UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - World leaders on Friday adopted the most sweeping agenda ever of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change, capping years of debate and saying now is the time for "a little less conversation, a little more action."
Described by the United Nations secretary-general as "a to-do list for people and planet," the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, are to be implemented over the next 15 years with a big global push to win public and political support.
The 193 U.N. member nations formally adopted the goals in the shadow of the worst refugee crisis since World War II, calling for shared peace and prosperity.
Pope Francis called the adoption of the SDGs "an important sign of hope."
"Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions," said the Pope as the Vatican flag flew for the first time outside the United Nations where security was heightened for his visit.
He said world leaders must follow through with "a will which is effective, practical, constant, with concrete steps and immediate measures" to protect the environment and end social and economic exclusion.
The adoption comes after three years of brainstorming among member nations to draw up the comprehensive slate, but supporters say now work must start on the bigger task of implementation into practical programs, policies and parliaments.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, a strong supporter of the goal calling for affordable, sustainable energy, said lyrics from a song by "the famous philosopher Elvis Presley" were a fitting description of what must happen next.
"A little less conversation, a little more action please," she said.
The objectives replace the previous U.N. action plan, the Millennium Development Goals, that were adopted in 2000.
Supporters say the SDGs go much further by addressing root causes of issues such as poverty and looking at means as well as ends. They also are intended to be universal, not just for the developing world.
"They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after an opening ceremony with performances by Colombian singer Shakira and Benin's Angelique Kidjo, U.N. goodwill ambassadors.
"For the first time ever, we have a transformative set of global goals agreed by all countries and that apply to every nation," he said.
Implementation, requiring trillions of dollars in investment, will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators to be agreed by March 2016.
While critics have described the SDGs as too broad and ambitious, supporters argue the agreement is a positive step as a shared vision to improve lives globally.
"There is a huge gap between the world we live in and the world we want. These goals represent people's aspirations and rights and they must and can be realized," said Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by xxxx.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)