The global goals aren't just a vision for the rest of the world - important change needs to be achieved within Australia too. Photo by Mike Amos, World Vision
Late last month Australia welcomed the adoption of the Global Goals at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit. The 17 Global Goals build upon the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that governments around the world have been working to achieve over the last 15 years. The Australian Government has committed to use this new sustainable development agenda to plan its development programs and guide its relationships with other countries and donors. Australia has a major responsibility to address poverty and promote sustainable development in its aid and foreign policy capacity and, to this end, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade should incorporate the Global Goals’ targets into program benchmarks.
As important as it is for Australia to pursue achievement of the Global Goals internationally, there’s much we can do at home to support this new development agenda. So, which of the 17 Goals are most relevant to Australia domestically and why?
The list below shows the 17 Goals; according to the Monash Sustainability Institute, the goals in bold are some of the most relevant to Australia:
1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all, and promote sustainable agriculture
3. Attain healthy life for all at all ages
4. Provide equitable and inclusive quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all
5. Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere
6. Secure water and sanitation for all for a sustainable world
7. Ensure access to affordable, sustainable, and reliable modern energy services for all
8. Promote strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all
9. Promote sustainable industrialization
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Build inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements
12. Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Promote actions at all levels to address climate change
14. Attain conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas
15. Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems and halt all biodiversity loss
16. Achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law, effective and capable institutions
17. Strengthen and enhance the means of implementation and global partnership for sustainable development
As the above shows, there are several goals that are relevant to Australia. For instance, Goal 10 requires Australia to address inequalities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people which reach across the sectors of health, education, employment and justice. Indigenous Australians continue to experience higher rates of heart disease and chronic illness, higher rates of child and maternal mortality, lower participation in school, lower indicators in numeracy and literacy, and a disproportionate representation in detention and child protection cases. Empowering Indigenous people and organisations to lead their own development is critical to addressing these inequalities.
Goal 4 on providing equitable and inclusive quality education prompts Australia to re-focus on increasing access to early childhood care and development so that children are ready for primary education. Domestically Australia seems to have lost sight and focus on the criticality of the early years from pre-conception to five years with the 2013 report by Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth ranking Australia in the bottom three of OECD countries in benchmark standards relating to early childhood education and care; and near the bottom (30/34) of OECD countries for the percentage of 3-5-year-olds in early learning or preschool. All Australian children should have access to quality early childhood care and development as evidence shows this is the life stage that makes a huge difference to lifelong health, social, economic and spiritual wellbeing. The Australian Government should invest more in this area, particularly to see improvements for Indigenous children and families. A core principle underpinning the Global Goals is that “no one is left behind”, therefore Australia must strive to have all social and age groups – particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable groups – meet the goals.
Goal 5 of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls includes targets that commit Australia to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls; ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership; and adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. The extent to which women face physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner has recently become more widely understood, driving a confronting and necessary conversation in Australian society. Unequal representation of women in leadership positions also remains widespread across many sectors. The Australian Government has demonstrated leadership both at home and abroad, including in the recent announcement of new funding to counter domestic violence as well as the promotion of more women to senior government positions. However, much more needs to be done to understand this issue – particularly regarding the factors which see Indigenous Australian women 45 times more likely to experience domestic violence than non-Indigenous women – if Australia is to maintain momentum and meet this goal.
Goal 13 on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts is of high relevance to Australia. Australia is the world’s largest per capita emitter and 13th largest emitter of carbon dioxide overall. Australia has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 26 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, but some argue that Australia isn’t doing enough to stop climate change. In order to meet Goal 13 Australia needs to seriously re-examine its policies on climate change.
There’s much that can be done at home to implement the Global Goals. As a highly developed and wealthy country, Australia has greater capacity than most to achieve the Goals. While the focus of the MDGs was on improving the living standard in developing countries, the Global Goals are universally applicable to developed countries, as much as developing. Australia should use this milestone in global development to kick-start its own domestic improvement and implement policies and practices that secure a better future for all Australians.