Humanitarian Organisations Warn SDG Recommendations Shouldn’t Be Ignored
20 February 2019 at 5:03 pm
Leading humanitarian organisations say Australia will suffer internationally if Senate recommendations for the Sustainable Development Goals are not taken seriously by the government.
A report, released by the Senate on 14 February, recommended a national SDG implementation plan, a cross sector consultation group to advise the inter-departmental committee (IDC) on the SDGs until 2030, and regular mandatory reporting of Australia’s performance against the goals.
The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the Australian Council of Social Services and United Nations Association Australia, released a joint statement on Wednesday welcoming the recommendations, and said they provided a clear pathway to achieving the SDGs.
“The SDGs provide a framework for collective action to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges such as climate change, poverty, inequality and sustainable growth,” they said.
“In order to resolve these wicked problems, the first step is to agree on a clear, robust set of goals and targets.”
Marc Purcell, ACFID CEO, told Pro Bono News that while Australia was already doing a lot to achieve the SDGs, implementing a national plan, as recommended by the Senate report, would go a long way to fill the gaps.
“Governments do best when they plan and actually set out what they are going to do, and at this point we don’t have that,” Purcell said.
Alice Ridge, International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) research, policy and advocacy advisor, also welcomed the recommendations, particularly the focus on concrete actions to integrate the SDGs across domestic and international development policies and budgets.
“IWDA continues to call for gender targets to ensure gender parity in the implementation and monitoring mechanisms recommended by the report,” Ridge told Pro Bono News.
“We remain committed to the potential of this agenda to drive joined up efforts towards transformative change in Australia and around the world, and encourage Parliament to use the SDGs as a framework for change.”
But a dissenting report from Coalition Senators Eric Abetz and James McGrath, laid out concerns that many of the recommendations would create an “unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, regulation and expense” without any actual benefit.
“Coalition Senators are disappointed by the approach taken by Labor and Greens which focuses on over-regulating the implementation of these goals rather than either celebrating the positive situation Australia is in and how we can better support lagging nations around the world to implement the SDGs,” the report said.
It added that by mainstreaming the SDGs across the federal government – giving individual departments and agencies the option of integrating SDGs into their work, through an IDC – the foundations were already in place to achieve the goals.
The IDC is co-chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The dissenting report said: “On that basis, Coalition Senators respectfully encourage the government to ignore the recommendations of the majority report.”
Purcell said, from the view of community and corporate organisations who used the SDGs as a roadmap, ignoring the recommendations was unacceptable.
“What we’re looking for is leadership and so with respect to the two senators, I’d really encourage them to reflect on how they could best provide that,” he said.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s actually doing what governments do well which is planning, prioritising and allocating resources, and essentially all of the recommendations from the Senate report were pointing to those things.”
He said the inquiry demonstrated the mainstream, cross-sector support the SDGs had, from community groups to big corporate organisations such as Australia Post, and BHP Billiton.
“This is not a ‘Green Left’ agenda, the inquiry showed it’s absolutely mainstream and that’s why you’re seeing corporations like BHP and Australia Post really championing the SDGs,” he said.
He said for the government to ignore the recommendations would result in Australia “looking like fools” on the international stage.
“I know we’re an island but we live in a family of nations and we get by, by cooperating and doing what we say we will,” he said.
“I don’t think turning your eyes away from the rest of the world and pretending that things we’ve agreed to have no meaning, is a sensible or sustainable way for the Australian government to act.”
He encouraged the rest of the sector to keep working toward the goals, and said the coalition of humanitarian organisations would continue talks with government to ensure the recommendations were taken on board.
“The SDGs are some of the key challenges of our times and organisations should keep doing what they are doing because they’re taking it seriously,” Purcell said.
“Simply put, we’re asking, and calling on not just the government but other major political parties to take that job seriously too.”