Meher Manga - Intern, Peace & Conflict Mandate
#Sustainability #SDGs are definitely trending on social media. Influencers, celebrities and politicians are promoting SDGs on their social media. Social media has played a positive role in voicing the importance of the SDGs and uniting sustainability conscious citizens. It has provided a platform to amplify the need for SDGs and helped spread awareness about them on a massive scale. Thus, this paper analyses the attitudes of Gen Z towards the UNSDGs and illustrates the role of social media in promoting sustainable development.
Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. The SDGs have been adopted by many non-profits, multinational corporations and schools. The SDGs address global challenges and there has been increased global cooperation on achieving these goals.
Importance of Social Media in Promoting UNSDGs
A picture of a Swedish girl holding a banner titled ‘School Strike for Climate’ (Pictured Here) took the internet by storm and sparked debates about climate change globally. That girl is Greta Thunberg who is UN Environment Programme Champion of the Earth. Following this several young students from different countries started movements to protect our environment and motivated other people to do so. This is one instance that shows the power of social media in generating awareness about sustainability. It demonstrates how the youth are so concerned about sustainability and consciously taking steps to make the world more sustainable. Social media has contributed to promoting sustainable development goals in many ways.
Firstly, social media has played an integral role in promoting the sustainable development goals. From the United Nations Instagram handle to that of their partners, posts about the SDGs have gained a lot of attention. Based on a primary survey 75% of the respondents heard about the UN SDGs on social media. #SDGGs has 1.1m posts under it. The UN account for SDGs (@SDGaction) has 127.2K followers on twitter. These numbers say something important. The importance of social media was highlighted by Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, Representative of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Chair of the UN Theme Group on Youth in China in his speech to the leaders of Weibo ( A Chinese microblogging website). He stated, “ for the UN and UNFPA, social media is not only a channel to disseminate information and to increase visibility. We see social media as a vehicle to engage young people as partners to achieve the global sustainable development goals. We see social media as a platform for young people to voice their concerns and to take part in the development process.”
Secondly, it encourages debates about the importance of UN SDGs and their relevance. Different people from different countries engage in these debates through posts, comments, stories and other tools of expression. Further, when celebrities post on their social media, it motivates a lot of people. This shows how social media helps spark debate on the importance of SDGs which gets people thinking about them and their implementation.
Thirdly, it helps sustainability conscious citizens connect and interact with each other. In a way, social media is contributing towards Goal 17 ( Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development) as citizens from different parts of the world connect and collaborate on social media. There are many competitions and conferences around SDGs that are held and promoted on social media sites which encourage people to participate in large numbers. This has helped increase engagement with SDGs.
Fourthly, social media allows people to highlight specific problems to a wider audience that may go unnoticed otherwise. It is undoubted that social media has helped massively in this aspect. Here is an example to illustrate this. Nestle used to use palm oil that came from killing Indonesian rats in their kitkat. Greenpeace started a social media campaign against this and without going to court was able to get Nestle to commit to using plantation level palm oil. The issue went viral on social media and was soon picked up by news channels. This shows how social media helps by giving people a voice to highlight major problems.
Lastly, social media has often helped raise funds for various reasons. This is very important to the UN SDGs. From education to gender equality to healthcare fundraisers on social media have helped many people. Celebrities have started fundraisers on social media and often raised as much as 1 million dollars for social issues.
Challenges to Measuring Commitment to SDGs through Social Media
While, it cannot be disputed that social media has helped spread awareness about the SDGs and contributed to achieving this there are people who have expressed their skepticism about using social media as a tool to measure the response towards SDGs. There are people who argue that social media can be misleading as some people may just post about SDGs because it is a trend. People may post without being aware of the SDGs or may post without actively incorporating the SDGs in their lifestyle.
While this is a problem, the vitality of social media cannot be discounted based on this. There are many successful examples of how social media has helped in promoting the SDGs such as the case of Greta Thunberg and Nestle. Further, it has helped in promoting the SDGs and has helped in motivating people to work towards the SDGs. Thus, it is important to use a variety of platforms ranging from social media to school curriculums to holistically motivate people to adopt the SDGs.
Thus, to conclude, Social media is extremely popular among the youth as they spend a lot of time on social networking sites. This has helped significantly in promoting the SDGs as informational posts about sustainable development have helped educate the youth about the vitality of the SDGs. Social media is a powerful tool of the 21st century and it should be used judicially to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Meher Manga is a Senior at Ashoka University. She is majoring in Political Science and minoring in International. She is interning at the Peace and Conflict Mandate at CRRSS. She is very enthusiastic about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.