The United Nations may have set 17 goals to "transform our world," but local governments will do much of the heavy lifting, along with foundations and nonprofits, to address them, Twin Cities foundation leaders said Thursday.
Minnesota's largest foundations, joined by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, met to strategize how they can align their missions with the U.N.'s Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
The United Nations Foundation, the Washington-based Council on Foundations and the Minnesota Council on Foundations organized the event at the Medtronic campus in Fridley.
"How we live our lives in the Western world has impacts on the rest of the world," said Hodges, pointing to local decisionmaking and philanthropy that can add up to global change.
"The fact that we put organics recycling in place in Minneapolis three years ago actually matters," she said.
The U.N. approved the 17 global goals in September 2015 and established a deadline of 2030 to meet them. Targets include eliminating poverty and inequality, ending hunger, promoting economic growth and taking action to combat climate change.
Foundations — many of them based in the U.S. — will spend an estimated $364 billion in pursuit of those goals over the next 15 years, according to the Foundation Center, a national philanthropy think tank. Minnesota foundations have already spent $3 billion in the past decade on philanthropic work that fits into the U.N. goals.
Jennifer Chavez Rubio, Medtronic Foundation's senior director of global engagement, said the U.N. goals create a common language and allow for measures of collective impact.
Minnesota's robust philanthropic community and its established partnerships with local governments give the state a head start on the work, said Sherry Magill, board chairwoman of the national Council on Foundations. She said it's a starkly different landscape in Minneapolis compared to her home state of Florida.
"I feel like I've died and gone to heaven. I listen to your mayor and she knows about these things," said Magill, noting that Hodges is the only mayor to attend one of the U.N. events, which also have been held in San Francisco, New York, Jacksonville, Fla., and Little Rock, Ark.
Magill called the U.N. goals "organizing principles for humanity," in an era when she said society has become "too comfortable, I'm afraid, with leaving people behind."
The 2015 goals are designed to build on the earlier success of the U.N.'s millennium development goals, which focused on reducing extreme poverty primarily in developing nations and "produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history," wrote U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a 2015 report.
The number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. New HIV infections fell by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, from an estimated 3.5 million cases to 2.1 million.