The role of foresight in achieving the SDGs

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The Summit of the Future, to be held on September 22-23, 2024, emerges from the UN’s “Our Common Agenda” report. A proposal for a “Declaration on Future Generations,” is a central element of the Summit. This is grounded in the principles of intergenerational solidarity, expanding upon the SDG 2030 framework. The declaration emphasises the need to protect the interests of both present and future generations. This is an essential building block for the SDGs.

The declaration needs to to draw on three elements if it is to have impact with leaders, learning from our work in more than 50 countries. These are: embedding foresight in strategy; hearing diverse voices; and finding new ways to deliver the 2030 Agenda.

Embedding foresight in strategy

At their heart, the SDGs are a set of goals that describe a preferred future, and using foresight techniques is an obvious approach. To work, they need to be embedded in decision-making processes across organisations in different sectors. This includes organisations whose mandate contributes to realising the SDGs. For example WaterAid, whose work contributes to achieving SDG 6, harnessed strategic foresight in its 2032 strategy, working with SOIF. Foresight enabled it to envision possible futures, think innovatively, and develop new mindsets within the organisation.

Transformation through voice and agency

The SDGs are not just technocratic solutions. They also require that diverse voices are heard. Foresight can help facilitate this engagement and inclusion, by amplifying voices that might otherwise remain unheard. One example of this is the policy brief “Building a Coalition for Intergenerational Fairness in the European Green Deal,” supported by the Open Society Foundation. 

This brief emerged from discussions and interviews with key European stakeholders, and underscores the importance of intergenerational fairness within the context of SDG-13 (climate action). It underlines that the consequences of decisions made to achieve this goal are fairly shared among generations, securing a sustainable future for all.

The 2030 agenda needs new approaches

In 2015, heads of state and governments committed to 17 Goals and 169 targets for 2030. This was a welcome inclusion of longer-term thinking into decision-making frameworks. Governments and institutions are increasingly incorporating foresight into policy-making processes to give this longer-term view.

This also involves building the capacity of staff to use foresight. SOIF has worked with governments and multilaterals such as the  World Health Organization in Mongolia and the United Nations Global Pulse in Indonesia to equip policymakers with the skills for agile and adaptable decision-making.

Harnessing strategic foresight enables us to navigate the complexities of sustainable development, making it more likely that we will achieve our collective goals to transform the way the world works. .

Contact us to learn more about how you can build strategic foresight capability in your organization and government.