The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to address global issues, including ending poverty, improving access to education, reducing inequalities, and combating climate change issues. They are so much more than just a checklist of targets for nations to meet ––a global movement is emerging, with people and organisations across the world working to transform places; strengthen communities; and meet present needs without compromising the needs of future generations.
In 2019, the UK began reviewing its commitments towards the (SDGs), in a process called the Voluntary National Review (VNR). The purpose of the VNR is to analyse the progress already made and to measure what still needs to be done to achieve the goals. This information is then presented by governments to the United Nations in the annual High Level Political Forum (HLPF). The most recent HLPF was held in July 2021 with the theme focusing on encouraging members to accelerate their SDG action post Covid 19 pandemic. Participating countries were encouraged to adopt policies which could control the pandemic impacts, to ensure that the progress towards the SDGs continued on track for 2030.
Whilst little has been heard from the UK about our progress, the 2019 UK VNR, highlights the importance of: partnerships and collaborations to realise the Goals; encouraging the sharing of solutions; holding people accountable for extreme unsustainable practices; and, increasing the number of individuals in decision making.
The UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/
Is being made globally and domestically?
Many countries across the globe have committed to the SDGs – changing policies, conducting strategies, initiating research and campaigns to raise awareness and push for action.
This proactive approach has us already seeing results, such as a drop in under-five mortality by 47% from the years 2000-2016, and the risk of childhood marriage for women in Southern Asia declining by over 40% .
However, research data is showing world hunger has risen from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016. In the UK we have seen poverty levels significantly, an estimated 700,000 people were driven into poverty during the pandemic, 120,000 of whom were children .
Now more than ever, we are also seeing the catastrophic effects of climate change on human life. Within the last 30 years the UK temperature has risen by 0.9C and has become 6% wetter. In 2020 we experienced the third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest year on record in the same year. What we will see if the climate crisis isn’t controlled is a greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events .
Building back better after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will take time, but with collaboration and effort we can begin to rebuild our commitments to a sustainable future. Below we list six reasons why engaging with the Goals could potentially lead to lasting change post pandemic:
1. The Sustainable Development Goals were developed following the largest public consultation programme in the United Nation’s history –– making this the most ambitious agreement for sustainable development that world leaders have ever made. Both individuals and civil society organisations globally were engaged in the consultation process which spanned a 3-year period and involved engaging with more than 7 million individuals through 83 national reviews. This initial participatory public involvement is a key strength of the SDGs.
2. The global Goals call for systemic approaches to be used. They challenge nations and institutions to not just aim to solve the symptoms of global problems, but to look to understand the linkages and root causes that give rise to the issues in the first place, and to work to address these as well.
3. Intra sectoral and cross sectoral collaboration could maximise impact. The Goals call for organisations with shared principles, values and visions to unite and form partnerships that place people and the planet at the heart of their work.
4. Data is a key element of the SDGs. The global Goals’ indicators were agreed on by the UN Statistical Commission. Furthermore, the Office of National Statistics in the UK has been collating data on a domestic level. Although the data collection process in the UK has not been robust, this approach still presents an opportunity for progress to be objectively measured, and for civil society organisations, to hold the government to account where progress is not being made.
5. The global Goals could unite communities. At a point when the nation is increasingly becoming polarised and with global trends of nationalism and xenophobia on the rise –– the global Goals call for unity across communities and nations, making them a very powerful force for global good.
6. Finally, committing to the Goals could help us address the climate emergency. By being proactive in our fight against climate change, we can educate, raise awareness and change policies surrounding climate change, so that in the future, all people can better mitigate and adapt to the devastating effects we are already seeing.