An agenda for all?

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Emily Auckland is  overwhelmed, challenged, stimulated and completely enthralled by negotiations on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In March 2015 I was offered the opportunity to go to the United Nations to attend the 3rd Inter-Governmental Negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Having observed the progress of the goals from a distance during my MSc studies it wasn’t a difficult decision to make – not to mention the chance to go to the Big Apple for the first time – I couldn’t say no!

Since joining Bioregional I’ve become fully immersed in our work on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) for the goals, not least because of the subtle, and contagious, passion Sue Riddlestone radiates whenever we talk about it. My mission in New York was to highlight the need for robust and relevant indicators to measure progress for SCP, using our experience and from a practical perspective to suggest what these might be.

Over the course of the week I was overwhelmed, challenged, stimulated and completely enthralled by the negotiations. Not to mention the people I met, New York City and the work we have to do to ensure that the SDGs take us where we want to go for 2030. International diplomacy is an art form and if you don’t pay attention you miss a lot. Ensuring the goals are ambitious but realistic and that we have reliable and adequate indicators to drive progress is fundamental; it seems that most member states agree on this at least.

There was an abundant presence of international development organisations, and abundant calls to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development. Yet, as a colleague noted at an informal dialogue with Ambassador Patriota of Brazil, there isn’t a lot of talk about sustainability from NGOs and other stakeholders in the room. Whilst it’s important we don’t silo the three pillars of sustainable development we have to have adequate noise for each dimension as well. And whilst many see the SDGs as a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals, they’re not. As Felix Dodds recently commented ‘this is NOT a development agenda it is a sustainable development agenda. It is not for developing countries it is for ALL countries’. Yet the abundance of development organisations who commit staff and resources to advocate for the SDGs is showing otherwise at the moment.

Where are the environmental organisations and voices?

For Bioregional and for me personally, it seems logical. As an organisation which champions One Planet Living through better use of our resources, the opportunity to hold governments and institutions responsible for SCP using a top-down mechanism should be maximised. And thanks to the participatory nature of the agenda, civil society and the private sector have shared responsibility too. The SDGs give us an opportunity to highlight, argue for and demonstrate the type of systems change we need and have been calling for, and make those who are culpable answer if we collectively fail.

At home in the UK we have an opportunity to hold our government to account if they don’t curb our own consumption levels and support others to do the same. As Bioregional continues to champion SCP at the international level, we’re also starting to ask questions about what we can do at home to implement the goals. What might this look like? Who is involved? How do we galvanise support? We can raise our voice in the next lot of negotiations and continue to work with our existing partners overseas but we also want to work with people in the UK, be they communities, companies or other civil society groups. If you want to get involved, let me know!

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