go-Round. What is something you are taking away from this conversation:

--Instead of trying to address specific targets, we looked at what kind of thinking underlies the whole current situation.

--This helped me think about a new book I am writing about how everything contributes to everything.

--No one is paid to be here but we come because we want to make a better world.

--We may not agree on everything and we talk to one another in a civilized fashion. Dialogue practices benefit everyone.

--We can relate these UN targets to our lives. It's all about relationships.

--Both/and not either/or.

Proposal for the next meeting. The next meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 18. A proposal was made that for that dialogue we think of ways that we have been able to do something in our own lives that forwards the good.

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