Are we walking towards something we will never reach? Is the whole 2030 Agenda worthless then?

As a result of the Millennium Development Goals, a previous set of ideas and plans that came up after the United Nations’ members noticed the increase of an urge to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was established as a group of 17 goals (called SDGs) that should be reached within the 15 years between its creation and its “deadline”. These goals come with 169 targets and are applied globally, which means every single UN member country should currently have the SDGs as a base for their politics both nationally and internationally.

Sounds great to have multiple globally recognized objectives regarding the health of society and the environment, right? Of course it does. But one thing that might pop up in people’s minds is: isn’t 2030 a bit close? Wouldn’t that be utopic? Aren’t we portraying too ambitious ideals? What if we are being too presumptuous? Well, yes, indeed, the SDGs represent an idealized society and from the starting point we are at, it does seem a little bit unlikely for us to reach each one of them until 2030, but, at the same time, isn’t establishing goals the beginning of a process of change?

Defining important targets, as utopic as it can seem sometimes, helps us to have some sort of materialization of the future, and so surely brightens the path we should take. More than that, it also brings purpose to demanding changes from governments and leaders. A further analysis of the Greek word “utopia” and its origin can be supplemented by Thomas More’s work. On the one hand, you have “ou-topos” referring to “no place” or “nowhere”, whereas, on the other, the almost identical word “eu-topos” – which some people say was a pun previously thought out by More – refers to a good place, something positive. This sums up the whole concept of utopia: as much as it constitutes a wonderful, happy, dream scenario, it constitutes a conjuncture which has nothing to do with the one we have now, something different and extraneous. And that is what scares us most: the idealized situation comes with a potential and desired rupture from the present.

It certainly does not mean that our current life does not fit the 2030 Agenda and it also does not mean we will have to start from zero mark to build the society projected by the goals, but it does lead us to understand that many, many, MANY changes are needed so as to incorporate the SDGs, not only breaking with bad old habits, prejudices and stereotypes, but also setting up new structures, mechanisms and guidelines. So at the same time that we have these beautiful and glorifying goals, we have details and specified steps to reach them, combining realism and unrealism; social imagination and real action plans.

What ends up happening is that the Sustainable Development Goals gift us with a bigger sense of viability. And though it sounds like 2030 is right around the corner and we will not be able to reach those goals until then – which is most likely true –, what impacts more when it comes to the Agenda is not our lack of “humbleness”, that is, our misperception of where we truly are and how far it is from where we want to be, if that is what one may think, but actually our lack of proactivity. In fact, it is not presumptuous to establish ambitious targets for the near future as long as we are willing to act towards it.

We cannot deny the importance of the SDGs. How they, somehow, put the whole world on the same page and how, among various things, they also serve not to let us forget about past mistakes, present issues and future accomplishments; and about how making change commands taking action. You know… idealization without adequate following attitudes are just a bundle of “what if’s” and we, right now, need certainties.

As the Uruguayan journalist and writer, Eduardo Galeano, once said: “Utopia serves to keep us from stopping to walk”. So, yes, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is utopic, but matching Galeano’s main idea, truth is: utopias are of great use for those who are willing to walk.


Chauí, Marilena. “Notas Sobre Utopia.” Ciência e Cultura, Sociedade Brasileira Para o Progresso Da Ciência, July 2008,

“Utopia.” The British Library – The British Library, Http://, 3 Apr. 2006,


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