01/10/2015 06:33 BST | Updated 30/09/2016 06:12 BST

The World Has Written an Impressive To-do List - Time to Start Crossing Things Off

If you are anything like me when faced with a heavy workload or a complex task, you'll be familiar with the importance of a well assembled to do list. It's a skill I developed at university coming up to finals or thesis deadlines.

Invariably it was a time consuming process, identifying all the different tasks to be undertaken, ordering them correctly and presenting them prettily. It could involve multiple coloured pens, drafting sophisticated tables and, on one occasion, hours of fun with a laminator.

To-do list complete I would promptly go and make myself a sandwich as a reward and eat it while watching a few episodes of the Simpsons, or knock on my flatmates door (likely also engaged in procrastinating list-making) and see if they wanted to go for a pint.

For the past three years the UN has been engaged in a similar process; consulting and crowd-sourcing; drafting and redrafting. As Ban Ki Moon brought the curtain down on a three day summit at the UN, the largest ever gathering of world leaders including the Pope and joined by Malala and, erm Shakira, many people will have been made familiar with the new 'Sustainable Development Goals' (or the more friendly rebrand of 'Global Goals')

It's a laudable (and daunting) list, including many of the critical issues of our age which organisations like mine, ActionAid, have long argued need to be addressed - rising inequality, women's rights, protecting the environment and reducing climate change.

But in the end it wasn't my to-do list, my laminating skills or my fancy pens that got me my grades, it was the work that came after. To their credit, the political leaders in New York this weekend recognised that. They told us so ... repeatedly. Over 150 of them. All travelled to this summit to give fine speeches that said the world needs more than politicians at summits giving fine speeches.

The best example of this was a special leader's Summit on women's rights when over 80 Heads of Government, including the Chinese, Brazilian and French Presidents and the German Chancellor, attended a summit pledging to 'step up' action on gender equality. The event marked a historic first, with concrete pledges delivered by Heads of State and Government. No other single issue received this level of political attention at the UN Summit.

A common theme echoed by all speakers was the need to work harder to end violence against women. Almost every country, from the richest to the poorest, mentioned the issue of violence against women and girls.

One country though, was conspicuous by its absence. Having been a strong advocate of the inclusion of the gender goal and the violence target, and having just received an ActionAid UK petition signed by over 60,000 people asking him to stand with #Fearless women at the UN, the UK Prime Minister did not attend the summit. Not a good start in turning words into action.

But even many of those who did attend were just rehearsing bits from previous to do lists - notably the 20 year old Beijing Platform for Action to promote women's equality.

If the outcomes for those living in poverty are to be different this time around there must be changes in the actions we take. Vested interests will have to be challenged; those in power may help more by doing less - less harm.

A just and safe world for all people won't emerge spontaneously from a tidy catalogue of aspirations or a "bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals" as the Pope described it. It has to be created. That is the task ahead. And it needs to be at the top of all of our lists.

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