Scotland's Sustainable Development Goals Network
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Lewis Ryder-Jones: ‘Joined-up’ thinking and cross sector collaboration can make Scotland a leader in Sustainable Development

Lewis Ryder-JonesBy Lewis Ryder-Jones | May 2020

Deputy Chief Executive of Scotland’s International Development Alliance

What is ‘sustainable development’? Not as simple a question as it may seem – the emphasis on what needs to develop and what needs to be sustainable often shifts depending on who or where you ask… Rarely do you get an answer which doesn’t give precedence to one economic, social or environmental concern over another.

History also tells us that economic concerns have mostly trumped all others, and development in many places has often been driven by a particular agenda or powerful group. This goes against one of the very fundamentals of sustainable development: balance.

At this critical juncture in our history, with the current COVID-19 crisis nested within other long-term global crises, finding that balance going forward has never been more important.

That’s why Scotland’s International Development Alliance’s new report – Improving Policy Coherence in Scotland – aims to bring together civil society and Government, and asks us all to think more systematically about how our different goals interact with one another.

Whether the goal is ending poverty in other countries, creating an economy that has well-being at its core or protecting our shared environment, we believe we must find ways to ensure progress in one area is not at the expense of others.

We argue strongly that our governing institutions can lead by example as we seek to live up to our commitment to delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our Government and Parliament must be a leading light in fostering a culture of joined-up thinking. Be it the way we measure our global footprint, the way we scrutinise legislation, or how we engage stakeholders to develop policy – the principles of sustainable development must be ever present.

This stops short-termism blinding us from future problems and forces us to think globally, while acting locally. It will also help us connect the dots between ourselves, the communities we live in, people elsewhere and the planet.

But this isn’t just about government, it’s about all of us. That’s why our report also calls for broad cross-sector collaboration on developing Scotland’s approach to sustainable development.

We are asking stakeholders from across civil society and Government to think about the broader impacts of what they do, and contribute to a growing body of work on this issue. In doing so, we firmly believe we can inform better, more coherent policy making in Scotland.

This is all underpinned by the premise that no one has all the solutions, and Government policy is always better thought through when it is transparently co-developed by a range of stakeholders.

So, get involved – the Improving Policy Coherence in Scotland Website is open source and editable, designed to allow users to create and collaboratively edit pages easily with no prior experience.

Now more than ever before, it’s time to re-think how we live and work, and crucially, reflect on what it means to live in an interdependent, interconnected world.

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