Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Encourages Awareness and Action on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

New York, New York, November 15, 2023 – Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the United Nations is a set of objectives that it’s been working on since 2015: its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). That’s one situation that Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative to the United Nations, hopes to rectify soon.

Originally called the Millennial Goals, the SDGs were established in 2015, with the objective of completing them by 2030 – a deadline that Sister Durstyne doesn’t believe will be met. The goals range from No Poverty, Zero Hunger, and Good Health and Well-being to Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions and Partnerships for the Goals. 

“In the United States, most people don’t know what the goals are, and they don’t realize how much we’re each impacted,” Sister Durstyne said. “They’re about us and about our environment, protecting the planet and us. We’re trying to protect the Earth and humanity, especially in peace and security.”

Sister Durstyne described the goals as “pathways to tackle the problems of hunger, environmental degradation, and so on.” She explained that each goal includes indicators: areas that need to be addressed for the goal to be accomplished.

“They’re for the benefit of the world, for all countries,” Sister Durstyne said. For example, she said that reaching the goal of Quality Education (No. 4) would ensure that women and girls in Afghanistan are permitted an education, thus helping support and build up their families and nation. But the goal also benefits local children, ensuring they can access quality education. “We have to keep educating girls because they are our future, our hope that this world will become more equal and that we will become more life-giving,” she said.

Sister Durstyne recommended that the worldwide Dominican family focus on Climate Action (No. 13) and Gender Equality (No. 5). “So many of our Dominican Sisters live in Africa, where [women] don’t have any equality,” she said.

She also related a few of the goals to the Enactments that Adrian Dominican Sisters adopted during its 2022 General Chapter. “Our Enactments are in tune with the SDGs,” she said. “Gender Equality is so much in tune with our Enactment on Women. We are trying to bring about gender equality for all women worldwide so that they can exercise their own decision-making and leadership skills.”

Three SDGs particularly in tune with the Congregation’s Sustainability Enactment are Clean Water and Sanitation (No. 6), Climate Action (13), and Life on Land (No. 15), which address environmental issues such as forest management, land degradation, and biodiversity loss. The Congregation lives out its Sustainability Enactment and makes progress on the above SDGs through efforts in its Permaculture garden, retired Sisters’ gardens, and recent installation of solar panel arrays. In addition, Brad Frank, Director of Sustainability, often challenges Sisters and Associates in responsible consumption and production (No. 12). 

The Sustainability Enactment calls on Adrian Dominican Sisters to join Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Action Platform. This seven-year global program invites Catholic individuals, families, and institutions to work together to build a sustainable future for the world. It builds on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical (letter), Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home, which addresses the ecological issues of our times. Sister Durstyne noted that the seven goals of the action platform correspond well with the SDGs.

The Sisters also exemplify Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. “We have so many partners in the mission,” Sister Durstyne pointed out. “I think we can make people aware by sharing our own partnerships and showcasing what we’re doing.”

While delineating specific, distinct goals, the SDGs are also related to one another, Sister Durstyne said. “If I’m satisfied and not hungry, I’ll be a good student, and my well-being will be better,” she explained. “I’ll be able to work and bring in an income. I’ll be able to help bring about a better partnership. … That’s why we want to decrease hunger and poverty – all of these will help us move forward together.”

Sister Durstyne emphasized several ways that people can help move the SDGs forward. “The most important thing is to have our government get behind it and put in some money behind these goals,” she said. “It’s about financial commitment. Every one of these goals requires a financial commitment.” 

She noted the importance of more prosperous, developed countries such as the United States making a financial commitment to the SDGs so that less-wealthy countries can have some financial support in their work with the goals. That will be addressed at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, Conference of the Parties (COP) 28, planned for November 30-December 12, 2023, in the United Arab Emirates.

Sister Durstyne also spoke of more specific ways that individuals can work toward achieving the SDGs. 

  • Commit the 17 SDGs to memory.
  • Commit the 17 SDGs to memory.

The SDGs “are for the benefit of the world, for all countries,” Sister Durstyne said. “So when we do our part, we are helping other countries do their part.”