Taking forward the Sustainable Development Goals | Lord Jack McConnell

With a powerful visionfor 2030, the Sustainable Development Goalsadopted at the United Nations General Assembly in September last year were a testament to hope anda testament to change. Global leaders unitedto face the challengesof climate, conflict and capacity affecting lives today and in the future: 17 ambitious goals tobuild upon the millennium development goals.

Specific goals, especially Goal 16 on peace and justice, fought a long and hard to keep their place in the line up – and I am glad that they did for it is fragile states that pose the greatest threat to development. And issues of gender, climate and marginalised groups provided the backbone to the call to ‘leave no one behind.’

I was able to attend the UNGA as Labour Party representative and experience the energy and enthusiasm all participants hadin the way forward, the activism on combating climate change and the compassion people had for meeting the needs of those previously overlooked. Three key events kept the momentum for change running throughout the year. Summits in Addis, New York and Paris showed the need for a multicomponent approach of finance, climate and development to correct past mistakes and build upon previous successes.

In June of 2015, we established the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on the Sustainable Development Goals to promote the Goals and monitor their implementation in the years that follow. We had a successful first six months – holding meetings with Rt Hon Helen Clark [former Prime Minister of New Zealand], Secretary of State Justine Greening MP and European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica. But for 2016, our focus is moving from promotionof debate to the monitoring of implementation and holdingthose in charge to account. We,as a group and as a country,need to deepen our commitment to change to embrace the mechanisms that will get us there.

Here, the universality of the Goals is fundamental. Gone are the days when a handful of men sat in a basement in New York and decided the future of the world; we wereall there at the UN, we all made a commitment, and now is the time to follow through on this. on one hand, this means an international approach. We must continue our commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ and make sure these Goals tackling inequalities, helping the most marginalised and those most in need. But on the other hand, and as a Labour Party, we need to hold our own UK government to account on what they are planning domestically. ‘Universal’ means

we are not exempt. ‘Universal’ means we do not just look out with but within our nation as well. The UK should set out a national agenda for reaching the targets of the SDG’s. It cannot follow manifesto promises made before the Goals were adopted – it needs an agenda that spans longer than an election term.

We have made a commitmentto the climate for fifteen years,we have made a commitment to development for fifteen years,and we have made a commitment to ‘leave no one behind.’ Climate change, poverty and poor government hurt some more than others but the consequences of these are not felt by some butall – disasters and crises no longer stick to state lines. It is in the national interest for Labour to take the lead, holding the UK and the EU to account, while using power where we have it – in devolved nations and in local government– to show what is possible. This agenda can change the world,so the time for debate is overand the time for action is here. 

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