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A civil society perspective

anaru-fraser-huie-3Anaru Fraser
General Manager
Kaiwhakahaere Matua
Hui E! Community Aotearoa

On Sunday afternoon, 22 April, we packed the upstairs conference rooms at St Andrews Conference Centre in Wellington for the Civil Society SDG pre-Summit consultation. It provided an opportunity for civil society to come together ahead of and in preparation for the Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals the following day at Victoria University.

“The pre-summit consultation on Sunday was informative and reflected that scars still run deep over New Zealand’s colonisation and land loss from our indigenous peoples”. [participant’s reflection]

Speakers Andrea Carmen and Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan provided both an indigenous and wahine Māori perspective on the SDGs.

“A key message was that ‘if you are not at the table, you are on the menu’. In other words, if you don’t talk, challenge those who challenge you, then your demise is imminent.” [participant’s reflection]

Pedram Pirnia also spoke about challenges of accountability, and views and perspectives of all three speakers fed into the facilitated workshop discussions in the afternoon, on the topics of: what is accountability, how do we ensure indigenous views, and the challenges of messaging and use of language.

On Monday, 23 April, the inaugural Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals – Partnerships for the Agenda, saw 300 people from across civil society, business, government and youth fill the Victoria University lecture room to “excite, inspire and mobilise around the SDGs”.

We learned how businesses have grown and adopted selected SDG’s to aid its business strategy, and how the SDGs do not comprehensively represent an Indigenous perspective.

Hui E!, in the panel on how the sectors were organised for delivering on the SDGs, advocated towards inculcating across government, private and community sectors to increase awareness and collaboration. Girol Karacouglu, Head of School of Government at Victoria University presented a prototype of the SDG indicator website, to ‘hold a mirror’ on how we are tracking on the SDGs.

Good data are the key to track and report back on SDG delivery to the UN, which, as we know now, is forecasted to occur in 2019 for the first time.

The Hon. Minister James Shaw asserted that the SDGs were at the heart of this government (and as such is written in the parties’ confidence and supply agreement). He spoke about the need for data in a pyramid configuration bottom-up to generate information, knowledge, and policy and, ultimately, decision making on SDG delivery and eluded that New Zealand is in the data phase.

Government officials, in a panel on where the government is at, alluded to the existing of an emerging “SDG strategy” but also the need to depoliticise aspects of sustainable development and the SDGs in New Zealand, for example, child poverty and water quality. MfE Chief Executive pointed to silos on sustainable development delivery and poor alignment of funding across government to focus on common goals, such as the SDG.

“Ultimately, the government is not clear how to operationalise the SDGs in a cross-party, cross-agency and long-term framework yet. Minster Shaw iterated that the wellbeing of future generations depends on our actions today and the SDGs are key to deliver on our promises to future Kiwis. There is commitment from the government to act on the SDG. The how and who, however, are still being thrashed out.” [participant’s reflection]

We think both the pre-summit and summit were a success, if not at least because they did what they set out to do, to “excite, inspire and mobilise” around the SDGs, and we will have to see where it takes us for the next summit at AUT in 2019. In future summits, we hope to see a larger representation of youth and the media, as key players in the promotion and delivery of the SDGs in New Zealand.

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

Click here for our website:  http://comvoices.org.nz/