Back in 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These aimed to create a fairer, cleaner planet as well as eradicate extreme poverty everywhere by 2030. By the start of 2020 most of the goals were way off track. It would take an extraordinary push from citizens around the globe to build the political will to achieve them.
Now, with the UK merging its aid department, tackling a pandemic and facing a reduced aid budget, it may seem that all the hard work of the past five years is undone. However, at no time has it been more important for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard.
Threats and changes
The aim of achieving all the SDGs by 2030 has fallen way behind, despite significant progress in some areas. Although this was clear at the start of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated prospects hugely, impacting development far beyond the sphere of its immediate health effects.
Public health programs tackling major diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria have been severely hampered. We face new threats of increased malnutrition, damage to countries’ economies and people’s livelihoods, and thwarted efforts to give children a quality education.
Meanwhile, the UK’s international development efforts are now led by the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), after the Department for International Development was merged with the Foreign Office. RESULTS UK have discussed this merger at length, and emphasised that it risks taking the focus of aid spending away from poverty reduction, which ought to be its first priority.
Adding to this, a shrinking UK economy means the overseas aid budget will be reduced this year, given the budget is tied to 0.7% of GDP. Programmes undertaken by the FCDO will need to target their efforts even more than normal on those most in need and on the most marginalised communities, including women, girls and children with disabilities.
So what can we do about this? As always, political will is needed, and this only happens when people raise their voices and insist to their politicians that a life in poverty should not be anybody’s fate, no matter where they were born, what government is in power or what state of emergency our societies are placed under. Considering the damage that Covid-19 has done already, it is now more important than ever to take action.
A chance to act
The SDGs are achievable and can still become a reality. But they need your help. We need to put pressure on the UK government to make this happen, and also support grassroots movements.
So here’s three levels of action you can take, to fit your time available:
SUPER QUICK: tweet your MP, telling them how important UK aid spending focused on poverty reduction is. Ask them for their support, and be sure to @resultsuk in your tweet as well.
EXTRA MILE: Write to your local newspaper or media site with a short piece on why you support the UK’s continued focus on global poverty reduction. Share your piece with your MP, whether it gets published or not and ask them to share it with their followers.
BONUS POINTS: write a letter or email directly to your MP. This is your chance to explain in depth why UK aid spending is important to you individually. This is a guaranteed way to ensure your message reaches your MP, and will allow you to develop a relationship with them over time, which will make it easier to influence them in future.
YOU NEED MORE? Head over to results.org.uk to find out how you can get more involved in RESULTS campaigning. Conference calls are held via Zoom every month where you can speak to volunteers, office staff and some of the top minds in International Development. Newcomers are always welcome and we’d love to see you there!
Stephen and Tamara are volunteers in the RESULTS UK London group.