The Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a huge opportunity for the advancement of Human Rights; 12 of 17 goals are directly linked to human rights, and the final report mentions human rights 14 times. It is vital the Commonwealth as a organisation actively supports their progress, and uses them as a tool to move member governments towards improvements at the domestic level.
The SDGs are an ambitious agenda for “people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership” that ensures “no one is left behind.” According to Marion Steff from Sightsavers, the SDGs will ensure “the most excluded can exercise their human rights” with seven targets referring explicitly to persons with disabilities, an additional six to people in vulnerable situations, and two to non-discrimination. With the concrete targets widely hailed, achieving the SDGs will also require determined partners willing to follow through on implementation.
One such partner is the Commonwealth. The SDGs featured prominently in last year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The Commonwealth Business Forum launched the Global Goals Commonwealth Sustainable Business Challenge to encourage businesses to discuss their impact on the Global Goals, write an action plan and publish their commitments and successful initiatives. CHRI and CIVICUS hosted a CHOGM side event on Justice and the SDGs: Promoting an inclusive approach to participatory policy making. Additionally, at the 10th Commonwealth Youth Forum in Malta, over 400 youth leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities facing young people, and their role in achieving sustainable development.
The Commonwealth’s initial engagement has been positive. The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Health and Education Unit, for example, is specifically targeting policy strengthening to enable Commonwealth countries to take forward Goal 4 — ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Helen Clark, head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), addressed the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Conference in June last year, and reminded participants of their “vital” role.