Ministers of international development from around the world will wrap up meetings at the United Nations in New York as part of the high-level political forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their meetings are in parallel with civil society organizations from around the world committed to meeting the 17 SDGs.
The theme is “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world“.
In September 2015 all 193 Member States of the United Nations, including Canada, committed to achieving these goals, at home and internationally.
Two years into the SDG’s 15-year implementation process, however, an Abacus survey of 1,518 Canadian adults, 18 years and over, commissioned by the United Nations Association in Canada (an historic Canadian charity), indicated that only 11% of the surveyed respondents were aware of these Global Goals. This is a challenge, given Canadians’ perception of themselves as “global citizens”. It is a challenge for UNA-Canada, with a mandate to educate and engage Canadians on the UN and the global issues that affect us all. It is a challenge for a Government that has declared itself a global leader and one with an objective of securing a seat on the Security Council in 2021.
It is not an impossible challenge. Once the 17 SDGs were described and explained to respondents, the vast majority expressed a favourable assessment of them. They found the Goals to be: inspiring (86%); innovative (83%); unifying (80%); and effective (78%). Most importantly, fully 72% felt they were achievable. Those are positive responses on which organizations like UNA-Canada, tasked with addressing and promoting the SDGs, can move Canadians along a continuum of engagement – from awareness, concern and readiness to action towards the achievement of these global goals from a Canadian perspective.
It is encouraging, and perhaps not surprising, that 18-29 year olds, on average, were more aware of the SDGs and responded with most optimism about them, especially with respect to their effectiveness and their achievability By 2030 these 18-29 year olds will be 31-42 years of age, ready to run for the highest offices in the country and influence the next development global goals as needed.
Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, and others have committed the Government of Canada to action, in collaboration with civil society organizations such as UNA-Canada, in support of a global effort to meet the SDGs. In acknowledging UNA-Canada’s youth engagement in global citizenship Min. Bibeau wrote “They (NGOs) are a medium through which all Canadians and all sectors can relate and meaningfully connect with the global community.(Your) focus on youth, gender equality, and innovation align well with Canadian and UN priorities”. The Government’s new ‘Feminist International Policy’ will go a long way to addressing SDG #5 on Gender Equality. Importantly, meeting gender equality Targets of the SDGs will largely meet ALL the SDGs. Women’s full engagement in their communities and countries is a fast track to poverty reduction.
That said, the Government must now offer guidelines on a national framework on SDGs and a process of monitoring and measuring progress towards achieving the Goals within Canada and in our international development aid. This requires action soon, especially given a stated pledge to re-engage in a leadership role with the UN and other multilateral fora. On this re-engagement with the UN, Canadians are very ready to support their Government, with 73% of those surveyed seeing this leadership role as having a positive impact on Canadians, and 83% indicating strong support for Canada’s active engagement with the UN.
If the voices for isolationism, nativism, exclusion, walls, borders are getting to you….it may be because Canadians are a little different. Clearly, Canadians continue to see themselves as global citizens. Let us provide the ways and means to actualize this global citizenship by meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
Action need not wait for, or depend on Government leadership. Individual Canadians and organizations such as UNA-Canada strive to address the SDGs in their everyday lives and professional work. For 72 years UNA-Canada has brought the UN to Canadians and championed made-in-Canada promising practices to the global commons.
When asked whether “every person has a responsibility to do what they can to help achieve the SDGs” an inspiring 82% of Canadians agree.
So, while we must continue to bring attention to conflicts, disease, famine and suffering, let us also acknowledge the profound progress made in reducing, and even eradicating these issues. Alleviating global poverty is not hopeless.
Engaged global citizenship is alive and well in the hearts and minds of Canadians. This is inspiring news.
President & CEO
United Nations Association in Canada