Sustainable Development Goals agreed, but mean little without the money

Abigail Hunt | Aug 06, 2015

Three years in the making, the Post-2015 agenda has been agreed by governments at the UN, with a gender goal at its core. But, as Abigail Hunt explains, it will mean little if resources to implement it do not follow.

It’s finally here! Late on Sunday August 3rd 2015, the final Intergovernmental Negotiations for the Post-2015 development agenda concluded, with 193 governments agreeing on the new global development framework, ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ declaration. It will be formally adopted at the United Nations Summit in New York on 25-27 September.

The new agenda, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has huge potential to galvanise global action on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The call by Womankind and partners for a standalone gender goal was successful, as were those for targets on violence against women and girls and women’s participation and leadership. The Declaration also says that women’s rights should be included throughout the agenda.

Yet, as Christine Ochieng, Executive Director of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya) – one of the partner organisations Womankind joined forces with on the gender goal call – said: ‘‘The inclusion of gender equality as a standalone goal in the agreed SDG’s is key to achieving global development. It is now important to ensure that financing for gender equality is given priority.”

What next?

Some areas still need significant attention. Work still needs to be done to ensure the SDGs are accompanied by specific, accountable and inclusive mechanisms for follow up and review at the national, regional and global levels. As our recent report confirms, women’s rights organisations play a vital role in mobilising to hold the state and other institutions to account. Therefore we need to make sure that women’s rights and feminist organisations are integral to those processes at every level and have the resources and political space to push for change.

The new agenda must also be accompanied by robust and ambitious global indicators. Without wide-ranging, comprehensive indicators, there is a risk that implementation efforts will not meet the aspiration of the new agenda. Discussions on what measurement tools will be needed to monitor progress in the implementation of the SDGs will continue until at least March 2016, and Womankind is working hard to ensure that the right indicators are in place.

Towards a new global partnership

There is, however, one major area which has hugely encouraged us. Even though the final SDG framework is not everything we would have hoped for, and the resistance against a progressive, rights-based agenda remains strong in some quarters, the process of working to ensure its strong focus on women and girls has served to unite ‘new’ and ‘old’ actors working for women’s rights and gender equality like never before.

We know that women’s movements are the strongest factor in ensuring positive outcomes for women. Therefore the recent show of solidarity and support to feminist activists and women’s rights organisations bodes well for the kind of unstoppable force that will be needed for the full realisation of women’s rights now and until 2030 (when the SDGs run until).

The outcome document itself calls for a ‘global partnership – bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society, the United Nations system and other actors and mobilising all available resources to ensure full SDG implementation. Going forward, it is crucial that all global partnerships emanating from the SDGs build synergies between these ‘new’ and ‘old’ development actors, with their close cooperation built on a shared, transformative vision for gender equality, and recognition of and support to women’s rights organisations at its core.

The SDGs will mean little if the money to implement them doesn’t follow

All of this will mean little, though, if substantial financial resources are not made available to implement the new agenda. It is now vital that sufficient funding is secured and that, crucially, this is of high quality and raised in a way that promotes gender equality and women’s rights. It must also recognise the innovation, knowledge, skills and experience of women’s rights organisations and support and invest in them as essential long-term partners in development policy, practice and accountability. Unfortunately, the Financing for Development discussions that took place in Addis Ababa in July on how to finance the new SDGs failed to recognise this.

Frank Wilson Bodza, Programme Manager, a representative of Women in Law and Development in Africa- Ghana (WiLDAF Ghana), one of the partner organisations which we successfully campaigned on Post-2015 with, said:

“The agreement of the SDGs, and especially the inclusion of gender equality as a standalone goal, shows how gender issues have become central to the global developmental agenda. However, in the implementation of the SDGs, financing gender equality actions should not be subservient to other goals. All goals must be given equal attention”.

This is why Womankind is leading a call for an SDG5 Fund – a financing tool focused on supporting women’s rights organisations to lead the transformational change required to implement the SDGs’ commitment to women’s rights and gender equality. Watch this space for more information.

Additional information

Womankind, in partnership with the UK Gender and Development Network (GADN), has recently launched two publications relating to the SDGs:

  • A new paper making recommendations on the key global indicators needed to monitor progress in increasing women’s participation and leadership.
  • A briefing on women’s rights and Financing for Development (FFD).

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