Why is the UK trailing its Commonwealth partners in tackling the UN SDGs?

Sustainable Development Goals

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UNA London and South-East Region held a meeting in the House of Lords to examine this crucial question.

Speakers were:-

Rt Hon Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale  – Co-Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group, Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Dr Amina Osman – Education Adviser, Economic, Youth & Sustainable Directorate, Commonwealth Secretariat

Dr Carl Wright – Former Secretary-General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Farooq Ullah – Director, Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future

Steve Kenzie – Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network UK

Chair: Lord Judd of Portsea, Joint President, UNA Westminster

This meetings was important because of the following reasons

1) Widespread concern that the UK government still cannot demonstrate it has either the necessary vision or grasp to develop a coherent National Strategy to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals demands our urgent attention.

2) Urgent because two parliamentary committees have published critical reports, fearing it lacks a viable strategy, let alone able to publish its Voluntary National Review. To fill this vacuum, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD), a consortium of concerned NGOs, has set about creating a strategy.

3) Urgent because in April, the UK will host the Commonwealth Summit when states will review progress on the SDGs. Half of its 52 members will soon or have published their Voluntary National Reviews but the UK has nothing to show. Can Its Commonwealth partners help kick-start the UK into action, capitalising on commonly agreed strengths, using digital data networks to mutual benefit?

4) Urgent because, to deliver on the UN SDG Agenda 2030, we will need innovative approaches; citizen-led and local authority engagement; new ways to reach people outside “our bubble”; and multi-stakeholder engagement, collaborating and cooperating across all sectors. Currently, nobody is leading this. Why?

David Wardrop, Chair of UNA Westminster has written the following report from the meeting

 

The LASER meeting held in the House of Lords on 27 March in association with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies featured excellent speakers and attracted a good audience.   

In his introduction, Lord Judd praised David Cameron’s leadership as a co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda which led to the Sustainable Development Goals programme. However, two and a half years later, Lord Judd stated there is widespread concern that the UK government still cannot demonstrate it has either the necessary vision or grasp to develop a coherent National Strategy to deliver on these Goals. Two parliamentary committees have published critical reports, fearing it lacks a viable strategy. This is worrying as next month, the UK will host the Commonwealth Summit when all member states will review progress on the SDGs. The UN’s own website which tracks progress worldwide shows the UK not just behind the curve but gone missing!  

Lord McConnell, Co-Chair, APPG, Global Goals for Sustainable Development summarised the reasons why the government should revise its approach to the SDGs as these relate to domestic issues as much as they do in developing countries. The tagline ‘Leave No-one behind’ explains all, he stated. Steve Kenzie, Executive Director, UK Network for the UN Global Compact explained why the network’s 150 members, including major commercial organisations, are committed to realising the SDGs. In that they have signed up to the Global Compact’s universal principles on human rights, labour, the environment and combatting corruption, the SDGs should be seen as a natural extension of these. And yet, he confessed, the Network’s series of Roadshows held round the country in 2017 reflected Euromonitor surveys that indicate awareness on the SDGs is lowest in the UK of all European countries. Farooq Ullah, Director, Stakeholder Forum for a sustainable future, showed how, in the vacuum created by lack of government leadership, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development, a consortium of concerned NGOs, had been formed and which has set about creating a national strategy. Dr Amina Osman, Education Adviser for the Commonwealth Secretariat, demonstrated how the Commonwealth is tackling SDG4 (Quality Education) and sharing its expertise with member states. Dr Carl Wright, Former Secretary-General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum and a UNA-UK Trustee pointed to the opportunity for a bottom-up approach, energising local authorities, towns and communities to endorse the SDGs. He spoke about the ongoing initiative of UNA Canterbury to engage its council as this might provide a template. In this way, we might generate better awareness of the SDGs and realisation that they refer also to developed countries like ours. Lord Judd then invited questions and comments for the audience and there followed further exchanges of valuable information. In summing up, David Wardrop, LASER Committee Member, likened the challenges to those faced following the Rio Summit (UNCED) in 1992 which led to the setting up worldwide of Local Agenda 21 networks. Similarly in 1992, the International Year of the Oceans, with the failure of government to promote the programme widely, UNA led in encouraging local authorities to endorse the Ocean Charter. It was agreed that LASER should take this idea forward, following closely UNA Canterbury’s engagement with the City Council.

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