Measuring up in The Big Apple

Following the launch of our Measuring up report we were fortunate to be able to join stakeholders from around the world at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York. The annual event has shown we’re on the right track – but there’s more work to do.

The annual High Level Political Forum (HLPF) sees governments from around the world submit Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on their progress in delivering and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each year a number of governments submit their reports at UN headquarters in New York, and we all get to hear what is happening globally on the SDGs. It’s a good learning experience for everyone involved with delivering the Goals.

Our activities in the Big Apple included a breakfast briefing hosted by our partners PwC to share the process and experience of producing Measuring up – our comprehensive assessment of how the UK is performing on the SDGs. We were joined by representatives from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Scottish Government, and people from a variety of countries and sectors, including Swiss and German stakeholders who have produced similar reports.

Dare we say we’re showing leadership?

While we might be frustrated by a lack of leadership from the Government or low awareness of the SDGs in the UK, it’s clear that other nations could learn something from UKSSD. Internationally there are other examples of stakeholder reports, or ‘shadow reports’, on the SDGs but as far as we could tell none were quite as comprehensive as ours. It was rewarding to learn that our work is of interest to stakeholders from around the world and that they wanted to learn from us.  

It was a clear sign to us that the process and methodology of Measuring up should be shared more widely – we can show how UK stakeholders are leading national delivery of the Goals.  

Measuring up has helped shine a light on the SDGs across Whitehall

One of the advantages of UN events is the ease with which you can speak to government representatives without the formalities of an official meeting. During our discussions with DFID representatives it was good to hear that, at the very least, Measuring up has helped them demonstrate a need to react to the Goals appropriately to the rest of Whitehall.

We also had the opportunity to explore our ideas and thoughts on the appropriate process for the UK Government’s own VNR in 2019. We’re still not clear about what this will involve so we need to keep challenging it to use Measuring up and to work with our network on its own report.

We need to go further, faster  

When we were in New York we attended the SDG Business Forum, an event organised by UN Global Compact, the International Chamber of Commerce, and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The event proved to us that the nature of the conversations around the Goals needs to go further, beyond a high-level overview of what business can do to engage. We’ve heard lots of examples of how businesses are using a mapping process to consider their impact on the Goals, but we aren’t getting in to the nitty gritty details of the challenges or obstacles facing them. We aren’t getting answers to questions we know that businesses are asking.

It’s important we act on this quickly; 2030 is not that far away.

There’s still lots to do

We’re thrilled that Measuring up has been received so positively; it truly is a great achievement for everyone involved. However, as we all wind down for summer we can’t afford to be complacent. We need to expand our activities, so we can continue to show the leadership we’ve demonstrated through Measuring up in new ways.

Most importantly, we need to ensure that all of our partners play a pivotal role in this. 

Emily Auckland, UKSSD Network Director & Co-chair