graphic with icons for each sustainable development goal

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

With the recent federal election dominating the airwaves, many Canadians missed hearing about one of the UN’s most important summits of the year. Between September 25 and 27 the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit was held in New York, and that world leaders endorsed Transforming Our World - The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that build on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of 2015.

With goals and targets to end poverty, reduce inequality, fight climate change, ensure access to education, and promote peace and justice, the plan envisions the positive ways we can work together to transform our world by 2030.

Trade unions welcome the new framework for sustainable development and are particularly committed to realizing goals and targets to: 

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere (Goal 1), with unions particularly advocating enhanced social protections to help achieve this;
  • End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture (Goal 2);
  • Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (Goal 4);
  • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (Goal 5), with a particular focus on providing public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and on supporting women’s leadership;
  • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (Goal 7);
  • Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth; full and productive employment; and decent work for all (Goal 8);
  • Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation (Goal 9);
  • Reduce inequality within and among countries (Goal 10), with a focus on fiscal, wage, and social protection policies;
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (Goal 13); and
  • Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (Goal 16).

The Canadian Labour Congress and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) commends states on signing onto this ambitious set of goals and targets. However, labour organizations have also pointed out flaws in the goals’ supporting framework and the processes for follow-up, review and accountability.

In terms of the goals’ framework, labour bodies are asking for signatory nations to commit to implement the goals through financing, progressive public policy, and a sound accountability framework. In addition, the goals’ follow-up and review process is essentially voluntary, meaning that nations risk little if they fail to make efforts to implement the goals. The CLC and ITUC believe the follow-up process could be strengthened through binding commitments based on existing international standards.

Representing the labour movement at the UN Summit, Susan Hopgood, president of Education International, stated: “As trade unions, we are committed to play our part. We need government to step up and fulfil their obligations. Deeds not words.”

Internationally, ITUC’s Trade Union Trade Development Cooperation Network (TUDCN) will push for high standards during the process leading up to and including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

During the recent federal election campaign, the Liberal party confirmed that a Liberal government would commit to the SDGs and to developing a comprehensive plan to make measurable progress towards achieving these goals, both at home and abroad.

The CLC, alongside civil society organization and advocacy groups such as the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), is committed to playing its part, while holding the new Liberal government accountable to their commitments.