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Commons report: UK slow to meet sustainable goals

24 June 2016


Progress: The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alistair Redfern, Vice Chair of the Anglican Alliance, during a recent visit to a women's sewing collective in Peru

Progress: The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alistair Redfern, Vice Chair of the Anglican Alliance, during a recent visit to a women's sewing collective...

THE British Government has been “slow” at implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK on issues such as gender inequality, climate change, and education, the International Development Committee (IDC) of the House of Commons (IDC) has found.

In its latest report, published earlier this month, the IDC concludes that strong leadership and planning from all Government departments is necessary to achieve the goals, which were agreed by 193 world leaders at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in January.

The chairman of the IDC, Stephen Twigg MP, said: “The Government has been slow to work out how best to implement the goals here in the UK. Despite the leading role which the Prime Minister played in shaping the SDGs globally, progress on working out how we will implement them in our own country has been disappointing so far.

“The goals require a cross-government approach. This is not an agenda for developing countries alone, but for the whole world. It can only be achieved if all countries work to implement the agenda in its entirety.”

The SDGs were created as a more powerful alternative to their predecessors — the Millennium Development Goals — in order to secure economic, social, and environmental benefits, and to address shared objectives for both developed and developing countries.

The report states that the failure of the Government to use its influence to tackle their implementation could leave gaps in some departments, resulting in a “deep incoherence” in domestic policy. Achieving the SDGs in the UK will also require an “immense financial investment from a variety of sources”, to tackle tax-dodging in developing countries, it says. Such dodging is thought to cost developing countries more than £110 billion a year, and has a significant impact on those in poverty.

The report welcomes the Prime Minister’s decision to host the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, last month, but suggests that, “Discussions and decisions on international cooperation in tax matters need to be made within an inclusive body, such as the UN,” rather than within those organisations whose members are almost exclusively developing countries.

It also recommends that the Government “produces a White Paper on International Development to provide clarity on its approach to Agenda 2030”. It should also report annually on ensuring that the SDGs are pursued overseas, “including the positive and negative effects of government policies such as on tax, trade, the environment, migration, and peace and security”.

A significant aspect of this is tackling the inequality in exposure to natural disasters. Figures from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction suggest that around 22,773 people died — and 100 million suffered — in 346 major reported disasters in 2015, including famine, drought, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, such as in Nepal.

Experts met in Paraguay this month to discuss how to reduce the risks of disasters in the Western hemisphere, and to consider how the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction — adopted in March 2015 to reduce the damage caused by both natural disasters and those caused by human activity — can be best implemented.

It came as the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, marked World Oceans Day on 8 June by saying that “healthy oceans” are vital to sustaining billions of people on earth by regulating the climate, and providing natural resources, food and jobs.

Also earlier this month, the director of the environment and development division for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia, Stefanos Fotiou, emphasised the need for governments to reorient their policies to pursue sustainable development.

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