My Lords, I welcome this debate and thank my noble friend Lord Chidgey for securing such an important opportunity to discuss the forthcoming summit on the SDGs and the Government’s position. The UN is to be congratulated on the progress that it has made in creating the 17 successor goals, with 169 targets, covering five main areas to act as a springboard from the MDGs. David Cameron, our Prime Minister, has ensured that the UK has played a significant role in the groundwork around the formation of the SDGs by serving on the High-Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda, and is to be congratulated on this.
As we have heard from previous speakers, the UN is recommending 17 goals and 169 targets which relate to the five themes and cover many aspects: poverty, humanitarian, social, economic, climate and conflict. If all these goals and targets are implemented properly in the anticipated period of 15 years from 2015 to 2030 by all world leaders, I have no doubt that the world will be free of inequality, conflict, diseases and threats of climate problems.
Out of the 17 goals, I will focus on five which relate to women and girls. These are goals 1, 4, 5, 8 and 16. These goals are about achieving a better life and security for women and girls in the developing world. Many are often not able to access the means to enable them to improve their lives at all.
I will start with goal 16, which is to:
“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
It needs to be attained in several regions before many of the other goals can be implemented, for without peaceful, inclusive societies there is little that can be done to improve the lives of those who need it most. This goal should be at the forefront of every goal.
For many women and children, goal 4 to:
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all”,
is but a far-off dream due to the conflicts and instabilities in many regions. The ongoing migrant crisis, resulting largely from conflicts, means that for many there is little hope of a life that is stable enough to allow them the opportunity to access any education, even if it is available for them. This is also true of goal 5 to:
“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”,
and goal 8:
“Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
Goal 1 refers to ending,
“poverty in all its forms everywhere”,
and continues on from the first goal of the MDGs, which was to eradicate extreme poverty. The UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 states that there is,
“greater risk of poverty among separated women, widows and single mothers”.
This report emphasises the importance of understanding what is happening in the world through data collection and analysis.
I am sure that your Lordships’ House is aware that I am committed to the welfare of widows and their children around the world. Here I declare my interest as founder and chairman trustee of the Loomba Foundation. The foundation commissioned a research study, the
Global Widows Report 2015
, which has revealed the growing numbers of widows and the struggles they face, especially in the developing world. There are now 259 million widows, up 9% since 2010, and 584 million dependants worldwide.
As noble Lords know only too well, since I and many others have said this in the House before, in the developing world widows suffer the double injustices of gender discrimination and widow discrimination. Widowhood is precisely the type of situation that the SDGs aim to improve. The humanitarian situation faced by widows and their children has worsened in the past few years, due to factors including armed conflict, instability in the Middle East and north Africa, the Ebola epidemic and increasing HIV infections. Conflicts have contributed to a growing number of widows, while UNICEF estimates that the Ebola virus has led to over 16,000 children losing one or both parents or their primary caregiver. Other estimates show that 17.7 million children under 18 have lost one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS.
These global challenges have resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis for widows and their children since World War Two. Making a specific focus of widows and their children part of the wider remit of the sustainable development goals, and the intention to probe more deeply into the problems that help create and sustain poverty, will serve women and girls much better. I understand that a global indicator framework to support the SDGs will be developed. Widows and their children in these indicators will ultimately have a far better life and status through the implementation of the five goals that I have referred to.
“Leave no one behind” is an encouraging goal. If properly implemented, it would help not only 259 million widows and 584 million children but more than 1 billion people on the planet when you add the number of dependents of these unfortunate widows. Will the Government encourage the UN to include widows and their children in the indicators that will follow after the adoption of the sustainable development goals at the forthcoming summit?