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UN goals ‘have tremendous potential to do good’

25 September 2015


The persuaders: religious leaders rally outside St Paul’s, on Friday

The persuaders: religious leaders rally outside St Paul’s, on Friday

RELIGIOUS leaders rallied outside St Paul’s Cathedral last Friday, to urge the Prime Minister to take action against world poverty.

Christian, Islamic, and Jewish leaders gathered on the steps of the cathedral to try to persuade David Cameron to take a stronger stand to approve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN summit in New York today.

SDGs, which are expected to be adopted by UN heads of state in the next few days, for a period of 15 years, will seek to end global poverty, reduce inequality, and combat climate change. The goals will replace the existing Millennium Development Goals from the start of 2016.

The Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, Canon Mark Oakley, and representatives from the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, and United Reformed Church gathered in support of the proposed goals. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, of the New North London Synagogue, and the chief executive of the Muslim-women-led charity Global One, Dr Husna Ahmad, were also present.

“The goals have tremendous potential to do good,” Dr Ahmad said, “but it will only be realised if leaders such as Mr Cameron put serious resources and determination behind them.”

The rally was organised by Christian Aid as part of Global Goals, a campaign set up by the film director Richard Curtis (The Boat that Rocked, Love Actually) to raise awareness of the 17 goals being discussed by 193 world leaders at the summit this week. They include the abolition of world hunger, and the provision of affordable, clean energy for all.

Global Goals is also organising “Prayer for Everyone”, a week of prayer and action to encourage people of all faiths to share the goals with friends and communities. The campaign begins today and ends on 1 October. More than 500 million people in 160 countries are expected to take part.

Christian Aid’s head of church advocacy, Dionne Gravesande, said: “One of the most important aspects of the new Sustainable Development Goals is their insistence on ‘leave no one behind’ . . . no goal should be considered met unless it is achieved across all groups in a society.”

The Fairtrade Foundation has called on Mr Cameron to stop trade deals that undermine the goals. The charity has expressed concern that the reform of the European Union sugar market, also being supported by the Government this week, is risking the livelihoods of sugar-cane farmers in developing countries.

The chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, Michael Gidney, said that the Government must ensure that its “rhetoric” on the SDGs matches its “trade policy”.

“We need the poor to come first, and the [goals] are a unique opportunity to initiate fairer, more sustainable trade. Otherwise, it’s a case of giving aid with one hand, and taking away through trade rules with the other.”

Currently, more than 1.5 million farmers and workers across 74 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.

A Christian prayer initiative is organising three themed prayer-and-reflection sessions to raise awareness of the UN climate talks in Paris this autumn.

Pray and Fast for the Climate, supported by several UK agencies, including Christian Aid and Tearfund, is asking Christians around the world to express their concerns as world leaders meet to discuss climate change. During the talks, in December, supporters will be invited to sign up for specific prayer and fasting times, and to post their prayers on a website and via social media.

The senior campaigns associate at Tearfund, Ben Niblett, said: “Paris should be seen as the start of a long-term action plan to increase ambition to reduce the impact of climate change on the poorest people in the world. Praying is a great way we can all get involved.”


'Green, equitable, sustainable targets' - The new UN goals represent hope, despite their flaws, argues Rachel Baird

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