Adoption of SDGs nigh

Virginia Muwanigwa Gender Protocol
As the United Nations General Assembly meets later this month, adoption of the SDGs is on the agenda. The final draft of the outcome document for the forthcoming UN Summit to adopt the post-2015 Development Agenda commits to ensure that all people can fulfil their potential. The 17 SDGs are broken down

into 169 associated targets which “are integrated and indivisible, global in nature and universally applicable, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

“Targets are defined as aspirational and global, with each government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances.” The preamble to the SDGs is divided into five broad areas of focus — people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. The goals and targets seek to secure the participation of all people and groups, including children, in the realisation of the SDGs.

The SDGs differ fundamentally from the MDGs in that they “encompasses all human rights. . . work to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are enjoyed by all without discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, age, language, religion, culture, migratory status, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic situation, birth, disability or other status”. The lack of a rights-based approach by the MDGs was largely criticised in their review.

Beyond leaving no person behind, the SDGs are designed to reclaim the planet. “We want to protect the planet so that it can support the needs of present and future generations,” notes the outcome document. This is important to ensure that extraction from the planet comes with responsibility not only to the women and men living today but those whose future depends on the decisions and practices prevailing today.

In focusing on prosperity, the SDG outcome document stresses the need to ensure that “. . . all human beings enjoy the fruits of economic, social and technological progress and live productive and fulfilling lives”. While the inequalities of contemporary society may be seen in the context of gender, other factors such as access to productive resources are important. The inequalities transcend the personal and family set up, the community, national and global contexts. While developing countries are seeking a reorganisation of the world economic order to be more just and equal, the principle is just as important at the intra-household level in relation to women and men.

In a context in which peace is an issue globally, the focus on peace is welcome. The commitment to address conflict is captured in the statement which says:

“All people yearn to live in peaceful and harmonious societies, free from fear and violence. We want to foster peaceful, safe and inclusive societies; to strengthen governance and institutions at all levels to ensure equal access to justice and to protect the human rights of all men, women, boys and girls.”

The fifth focus under the SDGs is on partnership where the implementation of the SDGs is dependent on “acting in a spirit of strengthened global solidarity and supporting, in particular, the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable”. The envisaged global partnership will mobilise the means required for implementation of the actions needed to achieve the goals’ targets. The adoption by the world leaders of the SDGs will thus take stock of the outcome document of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa in July this year.

Partnerships for the realisation of the SDGs obviously need to begin at the national and regional level as the following quotation in the document to be considered at the assembly reiterates. Virginia Muwanigwa is a gender activist and chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe. She is also the director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC).

The link between the roles of the legislature, the executive and other institutions in ensuring delivery is noted in reference to parliaments, public institutions and local and other institutions. And within them, women as well as men should be involved if full and equal partnerships are to be a reality.

“. . . we acknowledge the essential role of national parliaments in sustainable development through their enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets and their role in ensuring accountability for the effective implementation of our commitments. “Governments and public institutions will also work closely on implementation with regional and sub-regional institutions, local authorities, international institutions, business and the private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations, volunteer groups and others.”

That the SDGs are an improvement on the MDGs is seen in that vulnerable sections of the population who must be empowered, and whose needs are reflected in the goals and targets, have been identified as children, youth, persons with disabilities and older persons. The disaggregation incorporates others who are vulnerable, such as migrants and indigenous peoples as well as people living in areas affected by conflict, terrorism and complex humanitarian emergencies who over the last few decades are experiencing severe challenges.

There is general consensus that the world needs to further break down its analysis of key concerns by vulnerable groups to clarify differences among women and men. The inclusion of SDG 5 on gender equality and women empowerment thus entrenches the global commitment to transforming society. For the not converted, SDG 5 mistakenly means the goal is the only arena for addressing prevailing norms and standards that cause social differences between men and women, but it should be noted that its being a stand-alone goal does not detract from the need to mainstream gender within the other 16 goals.

The call from the last UN Commission on the Status of Women CSW59 in March this year was that adequate resourcing should accompany the adoption of the gender equality goal and gender mainstreaming. There should also be clear indicators to inform on success. Goal 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls through ending all forms of discrimination, eliminating all forms of violence, eliminating all harmful practices, recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work, full and effective participation in leadership, universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights, access to economic resources and access to ICTs and adoption of a conducive policy environment.

This commitment seems guaranteed in the recognition that “. . . the achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities”. It remains to be seen if by 2030, women and girls will enjoy equal access to education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment and leadership.

Virginia Muwanigwa is a gender activist and chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe. She is also the director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC).

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