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Motion to Encourage the Government to Take Account of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as it Drafts Legislation and Develops Policy relating to Sustainable Development

Motion to Encourage the Government to Take Account of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as it Drafts Legislation and Develops Policy relating to Sustainable Development

Motion to Encourage the Government to Take Account of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as it Drafts Legislation and Develops Policy relating to Sustainable Development

Motion to Encourage the Government to Take Account of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as it Drafts Legislation and Develops Policy relating to Sustainable Development


Published on 20 June 2017
Hansard and Statements by Senator Dennis Dawson

Hon. Dennis Dawson:

Honourable senators, I am really sorry to have to do this tonight, but I had promised at the Inter-Parliamentary Union that I would be delivering this speech before the next conference. I was reminded a month ago when the president of the Inter- Parliamentary Union was in the room that I hadn’t done it.

For obvious reasons, last year I did not deliver this speech and I implore your cooperation. It will be a short speech.

I think you will all find it very interesting. If not, I will not be offended if some people decide to leave. I have been known to do that myself.

Honourable senators, I am delighted to have this opportunity to draw your attention to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its offspring, the sustainable development goals or SDG. It also gives me the chance to touch upon Canada’s commitment, and notably those of the federal government, in regards to the implementation of this initiative in general and its sets of goals in particular.

Finally, I stress that these SDGs represent an opportunity for parliamentarians, as encouraged by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, to demonstrate our commitment to improve people’s lives and the health of the planet on which all human existence depends.

These sustainable development goals, or SDGs, are an opportunity for parliamentarians to demonstrate their desire to improve the lives of Canadians and the health of the planet on which human existence depends.

Agenda 2030 and the sustainable development goals were adopted by the United Nations in September 2015. That’s why I was supposed to give this speech last year. According to Marc- Andre Blanchard, the Canadian ambassador from the UN who appeared before the Standing Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs last week, it is one of the most significant multilateral achievements in years.

He added:

If we get this right, millions of people globally will join the middle class, have access to better jobs, girls will go to school and not be forced into marriage, women will be empowered, and there will be real economic opportunity.

Agenda 2030 and SDGs were meant to drive global efforts to end poverty and place the planet on a sustainable course over the next 15 years.

As described in the background of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the SDGs are intended to focus and coordinate national policy towards a more common realistic vision for humanity. They bailed on past efforts to implement a poverty reduction agenda known as the millennium development goals or MDGs.

They aspired to realize the human rights of all and achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Basically, the SDGs focus on three pillars of sustainable development, and they are economic, social and environmental. They are not legally binding, but we must bear in mind that various governments have made moral commitments to implement them to the best of their ability and in line with their own national priorities.

The capacity measurements of a G7 country like Canada should lead us down a path of success in terms of achieving the agenda. Agenda 2030 and the SDGs are the result of a vast consultation and negotiation process that lasted several years.

As touched upon above, the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has emerged with 17 sustainable development goals. Poverty eradication remains the overarching achievement of this new agenda alongside the promotion of economic, social and environmental development.

There are currently 17 SDGs and 169 targets. I’ll give you the 17 SDGs and I won’t mind the 169 targets. They were designed to encapsulate all three pillars of sustainable development that I mentioned above.

Here is a quick outline of the SDGs underlying the 169 targets: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure.

There are also reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and partnership for these goals.

It is quite the agenda, as you can see, and it covers almost every aspect of human activity. Not only do these SDGs identify the sectorial priorities and set new ambitious targets, but they also bring new opportunities. This is the first time that an international pact recognizes the importance of having effective, responsible, and inclusive institutions in support of development. Every country is expected to set its own priorities and adapt the targets and indicators to the local specificities in order to direct the implementation of a national program.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union recommends that the countries develop or update their own development plan for adapting the SDGs to local specificities. These objectives and targets that are specific to each country should then be supported by the relevant local progress indicators in order to evaluate the results on the ground. It would be best that the public is closely involved in the process as much as possible.

Here in Canada, the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, or FSDS, provides Canadians with the Government of Canada’s sustainable development priorities, establishes goals and targets, and highlights government actions from 41 organizations.

The 2016-2019 FSDS were actually tabled in Parliament in October 2016, less than a year ago. With its 13 aspirational goals and for a more sustainable development, the 2016-2019 FSDS is meant to demonstrate federal leadership, mainly on such items such as climate change, and includes environment-related 2030 sustainable development goals, measurable and ambitious targets, and the role that the partners must play.

This strategy is certainly a step in the right direction, and an important one. It is commendable and appropriate to consider sustainable development from an environmental perspective. Sustainable development is a concept that progressively developed out of environmental considerations.

In Canada, we find many SDG aspects in various national policies, but they are often fragmented. It would likely be useful and necessary to codify these initiatives in a way to incorporate them in a more informed and transparent manner into the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy in order to demonstrate that the strategy goes beyond the environment in our national sustainable development goals.

The provinces often play a significant role by innovating or complementing the federal government’s actions. I am thinking, for example, of Quebec’s daycare program.

We can be proud of the advances that Canada has made when it comes to sustainable development, but again, we need to draw more attention to them and continue to improve them.

As a prosperous developed country, Canada can certainly be on the leading edge worldwide by continuing to play a leadership role in a multilateral framework and adopting national policies that contribute to sustainable development and help meet the sustainable development goals and targets.

In this regard, we should applaud the initiatives mentioned by Ambassador Blanchard last week at the committee, who reminded us that Canada is a leading group on financing SDGs. There would now be 55 countries, according to the ambassador, “. . . that have joined us and actually are working with us.” And those friends are not only made of ambassadors and countries, but also from the business and finance communities.

As parliamentarians we must support efforts including, of course, in our own country to reach these new goals in ways that respect our respective countries’ national specificities.

Borrowing from the Hanoi Declaration of 2015, “Turning Words into Actions,” I’d like to underline that our responsibility is clear — to hold our governments accountable for the goals they have subscribed to and to make sure that enabling laws are passed and budgets adopted.

We must seek to overcome the silo mentality within our own parliaments and national administration to reflect the inter- sectoral and broad nature of these goals. To this end, we must do our utmost to institutionalize the goals in every parliament, with sufficient time for discussing and monitoring.

Implementing these ODDs is certainly a challenge, but they represent an opportunity for parliamentarians to demonstrate our commitment to improve people’s lives and the health of the planet on which all human existence depends.

More immediately, I, for one, consider SDGs as a robust framework around which we parliamentarians can base our strategic plans and pursue our own oversight accountability work to lead our e governments in the right direction.

And to quote from Ambassador Blanchard: “This is the plan to take the world away from the cliff of unsustainability where it currently stands.”

Thus, as parliamentarians, let us continue to support efforts and initiatives towards the betterment of our Mother Earth and for the benefit of mankind.

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