‘Bringing the Goals Home: Implementing the SDGs in the UK’, report by BOND and Beyond2015 UK

Bringing the goals homeBOND (the UK membership body for NGOs working in international development) and Beyond2015 UK published ‘Bringing the Goals Home: Implementing the SDGs in the UK‘ in September 2015. The report urges the Westminster Government to clearly outline its strategy for the SDGs “based on a detailed review of what is required of the UK to achieve each goal and target”, link up departments to ensure policy coherence and more effective delivery, as well as develop clear processes for accountability and scrutiny.

Its recommendations include a Cabinet-level Minister responsible for SDG implementation support by a junior Minister for Sustainable Development, a Cross-Cabinet Committee and cross-party Sustainable Development select committee to oversee the SDGs, an external stakeholder scrutiny body along the lines of the German Sustainable Development Council as well as a focus on ensuring wider participation and accountability. For example, they suggest that the strategy for implementation includes participatory processes similar to the ‘national conversations’ that have taken place in for example Wales (WalesWeWant) and Scotland.

The worrying rise of anti-democratic sentiments amongst climate scientists


In his latest essay Climate Policy: Democracy is not an inconvenience, Professor Nico Stehr – founding director of the European Center for Sustainability Research – reflects on the growing number of climate scientists who are not only expressing their impatience with Western democracies, but openly practise their sympathy for authoritarian political approaches.

“Scientific disenchantment with democracy has slipped under the radar of many social scientists and commentators”, he says, but “attention is urgently needed”. In concentrating only on a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, the calls for technocratic leadership fail to acknowledge that “environmental concerns are tightly entangled with other political, economic and cultural issues”. In his view, “scientific knowledge is neither immediately performative nor persuasive” and it is “only a democratic system (that) can sensitively attend to the conflicts within and among nations and communities, decide between different policies, and generally advance the aspirations of different segments of the population.”

The full essay can be found on the Nature website.

Image: CC by 2.0, courtesy of  NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr.com

Climate Risks and Democracy

anthropocene - flickr.com:docsearls

Ecological crises can make politics horrible: panic-inducing scarcity, ethnic and religious conflict, hunger driven imperialism. In his latest essay “Climate Apocalypse and/or Democracy, Professor Jedediah Purdy is shedding light on the fact that an ecological apocalypse is a fundamentally political problem and needs to be tackled before turning into a harsh reality. In his view, a “livable Anthropocene future would have to be democratic (…): a people would have to accept, willingly, limits on the demands they make on the natural world.” Professor Purdy argues that the chance at a workable future is crucially dependent on an “international democratic effort to take joint responsibility for the planet: “It isn’t (even) that a democratic Anthropocene is a nice idea”, he says, “it’s just that its slim chance is better than any alternative.”

You can read the full essay on the Huffington Post website. Professor Purdy’s new book “After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene” is now available in hardback.

Image (modified): CC by 2.0, courtesy of Doc Searls/flickr.com

New Book: Governance for Sustainable Development

Governance book cover

Felix Dodd has blogged about this new book, Governance for Sustainable Development, that collects the best insights from three recent workshops held by the “Group of Friends of the Governance for Sustainable Development” that was created to help prepare the Rio + 20 Conference.

Recently the governments of Mexico, Romania and the Republic of Korea, with the technical support of the Tellus Institute and the organization ARTICLE 19, reinvigorated the Group of Friends as a flexible and informal space to discuss issues related to good governance and foster cooperation between multiple actors in the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The three participatory workshops, in November 2014, January and May 2015, gathered government representatives, UN officials, experts, and civil society  to discuss the institutional architecture for the Agenda’s implementation, follow-up and review.

Governance for Sustainable Development is edited by: Hoonmin Lim, Sara Luna and Oana Rebedea, David Banisar Felix Dodds and Quinn McKew. The PDF is available here:


FDSD launches new direction at event featuring Peter Davies, Welsh Commissioner for Sustainable Futures


The National Assembly for Wales will appoint a Future Generations Commissioner as early as December 2015, says Peter Davies, the Welsh Commissioner for Sustainable Futures. The announcement came during his keynote speech at the FDSD relaunch event on 29 June.

Speaking to an audience from the legal, academic and third sectors, Davies outlined the far-reaching Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, passed in April. “The intended effect of the Act is to provide a framework for how the public sector in Wales does business,” he said. “It’s about building in mechanisms that improve our governance for the long-term.”

After hearing from Davies, audience members broke into groups to consider how lessons learned in Wales could be applied elsewhere. We’ll hear from some of them in a later blog post.

The event also launched a new direction for FDSD. John Lotherington, Chair of Trustees, said: ‘We want to make sure that we seed ideas, connect ideas. And also, just as we’re doing here tonight, gather together some of the people who can make those ideas fruitful and start to make the sorts of changes we need to better connect democracy and sustainable development.’

The talk, titled ‘The wellbeing of future generations: how can the Welsh act inspire the UK and beyond?’, was hosted by the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Westminster University in London.

A UK-wide Commissioner for Future Generations?

In her new Provocation, Cat Tully argues that there is an opportunity now for the Government to learn from the comprehensive Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and establish an early form of a Future Generations Commissioner for the whole UK by October’s Budget. The danger is that in the forthcoming spending cuts, short-term decisions will be made to the detriment of the long-term and future generations. If we want a political system that is open and engaged with citizens, and is future-focused and strategic, we can learn a lot by looking outside London.

Download full paper in pdf.

Future generations and the UK 2015 election campaign – looking ahead?

John Lotherington audits the election campaign to find how far discussion about future generations and sustainable development could be heard above the electoral din.

Future generations were important in the election if all that mattered was the national debt. The crucial, broader issues of sustainable development were largely side-lined, buried in unread manifestos. Some issues, like support for climate change, were agreed in a cross-party pact, with the perverse effect of removing it from debate and from the vital, participatory, consciousness-raising weeks of an election campaign.

We need to work out how better to represent the long-term and the voices of future generations in our constitutions, our institutions, our democratic practices and our elections. Maybe then they can be heard above the din?

You can read the full text of his Provocation here.

The Conservative Government and Community Energy

offshore windmills

The group 10:10 “is about doing practical stuff that helps solve climate change” and has a particular interest in community energy. In 2013 the group helped set up a renewable energy co-op in Balcombe, refocusing a “fracking village” around solar power. The Back Balcombe campaign inspired many other projects. Community owned and operated energy systems are an interesting and direct way to link sustainability and democracy.

With the insights learned from the Balcombe project, 10:10’s Esther Barlow has taken a look at the new Conservative government from the perspective of community energy (“The Tories and Community Energy”). The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) leadership believe in taking action on climate change, although in a somewhat contradictory fashion, they are heavily pursuing fracking and North Sea oil.

10:10 reports that although wind is popular and a cost effective renewable for the UK, the Conservatives want to cut onshore wind. Although tax relief for the energy co-op seems safe for now, energy co-operatives aren’t able to register as co-ops.

Sustainable Development Goal 16: Governance

women working on wood lathes in India

You’re probably familiar with the United Nation’s (UN)Millenium Development Goals (MDG), adopted in 2000, for improving well being for the world’s poorest. They carried the tagline, “we can end poverty.” It’s estimated that roughly 40% of the eight goals, listed at the bottom, will be met by the deadline of 2015. A new set of seventeen goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are slated for adoption in September 2015 (These goals are also listed below for reference).

From our standpoint here at the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, Goal 16 is particularly interesting. Commonly referred to as the “governance” goal, it includes 10 proposed targets* ranging across human rights, arms dealing, accountable institutions, and participatory decision-making.

Recently Vinay Bhargava, of Partnership for Transparency Fund, reported on a World Bank panel that explored governance as a sustainable development goal (“5 things you should know about governance as a proposed sustainable development goal”) . He noted an overarching theme: SDG 16 will be challenging in some particular ways. It is controversial, with governments differing on key concepts such as rule of law and accountability. Some governments were opposed because they saw governance as a sovereign issue. Yet the working group for the SDGs reconciled these differences and the Goal will probably continue to require compromises. Further, for the countries that have already been working on some of the governance issues, the Goal is expected to help legitimize what is already being done.

SDG 16 is also challenging because most of the targets are not measurable or time-bound—indicators are harder to develop. Much work will be needed to specify indicators and their monitoring. And this adds another twist. Developing institutions and practices of governance for sustainable development will take time and resources. So far these resources are largely absent from the discussion.

The UN’s upcoming 2017 World Development Report will have as its theme Governance and the Law. The relationship among quality of governance, economic development, and sustainable development is complicated. Bhargava notes that some periods of economic growth have come under conditions of arguably poor quality governance. Further debates, compromises and questions lie ahead.

*Targets for Proposed Sustainable Development Goal 16

16.1 significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
16.2 end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children
16.3 promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and ensure equal access to justice for all
16.4 by 2030 significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime
16.5 substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all its forms
16.6 develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
16.7 ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
16.8 broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
16.9 by 2030 provide legal identity for all including birth registration
16.10 ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements

Proposed Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1             End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2             End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3             Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4             Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5             Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6             Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7             Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8             Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9             Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10          Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11          Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12          Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13          Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
Goal 14          Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15          Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16          Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17          Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


UN Millenium Development Goals for 2000 to 2015

Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty
Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote Gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: improve maternal health
Goal 6: combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: develop a global partnership for development

Citizen Science


One avenue toward democratizing sustainable development is to engage more people in the science of sustainability. An example is The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network, led by Imperial College London. OPAL engages people through science-based activities that can be done in back gardens and local parks.

Currently OPAL is running several nature surveys that community members can contribute to, including:

Tree Health
Bug Count
Biodiversity in hedges
Water in local ponds
Air (through effects on lichen)
Soil and earthworms

Each survey web page explains what to look for and how the information contributes to knowledge about the health of the environment. A short video engages viewers with the actual process of doing the survey. In addition, there are downloads that include everything needed to participate. The final step is submitting your results online.

By helping people connect to nature through participatory science, OPAL and other citizen science initiatives aim to improve people’s appreciation and care of the environment while also advancing our scientific understanding. People become more confident in generating knowledge and seeing how their participation in this and other areas is connected to a health environment.

Read more about OPAL http://www.opalexplorenature.org/opalobjectives