When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into being, they marked a tectonic shift in how the UN considered global problems – that they are just that – global – and affect all of us. This has the potential to revolutionise how different actors and sectors across the world can work together to achieve a better world.
The SDGs go beyond the symptoms and causes of poverty, to issues of peace, stability, human rights, the environment and good governance. This means that they function as a framework for all sectors, contextualising the interconnectedness of our work, and the global consequences of our actions.
Importantly, achieving the ambitious SDGs is only possible if there is buy in and commitment everywhere, including here in Scotland. This is why, here at Scotland’s International Development Alliance, we are particularly interested in Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals.
Scotland’s International Development Alliance is the membership body for international development in Scotland, and has over 120 members, ranging from the largest ‘household name’ international NGOs and universities, to small, locally-based charities, social enterprises and businesses little known to the general public. What binds us as an alliance is exactly the same understanding of collaboration, partnership and shared goals that underpin the SDGs.
Goal 17 articulates a shared responsibility to achieving a better world for all and a commitment to global partnership and cooperation. In a world that is more interconnected than ever before, working together, sharing ideas and fostering innovation at all levels of society is both necessary and feasible. Key to this is creating the space for such partnership and cooperation, both physical and virtual. Examples include partnerships between schools in different countries, North-South business partnerships, and networks like this one linking the public, private and civil society sectors.
At a geo-political level, goal 17 includes targets that aim to better coordinate government policies that help developing countries manage their debt, as well as promoting investment for the least developed. North-South and South-South cooperation that supports national plans to achieve the SDGs is also at the core of what partnership must mean. Goal 17 also promotes international trade that is equitable, fair, open, and benefits all. It rightly asserts that this is only possible through multilateral agreements.
Our sector also recognises that policy decisions at different levels of government here in the UK and in Scotland can have implications across the globe, negating the positive effects of others. Our decision-makers must share responsibility for contributing to achieving sustainable development at home and abroad. Too often, we sacrifice long-term objectives for short-term gain: for example, despite world-leading climate legislation, our carbon-emitting industries, and way of life, continue to generate excessive emissions which impact unfairly on the world’s poorest people (some of whom we support through our global development programmes).
Through what’s known as ‘Policy Coherence’, Goal 17 encourages a cross-departmental, whole-of-society approach to the SDGs, aimed at ensuring that countries and societies don’t give with one hand while taking or harming with another. At UK level, examples where action must be taken include the regulation of our arms industry and, as we leave the EU, how we approach international trade with both developed and developing countries.
In Scotland, we would like to see our elected representatives and businesses become more coherent in their approach across a range of different areas. From our dependency on fossil fuel industries in this country and the way our companies invest and trade in others; to the role of global citizenship education in our schools and the way in which both migration and immigration is perceived and portrayed. We must stop working in silos and commit to actions that are bold, inclusive and responsible.