The Global Goals: Building the future


It’s something you don’t see every year at the UN General Assembly: diplomats, political leaders and global citizens all tinkering with Lego pieces. This year for Global Goals Week, UNDP partnered with the toy company to build a giant Sustainable Development Goals wheel out of the tiny building blocks. On the plaza outside UN Headquarters, we invited passers-by to help put the pieces together for a sustainable world by 2030.




It was a way to get people involved – physically – in building the Global Goals, just like everyone has to be actively involved in building the future we want. We’ll come back to see how the wheel turned out. But first, here are some key moments from Global Goals Week 2017.




“We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace.”


With these words, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a call for world leaders “put the pieces together”. He urged them to tackle the gravest issues facing humankind, including conflict, climate change and inequality.

On the topic of refugees and migration, the Secretary-General identified personally with the millions of forced and voluntary migrants around the world.

“I myself am a migrant... Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.”



Many of the same issues were on the agenda at the Social Good Summit. Each year, the Summit brings the UNGA out from behind closed doors to include a wider audience. It unites a lively community of global citizens around a common theme: how to leverage technology to make the world a better place by 2030.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner took the opportunity to introduce UNDP’s newest Goodwill Ambassador, the legendary Bob Weir, founding member of the Grateful Dead.



“Your actions are worth more than you know. I’d like to tell young people that if you’re working toward these SDGs, you’re working toward the future of life on earth – and nothing less.”

Bob Weir, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador


Another memorable moment came when Goodwill Ambassador Connie Britton interviewed two members of the White Helmets. Against the backdrop of the conflict in Syria, these men and women risk their lives to pull people out of the wreckage and to safety.

Beyond the main event in New York, Social Good Summits were held in dozens of countries around the world driving a global push to build #2030Now.

Global Goals Week also coincides with Climate Week – because we won’t achieve the SDGs without strong collective action to address climate change.

The issue was front and centre during the week, in part because of the devastating hurricanes that struck the Caribbean in the days before. Noting that climate change is making such extreme weather events more frequent and more severe, the General Assembly appealed for support to vulnerable countries.



“Let us be inspired to take personal and collective action to support the victims and survivors rebuild their communities, homes and lives, stronger than even before.”

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the General Assembly


UNDP and UNICEF teamed up to amplify the Voices of Youth during the General Assembly. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet co-chaired the discussion, emphasizing that children and adolescents must have a central role in building toward the Global Goals. Junior Ambassador Askadeline Milanes showed that youth are well prepared to take on the challenge.


“We are determined to change the world. And we have to, because if we disregard others and our planet, we’ll repeat the past and grow up into a destructive and inhumane world. When we are young, it’s easy to believe that people with money and power are the only ones who can change the world. But I’ve learned that isn’t true.”

Askadeline Milanes, 13, NYC Junior Ambassador

Another young person making waves was girls’ education campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. She spoke at the launch of a new UN-EU partnership to combat violence against women and girls. On the occasion, Goodwill Ambassador Nikolaj Coster-Waldau moderated the discussion focusing on the role of fathers.



“There’s nothing special in my story, that I was maybe trained or I was more talented or more clever than others. There’s nothing like that. The only difference in my story is that no one stopped me. My father believed in me and he let me speak out.”

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and UN Messenger of Peace

The ‘Game of Thrones’ star also served as referee for the Global Goals World Cup, an amateur women’s football tournament with a mission to change the world.



UNDP’s team put in a good showing playing for Goal 1 – No Poverty. But it was Kenyan team Moving the Goalposts that took home the trophy.


“I love meeting the inspiring women who were taking part in the Global Goals World Cup today. They have come from far and wide to show the world just how important real and positive change is to them. I hope everyone will be inspired to back the Global Goals and join me in changing the planet.”

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador



Now in its second year, the tournament is gaining steam as a way to kick-start activism for the Global Goals. And it’s another way people everywhere are getting physically involved in building toward the world we want by 2030.

And that brings us back to our giant Lego wheel on the plaza at UN Headquarters. Together with film director and activist Richard Curtis, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner fit the final pieces in place to complete the picture.



“These Global Goals that were adopted by every nation here two years ago have now become the fabric that allows us to talk to each other. The connection alone is something that I think is very important. It gives us also some hope, because if we can address these issues that are symbolized by these colours here, then the future actually is going to be brighter, not just for the current generation but for our kids.”

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator


The challenge now – for all of us – is to keep the momentum going. To stay engaged beyond UN General Assembly week, to put the pieces together in our own lives and to grab whatever tools we have and start building toward the Global Goals in our own communities.


Get started now!


Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals and how to make the vision a reality.

Join the conversation online. Follow along and share your thoughts. 

Find more opportunities to get involved in supporting the SDGs by visiting the Global Goals website.

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