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Telling a Global Story - World Leaders Must Turn Words Into Action

12/07/2015 19:42 BST | Updated 12/07/2016 10:59 BST

Right now, my bedtime reading is the Zero Draft of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. Hardly a literary classic, but it has all of the makings to be just as epic.

The agenda sets out a manifesto of measures to end extreme poverty by 2030, a broad list of 17 goals and 169 targets that covers everything from ending hunger and ensuring access to education for all, through to making cities safe and combatting climate change.

It is a fully comprehensive plan of action for people, planet and prosperity which seeks to strengthen universal peace by bringing the world together in an inclusive partnership.

In terms of content, the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda is one of a kind. But its vision is not. Many similar documents have gone before it, setting out the grand principles of universality, inclusivity and ambition.

But what does that actually mean when you break it down? What does global ambition mean to a Syrian child, now living as a refugee and hoping for an education? And what does universality mean for a mother in the DRC, giving birth without a midwife or skilled health-worker at her side?

This is why the Post-2015 agenda is so special. It will be judged on how it is translated into action before 2030, how it will be a blueprint for ending poverty in a generation. And with two months to go, it has some distance yet to travel.

For one thing, the document is being negotiated in New York. Those involved in the negotiations are passionate and knowledgeable and it has been fascinating to see the agenda take shape. But once the gavel is struck at the UN and Heads of State have signed their names, shaken hands and smiled for the camera, it will be down to those back at home to turn their vision into reality.

So what would delivering the SDGs look like?

An independent report launched last week, "From Declaration to Delivery - Actioning the Post-2015 Agenda" begins to map out a few ideas.

The report draws on a series of 'reality check' roundtables held with eight governments, aimed at getting the discussion going about how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be realised.

The observations from these roundtables are a fascinating read, simply because they've come from the governments themselves. For once there's not a trace of UN language in sight, just clear and frank discussions about how to make such an ambitious agenda fulfil the needs of citizens.

The report outlines eight 'reality checks', themes that all countries engaged in the Post-2015 negotiations must take into account. The first, "We must see action to inspire action", urges world leaders to spell out concrete and convincing commitments about how they will implement the SDGs at national and international levels.

The second, "delay will be costly for the new agenda" pushes governments to remember that there are only 5000 days until the Post-2015 deadline, once the goals go live on the 1st January 2016.

Following on seamlessly, reality check six "we need to think for the long, medium and short term" makes the point that such an all-encompassing and detailed global agreement simply cannot be met without an equally as comprehensive a strategy.

And finally, possibly the most important reality check, number eight: "the international system must help countries to deliver". As the Latin American participants point out in the report, successful implementation of the SDGs will not happen without all countries investing in the delivery process.

It is time for all UN Member States to step up and shoulder some of the load, a message that over 20million people from across the globe are shouting out loud and clear to their governments as part of the action/2015 campaign.

Over the next two months, UN negotiators will be putting the finishing touches to this historic document. As they do, it is crucial that they undertake their own "reality check" - one which ensures their focus is fixed on putting those citizens who are furthest behind first.

The work will only have just begun - from September the international community will have just a matter of years to translate the Post-2015 vision from the page into meaningful action.

Only then will they begin to tell a story with the potential to become a classic.