SDG 0 – the SDG of Love and Joy
Updated: Jul 27, 2021
The foundation and ultimate goal of Agenda 2030
What, you may ask, is SDG 0???
Its origin lies in words casually spoken by Dr. David Nabarro (1), during a private conversation with Charlotte Dufour, one of the founders of Listening Inspires, back in 2015. David was then Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon on Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which compose it.
“You know", he said in passing, "there is an unwritten 18th Sustainable Development Goal. It is about love and joy, and it infuses all the others.”
These words resonate strongly with all those who hear them. Eyes light up, smiles awaken, and waves of inspiration rise. “Yes, of course,” they seem to realise.
This 18th SDG can be seen as the activator of all the other SDGs. Aren’t the powerful energies of love and joy those that empower us to move mountains? When you do something with love and joy, is that not when you surpass yourself and go further than what you thought was ever possible?
This 18th SDG can also be seen as the ultimate goal of Agenda 2030. After all, if we are to be well fed, educated, healthy, employed, is it not to feel more joy in life? If we are to take care of each other and nurture the earth, is it only because we depend on each other and on Nature for our survival, or is it because doing so gives us joy - because care, compassion and Nature’s beauty comfort and enliven our soul?
What would our economies look like if their success were not only measured by the material wealth that is created but by how much joy and love are generated? Joy that emerges from improved living conditions, but also from people being more harmoniously connected to one another and to Nature. The environment could be in a very different state…
What if success were not proportional to how much we accumulate but to how much we share? Because abundance comes when energy can circulate – it’s not so much about having but about being and flowing with life. And being in that flow often provides us exactly with what we need.
Implementing Agenda 2030 is not only about what we do to achieve the SDGs, but how we do it.
We’ve grown to call this 18th SDG “SDG 0”. Why? We see it as the foundational SDG. We see love and joy as the alpha and omega of Agenda 2030, its starting point and end goal.
Looking at the round zero at the heart of the circle of colours which composes the SDG logo, we see that this “hole” in the middle can actually be the “whole” - the essence, the space we are all invited to fill with our creativity, our passion and compassion. It gives its wholeness to this Agenda 2030 which, beyond an agenda for sustainable development, should and will be an agenda for reconnection and regeneration…
Finally, SDG 0 is what brings Agenda 2030 at the heart of our lives, because love and joy give meaning and power to every human heart beat, everywhere, regardless of social origin, discipline, political colour, gender, age and belief.
So… how will you bring SDG 0 to life today?
 David Nabarro has since founded the social enterprise 4SD – Skills, Systems and Synergies for Sustainable Development – which aims “help people as they change the way they think, talk, act and lead on sustainable development” (www.4sd.info). He is presently Senior Advisor on the UN Food Systems Summit Dialogues and WHO Special Envoy on COVID. He was awarded the 2018 World Food Prize, together with Lawrence Haddad,