The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) tell us where to go, but we still need to find out how to get there. Fatima Denton, Director of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), believes international exchange and partnerships enabled by foreign policy can help fill this gap. Furthermore, diplomats can catalyse better risk management and disaster preparedness.

"SDGs, in terms of implementation, is going to be quite complex. It is still very much aspirational and one consensus is that we do not have a formula. We don't have a route map, a compass in terms of how we get there. But that said, I think we also heard that we are consulting with each other. It's foreign policy domain.

Because many of the issues are issues that are national, but issues that extend to foreign policy. If you look at the issue around transboundary rivers, with countries sharing the same river basins, if you have problems around the sharing of that basin, it creates problems also between these countries and it can trigger conflict. So these are geopolitical issues, geopolitical issues with economic dimensions, social dimensions. Also I think that partnership is very important, we’ve learned that: that some of these problems go way beyond what national governments can do within their boundaries and jurisdictions.

The role of foreign policy for sustainable development, I would say, is basically driving momentum, acting as a catalyst for how we can get to that shared destination. And I think it can help articulate some of the issues better. We are seeing an increasing number of catastrophes, extreme events that are taking place, and I think that the foreign policy arena community can also play a big role in terms of enabling better risk management models and supporting countries to create buffer, so that we can at least reduce the risk of environmental catastrophes, or at least get ourselves in better preparedness mode."