Sustainable Development Goals — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:51 am on 17th September 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Mobarik Baroness Mobarik Conservative 11:51 am, 17th September 2015

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for introducing this debate. The millennium development goals have been largely a success: with levels of extreme poverty being reduced by 50%; with 42 million more children at school; and with the maternal mortality rate declining by 45%. However, we have to remember that about 1 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day—the World Bank measure on poverty; more than 800 million people still survive on very little food; there are still 58 million children with little or no access to education; millions of women still die in childbirth; and child mortality, although almost halved, still stands at around 6 million.

After 15 years there is still much to do, and the sustainable development goals have a much broader agenda. Point 17 of the draft resolution submitted by the president of the General Assembly of the United Nations states that the framework being announced,

“goes far beyond the MDGs. Alongside continuing development priorities such as poverty eradication, health, education and food security … it sets out a wide range of economic, social and environmental objectives. It also promises more peaceful and inclusive societies”.

More importantly, means of implementation are defined that focus on,

“interconnections and many cross-cutting elements across the new Goals and targets”.

There is no doubt that economic development is key to securing long-term peace and security as well as eradicating poverty; it is no longer about wealthy countries helping the poor but about partnerships across the globe.

After months of intergovernmental negotiations and the SDG outcome document, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there was an agreement by all 193 negotiating countries. The 17 goals—as opposed to the eight MDGs—and the 169 targets will most likely be formally adopted by world leaders at the special UN summit later this month. Some would say that there are too many goals, but as Amina Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning, said that it had been,

“a hard fight to get the number of goals down to 17, so there would be strong resistance to reduce them further”.

This broad agenda, while to be commended for including key issues of women’s empowerment, good governance, peace and security, also has to be strategic to be effective. We have goals underneath that are targets and underneath the goals there has to be a measurable indicator. Otherwise, we cannot monitor the progress that we make.

I draw attention in particular to point 53 of the draft resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which states:

“The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands. It lies also in the hands of today’s younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations. We have mapped the road to sustainable development; it will be for all of us to ensure that the journey is successful and its gains irreversible”.

As a member of the advisory board of UNICEF in Scotland, I believe that that focus on children is key. Goal 16 is about society and governance, and target 16.2 is to,

“End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children”.

This has been welcomed as a step forward in addressing the protection of children across the globe. The indicators are still being discussed by an expert group. Each indicator is being assessed for its suitability and relevance, as well as for how feasible it will be. These indicators are due to be finalised in March 2016. I would stress that the indicators must also include the number of children who experience violence from a care giver. I speak of children in the developed world—and of children here in the UK—as well as of the countless who face untold horror and violence in conflict zones around the world, or those who are trafficked and cruelly subjected to slave labour in the developing world.

The universality of the goals is possibly one of the most striking aspects of the new framework. On Tuesday, at the IDC session, the Secretary of State for International

Development also mentioned the universality of the goals, stating that she will work with the Cabinet Office to ensure that the UK also plays its role. UNICEF has declared that the lack of global attention and commitment to tackle violence has made it impossible to deliver the millennium development goals in full, despite huge improvements in child well-being since the goals were agreed. Tackling the risk of violence must be a key priority if the other development areas, such as child mortality and education, are to thrive. For example, how can we expect children to learn if they are being abused at home?

The sustainable development goals will officially be adopted at a UN summit in New York this September and will become applicable from January 2016. The deadline for the SDGs is 2030. This means that we need plans and commitments at national levels from those that have signed up and a global partnership if we are to see the measurable results that we would wish to see 15 years hence. The sustainable development goals, like the millennium development goals, are to be celebrated as a noble effort to make this a better and fairer world, but they need the full support and commitment of the 193 Governments that have signed up, both in implementation and in financial terms. The SDGs are, after all, an aspiration—a beacon of light and hope for something better in what is otherwise, for millions on our planet, a very dark world.