Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Making a success of the SDGs

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born out of the aftermath of the second world war. For years, work on human rights focused primarily on civil and political rights while development policy gave priority to economic and social rights. Increasingly the two are closely intertwined. This is reflected well in the new Sustainable Development Goals.

The Millennium Development Goals aimed to tackle extreme poverty by, for example, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and increasing the incomes of the poorest. Their impact has been significant: child mortality halved from over 12.7 million to six million; maternal mortality reduced by a third; and the number of children out of primary education cut from 100 million to 57 million. These are just some of the many successes achieved through the MDGs which have helped people access and realise their human rights.

Labour can be proud of our record here – creating the Department for International Development with a seat at the cabinet table; the historic Gleneagles Agreement in 2005 and setting the UK on the path to achieving the 0.7 per cent target (which, to his credit, David Cameron has delivered).

On 25 September the UN ratified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs have a broader and deeper reach than the MDGs, and this has ramifications for the UK both in domestic policy and globally. Bringing together the issues of extreme poverty, climate change and good governance is an opportunity to make real progress.

Climate change, access to high quality education and inequality are challenges both internationally and in our own country. It is good that DFID has a strong reputation globally. It is also important for the United Kingdom to deliver domestically. The Labour party and the wider movement have a responsibility to hold the Tories to account – for example, when their cuts to tax credits risk making the UK even more unequal.

The targets have been set higher this time, and it will require various stakeholders working together to ensure they are implemented. The government has to maintain its commitment to 0.7 per cent spending if these goals are going to be achieved. There is also a crucial role for civil society – NGOs, faith groups, trades unions and others – to work together with progressive ideas and plans for sustainable development moving forward.

With issues like LGBT rights, disability rights and age discrimination moving up the global agenda it is vital that all corners of society play their part in ensuring that the goals are accomplished in their own countries, as well as around the world. Without a range of groups working toward a common aim, we will not be as successful this time around.


Stephen Twigg MP is chair of the international development seelct committee. He tweets @StephenTwigg


Photo: Steve Cadman

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Stephen Twigg MP

is chair of the international development select committee

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