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House of Lords Hansard

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

01 March 2018
Volume 789


    Asked by

  • To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting will discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and what objectives they have for Commonwealth action on those goals.

  • I thank the noble Lord for his Question. The last time he stood here, I think I promised him he would not get me again, so I am very sorry about that.

    The agenda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is developed in partnership with Commonwealth member states and the Commonwealth Secretariat. We anticipate that discussions will cover four key themes relevant to the sustainable development goals—fairness, sustainability, prosperity and security. The meeting will look to advance a number of issues relevant to the sustainable development goals, including promoting trade and inclusive economic growth, fostering sustainable development of the world’s oceans and tackling human trafficking.

  • My Lords, while we would all welcome the fact that the Gambia has rejoined the Commonwealth in recent weeks, as a country it is a place that reminds us of the importance of strong institutions and strong democracy as an underpinning for development. Will the leaders at CHOGM address the vital issues encompassed in goal 16 of the sustainable development goals—the objective of strong and stable institutions underpinning peace? Will the Commonwealth use its track record on human rights, justice and peacebuilding to try to reinvigorate the international effort on this particular goal?

  • May I say that we are delighted that the Gambia has rejoined the Commonwealth, and delighted to see the flag flying outside Marlborough House?

    The UK was at the forefront of pushing for goal 16 and is committed to delivering it at home and around the world. Peaceful, inclusive societies, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions underpin the entire sustainable development agenda. We are working with member states and the Commonwealth Secretariat to develop an ambitious agenda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which we expect to include a range of discussions relevant to sustainable development goal 16. We also expect that the three-day people’s forum, which will take place prior to the ministerial discussions, will have a significant focus on the themes in SDG 16.

  • My Lords, while agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, does my noble friend also accept that it is not just through Governments and government action that the Commonwealth can make its greatest contribution but through non-governmental civic society and the huge connectivity among the 2.4 billion people of the Commonwealth, working with youth, universities and all the professions and with common law and common standards in trade and business? This side of it—the non-government side—is the one that will reach out and connect in a very positive way, which is extremely welcome.

  • I thank my noble friend for that intervention. I am a great believer that none of us is as clever as all of us. My noble friend’s point about civil society and non-governmental communities having an input into the summit, and into changing the Commonwealth and making it better, is well made.

  • Will the Government encourage other Commonwealth leaders to increase their commitment to replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education? I understand that at the recent replenishment conference in Addis Ababa, good progress was made but not as much as was hoped. Full funding of the Global Partnership for Education is crucial to achievement of SDG 4, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

  • I am very pleased to tell noble Lords that this week sees the conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers take place in Fiji. It will provide a forum for UK Ministers and officials to discuss the key issues affecting education systems in the Commonwealth and facilitate the sharing of good practice. I have no doubt that they will also discuss the fiscal resources that need to be invested to make the situation in education better.

  • The noble Lord, Lord Howell, is absolutely right about the role of civil society and I am pleased about the range of fora taking place to help inform the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. One key goal, of course, is decent work and I am disappointed that there has not been sufficient emphasis on bringing together trade unionists in the fora, particularly the People’s Forum. I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, met with the TUC but, unfortunately, only one representative is present. I hope that, in future, we will reinvigorate those civil society fora and engage particularly with trade unions to meet goal 8.

  • I thank the noble Lord for his point. I do not have any briefing on trade union involvement so I hope he will allow me to talk to officials and write to him to give the assurances that he needs.

  • My Lords, the sustainable development goals recognise that girls and women are the poorest and most vulnerable globally. How will the Government ensure that all the benefits and work of the last 10 years are not seriously undermined by recent developments? Will it be on the agenda for the meeting?

  • The summit is an opportunity to demonstrate global leadership in the education of young women and girls—the noble Baroness makes a valid point about its importance. We will use the Commonwealth to eliminate the barriers that hold back half the world’s population. The Foreign Secretary has made it very clear in Parliament that the education of young women and girls can change lives across the Commonwealth—I know all noble Lords will agree with that—and can promote the shared Commonwealth objectives of freedom, opportunity, democracy and peace. This will be a very important theme in the week.

  • My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say if and how young people are to be involved in the summit?

  • That is a very timely question, given that the Commonwealth Youth Parliament is meeting this week in Jersey. As the Prime Minister has said, the aspirations of the Commonwealth’s young people will be at the heart of this year’s summit.