Be Brave and Bold: An Open letter to the UN on Climate Change and SDG’s


Be Brave and Bold: An Open letter to the UN on Climate Change and SDG’s

An Open Letter to the Major Groups and other Stakeholders Focused on the Formative Development of the 2019 U.N. High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals

Dear Participants in the Major Groups and other Stakeholders,

I have taken the initiative to write a letter to all those I met at the 2018 HLPF who are now working on the 2019 forum. 

At COP 24 David Attenborough sounded a dire warning stating that "If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."

It is clear to many that Attenborough's warning could be too late unless we act quickly. My fear is that if the U.N. HLPF does not step-up all hope will be lost. The status quo and slowly evolving policies and procedures and the editing of old narratives will not move U.N. Member States forward fast enough to meet the goals by 2030. Indeed, my own assessment is that we have less than 4 years to take a quantum leap in establishing the changes that are imperative on global scales for humanity to survive to 2050 let alone 2100. 

It is from this perspective that I have written to all those preparing for 2019 HLPF. It is entirely possible that the Major Groups and other Stakeholders, working together with the many divisions of the U.N., are all that stands between humanity and the fate that David Attenborough describes.

I hope you find some information here that is of use. Here is the letter:

Open Letter to the Major Groups and other Stakeholders Focused on the Formative Development of the 2019 U.N. High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals

I am writing to you at a time when you are in deep contemplation and participation in many complex negotiations that will frame the 2019 High Level Political Forum. For each of us, the question we must ask is:

How can we be brave, bold and effective in our encouragement of the representatives of U.N. member states who must make rapid progress in establishing a life sustaining agenda and take decisive action in pushing down the life threatening risks that are already overwhelming many people in human societies?

If governments do not move quickly and act, the lives of future generations will be imperiled – indeed even now they are suffering the harmful consequences, with young people in global contexts already subject to unreasonable and acceptable risks.

For many years scientists, thought leaders and the media have warned that humanity is heading into the abyss. It could be argued that we have already fallen into the abyss, and that it is only the emergency first response efforts of the Major Groups and other Stakeholders working together with the many divisions of the U.N. on the Sustainable Development Goals at the High Level Political Forums that U.N. Member States have a small chance of rescuing the future by pulling humanity out of the abyss.

And yet countries are dragging their feet. The presentations of their efforts at the 2018 HLPF were for the most part pedestrian and uninspiring. Sometimes, reassigned old narrative loops seemed more like travel logs encouraging tourism rather than accounts of operationalized plans and actions to push down life-threatening risks confronting people on the planet. The gravity and urgency of the situation is existential, but observations at the presentations indicated that the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) quite literally lulled some people to sleep, while others, bored by the monotony of the reports, focused instead on their email, Facebook and Twitter. The takeaway from these ineffectual presentations at the 2018 HLPF was that the governments of the countries participating in the VNR were not only unfocused, but lacked the political will to save future generations from the adverse effects of human activity on the planet that has put them all at risk.

It is from this perspective that I am sending this letter, which contains links to 40 years of transdisciplinary research that addresses the threats to human societies encapsulated in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. You are welcome to use any aspect of this work to advance the agenda for the 2019 HLPF. I am placing in the commons the entire body of this research – which has preoccupied me for so long – with no need for ascription or reference because the threats are so dire. My hope is that there is some aspect of this work that advances your agenda and that in some small way it can be used to push down the risks.

Briefly, for the past forty years my transdisciplinary research, which is both theoretical and field based, has encompassed work in both the social and physical sciences. This research with marginalized groups living in poverty includes field research in regions experiencing extreme weather events, armed conflict, and mass shootings, and has focused on the systemic complexity of the many challenges confronting people and the planet. An account of this research can be accessed here.

Much of the research that I have done is now encapsulated in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDGs 1, 4, 10, 13, 16 & 17.  It is through the lens of this research that I undertook a peer review/report of the 2018 HLPF that you can access here.

In the report there is a response to each of the SDGs, with detailed analysis of SDGs 4, 10, 13, 16, & 17. However, there are other research reports that focus specifically on SDGs 4, 10, 13, 16 & 17, which might be of use in the preparations that are being made for the 2019 U.N. HLPF.

These reports are transdisciplinary and resist the positivistic linearity that characterizes so much of the research in the social and physical sciences that frames the SDGs. Here is a brief summary.

SDGs 4 & 10: Quality Education & Reducing Inequality: An International Declaration of Principles


A full accounting is given of the diversity of the participants from four continents who participated in the development of this document and it is because of the diversity of participation that the International Declaration of Principles: Many Families, Many Literacies might be helpful in framing SDG 4 at the 2019 HLPF. The declaration positions those who will take part in the 2019 forum alongside the families who will be impacted by their decisions. The principles could even be turned into a checklist for the evaluation of prospective presentations to ensure that the U.N. is true to the mission of the HLPF, which is “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

SDGs 4 & 16: Education and The U.N. Peacebuilding Architecture


This paper is written in response to the U.N. document dated 12 May 2016, specific to Agenda Items 15 & 16 on the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 27 April 2016 on the peacebuilding architecture. The objective was to highlight the importance that recognition be given to the peace building and peace sustaining opportunities that family literacy creates to connect peacebuilding challenges with solutions at the local, regional and global scales.

Family literacy has become a social science concept that is now ubiquitous as an organizing principle – a way of framing vital programs for children, their families, and communities throughout the world. Family literacy has evolved into a peaceful way of increasing cohesion and reducing fragmentation by responding to many local, regional and global conflicts that are deleterious to the health and wellbeing and even survival of vulnerable families.

An analysis of the family literacy initiatives in U.N. member states and 40 years of family literacy research in high poverty urban and rural locations, and in regions of armed conflict and catastrophic events, was used to identify the connections between the 70/262 Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture and the impact of family literacy on peacebuilding and sustainable development.

SDGs 4, 10, 13, 16 & 17 Education, Reducing Inequality, Climate Action, Peace and Justice, and Partnerships for the Goals


“It is important that we respond to the big and important questions,” the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Miroslav Lajčák said in his opening address at the conference “Sustaining Peace: Partnerships for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding”, convened by the UN and Columbia University (December 8, 2017).

“There is no room for complacency,” President Lajčák said. He spoke of “too many local and regional conflicts” and of the need to “sustain peace – a peace that lasts for generations.”

He talked about “conflicts within and between countries,” and he said, “We do not have a good mechanism for dealing with them.”

President Lajčák also talked about the need to stay ahead of potential conflicts, and of the UN’s resolution to do so. He emphasized the need for conflict prevention, predictable and sustainable financing of prevention, more coherence in the UN support for peace, and partnerships with civil society with the intent of sustaining peace. He repeated several times that local knowledge and participation of the local people in peace initiatives is of vital importance.

“What tools do we have at our disposal?” President Lajčák asked at the end of his address. “And, how can we give greater visibility to sustaining peace?”

It is worth repeating that local knowledge and participation of local people in peace initiatives are of vital importance, and that unrecognized local peace building efforts are already well established in most UN Member States. A strong argument can be made for reconsidering the significant role that family literacy programs can have as conduits for local peacebuilding initiatives that enhance the lives of vulnerable people in every UN Member State, including economically advantaged countries.

SDG 13 & 17 Climate Action & Unpackaging Human Enterprise & Communicating With The Public

There are many other research papers but I would like to just highlight here the papers that focus on climate change and the interrelationships between people and the planet. Here are the climate change papers.

These papers, which focus on SDGs 4, 10, 13, 16 & 17 include:

  • When The Temperature Rises More Than 2⁰C What Will We Do?

  • Integrating The Social Sciences And Humanities In Earth System Science To Address The ICSU/ISSC Grand Challenges

  • Unpackaging Human Enterprise And Communicating With The Public

  • The Great Acceleration: The Anthropocene, Kicks, Dead Zones And Bridging The Abyss

SDGs 1 through 17 Great Transformation Can be Achieved Through Collective Action

Written in 2012, this research report presents 19 clues to the great transformations that are urgently needed to reduce the risks. The nineteen clues presented in the report precede the U.N. SDGs, but are in keeping with them. The question asked is: What would it take to make Earth a child safe zone? The Nineteen Clues are used both to encourage active engagement of governments and civil society and to make the case that “Humanity is standing at a moment in history when a Great Transformation is needed to respond to the immense threat to the Earth,” as Nobel Laureates write in their summary of the 2007 Potsdam Memorandum on Global Sustainability. The report, which is already in the commons as an eBook, can be accessed here.

I will gladly send a paper copy to anyone participating in the major groups or to other stakeholders.

Finally, I am including two research based peer-reviewed “handouts”. The first paper has been used by teachers, parents, and caregivers across the U.S. who are first responders in public schools and communities in the aftermath of catastrophic events and human disasters. You can access the paper here.

The second paper is Children and Climate Change: Don’t Frighten the Kids. This is not yet available on the website so a PDF is attached. Once again the information is based on peer-reviewed research and has been shared in communities.

I realize this is an over abundance of information, but the future is less than certain and the risks are grave, and so I hope some aspects of the research will be useful. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from all of you, and I am more than willing to provide any support that I can as you move forward with your planning for the 2019 HLPF.

Kindest Regards,

Denny Taylor
Professor Emeritus Literacy Studies
Founder and CEO Garn Press

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

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