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Australia’s SDG Report Card Shows Commitment to the Goals

19 June 2018 at 8:50 am
Wendy Williams
Australia has reaffirmed its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a “true global blueprint for a sustainable future for our planet, our communities, our families and our economies”, in the nation’s first report card on the goals.

Wendy Williams | 19 June 2018 at 8:50 am


Australia’s SDG Report Card Shows Commitment to the Goals
19 June 2018 at 8:50 am

Australia has reaffirmed its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a “true global blueprint for a sustainable future for our planet, our communities, our families and our economies”, in the nation’s first report card on the goals.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched the Voluntary National Review (VNR) on Australia’s implementation of the SDGs at a Banksia Ignite event in Sydney on Friday.

The review, coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, addressed Australia’s progress on each of the 17 goals, which aim to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect the planet by 2030.

Each of the 193 countries that signed on to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has committed to producing a VNR at least twice over the lifetime of the agenda.

Speaking at the launch Bishop said the 2030 Agenda was ambitious, but “doable if all nations, all people work together”.

“We are committed to ensuring that Australia plays its part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” Bishop said.

“The goals are universal in that all nations have agreed to them, but they also reflect Australia’s values and our outlook: fairness, justice, equality of opportunity.”

Writing in the VNR, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there were areas “where more could be done”.

“This review is a timely reminder of the opportunities afforded by the goals for cooperation, growth and prosperity for all. Here, we are sharing with the world the best of Australian innovation, ingenuity and partnership in building a stronger future,” Turnbull said.

“Australia, like all countries, faces challenges and we are focusing on those areas where more could be done.”

The review marked a “whole of Australia” report, addressing the efforts of the business sector, civil society, academia, communities and individuals as well as government initiatives and activity.

Australian Council for International Development CEO Marc Purcell congratulated the government on a “strong report” and the “highly consultative approach” it took in its creation.

“This is a significant milestone for Australia’s implementation of the SDGs,” Purcell said.

“This is a clear statement that the government recognises the goals as ‘the’ blueprint for a collective response to shared global challenges, one which requires a contribution from the whole of Australia.”

But Purcell warned that to have “any realistic chance” of achieving the goals by 2030, Australia needed to rapidly transform the way it is working and put sustainability “at its heart”.

“The VNR profiles early-adopters who have implemented highly effective initiatives, but they are too few and far between,” he said.

“We should not be imposing the burden of our failure to act on the next generation. The time for talking has passed, now is the time for action on the SDGs.”

The VNR acknowledged that prosperity was not shared across Australia.

It said while Australia was a prosperous country, people remained at “risk of being left behind due to lingering barriers to their participation in the work force and difficulties in accessing services”.

“These groups include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, those from culturally or linguistically-diverse backgrounds, women and girls, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, youth, the elderly, people with disability and those living in remote and rural locations,” the review said.

It highlighted that the nation continued to grapple with “difficult long-standing policy challenges such as improving health, economic and wellbeing outcomes for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

Purcell said comprehensive action and redress was long overdue.

“Life for the poorest and most marginalised is getting worse. After nearly 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth, there is no excuses left to tackle the growth of inequality,” he said.

“There is a lot of work to do to deliver on one of the key SDG principles of ‘leaving no-one behind’.”

He highlighted that Australia was also performing poorly against the environmental goals and targets.

“Economic growth cannot continue to be tied to environmental degradation. Our greatest natural assets like the Murray-Darling basin and the Great Barrier Reef are in crisis,” Purcell said.

“We urgently need intervention to protect our environment and create affordable, reliable and clean energy for the future.”

He said the face of poverty was changing.

“Most of the world’s poor now live in middle income countries,” he said.

“Australia can make smart interventions to multiply our impact. In the Pacific, this means using our aid program to assist communities with climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. We can afford to make these investments. We should follow the UK and rebuild Australia’s international aid budget to 0.7 per cent of our national income.

“The foreign minister agrees that Australia needs a bigger aid budget. We are now calling on the government and the opposition to announce an election commitment to increase aid to help attain the SDGs.”  

It comes after ACFID made 13 recommendations to accelerate progress towards Australia’s implementation of the goals, as part of a recent submission to a Senate inquiry.

Commenting on ACFID’s primary recommendation, Purcell said he agreed with Bishop’s previous statement that the SDGs would only ever be a “statement of ambition unless we plan for how we will achieve them”.

“The efforts of the federal government, state and territory governments, business, academia and civil society should not exist in isolation. We need a national plan to draw together these strands to drive implementation,” he said.

Coinciding with the launch of the national report card, a new initiative designed to accelerate Australia’s progress towards achieving the SDGs was also launched by the Banksia Foundation.

The Banksia Ignite SDG Challenge aims to alert people to the challenge of achieving the 17 global goals by 2030.

Banksia Foundation CEO Graz van Egmond said Australia could do more as a nation to “unlock the potential” represented by the goals and “stimulate new approaches to how it does business”.

“We’ve come up with the Banksia Ignite SDG Challenge to match big business with Australian innovators to solve issues relating to the goals. This is because we believe coordinated action and partnerships are needed to build a better future for Australia and beyond,” van Egmond said.

“We’re hoping our initiative and this event will ignite an entrepreneurial spirit and create pathways for innovators and start-ups to partner with business in driving change.”

The event also saw the launch of a dedicated Australian SDGs website created by the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) with the support of DFAT.

Australia will deliver its first VNR on the SDGs at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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