Imagining Partnership of the SDG Goals as Phases of the Cross


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service

Correspondence between cognitive internalization and collective strategic articulation.


21 Nov 2022 – As the current culminating reflection on coherent global governance, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals formulated by the United Nations merit continuing reflection as the upgrade of the earlier 8 Millennium Development Goals. A particular mystery relates to assumptions regarding Goal 17, namely the Partnership for the Goals, and how this might be understood, as previously discussed (Eliciting Potential Patterns of Governance from 16 Sustainable Development Goals, 2022). This explored Goal 17 through a polyhedral compound of 16 tetrahedra in 3D, notably presented as an interactive virtual reality model (Experimental interactive animation of a 16-tetrahedra complex of UN SDGs in 3D, 2022)

Whether the set of goals is indeed systemically coherent in a recognizable manner, it could also be understood as implying a form of coherence  emerging from the collective unconscious — even as a collective dream (Systemic Coherence of the UN’s 17 SDGs as a Global Dream, 2021). The organization of the set of goals, and the 169 tasks associated with them, therefore invites continuing consideration of how that degree of complexity can be comprehended and rendered memorable.

The nature of that challenge has been explored separately (Cognitive Embodiment of Patterns of Governance of Higher Order, 2022). As engendered by a set of values, their nature and organization also merits consideration (Values, Virtues and Sins of a Viable Democratic Civilization, 2022).

The cognitive challenge of a poorly recognized 16-fold organization of global governance contrasts strangely with the radical simplification favoured by the promotion of a US-led Rules Based International Order (RBIO) (The United Nations and the Rules-Based International Order, United Nations Association of Australia, July 2015; Challenges to the Rules-Based International Order, Chatham House, 2015; Mark Leonard, Who will rule the rules-based order? The Strategist, 14 Jan 2022). The RBIO is now contrasted with the promotion of a Law Based International Order (LBIO) through the alliance of Russia and China. The dynamics of this binary competition are explored by Scott Ritter (A ‘Dangerous, Bloody and Dirty Game’, Consortium News, 3 November 2022). The nations primarily involved in both “sides” of this primitive game are of course the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council — a body eternally challenged with the viability of the global system.

The future may see it as profoundly curious that a global civilization should choose to opt for a binary dynamic echoing the worldwide enthusiasm for such a dynamic in competitive ball games at every level of society. There is little interest in alternatives, 3-way or 4-way football for example, why they are less attractive, or the development of exemplars by which they might be enhanced. The primary focus is on righteous triumphalism and crushing any “evil” opposition — on scapegoats and schadenfreude. The pattern is echoed worldwide in legislative assemblies. rendering mysterious any assumptions regarding the viability of governance necessary in the case of 16 goals (Destabilizing Multipolar Society through Binary Decision-making, 2016).

Such previous considerations have focused on a possible 16-fold organization of which the 17th Goal is the coordinating function or perspective — however that is itself to be understood. This suggests the possibility of representing the configuration of goals in diagrammatic or geometrical form in order to highlight their potential relationships and the patterns they form that are integral to the systemic coherence of the set. To this end SDG iconography has tended to focus on a variety of circular diagrams and tabular arrangements. Understood in that way, any exploration of how the 16 goals might be more fruitfully configured — as in the following — can then be recognized as a pursuit of the 17th Goal: Partnership for the Goals.

The following argument is however based on the assumption that the current SDG iconography in 2D is inadequate to the challenge of articulating the recognized complexity — given the questionable performance of global governance, or that at the national level. This justifies recourse to eliciting a memorable sense of coherence from representation in 3D — if not 4D or more. As with the previous exercise, this follow-up explores use of a compound of 16 tetrahedra, one of a number of such polyhedral compounds composed of simpler polyhedra sharing a common centre (a central perspective usefully symbolized by the 17th Goal).

The exercise here takes the use of web technology further in order to explore even more fruitful ways of representing the dynamics of the partnership within a 16-fold articulation of goals — and of interacting with such complexity, given its challenge to comprehensibility and memorability from a “17th perspective”. As a work in progress, the animations are presented here as a means of eliciting imaginative ways of “thinking otherwise” about SDGs regarding any more coherent response of global governance.

The focus on “goals” evokes the question as to whether the 16 SDGs need only be understood as a simple analogue to the goal in any ball-game — or whether they call for more fundamental cognitive consideration, as may be implied by the subtle symbolic significance potentially associated with goal-scoring in such games. It is in this sense that achievement of a viable 17th Goal, and its comprehension, is explored here as a dynamic — whether from the perspective of operations research, compact geometrical configuration, or as a journey whose coherence is appreciated in symbolic terms.



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