After Ireland’s voluntary reporting, it is time now for urgent action on the SDGs.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed by all states at the United Nations in September 2015, provide a roadmap for addressing many of the complex challenges we face at national and international levels – including poverty, inequality and climate change.
In April 2018, the Government launched Ireland’s interim, two-year SDGs National Implementation Plan. This was a welcome development, especially in affirming that Ireland wants to remain a leader on the SDGs (also known as Agenda 2030) and setting out lead and stakeholder Departments for the implementation of each of the 17 SDGs.
On 17 July, the Government will update the UN on the country’s progress to date on the SDGs in Ireland’s first Voluntary National Review, or VNR. As part of that, the Government attached a Compendium of Contributions from National Stakeholders in Ireland, including a submission from Misean Cara.
In parallel, the civil society Coalition 2030 will launch a shadow report that analyses Ireland’s implementation of the Goals. Coalition 2030 is a broad, cross- sector grouping of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists, in which Misean Cara has been active, that is working to ensure that Ireland keeps its promise to achieve the SDGs, both at home and abroad.
Coalition 2030 acknowledges the strong role played by Ireland in securing global agreement on the SDGs back in 2015 and urges that the country must significantly step up its implementation after this first VNR report – which will serve as an important benchmark.
However, the Coalition’s analysis also notes key weaknesses in the National Implementation Plan, as well as in relation to the structures, resources, actions, urgency and political will that Ireland is currently applying to achieve the Goals.
Ireland acts strongly in the international community through Irish Aid, peacekeeping and disarmament efforts along with broad support for multilateralism, but, after its leading role in negotiating the SDGs, it must now dramatically increase the commitment, clarity and resources it devotes to achieving them.
Ireland and other states need to reach the furthest behind first, in keeping with the SDGs’ ‘Leave No One Behind’ principle, yet the National Implementation Plan sets out no clear strategies to identify and prioritise them, at home or abroad.
Ireland’s continuing failure to meet the UN target of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance (or overseas aid), is also strong concern: ODA was just 0.3% of GNI in 2017.
In addition, Ireland needs to tackle Policy Coherence for Development issues (where different state policies or practices, such as on energy, climate action or corporate tax policy, can undermine development priorities) by establishing a robust, politically backed PCD mechanism.
The Department of the Taoiseach should directly oversee SDG implementation to ensure leadership and resource allocation, full implementation of SDG across Departments and local authorities, and lead the ‘whole of society’ approach needed to release the full transformational power of Agenda 2030.
After Ireland’s late baseline Voluntary National Review in July 2018 – a welcome baseline exercise, albeit almost 3 years after the SDGs were agreed — the state should lose no time in consulting with stakeholders and then delivering a second National Implementation Plan before the end of 2019. That needs to set out ambitious targets, detailed means of implementation and clear timeframes for each SDG from 2020 out to 2030.
On the international dimension of some particular focus Goals (the Coalition 2030 report addresses all 17 Goals in domestic and international dimensions), Misean Cara’s members and collective experience across more than 50 countries suggest that Ireland should address the following matters:
SDG1 – No Poverty
Focus on extreme and chronic poverty, particularly by targeting ‘those furthest behind first’, at home and overseas, in keeping with the SDG principle to Leave No One Behind. This should involve: identifying and specifically targeting people and groups who are marginalised and vulnerable, and increasing their access to basic resources, services and vindication of rights; supporting communities affected by conflict and climate-related disasters; tackling regional disparities – such as persistent extreme poverty in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
SDG2 – Zero Hunger
Focus on empowering 500 million small-scale farmers, particularly women, to practise resilient agriculture: increasing production, maintaining ecosystems, being climate resilient. Support reduced post-harvest losses and spoilage, and sustainably enhanced soil quality.
SDG3 – Good Health and Wellbeing
Invest in the Right to Health for All, especially through Universal Health Coverage. Promote increased resources, enhanced policies to strengthen health and related systems (water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, social protection) particularly in countries ranked lowly on the Human Development Index.
SDG4 – Quality Education
Promote quality education as a human right and the role of states as duty bearers. Increase investment in education from 4% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 15%, in line with the UNESCO recommendation, through mixed modalities – international partnerships and funds, but also civil society organisations (CSOs) and faith-based organisations (FBOs) focused on hard-to-reach groups at grassroots level.
SDG5 – Gender Equality
Pursue an active international agenda on gender equality, especially regarding access to quality education and essential healthcare, vulnerable cohorts (widows, girls in early marriages, victims of trafficking), decent work, public participation and representation, safety and security.
SDG10 – Reduced Inequalities
Promote fair global financial and regulatory structures, supporting low-HDI countries. Strengthen asylum and immigration systems to ensure fair and efficient procedures; urge the explicit inclusion of non-refoulement within the Global Compact on Migration; and ensure that the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration protect existing rights and laws within the European Union.
SDG13 – Climate Action
Close the gap between Ireland’s emissions and the 2020 emission control targets; substantially increase the ambition of state actions contributing to the Paris Climate Agreement; map the steps to reaching a €175m contribution to the UN Green Climate Fund; tackle sector policies that undermine climate action.
SDG 17 – Partnering for the Goals
Establish a firm multi-year plan to reach spending of 0.7% of Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance, or overseas aid, by 2025; sustain untied aid; and focus 0.15-0.2% of ODA/GNI on Least Developed Countries. Create a robust, properly resourced Policy Coherence for Development mechanism. Strengthen partnership with civil society organisations (CSOs) and Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs), who have global reach and still more potential to support sustainable development – in keeping with recommendations of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence, in its 2018 review of the Irish Aid Programme.
Misean Cara warmly embraced the SDGs in its own Strategic Plan 2017-2021, which blends a strong sector focus, the Missionary Approach to Development and increased human rights engagement. Giving effect to the ‘Leave No One Behind’ principle, we are specifically targeting supports towards vulnerable groups: women, children, people with disabilities, refugees and displaced people; isolated, conflict-affected and slum locations; and low-HDI and conflict-affected countries. Misean Cara is active in Coalition2030, a civil broad society grouping working to ensure Ireland’s implementation of the SDGs, and is engaging with emerging Irish government initiatives in that regard.