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A new dawn?

Wren Green CID_cropped
Wren Green, Director,
Council for International Development

One should be cautious about grand pronouncements. Will we be justified in trumpeting a new dawn out of that most unlikely of places, the UN Headquarters in New York?

Over 100 world leaders, including our Prime Minister, formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals at a special global summit event held over 25-27 September. After a year of unprecedented global consultations and negotiations the final set of 17 goals is now ‘active’.

Unlike any previous UN efforts to advance development agendas, this set of high level goals will apply to ALL countries – from Albania to Zimbabwe as well as New Zealand. Poverty, hunger, healthy lives, education, gender equality, reducing inequalities and the other pressing issues of our age are no longer just for so-called ‘developing’ countries to address and report progress to the UN, as they did under the Millennium Development Goals. Achieving the SDGs are now our obligations to the world as much as Fiji’s or France’s.

Furthermore the goals are integrated and indivisible. They include addressing conflicts, climate change, environmental decline, energy, cities, decent work and resilient infrastructure as well as social goals. People and economies operating well within the limits of the Earth.

To stick with my metaphor a bit longer, how much light shines from this new dawn might be largely up to us, and many others. By themselves, the goals are free-floating and aspirational. Reality bites when countries over the coming months develop national targets chosen from the UN list of 169 targets. Some will be more relevant to New Zealand than others but just how aspirational they will be is the big question – and our challenge as players working for a healthier, more equal society.

So what next? I offer you my three ‘I’s list.  The first is Inform. ‘SDGs’ needs to be as well understood as ‘ABs’ but the present public awareness is very low. This should improve after next week when the media pick it up but in our various roles we have the power and responsibility to ensure our memberships are getting good information that informs them of the relevance of the SDGs and can be widely disseminated. The public and politicians also need to know what the SDGs are all about.

My second ‘I’ is Inspire. Just knowing about the SDGs is not enough. We need to be inspired to use them to create a better world, just as we were inspired at community levels to push for a Nuclear-Free New Zealand. We need to move from indifference and cynicism to an enthusiastic commitment to work for aspirational national targets that will truly make a difference by 2030, the lifetime of the SDGs.

Finally let’s keep focused on the final ‘I’ of Implement. As a multitude of civil society organisations, making smart use of social media, we can first push government to develop aspirational yet realistic national targets through an inclusive process. Then, with a meaningful set of indicators we can collectively work towards the New Zealand We Want.

The Council, in conjunction with Hui E! and PIANGO (Pacific Association of NGOs), is developing a regional and NZ website/portal on the SDGs which will be a rich resource for NZ and the Pacific. More later on launch date and how you can use it.