“The SDGs are the only universal framework to meet the needs of all. Ireland, as co-host of the political declaration at the SDG Summit in September has a critical role to play to galvanise energy, optimism and action.” - Jane-Ann McKenna
Catastrophic levels of food insecurity is decimating many countries' ability to even fathom achieving the Sustainable development Goals (SDGs). Without deliberate policies to accelerate progress towards the SDGs, by 2030, at least 492 million people will be living in an environment of extreme poverty.
Appearing before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Dóchas, the network of Irish Humanitarian and Development organisations, informed the committee that while significant advancements have been made across the globe over the past twenty years, there are huge challenges facing the implementation of SDGs arising from multiple crisis, including Covid, climate change and conflict.
In the opening statement Dóchas CEO, Jane-Ann McKenna said “Our members and their partners have decades of expertise and experience in not only responding to humanitarian crises, but in supporting communities to build their own resilience, address their own development needs and realise their rights.”
“For some communities however, holding onto those development gains is becoming harder and harder. There is an increasing number of crises, escalating humanitarian needs and a lack of adequate funding globally. Aid budgets have become more volatile and stretched amid the crises, compromising investments in long term development and climate transition. Unsustainable debt levels also continue to cripple government efforts to deliver the SDGs with 23 out of 50 sub-Saharan African countries considered to be in or at high risk of debt distress.”
However, Jane-Ann McKenna said that this year represents a significant opportunity for Ireland to lead and revitalise global cooperation on the SDG’s. She said “The SDGs are the only universal framework to meet the needs of all. Ireland, as co-host of the political declaration at the SDG Summit in September has a critical role to play to galvanise energy, optimism and action.”
Also presenting at the hearing were Mary Van Lieshout, Deputy CEO with GOAL and Mary Keogh, Advocacy Director with CBM Global Disability Inclusion. They were joined virtually by Ana Tenorio, Global Director, Education with World Vision.
Mary. Van Lieshout outlined to the committee how progress on poverty reduction (SDG1) has been reversed, progress on zero hunger (SDG 2) has been halted and progress on good health and wellbeing (SDG3) has been negatively impacted by the disruption to health services caused by the pandemic.
Ana Tenorio informed the committee that global progress on realising children and young adults' right to education is suffering unprecedented setbacks, she said “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 258 million children around the world were already failing to access basic education. At the peak of the pandemic, over 90% of the world’s student population had their schools closed. The vast majority of these children were in contexts in which it is already challenging to access and stay in school, let alone return to it after encountering threats like child labour, child marriage, and other exploitations.”
Mary Keogh firstly informed those present how important the adoption of the SDGs was for persons with disabilities. However there is a significant lack of data collection and monitoring to assess progress on implementation and the real impact of Covid-19 and other crises on those with disabilities is lacking. Therefore, persons with disabilities are most often left behind and left out.
Dóchas urged the Irish Government to show its commitment to our shared values of human rights, justice and dignity for all people. Those present outlined a number of actions required to do this and asked the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence to champion these actions. They are;
o We ask that Ireland delivers on its commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on ODA that is spent overseas by 2030, and develop a roadmap and timeline as to how this will be achieved.
o To reach the furthest behind - girls and women, people with disabilities, refugees and those who are displaced within their own countries - we must invest in local and women-led organisations that can deliver effective, community led solutions in order to accelerate progress. We must also ensure we have data to track this progress, the lack of data, for example on persons with disabilities makes tracking progress challenging.
o We ask that Ireland continues to increase its climate finance contributions beyond 2025, including financing the Loss and Damage fund. We also ask that Ireland upholds its commitment to a 51% reduction in emissions domestically by 2030 - and closes the implementation gap between ambition and action.
o We urge Ministers McGrath and Donohoe to use their collective influence to push for debt cancellations for Sub Saharan Africa and low-income countries to ease the burden of debt repayments.
o We ask that Ireland leverages its unique role as SDG summit co-chair, to lead and revitalise global cooperation on the SDGs. This is a significant opportunity for Ireland to communicate our commitment to multilateralism and our shared values of human rights, justice and dignity for all people.