In September 2015, 193 UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) – an ambitious set of 169 targets that commits all signatory countries to tackle issues from gender inequality to climate change, access to quality education and the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies.
The SDGs officially came into force on 1 January 2016 and the UK too has pledged itself to implementing the Goals at home as well as supporting other countries to achieve them overseas.
Following an official enquiry process, the UK International Development Committee now came to the conclusion that the “lack of a strategic and comprehensive approach to implementation of the Goals” in the UK is likely to reinforce “deep incoherences across government policy” – meaning that progress being made by certain departments getting too easily “undermined by the policies and actions of others”.
“Strong leadership, a coherent implementation plan and engagement of all Government departments” is the only way to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved at home, the IDC report finds, unconvinced that the responsibility for implementation of the SDGs in the UK should lie with the Secretary of State for International Development.
An explicit proposition of the report is for the Government to “identify a formal mechanism for relevant Secretaries of State or responsible Ministers to come together regularly to discuss the implementation of the SDGs at the highest political level” and to “commit to producing a regular report on policy coherence for sustainable development.” You can read the full report on the Parliament’s website.
While the main recommendations that the IDC make are vital to ensure that the government mechanisms are in place for the UK to meet its commitments under the SDGs, the UK government also needs to take note of SDG 16.7: ‘to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels’. Only then will the SDGs gain full legitimacy in the domestic context. The goal must be for sustainable development to take root in societies rather than be imposed top down. For further discussion of this see FDSD Chair Graham Smith on Options for participatory decision-making for the post-2015 development agenda and Cat Tully, FDSD Trustee, on The critical role of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.