Working together for sustainable development in Pacific

Author: Sanaka Samarasinha

WHILE it seems like yesterday, almost three years have now passed since the 193 nations came together to agree on a new development framework in a modern, rapidly globalising world.

The global 2030 Agenda sets out this new approach with a central effort to ‘Leave No One Behind’.

Unlike the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals, which preceded the SDGs and where the main focus was on the developing countries, the SDGs apply equally to all countries across the globe. For the Smaller Island Developing States, the SIDS Accelerated Actions for Sustainable Development (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway provide the ‘special and differential’ lens by which sustainable development for the SIDS is to be planned and implemented.

At the heart of the 2030 Agenda, sit the 17 SDGs under which there are 169 targets and more than 230 indicators to monitor progress. The SDGs and the S.A.M.O.A Pathway (for SIDS) provide the pathway to end poverty and hunger, realise human rights of all, achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. Importantly, the SDGs are integrated, indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, the social and the environmental.

They also pay attention to the necessity for effective governance and the role of strong partnerships for achievement of sustainable development. UN Secretary General, Antonio Gueterres advocates for partnership: “We live in a complex world. The United Nations cannot succeed alone. Partnership must continue to be at the heart of our strategy.” From my perspective, the greatest strength of the SDGs is their ability to be ‘localised’ – tailored or customised and adapted to regional, national, local and even community context.

The first Quadrennial Pacific Sustainable Development Report 2018 which assesses progress, both nationally and regionally, demonstrates the region has made an excellent start to this work. Forum Leaders took early leadership of the Pacific’s sustainable development agenda by agreeing to take a coherent, streamlined and integrated approach to implementing and accounting for sustainable development initiatives in the Pacific. The Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development including a set of Pacific Sustainable Development indicators provide the blueprint to help monitor progress towards meeting shared Pacific priorities.

With this work in place, and now a baseline report available, we can more clearly see the pathway to a more prosperous, resilient and inclusive Pacific. Our collective challenge is to move from talking about frameworks, targets and indicators and begin a greater focus on implementation. The hard work, Cakacaka as my Fijian friends would say. Mahi for the kiwis. Bikpela wok in Tok Pisin.

Development progress in the Pacific won’t be won in meeting rooms in New York, Geneva or Washington or on the jet-set conference circuit. It will be achieved through ongoing economic reform, better policy settings, strengthened governance and capacities, improved livelihood opportunities, increased social protection, advances in gender equality, changing attitudes and behaviours and building more resilient communities at home. A challenging and expansive agenda. But it can be done.

The SDGs are hugely ambitious and achievement by 2030 will take an unparalleled collective effort. In recognition of this, the UN system is pleased to support the Pacific SDG Partnership, a multi-disciplined initiative hosted by UNDP, that recognises the potential contribution of a range of regional and international partners, and aims to support Pacific countries unlock and accelerate national development achievement on their own terms.

Support is focussed on strengthening the core government and public service functions of planning, budgeting, reporting and performance so countries can take greater ownership, and be more accountable for their development performance. We are also working on how we might be able to help foster better connections between Pacific countries, the Small Islands Development States (SIDS) communities, in order to share experiences, innovations and most importantly, success stories. Achieving the SDGs, does not need to be about reinventing the wheel, but learning and adapting what works elsewhere for our own purposes.

I also call upon citizens of the Pacific to speak up, get engaged and involved in the SDGs. Speak up to demand better services, opportunities and facilities. To engage in public processes, and demand greater accountability and freedom of information from government, development partners including private and civil society organisations. It is your right to know, but also your responsibility to get involved.

To make the SDGs a reality for all, we need new partnerships and new ways of thinking. We need investment bankers to work with rural farmers. Policy makers to strategise with activists. Young leaders to work with civil engineers. Artists to work with climate scientists.

Achieving the SDGs by 2030 will ensure a prosperous, peaceful and sustainable Pacific future. A future where no one is left behind. I look forward to joining you on this journey.

Sanaka Samarasinha is Resident Coordinator for the United Nations in the Pacific

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