Thinking Global Acting Local - Canada and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On Tuesday, Canada reported back to the United Nations (UN) on progress for putting the SDGs into practice. Natalija Fisher was there last week to engage on topics of water, youth, and transboundary cooperation.

In September 2015, Canada and 192 other UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the United Nations system, long strings of words are often truncated into acronyms that are sometimes uttered as a string of characters that may feel inaccessible to someone hearing them for the first time.

First things first: what are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The SDGs are a set of 17 ambitious goals that form a 15-year global framework called the 2030 Agenda. The Goals contain a total of 169 targets and over 230 indicators and, unlike the previous Millenium Development Goals, they apply to all countries alike.

The 2030 Agenda is a global framework of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. It integrates social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, as well as peace, governance and justice - ensuring that as the world develops that no one is left behind. Many of the Goals are linked, and the one that we’ll focus on in this blog is SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation.

This past week and until Wednesday, July 18th the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) was held at the UN Headquarters in New York. The event is the essential global forum for tracking the progress towards achieving the SDGs - the specific goals under review this year included Goals 6 (water), Goal 7 (energy), Goal 11 (cities), Goal 12 (circular economy), Goal 15 (biodiversity). This year Canada was among 47 countries to present their Voluntary National Review (VNR). Some civil society organizations have also produced their own “shadow reports”. So how are we doing?

According to the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) the country is not on track to implement the 2030 Agenda, although Canada has committed $100million in 2018 towards SDG implementation and coordination. Natural ecosystems are being left behind. And, a recent BCCIC report notes that at the end of 2017, 67 rural and indigenous communities across the country did not have access to clean drinking water (SDG 6).

Including Vulnerable Groups

While at the forum in New York, I had the opportunity to speak to the importance of civil society engagement for achieving Agenda 2030. I was there on behalf of the Water Youth Network (WYN), a non-profit run by young people that has facilitated continuous, meaningful, and active youth participation at global water governance forums since 2012 (before the SDGs were introduced). WYN is the Global Focal Point on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 for the UN Major Group for Children and Youth.

While there, the Water Youth Network along with UN Water, UNESCO-IHP, and World Youth Parliament for Water (with support from UN Major Group for Children and Youth and the International Secretariat for Water) co-organized a side event on Intergenerational Policy Dialogues for Achieving SDG 6. One of the messages to come from the conversation was that young scientists, researchers, innovators and indigenous knowledge holders are coming up with innovative ways to contribute to Goal 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation. However, more can be done to meaningfully integrate the contributions of young people to decision-making processes.

Globally, approximately 50% of the world’s population is below the age of 30. Youth account for many of those adversely affected by armed conflict, including as refugees and internally displaced persons, and that the disruption of youth’s access to education and economic opportunities has a dramatic impact on durable peace as well as the sustainable management of land and water.

In Canada, the fastest growing population of young people come from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. The same population, that is also disproportionately affected by boil-water-advisories. Partnering with Indigenous youth, by providing them with the resources they need to develop solutions to the challenges facing their communities is a key way Canada can move forward on implementing the 2030 Agenda. It is also a positive step towards reconciling relationships between the countries people and with water.


Take Action

The Sustainable Development Goals really are about thinking globally while acting locally: all the actions that are needed must take place on the ground somewhere on Earth. We all have a role to play in our communities. In order to actually make headway, its imperative for an inclusive approach to implementing the goals--i.e. including marginalized groups such as Indigenous peoples, women and girls, immigrant and refugee populations, people with disabilities and individuals identifying with the LGBTQ2 community.

You can begin by learning more about the SDGs, especially SDG 6 here. The Government of Canada recently launched an SDG Data Hub but more can be done to make the platform user-friendly, and to communicate opportunities to contribute to the planning, monitoring, and on the ground initiatives to meet the goals. Check out the Our Living Waters network’s dashboard tracking progress on national impacts towards meeting this goal! There you can sign up to follow their progress or join and get active in network activities.

Coincidentally, the Agenda 2030 timeline also aligns with the Our Living Waters goal of “all waters in Canada in good health by 2030”. You can help track the health of freshwater near you by taking a photo and posting it to our #nofilterH20 challenge.