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WAC-UNA: Report of WAC-UNA AGM, 8.11.18, with two speakers on SDGs in the UK

After a short business meeting there were presentations by two speakers with discussion.

A report of 2 speakers at meeting of WAC-UNA on 8.11.18

Lynn Everson spoke on “The interaction between the UK and the UN – implementing the SDGs here”.  

Lynn is the Managing Director of Lifeline Language Services and Leader in Residence (Languages) at University of Central Lancashire, Director of the UK Association of Translation Companies (ATC).   At the heart of Lifeline is a belief in duty and support for fellow human beings. In addition Lynn is the Past National President of BPW UK (Business and Professional Women UK, 2013 to 2016), and now is the Vice-Chairman of WAC-UNA.

She described the report of the UKSSD (UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development) called  “Measuring up: How the UK is performing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals”.  In 2015 the UK government and 192 other countries signed up to comply with the United Nations on 17 sustainability goals and their 169 targets, each with several indicators.

The targets specify objectives within each goal and the indicators are for measuring progress.    The aim is to ensure that no-one is left behind within our society and we respect and sustainably share the resources on the planet.    We should achieve each goal and target by 2030. 

The NGO UKSSD monitors the national progress against these 17 goals and actively lobbies the UK government.  Data was collected by 100 organisations.   The results show that, on adding up the performance and / public coverage for all the targets of each goal, 24% were good, 57%  were inadequate , 15% were poor – and for 3% there was a data gap.     

This is well worth reading. It shows for the first time how the UK is performing on the SDGs.  The aim is to end poverty and inequality, improve health and wellbeing, end the devastating decline of biodiversity and ecosystems, and reduce the impacts of climate change. These offer us a route to a better, more sustainable and just, future .   While there’s an enormous amount to celebrate, the most vulnerable people and places in our society are increasingly being left behind. A start has been made but there is much to do. 

The information in Measuring up helps organisations identify where they are having, and could have, an impact on the SDGs giving opportunities for collaboration.  UKSSD believe this report provides a solid platform for the UK Voluntary National Review to the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in 2019.

Looking  at SDG 5 as an example, for gender equality, which seems to have remarkably poor performance, there are 6 targets:

End discrimination
Eliminate all forms of violence
Eliminate harmful practices
Recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work
Ensure women have access to full participation in economic and political life
Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health.

For which it is suggested the UK:

a. undertake reforms to give women equal rights

b. ensure the use of enabling technology to promote the empowerment of women

c. adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation to promote gender equality.

Wider awareness in the UK populace would both aid and monitor government action

Dr Carl Wright, trustee, UNA (UK) spoke on the sustainable development goals

He is an eminent person with over 40 years professional experience working with the UN, the Commonwealth, the EU and intergovernmental organisations, consequently has an impressive and extensive biography.  

Carl described the implementation of the SDGs, and interestingly was able to tell us about promising local action in Canterbury, which other areas would do well to emulate.

He commented that the National Audit Office had just published a report on the UK’s implementation of SDGs but with little analysis.  The UKSSD report Measuring up: How the UK is performing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, is much better, and shows that the UK is behind in meeting most SDG targets

Carl said that he had been closely involved in much of the SDG negotiations during 2012-15.

SDGs are different from previous Millennium Development Goals – MDGs - as they are much boarder in scope, more universal, applying to all countries..
Additionally there are means to implement these and report back annually to the UN – as the UK will do in 2019.  Also there are regular reports to the British Parliament on progress and Carl had released a report critical of the UK Government’s limited action on the 2030 Agenda compared to other countries.

Localising the SDGs

If the SDGs were to be successfully implemented a multi-stakeholder, bottom-up, not top-down approach was needed - by civil society, academia, local government, private sector, not only central government or the UN.  Other countries like Belgium are ahead of the UK - see
This bottom-up approach has been termed ‘localising the SDGs’ by UNDP and Carl was closely involved in developing this concept, see www.localizingthesdgs.
There is now a substantial literature on localising SDGs, including toolkits and roadmaps as well as practical examples of what is being done across the world, especially by civil society and local governments: This is facilitated by UNDP, the EU and many other international bodies.

An example of local action on SDGs in Canterbury

UNA Canterbury, with other local CSOs formed Canterbury SDG Forum (see on Facebook).
Two universities (of Kent and Canterbury Christchurch) gave specialised expertise and venues.
Local government, Canterbury City Council, CCC, and Kent County Council, KCC  were approached  by the Forum  with the Lord Mayor and Chief Executive of CCC, using a public petition.  They are looking at the local implementation of SDGs, noting challenges, best practice and making a report to raise public awareness of SDGs. They look for cooperation- not confrontation- and seek dispel the jargon.
The Forum has now set up a sub-group under this Forum which is looking at 10 key local issues, linked to specific SDG targets:  For example -

“Tackling homelessness and providing genuinely affordable housing (SDG 11.1; SDG 1). ”Protecting cultural heritage, sustainable tourism (SDG 11.4; 12.10)

The CCC and KCC are already engaged in implementing many SDG targets.
Objectives set out in CCC’s corporate plan 2016-20, e.g. ‘making the most of our unique and natural environment’,  reflect targets under key SDGs such as SDG11 -  but is not called (or recognised as) SDG targets and this connection now needs to be made through their work.