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Government response unimpressive again

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SDG 5, ONS, Women and Equalities Committee, 14 Recommendations, UK government responseNo dedicated strategy for implementing UK’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals so far.

The current Women and Equalities Committee recently published the responses from the government and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to the report made by the pre-election Women and Equalities Committee on the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5) in the UK published in March 2017 .

The Committee made 14 recommendations.

The government has accepted the Committee’s recommendation that it should report to the High Level Political Forum on performance against the Sustainable Development Goals, but has not committed to the 2018 timetable suggested by the Committee.

The government has also not accepted the Committee’s argument that it would be more effective for the Cabinet Office to take responsibility for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals rather than the Department for International Development (DFID).

So the Department for International Development retains policy oversight, which the Committee considered to be inappropriate for a programme of domestic reform.

The government has also not accepted the Committee’s recommendation that there should be a National Implementation Plan, preferring instead to ‘embed and track delivery’ through ‘Single Departmental Plans‘.

This approach differs from that taken by other European countries, among them Germany and Switzerland, which have adopted strategic plans for delivery of the SDGs.

New Single Departmental Plans have not yet been published, and in oral evidence to the Committee on 11 October, the Minister for Women, Anne Milton MP, indicated that it may be months before the plan for Education and the Government Equalities Office is published.

The government instead referred the Committee to a report published in March 2017 on Agenda 2030 which outlines how it is setting out its ‘approach’ to the Goals.

But this document largely collates information about policy initiatives already underway rather than setting out a strategy for further progress, and it fails to address several of the specific targets under Goal 5, ‘the standalone gender goal’.

Commenting on this response, the Committee’s Chair, Maria Miller MP, said: “We called on the government to provide a dedicated strategy for implementing its commitment under the Sustainable Development Goals to achieve gender equality, but so far this has not been forthcoming.

“The government needs to demonstrate that delivering this commitment in the UK as well as through international efforts is not an afterthought.

“We need to see stronger leadership to raise the profile of the Goals domestically, or there is a risk that the UK’s reputation as a global leader on gender equality will be tarnished.

“The government says that delivery will be driven by the new Single Departmental Plans,” she continued.

“Until these are published it is difficult for the Committee to judge how effective they will be as a tool for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and measuring progress towards them.”

The Equalities Committee also recommended that the ONS immediately convene a working group to explore what role organisations working with women and girls can play in developing national indicators and contributing data to them.

This, the Committee suggested, could be modelled along the lines of the Gender Statistics Users Group.

The ONS responded in a letter and announced that the ONS and the Royal Statistical Society will host an event in early 2018, “What can be done about the gender data gap?”.

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