In the 5th oral evidence session for the inquiry into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), on 11 January 2016, the International Development Committee questioned Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening MP. She reported on the Government’s progress and summarised its approach towards implementation of the SDGs based on received oral evidence.
In September 2015 the UN Member States formally accepted SDGs, replacing more narrow Millennium Development Gaols, which were signed in 2000 and expired at the end of 2015. SDGs include 17 universal measurable goals, 169 targets and yet to be agreed indicators, that should shape global and national political agendas of developed and developing countries until 2030. The new SDGs intend to reduce inequality and bring transformative change that should ‘leave no one behind’.
World leaders, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, in September 2015 pledged a commitment to achieving them. Following this, the International Development Committee launched an inquiry into how SDGs should be implemented in the UK and invited written submissions from interested organisations and individuals.
DSN-UK made a joint submission with Asia Dalit Rights Forum, highlighting that although the SDGs are formulated to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’, caste-based discrimination was excluded from the final draft. The framework needs to take into consideration the world’s most vulnerable people, including Dalits, who are disproportionally affected by intergenerational poverty and hierarchical exclusion, preventing them from accessing justice and development programmes. The submission made recommendations to include caste-based exclusion to goals 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17, and use disaggregated data, including caste, in the SDGs follow-up and monitoring process.
The Chair of the International Development Select Committee, Stephen Twigg MP, emphasised during the 5th session, some of the challenges that Dalits and other repressed groups like LGBT people in Uganda face, and asked the Secretary of State for International Development ‘None of this is easy. Where it can be particularly difficult is when there is a strong social norm against a minority….How do you best take that forward in the context of development and humanitarian assistance, where there is a set of universal rights to which countries are signed up and yet, in some of the countries that we are rightly supporting, there are strong social norms against religious or sexual minorities in those countries’.
Justine Greening MP stated that Department for International Development (DFID) works at grassroots level until there is some momentum. She also highlighted the need for disaggregated data to better understand what the DFID programmes are delivering.
However, the Government has no plans to introduce a national action plan or set a taskforce to implement the SDGs but rather will include some of the relevant goals into the existing priorities. Sadly this might result not only in a missed opportunity to address caste-based discrimination in the UK but also in the DFID programmes overseas.
The joint DSN-UK and the ADRF submission is also available in a pdf format here.