Caritas calls on governments to push harder on sustainable development

Caritas at the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development, UN Headquarters, July 9-18, 2018

Caritas calls on governments to push harder on sustainable development

Caritas members, who will be among over 2,000 civil society leaders at the forum, will impress on governments the urgency of meeting goals set out in Agenda 30 in 2015 to produce a world without poverty, hunger and inequality. Caritas will highlight the work that still needs to be done, drawing from ground experience from around the world.

As well as Caritas Internationalis staff, attending from Caritas organisations will be Cristina Linaje, Caritas Spain; Francesco Hernández, Caritas Latin America; Rita Rhayem, Caritas Lebanon; Paul O’Callaghan, Caritas Australia; Siba Alexis, Guinea Conakry; Fr. Evaristus Bassey, Caritas Nigeria; and Kim Mazyck, US Catholic Charities.

An irrigation project in Kitui, Kenya which is supported by Caritas agency Trócaire.

An irrigation project in Kitui, Kenya which is supported by Caritas agency Trócaire. Photo: Aidan O’Neill.

Ultimate goal: The need for lasting resilience

This year’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the third after the adoption of Agenda 2030. The overarching theme is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”.

Agenda 2030 is the international community’s strongest political mandate on sustainable development. It tells us to recognise the need to transform societies through sustainable, resilient and inclusive actions. This means recognising the interconnectedness and complexity of the challenges ahead, but also the opportunities change may bring. For Caritas, resilience is an approach that can help us understand and engage with those challenges and a changing world. It can also enable individuals and communities to be architects of their own destiny and households to self-organize, prepare for shocks and stresses and use change to adapt, regenerate and flourish. If resilience is about coping with and thriving despite change, then sustainability is about ensuring the durability of that resilience.

Action and transparency

The forum should serve as a call on governments to reinforce their commitments and speed up progress to realize the sustainable development agenda by 2030. In doing so, governments must do more than listing existing efforts. They should highlight that Agenda 2030 is a transformational tool and report how they plan to give an impulse to the necessary changes when implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN, governments and all parties involved must ensure that the forum is a space for open, genuine, honest interaction and that good examples that lead to real change on the ground are well documented and shared.

Integrated strategy

Putting Agenda 2030 into practice will only be possible if all three pillars of sustainable development are implemented in a fully integrated way. This means that economic prosperity must be shared, social protections must be put in place for all while the environment is safeguarded. All goals are interlinked and indivisible. Governments should use the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to share efforts to balance all three dimensions of sustainable development across all SDGs and to avoid compromising human development goals over environmental goals.

Communication and accountability

National governments are accountable to all their citizens, especially those most marginalised and left behind. They must ensure there’s enough available information about the process and civic space for them to engage in delivering and monitoring the SDGs. Civil society and faith-based networks often have better access to communities because they’ve built up trust. Given this deep-rooted connection, governments should engage with civil society organisations in developing national indicators, contributing data and reaching out to vulnerable groups. The role of faith-based organisations also deserves to be acknowledged, given their widespread activity at grassroots level. The forum is an opportunity for governments to share mechanisms to include civil society groups and faith-based organisations in a meaningful way.

Goals and challenges

This year the forum will review several goals, including those to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; and to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Significant progress remains to be seen in all those areas. For example billions of people still lack access to modern energy, most living in remote areas. Business-as-usual investment and governance are failing to reach ‘the last mile’ and will not deliver by 2030. We urgently need scaled-up public investment, more innovative financing and better planning and delivery of energy services to ensure the needs of vulnerable communities are met and that no-one is left behind.

Working in the field

Caritas Internationalis was involved in the negotiations that led to Agenda 2030. While we applaud the goals, it is imperative that they are translated into meaningful action. Many Caritas agencies both in the global North and South are currently involved in hundreds of projects designed to have a lasting impact on communities.

Here is a snapshot of some of the work we do:

HIV/AIDS in Nigeria: In a bid to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, Caritas Nigeria is currently implementing an HIV/AIDS care, treatment and support program that provides access to HIV testing and counseling, anti-retroviral therapy, support to vulnerable children and strengthening health systems, helping more than 4.5 million people over the past seven years.

Water supply in Tanzania: In Lositete in northern Tanzania, severe drought has affected the livelihoods of villagers. In the rural communities of Tanzania, the responsibility of collecting water falls primarily on women and children, who are forced to travel long distances merely to find enough of it to survive. But since the implementation of a Water Supply Project supported by Caritas Australia, improved infrastructure has brought significant change to the people of Lositete including the Maasai.

Land protection in Papua New Guinea: The Catholic Church in East New Britain in Papua New Guinea is fighting to protect food and water sources for the people of Pomio, where landowners were pressured to sublease to a local subsidiary of a transnational forestry company for oil palm plantations. Landowners have lost subsistence gardening sites and access to water supplies. The Archbishop of Rabaul Francesco Panfilo, supported by Caritas volunteer Doug Tennent from Aotearoa New Zealand, have petitioned and sought legal mediation for a fairer deal for landowners.

These projects aim to bestow enduring benefits on communities. At the forum Caritas will call for more real action.


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