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Desafío 2030: Documenting SDG progress on Chilean TV

A television documentary in Chile shows inspiring examples of SDG policies and initiatives, at home and abroad.

There is no question that the COVID pandemic has set back progress towards the SDGs. Yet, getting the SDGs back on track will require inspiration and hope. Amid all of the worrying news, people also need stories about progress, about what has been and can be achieved. This is what Desafío 2030 (“Challenge 2030”) is all about.

Launched in 2017, the Chilean documentary series introduces viewers to projects and policies that are helping achieve the SDGs. Most episodes begin by presenting an innovative initiative from abroad. They then turn their attention to comparable projects in Chile, showing viewers that progress is possible in their local environments.

Over four seasons of eight episodes, the documentary has covered an impressive range of themes: from urban agriculture and clean energy to the integration of immigrants; from gender equality to sustainable cities; and from waste management to science for sustainability . Alongside its research in Chile, Desafío’s production team has toured Germany, Norway and Sweden for stories.

The producers use dialogue and interview formats to great effect. In his interviews, programme director Pedro Mancilla encourages people to explain their projects and talk about their motivation. Viewers learn that progress is often the result of individual commitment.

The final programme of season 3, for example, focuses on social integration. Viewers first join project manager Camila Salazar for a visit of Fryshuset, a large youth centre in Stockholm that provides young people with opportunities to participate in education and training programmes. The film then introduces Nadia Sellström and Nelson Herrera, a team of social workers helping elderly immigrants from Latin America deal with loneliness and isolation at a community centre. In the final part of the episode, we return to Chile to meet Hilda Aliste and Ricardo Fritz, who have created a tango club as a refuge from the troubles of everyday life in Santiago. They tell a touching story about the need for community, and about tango as a uniting element that opens people’s hearts.

Desafío 2030 makes innovation visible and inspires people to “Piensa global, Actúa local” – “Think globally, act locally”.  By juxtaposing initiatives from abroad and at home, the film-makers can evoke a sense of global community and partnership. By showing what individuals do rather than focusing on government actions, they emphasizes that citizens are at the heart of the SDGs.

While today’s communicators shift to digital media, traditional television is still a hugely important channel. Globally, the number of households with TV sets continues growing. Every 21 November, the UN celebrates World Television Day, reminding us that it is a crucial medium to sharpen the focus on major global issues.

So far, Desafío 2030 has reached about 4,860,000 viewers on Canal 13c, a TV channel focusing on culture and education. Its programmes are also available on YouTube and its project leaders are very active on Facebook. Desafío 2030 is devised and produced by IUS (Innovación Urbana Sustentable), a consulting agency in Santiago specialized on the 2030 Agenda.

In keeping with SDG 17 on “Partnerships for the goals”, the project thrives on alliances with a wide array of partners in Chile and abroad, including the Chilean government, universities, civil society organisations and private companies. A number of partner embassies and development agencies have supported the team in film production abroad. The United Nations in Chile holds the overall patronage of the programme.

This approach reflects Chile’s overall commitment to tackle the SDGs through multi-stakeholder partnerships. “Building alliances” is a core principle in Chile’s 2019 Voluntary National Report (VNR) on the SDGs. The VNR highlights Desafío 2030 as a prime example for such collaboration and praises the project for disseminating good practices, innovative solutions and technologies.

While the COVID-19 pandemic forced Desafío’s producers to put the 2020 season on hold, they are planning to create more programmes as soon as working conditions return to normal. The idea is to track the implementation of the SDGs until their 2030 deadline, bringing in new partners and stories from more countries.

In a challenging time, inspiring news about SDG progress is sorely needed. Fortunately, with a broad network of SDG communicators out there, there are wonderful experiences to share and stories to tell. Let’s get the word out.


This post is published in partnership with Engagement Global, a German service agency working on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to engage civil society on issues of development co-operation.

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