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After COVID: use the sustainable development goals

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Ensure all people in our country live a good life, prospering on a healthy planet.

Leaders of over 150 businesses, civil society organisations and from public life have called on the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to use the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to create a socially just and green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter coordinated by UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) and UN Global Compact Network UK they recommend the SDGs are used to:

1 – Prioritise the most vulnerable in our society and level-up regional and societal inequalities;

2 – Build coherent policies for a healthy planet and to aid the transition to net zero; and

3 – Unite all sectors behind a plan to build a stronger and more resilient economy

The letter is a response to a recent speech made by the Prime Minister where he said we must ‘work together to get shared goals back on track including […] the Sustainable Development Goals’.

The letter supports this, saying ‘we do not need to reinvent frameworks or agreements, we can instead use the global goals as the basis for a socially just and green recovery in the UK and abroad’.

It runs:

Dear Prime Minister,

Building a better future through the COVID-19 recovery programmes

As the Government plans for the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the signatories of this letter write to ask that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are used to consolidate and future-proof these plans.

We recognise that we must work together to recover from the pandemic and build a better future where all people in the country have a good life on a healthy planet.

The SDGs can help us to do this and there is already widespread support across UK society, including the business community, for the future the global goals define.

We welcome your recent statement that we need a ‘fairer, greener and more resilient global economy’ and to ‘build back better’ after the coronavirus crisis.

We acknowledge the letters you have already received that ask for this.

However, we also support the statement you made on the 28th May that ‘there is a need for us to work together to get our shared goals back on track including […] the Sustainable Development Goals’.

As you said, we do not need to reinvent frameworks or agreements, we can instead use the global goals as the basis for a socially just and green recovery in the UK and abroad.

Together the 17 Goals provide us with an internationally agreed framework, which also works at national, regional, and local levels, alongside and reinforcing existing plans and commitments.

They enable Government to work cross-departmentally and with stakeholders to create programmes and policies that are coherent with the needs of our economy, society, and environment both domestically and internationally.

We therefore recommend that the Government:

1 – Use the SDGs to unite all sectors behind a plan to build a stronger and more resilient economy.

It is clear that many aspects of our lives will never be the same again. Some industries may never recover from this crisis.

We must use this challenging situation as an opportunity to work together with our global and national partners alike, to build a stronger and more resilient economy with the SDGs at its heart.

2 – Use the SDGs to prioritise the most vulnerable in our society and level-up regional and societal inequalities.

COVID-19 has exposed the depth of inequalities and risks exposing more families to income deprivation and its consequences.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to levelling up prosperity across the UK and urge a similar focus to overcome wider societal inequalities.

The SDGs provide us with a framework which can help us prioritise health and wellbeing, alongside prosperity and GDP, as a measure of the nation’s success. We need to ensure that our recovery from the pandemic leaves no one behind and puts the health and wellbeing of current and future generations first.

3 – Use the SDGs to build coherent policies for a healthy planet and to aid the transition to net zero COVID-19 has highlighted the risks our society faces because of biodiversity and habitat loss, and climate change.

We must balance social and economic needs with the needs of our planet, protecting and managing nature and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

These goals do not have to be in conflict. The SDGs provide a way to create co-benefits through the Government’s commitment to net zero by 2050 and coherent policy design.

We recognise that the scale of recovery will pose many challenges for the Government. But the COVID-19 crisis has shown that businesses, government, and civil society can and will work together to create lasting and positive change.

We believe the SDGs should be used to establish the level of ambition for the UK’s pandemic-recovery and a future that ensures all people in our country live a good life, prospering on a healthy planet.

We want to build the future we want with the Government and are ready to support you in this endeavour.

To see the list of signatories, click here.

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