Posted by: henrymcghie | December 18, 2017

The UK and the Global Goals: how are they to be achieved?

E_2016_SDG_Poster_all_sizes_without_UN_emblem_A4 copyI’ve written before about the Global Goals – the internationally agreed programme to ‘transform our world’ by 2030, reducing inequality, securing a safe and healthy natural environment and ensuring prosperity for all, or, put better by Ban Ki Moon in September 2015 ‘It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms. An agenda for the planet, our common home. An agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership.’

I thought I’d give some background on how this is to be implemented in the UK. The House of Commons International Development Committee reported on UK Implementation of the SDGs (published 18 May 2016), that, following the agreement of the Goals by 193 members of the UN, the programme came into force on 1 January 2016, and that the UK ‘must now move forward with implementing the Goals at home and supporting other countries to achieve them overseas’.

The report emphasised the importance of a Global Partnership, of nations, civil society organisations, business and finance, to achieve the bold ambition of the Global Goals. The Department for International Development was encouraged to set out how it works with civil society organisations (public-led groups and charities), and noted ‘innovation and collaboration to achieve the SDGs is encouraged, and civil society is able to undertake the important task of communicating the SDGs to citizens across the world so that governments are held to account on progress’. This is worth dwelling on: ‘civil society’ can be a nebulous term, and the relationship between it and institutions (such as museums, galleries and universities) is not always clearly understood. Museums and galleries are part of ‘civic society’, also known as the ‘local state’, but they are not ‘just’ mouthpieces of government: they facilitate and provoke debate and dialogue (well, they can if they step into connecting with contemporary issues) that helps contextualise contemporary issues, whether locally or globally, and can support and promote positive public action, both by individuals and by groups and communities.

The report continued: ‘the Government’s response to domestic implementation of the SDGs has so far been insufficient. We remain to be convinced that responsibility for domestic implementation should lie with the Secretary of State for International Development, who already faces a substantial challenge in working to support international implementation of the Goals.’

To cut a long story short, the report argued that not enough attention was being paid to the Global Goals in the UK, both at home and internationally.

The importance of civil society organisations in supporting the Global Goals was recognised, but noted that in many parts of the world, the freedom of such organisations was diminishing. In the UK, an independent network, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development ‘creates a space to mobilise people, communities and organisations in the UK so they can play their part to create decent work in a prosperous economy and a fair and just society – all within the Earth’s limits.’ USSD aims to create a national plan for the delivery of the Global Goals, led from the bottom up.

Local authorities are also acknowledged as playing an important role in the Global Goals.  The Global Network of Cities, Local and Regional Governments has produced a resource for local governments, (The Sustainable Development Goals: what local governments need to know) showing how each of the Global Goals relates to local government in practice, and how they might practically support them.

This report was written nearly a year and a half ago. In subsequent posts, I’ll look at what has been happening (and what hasn’t). Communicating the Global Goals is the only way that we can help them happen. This is my start.


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