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Sustainable Development Goals

Volume 596: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2015

Since January, UN member states have discussed all aspects of the post-2015 outcome document for September: the political declaration, goals and targets, means of implementation, and monitoring and review. As the hon. Lady may be aware, we have literally just seen the first zero draft of that document. We are looking through it to assess what the UK’s negotiating stance will be.

Last year, I visited Rwanda with Voluntary Service Overseas—I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—and I saw for myself the enduring impact that the collapse of its healthcare system 20 years ago has continued to have on levels of disability and poor mental health. Will the Secretary of State tell us what the Government have done to ensure that universal health coverage remains an underpinning principle of the sustainable development goals and the aid agenda?

We have advocated very strongly for universal health coverage that truly makes a difference to people and puts them in a position to be able to play a role in helping to develop their country. I assure the hon. Lady that the UK is a strong advocate of that. She is quite right to point out the dramatic progress that has been made in Rwanda. What it shows is that when we make the investment, development happens.

Given the important role the Prime Minister played on the high-level panel on sustainability, will the Secretary of State tell the House what progress has been made in getting a concrete goal on the food, water and energy nexus?

My right hon. Friend is right to point out the Prime Minister’s pivotal role as a co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s high-level panel. It very much shaped the debate that then happened, which has got us to where we are today. Clearly, the interlocking issues of food security, nutrition and sustainability need to be addressed as part of the new sustainable development goals. One of the main changes that we want to see is sustainability, and the early indications are that we will have a good outcome.

What role does the Secretary of State see for the Scottish Government in the ongoing SDG negotiations? Will she commit to ensuring that her counterpart, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs or the Minister for Europe and Internal Development, will be part of the UK delegation to the UN SDG summit in September?

Of course, the hon. Gentleman will know that international development remains a reserved matter, but I am proud of the fact that our joint headquarters is up in East Kilbride. I very much welcome him and his expertise to the House. I have no doubt that Scotland has a key role to play in helping to shape the outcomes, and I look forward to discussing them with him.

11. In 2011, British climate scientists said that the famine in Somalia was caused in part by low rainfall, to which climate change contributed. Does the Secretary of State agree that tackling climate change as a single, stand-alone target should be included in the SDGs, or will the Government continue to treat it as an afterthought? (900070)

I do not think that the hon. Lady is right to characterise our approach that way. For many years, the UK has been a leader in the debate and the challenge of tackling climate change, which is included in the SDG negotiation that is under way. We have argued for tough targets, and of course we will be arguing for them in the Paris summit that is coming up later this year, so I can reassure her that we are playing a leading role in making sure that the next set of development goals are sustainable and that they include tackling climate change.