On 25 September 2015 at a Summit meeting in New York all 193 member states of the United Nations, represented by over 100 Heads of State or Government, committed themselves to 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030. The Goals are backed-up by 169 targets, ensuring the level of ambition in the Goals is matched by detailed planning and the ability to monitor progress.
In his address to the United Nations on 25 September, Pope Francis welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda as “an important sign of hope”. Ireland was represented at the Summit by President Michael D. Higgins and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D, while Justin Kilcullen, a member of Misean Cara’s Board and Co- Chair of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) was one of the Irish NGO representatives.
Ireland played a central role in the process to agree these Goals. In 2014, Ireland (represented by Ambassador to the United Nations, David Donoghue) and Kenya were appointed to co-chair the final intergovernmental negotiations. Throughout 2015, they brought together all UN member states, civil society and the private sector in a series of formal negotiating sessions and informal consultations. On 2 August 2015 agreement was finally reached.
The significance of the Sustainable Development Goals is immense. Never before have the world’s countries come together to agree such a comprehensive agenda. President Higgins has said that the year 2015 is on a par with 1945: a year of reconstruction and hope, when new institutions were designed, new texts drafted; and new declarations adopted for humanity’s shared future.
How do the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) differ from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
The MDGs, agreed in 2000, challenged the global community to work together to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and reduce maternal and child deaths. The anti- poverty movement galvanised by the MDGs helped lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, made inroads against hunger and enabled more girls to attend school than ever before. However, the MDGs were often seen as targets for poor countries only, with the role of rich countries being limited to providing funding. Also, they were not ambitious enough (aiming to “halve”, not eliminate extreme poverty); they focused on numbers rather than quality, e.g. in education: and by only focusing on social development, rather than the root causes of poverty, the MDGs ignored the impact of government policies on inequality, security and the environment.
By contrast, the Global SDGs are universal (applying to all countries, including Ireland) and comprehensive (focussing on people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership with a commitment to leave no one behind). The Goals will provide a framework for the work of the international development sector over the next fifteen years and will impact on domestic and international policy making. As UN Secretary –General Ban Ki- Moon said on 25 September: “the new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.”
Also, unlike the MDGs, the SDGs were the outcome of a number of long and complex discussions in different public and private fora, in which civil society and NGO representatives, including Misean Cara members, participated actively. For example, Franciscans International and others lobbied intensively to ensure recognition of the human right to water. This is reflected in the Goal 6 targets of achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.
How relevant are the Global SDGs for Misean Cara members?
Already, Misean Cara’s 89 members are working every day over 50 countries to end poverty and hunger; promote good health and well-being; provide quality education; promote gender equality; provide clean water and sanitation and affordable and clean energy; generate opportunities for productive employment and decent work; reduce inequalities; make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; combat climate change and its impacts; and promote peace, justice and strong institutions.
It’s recognised that successful implementation of the SDGs will require unprecedented leadership, mobilisation of resources and coordination by all members of the international community- international organisations, national governments, civil society and the private sector. In this context, the UN has recently acknowledged the need to work closely with faith communities over the next fifteen years if the SDGs are to be achieved.
The SDGs include provision for regular follow-up and review at national, regional and global levels. These mechanisms can be used to ensure that the SDGs are resourced and integrated into national development plans; that poor and marginalised people are the primary decision makers at every stage; that governments deliver their promises; that no-one is left behind; and that the human rights approach is used as a fundamental guiding principle in SDGs implementation. For this to happen civil society actors, including Misean Cara members, need to be actively involved.
What relevance does the Global SDGs have for Ireland?
The SDGs provide an internationally agreed framework, setting-out what matters if we are trying to build a fairer society. Thus, they offer choices for Ireland. Irish NGOs- working on both global development and domestic issues – are lobbying the Government to announce an action plan to show how Ireland will play its part in eliminating poverty and inequality and securing climate justice, both in Ireland and overseas. At the SDGs Summit, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. indicated that Ireland will continue to work on achieving the UN target of allocating 0.7% of GNP to international aid, but gave no timetable for doing so.
Find further Information about the SDGs here:
UN Sustainable Development Summit http:/www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/summit/
Beyond 2015: http://www.beyond2015.org/
ODI on the SDGs: http://www.odi.org
Special Report by Former Ambassador to Ethiopia, and Misean Cara Board Director Pauline Conway.