The Sustainable Development Goals: a road to ending poverty
The decision, on 25 September 2015, by the 193 member states of the UN to endorse, support and promote a global program to eradicate world poverty was nothing short of momentous. The 17 goals, their respective targets and indicators were laid out in the document Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are universal, integrated and committed to “leave no one behind”. While developed countries still have an important obligation to support developing countries, particularly in their region, they are not immune from scrutiny through the SDG lens.
The goals have a set of targets, to be met on the way to 2030 and these targets have one or two indicators which allow for measuring progress. Along with these processes each country is invited to present to the United Nations General Assembly its progress on a chosen number of the goals. This year Australia is one of the presenting nations.
In the past 12 months five agencies: Australian Council for International Development ACOSS, Global Compact Network, SDSN Australian Pacific and United Nations Association of Australia have hosted two SDG summits bringing together: all levels of government, the private sector, non-government organisations and civil society. The summits aimed to unlock the opportunities of the SDGs by taking stock of national progress on implementation across all sectors and mapping priorities, areas for cooperation and steps for driving achievement forward.
The most recent summit, held in Melbourne, was facilitated by Ms Sam Mostyn, and Professor John Thwaites. Under their excellent facilitation the summit participants heard from a number of speakers including Senator Fieravanti-Wells, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Attorney General. They had much progress to report on, particularly when it came to programs in the Pacific and the mood was generally positive. However, there was a sense of urgency when faced with the fact that Australia is 20th on the list of nations making progress. Given our affluence, our established bureaucracies and high standard of living we should be among the top ten.
The major problem for Australia is that the “universal, integrated and ‘leave no one behind’” component of the SDGs is obscured by our emphasis on overseas aid. No one is arguing that we should not be doing everything we can for developing countries but if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is the lead agency then the focus of work for the SDGs is on aid and development in Asia-Pacific and minimum attention is paid to what is happening in Australia. The SDG lens is needed when it comes to Indigenous people, the integration of disabled people, and the rural urban divide. For Australia to positively implement the SDGs a central coordinating body, additional funding and a public campaign are required.
Words: Coordinator Loreto JPIC, Libby Rogerson ibvm