With a powerful vision for 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in September last year were a testament to hope and a testament to change. Global leaders united to face the challenges of climate, conflict and capacity affecting lives today and in the future: 17 ambitious goals to build upon the millennium development goals.
Specific goals, especially Goal 16 on peace and justice, fought a long and hard to keep their place in the line up – and I am glad that they did for it is fragile states that pose the greatest threat to development. And issues of gender, climate and marginalised groups provided the backbone to the call to ‘leave no one behind.’
I was able to attend the UNGA as Labour Party representative and experience the energy and enthusiasm all participants had in the way forward, the activism on combating climate change and the compassion people had for meeting the needs of those previously overlooked. Three key events kept the momentum for change running throughout the year. Summits in Addis, New York and Paris showed the need for a multicomponent approach of finance, climate and development to correct past mistakes and build upon previous successes.
In June of 2015, we established the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on the Sustainable Development Goals to promote the Goals and monitor their implementation in the years that follow. We had a successful first six months – holding meetings with Rt Hon Helen Clark [former Prime Minister of New Zealand], Secretary of State Justine Greening MP and European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica. But for 2016, our focus is moving from promotion of debate to the monitoring of implementation and holding those in charge to account. We, as a group and as a country, need to deepen our commitment to change to embrace the mechanisms that will get us there.
Here, the universality of the Goals is fundamental. Gone are the days when a handful of men sat in a basement in New York and decided the future of the world; we were all there at the UN, we all made a commitment, and now is the time to follow through on this. on one hand, this means an international approach. We must continue our commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ and make sure these Goals tackling inequalities, helping the most marginalised and those most in need. But on the other hand, and as a Labour Party, we need to hold our own UK government to account on what they are planning domestically. ‘Universal’ means
we are not exempt. ‘Universal’ means we do not just look out with but within our nation as well. The UK should set out a national agenda for reaching the targets of the SDG’s. It cannot follow manifesto promises made before the Goals were adopted – it needs an agenda that spans longer than an election term.
We have made a commitment to the climate for fifteen years, we have made a commitment to development for fifteen years, and we have made a commitment to ‘leave no one behind.’ Climate change, poverty and poor government hurt some more than others but the consequences of these are not felt by some but all – disasters and crises no longer stick to state lines. It is in the national interest for Labour to take the lead, holding the UK and the EU to account, while using power where we have it – in devolved nations and in local government – to show what is possible. This agenda can change the world, so the time for debate is over and the time for action is here.
Lord Jack McConnell was First Minister of Scotland 2001-2007 and is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Sustainable Development Goals. This ‘Opinion’ by Lord Jack McConnell originally featured in the Spring 2016 New Ground. The views expressed in New Ground are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the editor, SERA its executive or its members. If you would like to contribute to future editions, please contact Melanie Smallman, Co-Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.