Submission to the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the UK’s domestic implementation of the SDGs

In September 2016, we responded to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry: The sustainable development goals in the UK.

You can find our submission on the EAC website.

We argued that currently Whitehall is not publicly stating, acknowledging or realising the potential of the SDGs to address the UK’s future and current challenges. The EU Referendum particularly brought our democracy, levels of inequality, and unbalanced economic strategy under scrutiny. The SDGs provide a profound opportunity to rethink and create sustainable social, economic and environmental futures for the UK, devolved nations and localities. Part of that process will involve creating appropriate and necessary participatory processes, institutions, and data, with some profound implications for how our democracy works.

As a start we recommended that questions about the relevance, priority, and performance of SDGs should be included in public and multistakeholder consultations and conversations across the UK. These could take the form of a UK-wide FutureWeWant national conversation.

To embed the SDGs in government’s thinking and practice:

  • there is a parallel need for an urgent and transparent review of central and local government department goals and targets, matched to the SDGs, and with an appropriate gap analysis;
  • responsibility for SDG goal coordination and oversight should lie with the Cabinet Office to ensure policy coherence alongside cross-government and cross-UK engagement (including devolved nations, city and local authorities);
  • there is consideration of a Minister and/or Cabinet Committee with specific responsibility for sustainable development and the domestic application of SDGs to underpin their importance.
  • a review of the architecture within Government, and local government, necessary to ensure policy coherence and coordination across departments and agencies;
  • an independent oversight and scrutiny body for the SDGs. This could be along the lines of the Welsh Office and Future Generations Commissioner, and with opportunities for public and multistakeholder participation, as well as good practice sharing.