Development: Ireland must step up to the plate

Ireland is one of the late passengers on the sustainability train

It is most unfortunate that on climate change – arguably the single biggest catalyst that brought about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – Ireland is far from being a global leader. Photograph: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

It is most unfortunate that on climate change – arguably the single biggest catalyst that brought about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – Ireland is far from being a global leader. Photograph: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

 

When the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change were adopted within a few months of each other in 2015, they provided a roadmap for global action against immense odds.

Securing agreement on the 17 SDGs and 169 subsidiary targets by the 193 member states of the UN was a remarkable achievement, especially given the scale of ambition tied into a short time-frame leading to 2030.

The headline goals include ending extreme poverty and hunger, fighting inequality and injustice, and combatting climate change. There are big commitments on providing good healthcare, quality education, clean water and sanitation, renewable energy, good jobs and economic growth. A focus on gender and human rights adds further ballast to the plan.

A rapid transformation will be required in the way Government departments conduct their business and plan for the future

Fundamentally, the SDGs show that many of the social, economic and environmental challenges which Ireland and the world face today require common, integrated, responses. Ireland’s national implementation plan for their full adoption, which was published last week, seeks to reflect that.

If it is to succeed, however, a rapid transformation will be required in the way Government departments conduct their business and plan for the future. The project demands a new way of engaging, consulting and informing citizens. The SDGs “will challenge all of us – Government, civil society and the private sector – every day between now and 2030,” declared Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten, who has lead responsibility for promoting and overseeing their adoption.

Coalition 2030, an alliance of 100 Irish civil society groups, has rightly called for a move from a compliance-based approach, focusing on business as usual, to 'a visionary approach'

His biggest tasks are confronting old siloed ways of government, engaging a disconnected public on the SDGs and ensuring Ireland fulfils a global leadership role, while placing food and nutrition at the heart of our foreign policy. It is most unfortunate that on climate change – arguably the single biggest catalyst behind the SDGs – we are far from being a global leader.

Coalition 2030, an alliance of 100 Irish civil society groups, has rightly called for a move from a compliance-based approach, focusing on business as usual, to “a visionary approach that embraces a new and inclusive development pathway for Ireland”. Regrettably, we are among the late passengers getting onto that sustainability train. Against that, Ireland played a pivotal role in 2015 in securing adoption of the SDGs, and it is better equipped than many to foster collective action on the issue.

A critical element in this should be the deployment of our considerable diplomatic and negotiating skills in addressing an ominous funding shortfall highlighted repeatedly by UN Secretary General António Guterres.