How the next government can help the UK achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Tomorrow, Britain goes to the polls.

Whatever the result, our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Working Group is focused on how we will influence the next government, and how we will hold them accountable, for the achievement of the SDGs both at home and abroad.

In an era of instability and growing fragility, these goals are a framework to sustainably address the interconnected crises of climate change, conflicts, poverty and inequality, whilst leaving no one behind. At this midway point for achieving the SDGs, the world is severely off-track to achieve them by 2030, with less than 15% of SDG indicators making sufficient progress, and with the majority either stalling or worse, regressing. We therefore firmly believe the next UK government should be part of a global effort to rapidly accelerate progress towards all of the goals.

The SDGs apply to all countries, from the most to least developed, with all nations required to report on their progress at regular Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). VNRs take place each year at the High Level Political Forum, and this year 43 countries will be presenting their progress, with Yemen and South Sudan presenting for the first time. These VNRs are an important accountability mechanism for states, and civil society actors from across the world also feed into these processes to ensure a full picture on whether SDGs are being really achieved in different country settings.

The UK last presented its VNR in 2019. It is important that the UK continues to regularly report on its progress, as all countries have agreed to do. Last year, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly attended the HLPF on behalf of the UK, and we urge the next Foreign Secretary to make every effort to attend this year’s HLPF, or to send high-level representation.

This year, the 79th session of the UN General Assembly will open on 10 September and will be attended by heads of states and governments from around the world. Last year, we were disappointed by Rishi Sunak’s decision not to attend UNGA and the SDG Summit, making it the first time in a decade the UK Prime Minister was not in attendance. We would therefore urge the next UK Prime Minister to attend UNGA, and to use this opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership and committed action from the UK on emerging threats and risks posed by the current poly-crisis.

The 2024 Summit of the Future, taking place in New York between 22-23 September, also provides an important opportunity for the UK government to take a transformative approach and play an influential role in advancing the 2030 Agenda. We would urge the next UK government to push for key systemic reforms, and to ensure high-level representation at the Summit.

At Bond, we also provide the secretariat for the APPG for the UN Global Goals, which works to mobilise parliamentarians and influence policy-makers on issues related to the SDGs. This is one of the most active APPGs in Parliament, hosting a regular series of events and producing reports to influence government policy.

We have had regular engagement with the Minister for International Development throughout the previous parliament, and hope to continue this, to ensure that parliamentarians with an interest in international development and the SDGs are able to influence government policy and delivery. We will be reconvening the APPG immediately after the election, and hope to recruit new MPs to the cause in the new parliament. We would therefore call on the government to note the strength of support that exists within parliament for the SDG agenda, and to engage regularly and constructively with the APPG on policy and practice around the SDGs.

We are therefore calling on the next government to:

  • Ensure high-level UK government representation at this year’s HLPF in July, ideally at ministerial level.
  • Ensure prime ministerial representation at the UN General Assembly in September 2024, taking this opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership and committed action on emerging threats and risks posed by the current polycrisis.
  • As a matter of priority, implement the commitments to delivering on the SDGs as articulated in the White Paper for International Development.
  • Show strong support for proposed reforms to address systemic challenges that have impeded progress towards the SDGs, including to the international financial architecture, and climate change action.
  • Commit to regular UK reporting on its progress towards the SDGs through the VNR process.
  • Set up a government-led multi-stakeholder committee for SDG implementation with civil society to monitor SDG implementation and reporting on a regular basis, as committed to in the last Voluntary National Review presented by the UK.
  • Put the SDGs at the heart of domestic policy-making and ensure SDG policy coherence across government and to adopt a whole-of-society approach to SDG implementation.
  • Use SDGs as a framework to develop a national transition plan to a nature positive, net zero and socially just economy.
  • Engage with parliamentarians and civil society actors working on the SDGs via the APPG for the UN Global Goals.
  • Work in partnership with civil society to achieve the SDGs through our foreign policy and international development work.

With less than seven years to go until the 2030 deadline, we urge the UK to show leadership on the SDGs. We don’t have a moment to lose. At Bond, we call on the incoming government to do its part in reviving this global vision to create a more prosperous, greener and fairer future for all, one where no one is left behind.

This blog was written by Eden Kulig on behalf of the Bond SDG Working Group.


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