In 2015, the First Minister pledged that Scotland would lead the way to deliver a more just world in which we live within environmental limits. The Scottish Government made a bold statement of intent not just to the people of Scotland but to the wider world, in signing Scotland up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the SDGs or the Global Goals.
Scotland should be a place where everyone can satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a good quality of life held by and supporting a healthy environment. Unfortunately, Scotland, along with other places, currently has high levels of social inequality and negative impacts of the climate and nature crises. The SDGs give us the framework to achieve real change, locally, across Scotland and with our international friends and partners.
This framework allows us to tackle the multiple, complex and interconnected challenges of our time, providing solutions that promote human and planetary wellbeing. Meeting the SDGs for 2030 is not just up to the government; it is a responsibility for us as individuals and across different groups and sectors.
In Scotland, many groups with an interest in sustainability and development have been engaging with national and local government to explore ways of working and to undertake projects, programmes and initiatives.SDG Network Scotland came into formation in the summer of 2017, but it is one part of our current chapter in Scotland’s commitment to sustainable development and was born from a number of collaborations.
The Rio Group
The Rio Group was founded by Scottish Wildlife Trust, Sniffer, and CIFAL Scotland in 2011 to provide a platform for discussion in Scotland for organisations interested in engaging with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Its vision was for Scotland to be a world leader in Sustainable Development and fully implement all the Sustainable Development Goals
The Rio Group ran several events designed to enable interested organisations to exchange knowledge and also to collate priorities from Scotland to feed into the development of the SDGs at international level. One example is the document we developed - ‘A Flourishing Scotland’ which set out ten ‘celebrations’ and ten ‘ambitions’ civil society organisations in Scotland wished to see reflected in the finalised SDGs. This was formally submitted to the United Nations in 2012.
The post-2015 group
Since the SDGs were adopted in 2015, the remit of the Rio Group evolved. The mission shifted to be a catalyst for achieving the full implementation of the SDGs within Scotland.
This became the Post-2015 SDG group which oversaw targeted events designed to help keep the SDGs high on the political agenda whilst promoting both practical and policy initiatives to help ensure all the goals are being prioritised and acted upon by the Scottish Government, by civil society and by the business community.
SDG Network Scotland
In March 2017, following a gap in activity from the Post-2015 SDG group, a meeting was convened by the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. There was an apparent demand to increase working together and partnership across Scotland and beyond to progress the SDGs. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) worked with a range of partners to establish the network to build awareness and engagement across civil society, business, and government.
SDG Network Scotland is a broad coalition in Scotland. Our coalition is built on an active membership of over 500 individuals and organisations. We welcome members who are interested in and committed to debating, championing and achieving the SDGs in Scotland, and we engage with other groups and topics of relevance.
We aim to support debate on the SDGs, listening to people, discussing and speaking to decision makers; and implementation of the SDGs in Scotland in order to pursue sustainable development. Our steering group offers direction and focus but members can post comments and exchange knowledge across the online forum. We collectively develop open letters, policy briefings, consultation responses, and encourage sharing and discussion on our public-facing website – globalgoals.scot. For example, in 2019, the network played a crucial role in facilitating input into Scotland contribution to the UK Voluntary National Review on Progress towards the SDG and in producing Scotland’s Supplementary Review: a national review to drive action.
The UN SDGs are part of an aspirational drive to transform the future; they were inspired by the voluntary and third sectors as well as from member state governments, and they have already been taken up by many significant parties in the private sector.They are the current best possible option, and an outcome of collaborative dialogue, but they can be constructively debated and should be seen as a framework that inspires discussion and further learning and action.