Yes we can meet the Sustainable Development Goals

Gillian Greer
TINZ Deputy Chair
Julie Haggie
TINZ Chief Executive Officer

The 2021 Aotearoa New Zealand SDG Virtual Summit happens online on 2 September. The event, being hosted by Canterbury and Lincoln Universities, is  sold out, with over 700 registrations.

The Summit’s tagline ’Collaboration for Systemic Change’ is evident in its planning and organisation.  The pre-summit events, and pivoting to online in the middle of lockdown with a massive  interest shows that there are many people willing to work with others to solve our hardest problems.   

About the SDGs

In 2015, all United Nations members signed up to Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the 2030 Agenda The 2030 Agenda seeks to improve life for current and future generations, particularly for those who are more vulnerable or "the furthest behind". It sets out 17 sustainable development goals encompassing 169 targets to be achieved by 2030 . These goals encompass social, environmental, and economic sustainable development designed to create urgent action for a more sustainable world. 

While the SDGs are not legally binding on member states, countries are expected to implement their commitments. 

New Zealand’s  preparedness to implement SDGs

The New Zealand Auditor-General has released his long awaited report (The Government’s preparedness to implement the sustainable development goals), just in time for the Summit. His office looked at commitment, measurement, reporting, organisation and stakeholder engagement.  

It is an account of lacklustre intent, combined with bureaucratic and monocultural myopia.  We ain’t getting much done, and if we were, we wouldn’t know it.

The Auditor-General contends that the government needs to think more systematically, set targets, plan around those targets, and measure our achievement against them.

 A lot of work has gone into Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand and the Living Standards Framework dashboard, but use of these or other indicators by government agencies is uneven at best.  Energy seems to have dropped away in understanding our baseline, let alone measuring progress.   We need to keep a long, sharp focus.  Fortunately we have valuable cultural indigenous models and some research and evidence on many of the relevant issues as a baseline. 

The Auditor-General’s report is clear that the next report should be different. Hon Nanaia Mahuta,  Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade foreshadowed this when opening the UNANZ Conference on the 14 August, stating that New Zealand should align with the SDGs and that New Zealand will support a collective response in line with the SDGs, human rights and open and transparent  democracy.  At  the opening of the SDG Summit on 2 September Minister Mahuta acknowledged the critical role played by the government, but also challenged civil society to ensure there is an enduring social and democratic licence to meet the objectives.  

Targeting is essential

If we want to have meaningful progress against Sustainable development goals for 2030 then government business and communities need ambitious, but achievable targets.  At the SDG Summit attendees will discuss ‘pou’ - the workstreams of the SDG Alliance.  These are likely to include: 

  • Reducing poverty
  • Ensuring safe and affordable housing
  • Improving water quality
  • Reducing violence and corruption
  • Turning consumption/production away from what is exploitative/destructive to more responsible behaviour?   To quote an English academic, “Why borrow money I don’t have, to buy things I don’t need, to impress people I don’t care about?! “
  • Health.  COVID has unequivocally demonstrated the importance of an integrated approach to human development and the environment locally, nationally and globally.  The SDGs offer such a framework and are complementary to New Zealand’s wellbeing budget and living standards framework.
  • Climate Change. Given that the architects of the SDGs themselves stated that Climate change could prevent us from reaching all or any of our goals.

Transparency International New Zealand’s SDG Focus

TINZ’s SDG focus has been around peace, justice and strong institutions.  Progress on this goal is reliant on integrity, accountability and transparency.  Application of those qualities to other goal areas will also improve those outcomes.  

The Auditor-General focuses on the government’s response, but TINZ calls on New Zealanders in general to understand the positive potential in the Sustainable Development Goals’ 2030 Agenda and to get involved in projects including with Business/private sector and local bodies that support the targets that are important to each of us.  These are critical to present and future generations. The Auditor-General provides examples of SDG focussed collaborative projects across New Zealand.

The SDGs offer a great opportunity to bring our creativity, imaginations and will to make real progress on our largest social, economic and environmental problems.  We can do it, together.

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