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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte DUFOUR

Unleashing the power of the 18th SDG

to achieve the Agenda 2030

“You know Charlotte, there is an unwritten 18th Sustainable Development Goal. It is about love and joy, and it infuses all the others.”

Not a day goes by without me coming back to these words, confided to me lightly, almost jokingly, by David Nabarro[1], when he had just been appointed Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General (Ban Ki-moon) on Sustainable Development and Climate Change, in 2015.

This was a powerful “a-ha” moment for me, as I have already shared elsewhere, one which ultimately led me to do what I do today with Narayan. But it is only now that I realize the depth and importance of David’s words. I have shared this little anecdote more than once, and each time, I see these words “SDG 18, love, joy” trigger a flash of light in the eyes of the person I am speaking with; a smile, sometimes a gasp, always a wave of inspiration. One that increases as the words seep in.

I see now that we cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals laid out in Agenda 2030 without the powerful energy of love and joy. Those are the energies that empower us to move mountains. The 18th SDG is the activator of all the other SDGs. Because Agenda 2030 is not only about what we do, but how we do it. When you do something with love and joy, is that not when you surpass yourself and go further than what you thought was ever possible?

And what if this 18th SDG were the ultimate goal? After all, if we are to be well fed, educated, healthy, employed, is it not to feel more joy in life? If we are to nurture the earth, take care of the natural resources it provides, is it only because we depend on them for our survival, or could it also be because doing so just gives us joy, because nature’s beauty comforts and enlivens our soul?

What would our economies look like if their success were not only measured by the material wealth that is generated but how much joy and love are generated? Joy that emerges from improved living conditions, but also from people being more harmoniously connected to one another and to nature. The environment could be in a very different state… What if success were not proportional to how much we accumulate but to how much we share?

Because abundance comes when energy can circulate – it’s not so much about having but about being and flowing with life. And being in that flow often provides us exactly with what we need.

The 18th SDG is also what brings Agenda 2030 at the heart of our lives, because love and joy give meaning and power to every human heart beat, everywhere, regardless of social origin, discipline, political colour, gender, age and belief.

And finally, the 18th SDG is the one SDG that each one of us can achieve fully, each and every day.

It’s time to unleash the power of the 18th SDG.

So… what will you do for the 18th SDG today?

[1]David Nabarro has since founded the social enterprise 4SD – Skills, Systems and Synergies for Sustainable Development – which aims “help people as they change the way they think, talk, act and lead on sustainable development” through training and mentoring. (, which Narayan is proud to be partnering with. David has also been honored with the 2018 World Food Prize, together with Lawrence Haddad.

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