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Make us the best little country for sustainable development

The Taoiseach got our man at the UN, David Donohue, in to co-chair the process. That looked good and he seemed to do a great job. We need more than rhetoric now though. It would have been better if in addition to signing it he had meant it. There are enough good intentions around to save the planet twice over.
It’s pretty big really, the UN’s proposed text on ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. Universal development goals and targets are proposed that involve the whole world, even little Ireland. Can the Taoiseach not imagine a world determined to end poverty and hunger, combat inequalities, and ensure the protection of the planet and its natural resources?
He could become part of that really. It’d look great on his CV when he moves on. He shouldn’t get too carried away though, because so far no one seems to want to pay for it. And he wasn’t too generous on that score either. Still, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t head on and make some progress on it back here.
There are 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets. That worries me too. Will Enda Kenny ever keep track of them all? The proposed text says that these goals and targets are “integrated and indivisible”. He’ll have to pursue all of them together, without cherry picking.
Will he just sign it and shelve it? Will he hand it over to the makers of indicators and the drafters of reports? We do great reports here but reports never changed much. Ending poverty, inequality and planetary destruction needs more and, let’s face it, the UN are putting it up to us.
There is a target to “reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty” by 2030, under the goal to end poverty. This government hasn’t been great on poverty. Deprivations levels continue to rise since the coalition took over. Deprivation means people can’t afford two from a list of basic items, but they know that. The deprivation rate in Ireland stood at 30.5% in 2013 and it probably hasn’t got any better since then. That’s at least 1.4 million people.
One thing they’re asking for here is the creation of “sound policy frameworks based on pro-poor and gender sensitive development strategies to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions”. No one could argue that this government has invested in any way in poverty eradication. Is this all going to change? It must if the Taoiseach is sincere about poverty.
The proposed text is big on equality. This is not a value that seems to animate the Taoiseach at all and it would be great if this could change. Yes, he did the marriage equality referendum and that was fantastic. Full marks there. But equality is a bit on the indivisible side too. You can’t do it for some and not for others. Kenny will have to up his game on this one.
One goal is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The Taoiseach should be moving to end all forms of discrimination, and to eliminate all the particular forms of violence, against women and girls. He’ll really have to work on this violence one. In 2014, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency found that 26% of Irish women surveyed had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner since the age of 15.
There is another goal, to “reduce inequality within and among countries”. The government is going to have to “progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average” by 2013. The Taoiseach’s problems with the tiny minimum wage increase proposed don’t bode well. The starting point for him isn’t great either, with the top 10% of households getting 23.5% of all net income here in 2012 and the bottom 10% only getting 3.1%. It’s almost a case of ‘nothing done, more to do’ on this one.
He’ll also have to “ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome” and to “empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status”. Kenny’s track record here, to be honest, is miserable. Under the goal on “cities and human settlements” he’ll have to ensure access for all to “adequate, safe, and affordable housing” by 2030. This is one this government only seems go backwards on. And all that’s before we get to saving the planet.
The Taoiseach should go on and sign it anyway. Then come back for the plaudits but get stuck into preparing and publishing the ‘ambitious national response’ the UN is looking for. Make us the best little country to do sustainable development goals in. That’s what he’d really be remembered for, if he cared. •